World Autism Awareness Month: How Does eLearning Empower Students With Disabilities?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability that affects a person’s social skills, speech, or nonverbal communication. Often, people in the spectrum exhibit hyper- or hyposensitivity, repetitive behaviors, or developmental delays. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 44 children were diagnosed with ASD in the United States in 2021. In honor of World Autism Awareness Month, we take the opportunity to talk about 5 ways online learning is helping empowered not only students on the autism spectrum but all learners with disabilities.
5 Benefits Of Online Learning For Learners With Disabilities
1. Offers Personalized Learning Paths
When it comes to learning, every student has their own needs and preferences. This rings is especially true for learners with disabilities, who need personalized learning experiences that can accommodate their abilities as well as help them overcome daily barriers. eLearning offers these students the ability to create their own learning journeys, learn at their own pace, and set goals that align with their strengths and gaps. For example, learners who have a short attention span can schedule shorter learning sessions with more frequent breaks, thus allowing for more chances to decompress and self-regulate.
2. Promotes Self-Paced Learning
Learning at your own pace means being able to make your own schedule and browse through content at your preferred speed or in the order that best suits your needs. This allows students to learn without pressure and retain information more efficiencies. Online learning ticks these boxes for students with autism or other disabilities through recorded learning sessions and personalized additional resources. On the one hand, recordings allow students to access classes, take breaks, or rewatch segments in their own time. On the other hand, personalized resources provide solutions that fit each student’s learning style. For instance, students who experience auditory sensitivity may opt for reading activities or captioned videos instead of loud games.
3. Eliminates Need For Travel
Attending physical classes can be challenging for many students with disabilities for a variety of reasons. The first and most important is that mobility issues paired with the non-inclusive infrastructure of cities and buildings from being able to physically access classes. Furthermore, there is another less visible reason. Some disabled students use assistive technology such as voice controls, which they might feel embarrassed to use in public. eLearning empowers students to have all the benefits of the physical classroom from the comfort of their own home, without having to deal with transportation difficulties or anxiety about being around others.
4. Makes Learning Content Accessible
Accessibility can take various forms to accommodate different disabilities. Students with visual disabilities require advanced image settings, such as font style options and high contrast color combinations, or descriptive audio for videos. In the case of auditory disabilities, students benefit from closed captions, speech-to-text technology, and chat options. No matter what kind of accessibility feature a student with disabilities might require, eLearning can offer it via integrations with specialized applications or software. This way, all students can coexist and grow in the virtual learning environment as equals.
5. Facilitates Communication Between Educator And Student
Physical learning environments bring instructors and learners into the same room. However, that doesn’t mean they always offer the best chances for communication between them. In physical classrooms, educators have to deal with many students simultaneously, thus making it hard to devote their time individually. Not to mention that students with disabilities might hesitate to draw attention to themselves. On the contrary, in the virtual classroom, educators have many tools to communicate with learners on a personal level. Using chat and question boxes or email, students with disabilities can draw their instructor’s attention easily and discreetly. Then, the educator can answer their questions via chat or email, or even in a private video call.
In Honor Of World Autism Awareness Month
Disability is a reality for many people around us. However, it mustn’t become a reason for them to feel isolated from activities that everyone else takes for granted. During this year’s World Autism Awareness Month, we celebrate how far education has come and how much eLearning is helping students with disabilities grow and learn. Online learning allows these students easier access to knowledge using self-paced and personalized learning, accessible material, and open communication with educators. As online learning develops, we hope to see even more features to make learning more inclusive and empowering to people who face barriers of any kind.