The use of assistive technology in classroom activities for learners with motor impairments at a special school in South Africa

Marieta Visser, Mariette Nel, Melissa de Klerk, Annique Ganzevoort, Caroline Hubble, Almaré Liebenberg, Marié Snyman, Megan Young

Abstract


Introduction: Participation in education is the right of every child, regardless of disability. An Assistive Technology and Inclusion
Programme, implemented at a special school, has provided learners with motor impairments with an alternative to typical writing and
other classroom activities in which they cannot participate. This study aimed to describe how learners with motor impairments use
assistive technology to participate in classroom activities at a special school in South Africa.
Methods: A quantitative, descriptive study was conducted with 34 learners enrolled in this programme. The children were observed
performing a pre-determined activity using assistive technology. An observational checklist was compiled from the literature and relevant
school activities. Video recordings of each learner’s performance were used to score the checklist.
Results: Activity performance was assessed according to the learner’s ability to use assistive technology, their need for assistance,
quality of performance and speed of performance. Most learners were able to perform all the activities with some verbal and physical
assistance, cutting and erasing required the most assistance but the ability to use the assistive technology (>90%) and quality of
performance (>85%) achieved high scores. The median time to complete the activity varied from 5 to 66 seconds.
Conclusion: This study yielded descriptive evidence on learners with motor impairments’ successful use of assistive technology when
participating in school activities, and reinforced the importance of an occupational therapy Assistive Technology and Inclusion Programme
in the classroom. Further context-based evidence is required to improve the expansion and sustainability of such programmes.

Key words: Occupational therapy; assistive technology; motor impairments; school activities; participation; South African special schools


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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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