October 3, 2010:
“Michael, what is 2 plus 0?”
“What is 2 plus 1?”
“What is 1 plus 1?”
January 10, 2011:
“Michael, what is 7 plus 8?”
“5 plus 5?”
“9 plus 3?”
Michael is a third grade student with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. At the beginning of the year, the extent of Michael’s math knowledge was filling out a number chart from 1 to 100 with 80% accuracy. He was not able to do simple addition, tell time, identify coins, put together puzzles, or identify shapes.
Time (Hours and Half Hours)
- Move the Hands (I would move the hands, he would tell me the time): 15 minutes; Online Analog Clock
- Clock Game: 20 minutes; Kinder Web Games
- Written Quiz and Review: 5 minutes; Dad’s Worksheets
Motor Visual/Spatial Skills
- Let’s Tans Lite: 25 minutes; Let’s Tans Lite iPod App
- Online Puzzle to complete: under 5 minutes; The Kidz Page: Puzzles
Numbers to 1000
- Flashcards: 10 minutes; Number Nut
- Writing Numbers in Standard and Word form Quiz: 10 minutes; Dad’s Worksheets
If we had time left over, I would let Michael play Angry Birds as a reward. He fell in love with this game and he worked extra hard every day just to play it for 5 minutes at the end of the learning block.
Within two months, Michael achieved four out of five of his math IEP goals. He was able to add single digit numbers with 80% accuracy, tell time to the half hour, and write, count, and indentify numbers up to 1000 with 80% accuracy. He also solved 6 and 12-piece puzzles in less than 5 minutes and he was able to identify coins with 100% accuracy.
I learned that it does not matter how far students are behind, if you engage them in learning and provide them with the right tools, they can achieve their academic goals. For Michael, technology was the ideal learning tool. The online games and iPod apps gave him instant feedback. He knew within seconds whether his answer was right or wrong. The games also provided Michael with a low-pressure learning atmosphere where he could try, fail, start over, and try again until he mastered the level or solved the problem. This kept him engaged and gave him the chance to succeed. While Michael was never able to put more than two physical puzzle pieces together without getting frustrated and giving up, he could solve a puzzle on the Let’s Tans iPod app in seconds. He would tap pieces to turn them, double-tap to flip them, and then slide them into the shape. His mind worked incredibly fast and Let’s Tans allowed him to try as many times as possible at a rapid pace.
My Advice to Teachers, Aides, and Educators
If you have students with disabilities or students that are below grade level in a certain subject, find technology tools that will help them achieve their academic goals and let them spend 20-30 minutes using those tools every day. Be available to answer questions, but wait until they come to you for help. Make sure to check in with these students when they finish to assess their progress toward their academic goals. You will be pleasantly surprised with how fast students learn to use new technology tools and how this opportunity will help the students become more self-sufficient and responsible learners. This will also allow the students to learn in a low-pressure, student-centered atmosphere.