Video Technology Helping Children With Special Needs
an editorial by Special Education Teacher Debbie Haddix

Video technology has given us, as educators, a powerful new teaching tool. Taking advantage of children’s natural interest in television we can present to them wonderfully entertaining material that can foster learning even as it entertains them. But what about the potential of video as an educational technique for children with special needs? With its ability to be played repeatedly and at one’s own convenience, it seems especially well suited to special education. The importance of repetition in helping a special needs child master a concept or skill is obvious. When educational videos for this child are given guidance and reinforcement by a teacher and/or parent, their possibilities are extraordinary. One family has begun to use the potential of video in teaching their daughter who was born with Down syndrome. They have achieved exciting results, not only with their own child but with other special needs children as well. Shortly after their daughter was born Joe and Susan Kotlinski began looking for learning materials that were clear and non-confusing in format and content to help in her learning. Because of those commercially available suited her special needs, they made their own. They developed an audio tape for nap and bedtime, special books and videotapes as well as a philosophy that early learning takes place best in a no-pressure atmosphere of love and acceptance. Their materials were purposefully structured to help develop vocabulary, pronunciation, comprehension and reading skills. They were eager to share these materials with us when Maria entered my pre-school class. I teach TMI students between the ages of 2 and 5 years of age who have one or more impairments. I had never included the alphabet, let alone reading, as part of my curriculum. I was, however, willing to try the Kotlinskis’ alphabet videotape as a classroom activity. The tape was, in a word, motivating. The children attended very well to it and when I replay it during free time, at least some of the students inevitably bring their chairs over to watch it again. We began to use a special alphabet book on a weekly basis as well as an alphabet bulletin board which, although displayed, had never been actually used in my four years at the school. We have since seen a continuous range of positive results. Several non-verbal children have begun verbalization., Some children now use the pointer and name the letters on the bulletin board. One student, who previously knew little English, now recognizes many letters and has a much larger English vocabulary. Maria, at 4 years of age, could recognize upper and lower case letters, increased her language vocabulary and had a sight-reading vocabulary of over 250 words. At 5 years 7 months, she was evaluated to read in the 98 percentile with a reading vocabulary of over 1000 words. We have seen results in our highest and lowest functioning students and an overall increase in attending and language skills, both receptive and expressive. Although I have no hard evidence, my opinion is that the students’ improved articulation and speaking is a direct result of these tapes. We use them in a relaxed, no-pressure manner and have seen very definite progress occur among the children. My curriculum has evolved to accommodate and encourage their interest in this new material. Anyone interested in more information can contact Joe and Susan Kotlinski, P.O. Box 4088, Dearborn MI 48126-4088, 313-581-8436 or