Laptop computers that combine features from popular toys with innovative technology have rapidly accelerated the learning and communication ability of disabled children, says a report by Penn State researchers.
Led by Professor Janice Light, a team at Penn State is currently working on a five-year research grant to redesign assistive technology to improve the ability of disabled children to learn and communicate in a more meaningful way. The key, they say, will be to come up with technology that is appealing to children, easy to learn and simple to operate.
Since very young children are not readers, the team is looking at taking a child’s experiences and representing them interactively through digital photos of the child, the family, or storybook cartoons.
The technology has already met with success. Some two and three-year olds are showing signs of becoming early readers and early trials with 15 and 25-month old children show an improvement in their communication skills of about 20 to 50 times that of normal, as well as a significant increase in vocabulary.
Professor Light says the ultimate aim of the project is to give children technology they can intuitively understand, and which will aid them even as it entertains.