Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Assistive Technology for learners with Autism

Typically, a curriculum is written to meet national, state, county or district goals. Curriculum designs and teacher effectiveness can affect the overall scores students and schools achieve locally, and nationally.  It is therefore the responsibility of curriculum writers to create content which takes different learning styles into consideration. A teacher’s responsibility is then to use effective teaching methods which ensure that every child meets those goals. Classrooms, however, do not consist of a heterogeneous group of students who learn the same way. Meeting the needs of all students led to the development of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Universal Design for Learning is a research-based framework for designing curricula — that is, educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments — that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. It is described in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 as a “scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice”. UDL additionally “supports teachers’ efforts to meet the challenge of diversity by providing flexibility and varied means (differentiation) when it comes to representation and expression of the teaching material”. The provision of these flexible approaches, which allow for customization and adjustment for individual needs, additionally provides higher levels of engagement of students (see Table 1).

Table 1: The three principles of UDL, as well as the brain networks they directly relate to. A successful curriculum integrates all three of these, via multiple methods/means.   

These principles can be used to identify the barriers that students face. Such barriers are found within the curriculum itself, as opposed to focusing solely on the student’s needs. The CAST Curriculum Barriers Tool outlines this in further detail. In addition to evaluating barriers, the needs of the student have to be assessed, and appropriate reachable goals need to be defined. These goals can then be used to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and thus the modifications and accommodations required by the student can be implemented.

Since Universal Design for Learning promotes engagement and better, more effective, learning, it greatly benefits students who have autism. Such students usually use assistive technology tools to help them overcome any learning barriers in their environments. Using assistive technology tools alone, however, is limiting. By using the UDL framework, learning environments have reduced barriers to begin with, which potentially decreases the need for assistive technology tools in the classroom.

In so doing, the opportunities to learn increase. It is important to note that the need for assistive technology is not eliminated altogether, however. Developers of educational software and hardware should therefore take into consideration UDL principles as they generate learning materials. Educators, on the other hand, need to be aware of UDL and select “inherently flexible” tools for their students.

AutisMate fits into both of these criteria. It is an assistive technology tool that compliments Universal Design for Learning given the fact that it is highly customizable. This particular app can be used with children with autism or any other disability where contextual based environments, visual schedules and video modeling are needed.

1. CAST. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/tools/curriculumbarrierstool.cfm
2. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl
3. Ralabate, P. K. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2011/110830/Universal-Design-for-Learning--Meeting-the-Needs-of-All-Students/
4. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/advocacy/referencestoUDL/HEOA
5. Retrieved from
6. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/chapter4_4.cfm#at

1 comment:

  1. Teachers don't do this...who is going to hire someone to follow up and make sure they do their job at this..this hire someone to make sure the person following up on them are doing their job. Anyone can talk .....when students still don't show progress. We need more teachers in the class room...and the funding isn't there...it is going on the city, state, county pay raises and stupid things and stupid research.