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iPad gives voice to Marin County, CA special needs students

For many first-grade students, the best way to let your teacher know what you want is to raise your hand or shout out your request. But for some special needs students, it's difficult to speak or put thoughts into words. Marin County, California is now using iPads to help these students communicate with their instructors.

Through grants from a fundraising organization called Dedication to Special Education, all 19 Marin County school districts have been receiving technology to help out special needs students. What's changing the face of technology for these students is the iPad. As noted by Sarah King, the co-chairwoman of Dedication to Special Education, "We've gone from a DynaVox, which costs about US$8,000, to a $500 iPad that does essentially the same thing. And the iPad is a lot easier for students to manipulate."

The organization plans to use about $85,000 of their grant money to purchase as many as 80 iPads this year, but that doesn't meet the demand of special education teachers who have requested about $176,000 in technology -- including 122 iPads.

King's 19-year-old son is autistic, and uses an iPad application called Conversation Builder to learn how to converse in social situations. Other students helped by the organization are using apps Proloquo2Go and Tap to Talk, both of which use pictures to let users express what they want to say.

King notes that "In the past, we've bought dozens of computers, interactive whiteboards, projectors and software. But the iPad is taking over the universe." For the special needs students who are benefiting from the iPads and applications, Dedication to Special Education and the Apple devices are giving them a voice.

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