Assistive Technology For Students With Intellectual Disabilities

Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by Editorial Team

Intellectual disabilities grapple with about 8% of the US population, according to an NCBI finding. Lack of intellectual curiosity, or of power to question or reason or take interest in exploring is a big elephant that needs addressing. Usually, people are judged on the basis of their academic performance, communication skills, etc. It cuts off a major chunk of creative and highly imaginative individuals who may have a different set of skills other than those set as benchmarks.

Thanks to the inclusive model of education accommodations are made available to students with intellectual disabilities. Using these resources, such students can also learn and absorb things like their peers! This significant change is attributed to assistive technology for students with intellectual disabilities.

Let’s explore in this post:

  • Examples of assistive technology in the classroom to accommodate intellectual disabilities
  • How assistive technology helps intellectually deficient students
  • Types of assistive technology and their applications
  • Challenges of implementing assistive technology

Here we go!

Examples of assistive technology in the classroom to accommodate intellectual disabilities

An institute that offers accommodations earns the requisite recognition from authorities when its classrooms are equipped enough to help students with intellectual deficiencies. These technology-assisted classrooms are designed with tools to help intellectually disabled students with diverse learning needs. The tools help them to demonstrate their abilities and be as responsive in class as their non-disabled classmates. In a typical classroom provided with assistive technology, you can expect features[1] like:

  • Tools of common use such as hearing aids,
  • Pens with special grip,
  • Alternative computer peripherals like keyboards and mouse
  • speech-to-text recognition tools
  • spell and grammar checkers
  • touch control devices
  • AT visualizers
  • Advanced computer-enabled communication tools
  • Graphic Organizers

The idea behind using these AT accommodations is to make the classroom environment suitably comfortable for students with diverse learning needs. These assistive technology devices help work the way around disabilities and provide the learners with fair chances to be at par with their peers. It is observed that the students managing intellectual disabilities suffer from a lack of cognition, and social skills, and have various learning difficulties[2] to overcome.

How does assistive technology help intellectually deficient students?

The need to ease the learning process with assistive tools got the right solution in technological interventions. Artificial intelligence and predictive modeling techniques have paved the way for the introduction of AT devices for intellectually deficient students. It is the encouraging outcomes that have ignited the interest of the educational authorities towards the use of AT devices and solutions.

McNicholl, et al, in their study[3] concluded that ATs can increase social participation and extract better engagement from intellectually challenged students. Motivation to read and write can be strengthened by the use of assistive technology in education[4].

Socially assistive robots and their roles are explained by Dr. Christine, in the review of AT for training individuals with ASDs. The review concludes that SARs prove their efficacy in building social skills like eye contact maintenance, imitation skills, and other verbal communication abilities. Hence, the overall participation of intellectually disabled students increases and improves in quality.

The role of assistive technology is not operational in nature alone. Since the students find comfortable solutions that complement their needs perfectly, they open up more freely and display better confidence in solving problems and expressing knowledge. When their basic problems of organizing thoughts, doing numbers, or expressing ideas are solved, they can concentrate on applying their real talent and deliver desired outcomes, sometimes even better than those considered ‘non-disabled’.

In essence, the role of ATs is to act as a link that is normally missing between students with intellectual deficits and their environments. The improvement in cognition and communicability allows such students to actively participate, communicate, and receive information correctly, which is quite necessary for knowledge build-up.

Types of assistive technology for IDs and their applications

Assistive technology is a supplementary solution to be given to the person with disabilities of any kind to fill the gap caused by those. These can be classified as:

  • Cognition aids: These are employed to assist people lacking in memory retention, attention, and thinking skills. Time management tools, graphic organizers, activity planners, and reminders are popular examples of cognition aids.
  • Educational aids: Screen readers, voice recognition programs, text-to-speech software, graphic organizers, proofreading software, etc. to provide ease of reading and writing for students with sensory and intellectual deficits.
  • Communication aids: Audiobooks, communication cards, etc. help enable communication in an augmentative manner, and sometimes, as an alternative to speech.
  • Math tools: Certain speech recognition software are designed to allow students to do calculations over the microphone and display results to the evaluator.

All the AT devices mentioned above serve the needs of students having different kinds of intellectual disabilities. Since the focus is always on encouraging participation in education and making the subjects feel and act as non-disabled peers, their use should be recommended after a thorough analysis of the requirements of the individual. One size does not fit all when it comes to assistive technology devices, remember that!

Challenges of implementing assistive technology

Assistive technology implementation and adoption rate is low at present. Especially in low and middle-income groups, finances pose a challenge. The students may get support in the classroom, but what about practicing at home? This gap is quite glaring and the search for solutions for the same is still on. A need for national policy to provide assistive technology solutions has been felt for uniform implementation.

Training needed for using AT devices is another detriment to seamless adoption. The personnel at work and the teachers at school have to be adequately familiar with the product and its use to not get distracted from the assistive solutions they wear or wield.

Integration with the usual work environment has to be smooth. Assistive technology is supposed to be an enabler of the learning process. Hence, the make and the application have to match the comfort level of the user. Thus, product development through customization and eventually, further improvement, needs continuous evaluation and refining.

Take Away

It is society’s loss if the hidden talents of people with intellectual disabilities are not recognized, refined, and put to use. To get a better workforce from the given population, the educational needs of all sorts of learners should be met.

Assistive technology helps decrease the chances of dropouts and offers requisite help to people with different learning abilities to accomplish their academic endeavors, and also, to live a life of reduced dependence on others. For intellectual deficiencies, assistive technology comes as a workable solution and helps find a way around these. The only concerns may be the want for adequate training in the use of ATs and the cost involved!


  1. Sarah Ko & Linda S. Petty (2020) Assistive technology accommodations for post-secondary students with mental health disabilities: a scoping review, Disability, and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology Journal
  2. Adelman, H. S., & Taylor, L. (1986). Summary of the survey of fundamental concerns confronting the LD field. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 19(7), 391–393.
  3. Aoife McNicholl, Hannah Casey, Deirdre Desmond & Pamela Gallagher (2021) The impact of assistive technology use for students with disabilities in higher education: a systematic review, Disability, and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 16:2, 130-143
  4. Effects of assistive technology for students with reading and writing disabilities, Idor Svensson, Et al, Disability Rehabilitation Assistive Technology, 2021 Feb;16(2):196-208.

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