Artificial Intelligence in Special Education

Artificial Intelligence in Special Education

The Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) have guaranteed the right to education without discrimination based on equal opportunities for people with disabilities. However, this is a fundamental right in very few national constitutions. Thus, it is evident that individuals with disabilities have a high chance of being deprived of opportunities and resources. In the case of children with disabilities, their right to education and educational opportunities is lacking due to the scarcity of resources in traditional learning environments that can aid in their education. 

Barriers in educational systems can also cause inefficiencies in education, where although children go to school, their proficiency in subjects might be low. According to the UNICEF, "Over 600 million children and adolescents cannot attain minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics, even though two-thirds of them are in school". Although Covid-19 has halted education systems, it is not the primary contributor to holding children back from attaining proficiency in education. Among the various other factors that can contribute to this, the lack of resources in education systems for the education of children with disabilities is one of the reasons. The systems run on curriculums and materials that cater to children who do not belong to the disabled category. Thus, children who need special tools to assist them in education cannot study in traditional schools. Children from economically challenged spaces and those who belong to another disadvantaged group stand the chance of further discrimination and deprivation of resources—not having enough data doesn't help too.

A child's drive to learn and play needs to be met from the right age. When those needs are not met due to a shortage of tools that facilitate them, it deems as an opportunity delay in children with disabilities. In 2021, UNICEF stated that- "The number of children with disabilities globally is estimated at almost 240 million" and that "children with disabilities are disadvantaged compared to children without disabilities on most measures of child well-being."

Access to schools and education is lacking for disabled children due to various factors- not understanding their needs and lack of trained teachers to do this, absence of adequate support in the classroom, etc. The key for traditional schooling systems to accommodate disabled children starts by making the system and its policies inclusive of their diverse needs, thus supporting them through their learning journey.

Technology is a significant part of our society now—most of our actions and activities rely on technological systems. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most coveted aspects of technology. With the coming of technology and AI, there is an evident rise in the accessibility of information. Data suggests that the 4th education revolution would currently use ICT tools (Information and communication technology) to establish newer education systems, primarily through artificial intelligence.

With artificial intelligence in classrooms, we are at a better chance of improving teaching methods for children with disabilities. Robots trained in specific ways can teach social and educational skills to students of all abilities- children with ADHD, speech and hearing difficulties, and down syndrome find AI vital for accessible education. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 44 children is diagnosed with Autism; thus, addressing the needs of children on the autism spectrum becomes particularly urgent.

The idea of having technology in the classroom is to help children communicate with the rest of the class and teachers. "Its personalizing, differentiating, and self-improving nature make it a highly rewarded concept for education. The companies who embrace the AI challenge early on are already at an advantage over the education sector," suggests a study. education is not one-size-fits-all. Each child has their own needs. Let us look at how AI can play a pivotal role in helping children with disabilities-

AI can detect early disability-
Identifying a problem is the first step in finding a solution for it. AI-based systems can detect children with learning disabilities. Sometimes, when children are slow to pick up lessons or are not enthusiastic about learning, they might have a learning disability that teachers often fail to recognize. AI systems such as Artificial Neural Networks and Cognitive Maps were used to diagnose Autism, speech impairment, and dyslexia successfully in the past. 

AI-based tools to aid learning-
Children with special needs should have access to unique learning tools to make learning simpler. There has been some remarkable progress in this field. Users have claimed ROYBI Robot to help with their child's speech delay effectively. ROYBI is also equipped to tutor children on the autism spectrum and Down syndrome through personalized education. Children on the autism spectrum have both verbal and non-verbal communication challenges. Thus AI robots can be developed and programmed to benefit children with Autism. When AI-based tools are assigned to assist in education, the primary motive is to ensure an educational environment of convenience. AI can detect a child's concentration levels, attention span, and speech and hearing abilities, and they can be given appropriate education according to their needs. The field is growing, and it requires more research and work among educators, app developers, and engineers to develop more intelligent solutions.

AI and adaptive learning-
Diving a little deeper into personalized learning, AI-based adaptive learning methods can be adopted, where students can use different working methods for each subject as per the requirement. AI-powered adaptive learning provides tutoring on various topics, in various working environments, at school, or in an online space by featuring video calls with personal mentors and tutors. It can adjust the content for the class according to students' performance and capabilities. Thus helping teachers make incremental and necessary changes in the entire learning process to provide a smooth learning experience that will not trigger and affect children if they have frustrations and hyperactivity.

Reliable feedback through AI-
When AI-based systems are used in education, it will not move to the next topic until the student demonstrates mastery of the subject, allowing students to work at their own pace and receive feedback. In a traditional classroom setting, teaching students with disabilities could come with the issue of the ability to give timely feedback, which can be worked out through AI.

More data through AI-
Numbers can be trusted. With AI, educators have more access to the data that can assist them in evaluating their teaching methods in classrooms. They can examine how disabled students are performing in comparison to their peers. The data can help teachers identify ineffective teaching and where the students are struggling. Academics may become much more straightforward for students with learning disabilities who have struggled to keep up with their classmates due to a lack of access to effective teaching techniques.

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