How Technology Is Being Used In Special Ed

One of the more niche areas of education where technology is really making a huge difference for students is in special education. With adaptive and assistive technologies, more students have the ability to better communicate and learn than ever before. So how is technology really shaping education for students with special needs? Keep reading to learn more!

Technology Use In Special Education

  • The federal government covers about 15% of the cost of educating a special needs child.
  • 6 Million students (or about 10%) receive special education services.
  • About 86% of the cost of education for a special education student falls to the local government and school district.
  • The cost to educate these 6 Million students? Approximately $51 billion dollars.

What Types of Special Needs Do Students Have?

  • Specific Learning Disability -51%
  • Speech Impairment – 21%
  • Mental Retardation – 10%
  • Emotional Disorder – 8%
  • Other (multiple disabilities, Autism, orthopedic impairment, traumatic brain injury, etc) – 8%
  • Hearing or Visual Impairment – 2%

What Types Of Tools Are Being Used?

  • Digital Textbooks
  • Text To Voice
  • Voice Recognition Technology
  • Netbooks and Laptops
  • Touchscreen devices
  • Screen Readers
  • Digital Note Takers






  1. Sharon Salter

    September 16, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Nice article, although the Federal disability category for mental retardation changed a couple of years ago. Person’s with cognitive challenges are now referred to as having an intellectual disability (ID) as opposed to MR.
    Yes, it DOES make a difference. Please use the correct terminology in future articles.

  2. Ann Kohler

    September 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks Sharon for the MI correction you mentioned. As a teacher of a self-contained MID (Mild-Intellectually Disabled) classroom at the high school level I really appreciated the article and helping to bring awareness to the incredible things that the new technologies we now have access to are doing to change the landscape of special education in the classroom. The infographic was also nice. However, I wanted to say that Special Education is not just being aided through the use of technology tools that address specific things, such as speech or hearing needs.
    Our students are digital natives like other students and through the use of these new technologies in the classroom the playing field is being “leveled”. My students can and do perform in the classroom using the same apps that the rest of the student population uses with very little modification. When something allows these students “disablity” to disappear and become “ability” it opens up new doorways to lifelong success, which is what teaching is all about.

  3. Laura Killion

    September 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

    As a pre-service teacher, I have been able to learn about how to incorporate technology into my teaching to help students all students, not just those with disabilities, in my classroom. I have seen firsthand how an iPad can help students who are nonverbal communicate with their peers allowing them to participate in daily classroom activities. I am hoping that in the future, the government will help fund the use of technology in classrooms.

  4. Jorge Fernandes

    September 24, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Fantastic article with an amazing compilation of data. Like I’m a partially sighted I have enormous difficulty – I need to ask to another person to read it to me – to read the info graphic text – too much text colors and low contrast one’s. Some technologies we have today could scan text but not with this color festival. Next time maybe you could produce a B/W info graphic, or maybe a nice job with CSS and real text.

  5. Nicole Lowery

    November 7, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I really liked this article. It showed me all of the different types of technology that you can use in your classroom to help all students succeed. I believe that all children should have equal opportunity to learning and that a teacher needs to teach differentiated lessons so the children learn the best way possible and by using technology this is happening. I believe this is an important article for all teachers to read and then incorporate the information into your teaching and lessons.

  6. Stephani Fuson

    November 8, 2013 at 2:00 am

    I was amazed at how much the government spends on helping children with learning disabilities. I believe it is worth it. All children deserve to have the opportunity to do their absolute best. I am glad that many more apps and programs are being developed for use on multiple devices. These programs make it possible to help more students in less expensive ways. This was a very informative article. Very data packed. Paints a good picture of who needs help learning and how they get that help. Very good information to have for people who work in educational settings or who know someone who could use one of the learning assistance software programs.

  7. Trevor Cline

    November 8, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article and it made me feel good when I read that with modern technologies, students with cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, speech delays, and autism have found new ways to express themselves. I think it is sad that the federal government is only able to cover about fifteen percent of the cost of educating a special needs child. Also, the new technologies have psychological benefits. For example, it can allow them to communicate with others in ways not available to them before

    • Jason Davis

      November 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      I think the psychological aspect can often be ignored, which is sad. You bring up a great point that the new technologies have those benefits.

  8. Allie Kohl

    November 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    It is amazing to see how much the government is spending to support children with special needs. I did not realize how many categories special needs breaks down to. I think it is great to have so many specific categories for each specific need. It is important to be able to appropriately fund to meet the needs of these children. These children need to built and educated as any other child and every child needs to have their individual needs met in order to want to learn. This article was a good article and gave great detail as the break down on how are children’s needs are being met.

  9. A. Williams

    November 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    As a future teacher I thank you for the great tools, tips, and resources for students in the classroom. Since I am not too tech savvy, these will come in handy and will save me a lot of time searching for them. I didn’t realize that the federal government was so uninvested in paying for technology within the classroom. This must require teachers and school districts to apply for many grants and prevent students from receiving the individual help they are capable of receiving to academically succeed.

  10. Jacquelyn Smith

    November 11, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this article. It gave me some insight to available resources for special needs students. The article was informative. I am also stunned and happy to see that the government is spending money on additional resources for students who need extra help.

  11. davisjm03

    November 12, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I think it’s great that adaptive and assistive technologies are being used to help students with special needs. Some of the multimedia technology being used, such as digital textbooks and laptops, are good examples of how beneficial these technologies are with students.
    I was surprised to read that the federal government only covers about 15% of the cost of educating a special needs child. The fact that 86% of the costs fall upon the local and state school districts was shocking. I honestly had no idea that there was that much disparity between what the government covers and what local schools have to come up with. It was nice to read that by using this technology, students with special needs have experienced decreased frustration, which gives them a feeling of accomplishment and reward. Hopefully, the government can find a way to increase their funds to help cover more of the costs in order to help educate special needs students in the future.

  12. Amanda Kessler

    November 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    The money is a lot that the government spends; students really do the help. There are only certain areas where there are a lot of children, who did help. The classification could be more board and does not seem to be a lot of them in this article and a certain child may have more than one.

  13. Brooke Jenkins

    November 13, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I found this article to be very educational and interesting. I was not aware of the vast plethora of technologies available to students with disabilities. Having a better understanding of the pieces of technology and how they work has given me a passion to provide disabled students access to these resources. If these tools will help special education students succeed and grow, then we are doing them a disservice by not providing them. It is truly a shame that financial constraints are the reason they are not in our schools. Hopefully as time goes on, the benefit of these technologies will be better understood and the schools will gain financial support to fund them.

  14. Robin Shafer

    November 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I am currently in a classroom with a handful of hearing impaired students and a few with autism. I found the statistics you provided very interesting and eye opening. I couldn’t believe that the government only covers 15% of educating special needs children considering there are about 6 million students who need assistance.

    I enjoyed reading over this article not only was it eye opening but it provided many resources. I really liked that it separated the resources based on the students needs. I think that I will provide this article to my cooperative teacher. The resources will defiantly come in handy for her classroom.

  15. Connor Pease

    November 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I really like this article I feel like it really gives you the since of what all kinds of technology there is out there for children with special needs. I really feel like this really makes you think about all the things that as teachers need to provide for children with special needs.

  16. Andrea Z.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    This blog is a great resource for teachers that will endeavor students with disabilities. I have seen some of this technology used in multiple school in Columbus, OH and it was awesome how much work and knowledge these students were able to display. I honestly don’t think they would have otherwise. We are definitely taking the right step in using these technologies. It just makes it hard for school because of how expensive these things are. Hopefully once people get a realization for how helpful these things are there will be a demand for it and the prices will be lowered!

  17. Tiffany S. (smith.7669)

    November 14, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    I really like this article. I liked that it has different resources that can be used with special needs students. I also really like the timeline of how the education of special needs students has changed over the years.

  18. emily w

    November 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I think this blog is great for starter teachers not having much experience with special needs students. The apps that were mentioned in the graphic were very nice, I looked them up as I was reading this, and I think I would be able to use these for a child in a classroom I am in now. He does not talk and is very behind mentally. We use pictures with him and are starting to use some sign language, like “more” during snack time when he is still hungry and “play” when he is allowed to play with the toys or if he gets distracted and is just standing in the middle of the room. This was a great blog to read!