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AI & Special Education Needs


At Bennett, we are constantly watching the effect of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on education, and our understanding of what it means for students is always evolving. Our blog content is not meant to provide definitive answers as to how this technology will change education, but rather to join the conversation with respected educators. In this article, we explore a few ways that AI may impact special needs education, though this list is neither comprehensive nor an endorsement of these specific applications.

 

When it comes to AI and education, there are a wide variety of reactions and opinions, ranging from skepticism and concern to enthusiasm and eagerness. While we expect the debate regarding AI’s merit and effectiveness to continue for the foreseeable future as we collectively learn more about its applications, we would like to shine a light on its more positive impacts, specifically for students with special needs.

 

Students with learning differences benefit most when instruction is individualized and tailored to their specific needs. As the saying goes, if you have met one person with special needs, then you have met one person with special needs! No two students with special education needs are the same, and AI’s ability to modify content and customize instruction for individuals has game-changing potential for these students.

 

I’d like to cite a few specific examples of how AI can impact special needs education, which I'm hoping will land as ticks in the “Pro” column of the ongoing AI debate. These applications are fascinating, creative, and, frankly, really cool!

 

•               Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) can be time-consuming to write, but educators can use AI to analyze documents and data and compile them into a draft IEP template. This application saves teachers and therapists valuable time on the more structured sections of the report and recommends a solid starting point for other, more student-specific sections. (1)

 

•               AI can aid in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Traditionally, diagnoses have been made based on parent observation alone, but researchers have developed an AI-driven app that uses "computer vision analysis” to measure a child’s behavioral response to a series of fun videos. AI is used to track the child’s blink rate and gaze, for example, to determine whether they are focused on the social or non-social elements of the movie. From there, AI is able to determine the likelihood that the child is autistic, all in under 10 minutes. (2)

 

•               Therapists and educators have also been using AI to provide social therapy to students with ASD. Students practice social interactions with an AI-driven robot and learn eye contact, conversation, and identifying emotions in a more predictable and comfortable manner. (3)

 

•               For students who may need extra support with reading, teachers can use AI to adapt texts to a specific grade level. For example, a U.S. history teacher might want to adapt the Declaration of Independence’s more complex language to a more appropriate grade level without compromising the content, allowing a student with special needs to more easily understand the content and participate in class discussion. (4)

 

•               AI has shown great promise in developing flexible, individualized learning plans for students with ADHD. AI can analyze student behavior to help suggest visual/auditory cues and regular breaks, assisting students in staying on task and effectively managing their time. AI has also been used to develop more engaging content for students with ADHD, including learning through virtual reality experiences. Imagine learning about space as if you were an astronaut! By learning through these immersive experiences rather than traditional methods, students with ADHD may be more engaged and more likely to retain the information they learn. (5)

 

•               Speech and language pathologists are in short supply and high demand, and oftentimes the individualized interventions are time-consuming to create. For students with speech and language challenges, AI can assist with developing and customizing flashcards in real time based on the individual’s learning objectives and progress. (6)

 

•               For students who may have difficulty writing or typing, whether due to dyslexia, a physical disability, or other special needs, AI speech recognition software removes the physical barriers in favor of a headset or microphone, allowing students to “write” and navigate their computers without having to touch anything. (7)

 

In many of these examples, we see AI not as a replacement for human experience and expertise but as a collaborator. Certainly, there are serious considerations, including data privacy and algorithm bias, but when used by responsible, knowledgeable educators, it seems that there is a great opportunity for AI to enhance learning for students with special needs. Ultimately, AI shows great promise in aiding the accessibility of education for all types of learners and transforming the special needs education landscape.

Much like AI, the evolution of special education has also been a long road, but we are eager to see where and how these two intersect.


By Hannah Buzzelli. Kindly reviewed & vetted by Stacey Kinnamon.


Hannah Buzzelli joined the Bennett Operations team in 2019 where she helped manage the company’s daily workflow and provided natural expertise in process refinement. In 2022, Hannah took on a new role at Bennett as Scholarship Programs Manager, and in this capacity she has led the building out of all aspects of Bennett’s Scholarship Management Program: the IT platform for the receipt of scholarship applications, the processes whereby scholarship students are selected, the communications related to all stages of the application process, the onboarding of new scholarship recipients, and the student tracking and reporting required by the corporate scholarship provider. She has also helped to develop the mentoring program that supports scholarship recipients as they transition from secondary school their native countries to universities around the world. Hannah has since become a regular member of our blogging team.



Stacey Kinnamon is one of Bennett’s key Special Education Needs experts who supports relocating families with SEN children. Working either solo or alongside another consultant, she deciphers psycho-educational reports, discusses a child’s needs in depth with a family, and speaks with school personnel to determine if and how well a school can support a child. Depending on a particular situation, she may be supporting a family bound for Toronto or New York or Milan or Ulaanbaatar.


Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.

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