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Sensory disability refers to the impairment in seeing or hearing. As per Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (2010):
The sensory impairment encompasses both visual loss (including blindness and partial sight), hearing loss (including the whole range) and multisensory (which means having a diagnosed visual and hearing impairment with at least loss in each of the modalities or deaf-blindness) (p.1)
As a result of this, students who are sensory impaired may be affected in a number of ways in regards to their learning. For instance, the rate at which they advance academically may be slowed down significantly because of the difficulties they undergo in accessing the necessary information.
They may also not be able to communicate appropriately with their peers and teachers about the knowledge they have acquired in class. Inability to move, and connected with it restrictions is another challenge that they are likely to encounter because of obvious reasons.
The student may also suffer socially as he/she may not be able to interact freely with others due to fear arising from mocking at peers. “Their self esteem, particularly if learners experience negative attitudes and stereotyping may also suffer as a result” (Effective practice Guides, 2011, p. 6)
Teaching the Sensory Impaired Using Assistive Technology (AT)
Due to the above stated problems, various advancements in technology have been made to help the affected learner.
The problem, however, is that each student has a different problem and, as such, requires a different style and approach if he/she is to be helped academically. Different assistive technologies are as well applied in countering these cases.
For visual impairment cases, for example, print media materials, magnified computer images and information, screen readers and Braille can be used to help the visually disabled to screen hearing aids, FM systems, and speech to text translation devices that can also be employed when dealing with the students with hearing difficulties.
Use of the AT Devices to Teach Language Arts
Language teaching involves training learners on how to use a given language both in speech and written form.
Magnified computer images can be used especially where the visual problem is congenital, in other words, where the student has visual memory or where the student involved still uses his vision as the primary way of reading.
Through this, words and names on monitor screens can be accompanied with images for language learning. Speech to text translation devices can be used to directly transmit a teacher’s voice to a receptive screen for those who have hearing impairment in reading lessons, for example.
Braille can be used for reading purposes for those who are visually impaired.
Age of Onset
As earlier stated, learners’ problems vary. To encounter them effectively a teacher has to individualize his approach based on the learner’s studying style. “Knowing if the student has a congenital or adventitious sensory loss affects how students will gain access to the instruction” (Beard, et al, 2011, p. 142).
This is due to the fact that the presence or lack of hearing or visual memory will highly influence which type of style and AT is to be employed for a particular student.
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The style the teacher will utilize in his/her interaction with the learner will also be influenced by the subject taught. Style and AT used in mathematics and sciences will obviously be different from the one employed in language and arts classes, for instance.
The learner’s preference, however, should be given a key consideration. It is also important to take these kinds of students away from the others where a teacher realizes that the student will encounter problems in adapting in order to help them avoid the likely embarrassment that they may undergo in class.
This can happen, for instance, when learning the subject that call for lots of diagrams, figures and illustrations to be applied, which may also give a challenge to the visually impaired students.
Beard, L.A. , Carpenter, L.B and Johnson, L.B(2011). Assistive Technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
Effective practice guide.(2011). “Understanding visual impairment in learners and young people”. RNIB: Supporting Blind and Partially Sighted People , 1-7, Retrieved from https://www.rnib.org.uk/services-we-offer-advice-professionals-education-professionals/guidance-teaching-and-learning
Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (2010). Complex Learning difficulties research project. International Networking for Educational Transformation,1-8. Web.