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Assistive Technology & Exams: Things you need to know.

This blog article will provide you with key information that you can use to find out more about getting exams access arrangements for a child or young person whose Special Educational Needs such as dyslexia, put them at a significant disadvantage when taking an exam or assessment.

Let's face it.  Whether we are a parent or a teacher, if we are supporting a child or young person who has been diagnosed with Special Educational Needs or who are undiagnosed but appear to be showing signs of Special Educational Needs it can be a nightmare in understanding what needs to be
This article has been sponsored by Scanning Pens.
done to support them during the school year.  Added to that, our children and young people have to be assessed and that means exams.  The concept of exams strikes fear into the hearts of many but when one struggles with reading and comprehension the level of fear and anxiety will shoot up.  Why?  It is a fact that conditions such as dyslexia will put a pupil at a disadvantage when taking exams to a greater or lesser extent depending upon their needs.  With added pressure to be excellent with spelling and grammar, a student will know that they will be losing points before they have even had a chance to demonstrate their learning.  So it is important that in some way, a child with dyslexia or an SEN gets to be able to 'level the playing field'.  In short, make assessments a fairer process for them.  To do this they will need 'Exams Access Arrangements'.

Want to know more about Exams Access Arrangements? Find out more from the British Dyslexia Association.

Why Assistive Technology Should Be Considered For Supporting Students With An SEN.

Historically, when a child or young person struggled with exams due to having an SEN the school SENCO would arrange for a 'reader', someone who could sit with a child to read out the exam questions.  Whilst on a practical level this is an effective way for a child to listen to exam questions and then answer them, there were some challenges associated with having an adult read out exam questions.  These challenges could be that in some way the child felt that they couldn't ask for questions to be re-read multiple times for fear of potential judgement or it maybe that just by having an adult sit with them was distracting in some way.  From a school perspective, it is costly to have a reader sit with pupils and in having a reader requires the pupil to sit their exam in separate rooms this taking up time and resources in organising the exam sitting.
Having a human reader is also not the usual way for a child to access text during any school day.  So there is a lot for a student to have to get used to in an exam setting which is unfair in many ways.

With technology becoming cheaper and more available increasingly there are software and hardware products that are being used more to help a student with their learning.  This technology is often referred to as 'Assistive Technology' and increasingly in schools and universities, Assistive Technology is being found to be a more academically effective as well as a cost-effective way to help a student with an SEN learn. 

The video below illustrates the difference that effective implementation of assistive technology makes for students as well as schools and colleges:

It is important that SENCO's in schools are aware of the regulations that are in place to support a student in exams.

The Joint Councils For Qualifications here in the UK have their guidelines in place which should be referred to.  This can be downloaded by clicking here.

For parents who are looking for support for their child or young person when taking exams, they are advised to check in with the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) or Student Services department to find out how they can get support for exams in place.
For some assistive technology support the student in question will need a diagnosis in place but for other types of technology such as a reader pen, they may not need to have a diagnosis in place.

The JCQ do stipulate that technology that helps students, with an SEN,  complete exams should not give them an advantage over that of other students who are not using the technology.  For example, the technology should not provide word prediction or spell checker functions or give access to the internet.  These functions, if available on the technology, should be switched off and be password locked.

If you would like to get access to assistive technology so as to try it out for a student that you know then most assistive technology suppliers can provide their products for a small period of time as a demonstration.

The Studying With Dyslexia Blog would like to thank Scanning Pens for sponsoring this article and if you would like to try their Exam Pen or Reader Pen then click the banner below to request a free 30 Day trial.

Click here to book your free 30 day trial of the Exam Pen.

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