Seminar on “Special Educational Needs”


With the terms Special Educational Needs (hereafter SEN) mean exactly:

– students with disabilities;

– students with learning difficulties;

– students with socio-economic disadvantage, linguistic, cultural.

The important pedagogical points of the Italian approach is:

  • Coevolution which allows to live the limit as a resource. With the presence of disabled children it’s necessary to adopt a constructive approach to knowledge and to consider the plurality of learners in the class. This brings to a construction of disciplinary didactics capable of facing plurality and really live the limits as a resource.
  • The possibility to move our attention on learning rather than on teaching and the possibility of grasping the plurality of the subjects rather than the unicity of the teacher.
  • Diagnosis is not a final sentence without an appeal, but a process in which it’s a passage and not a final destination.

(da Alfredo Camerini, 2011)

Pupils with disabilities generally attend mainstream schools, in the ordinary sections and classes at all educational levels. Parents have to submit the specific certification regarding the type of disability. So the children can receive the specific scholastic support. In fact the school draw up the PEP (personalized educational plan). Every special educational needs, like migrant people, require to activate personalized pedagogical measures.

In the month of January 2013, the Ministry of Education, University and Research published the Directive of 27th December 2012, entitled “Intervention tools for students with Special Educational Needs and territorial organization for school inclusion”. It is important because it provides a series of guidelines, already present in the European Union, completing, in essence, the Italian framework of school inclusion (MIUR, 2012). The Directive obliges educational institutions to ensure the introduction of compensatory devices, including alternative learning and information technologies tools, as well dispensatory devices by some non-essential performance for the quality of the concepts to be learned.

Specifically the compensatory devices are educational and technological tools which replaces or facilitates performance required in the deficient ability. These devices raise the student from the performance made hard by the disorder, allowing him/her to focus on more complex cognitive tasks. Obviously the knowledge of a subject not change, but the speed and accuracy of performance improve.


Some educational and technological compensatory tools are*:

*(Valentina Della Volpe, 2016, Study of Compensatory Tools and Dispensatory Devices in Italian Inclusive Education)

– Word processor;

– Speech Synthesis;

– Concept Maps;

– Audiobooks;

– Scanner with Optical character recognition OCR;

– Calculator with speech synthesis;

– Speech Recognition;

– Interactive White Board IWB;

– Digital foreign language Dictionaries;

– Dispensatory devices.


Word Processor

A word processor is an electronic device or computer software application, that performs the task of composition, editing, formatting, printing of documents. A word processor acts on self-determination of writing, on meta-skills and it helps the self-review and self correction.The real power of word processing lies in the way the computer can automate and simplify some aspects of the process of writing text. Cut, copy and paste for example allow us to move whole paragraphs, without having to re-type every word. In-built functions automatically format the document for us, correcting spelling mistakes as we make them. Documents can be created using any combination of text and images and some word processors even allow the addition of sounds, video clips and links to pages stored on the world wide web.

Text to speech technology used in other word processors can read out whole documents, single words or even individual letters as they are typed. It is little wonder then that computers are playing an increasing role in supporting the development of literacy skills, especially for those pupils with special educational needs.

Some examples are: Libre Office, Microsoft word, Carlo II, Superquaderno, Alfa Reader 3.0.

Speech Synthesis

Speech synthesis, commonly known as text-to-speech (TTS), is the artificial production of human speech. Nowadays there is a wide range of assistive technology (AT) tools available to help individuals who struggle with reading. While each type of tool works a little differently, all of these tools help by presenting text as speech. These tools help facilitate decoding, reading fluency, and comprehension.

Concept Maps

A concept map is a type of graphic organizer used to help students organize and represent knowledge of a subject. Concept maps begin with a main idea (or concept) and then branch out to show how that main idea can be broken down into specific topics.

Concept mapping serves several purposes for learners:

– helping students brainstorm and generate new ideas;

– encouraging students to discover new concepts and the propositions that connect them;

– allowing students to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and information;

– helping students integrate new concepts with older concepts;

– enabling students to gain enhanced knowledge of any topic and evaluate the information.

A concept map is also not just a learning tool, but an ideal evaluation tool for educators measuring the growth of and assessing student learning. As students create concept maps, they reiterate ideas using their own words and help identify incorrect ideas and concepts; educators are able to see what students do not understand, providing an accurate, objective way to evaluate areas in which students do not yet grasp concepts fully.

The two most popular free tools are: CmapTools and XMind.


An audiobook (or talking book) is a recording of a text being read. In audiobooks, sentences are not spoken in isolation, as in traditional speech synthesis databases, which allow us to explore discourse-level effects in synthetic speech. Furthermore, audiobook readers often change their voices to impersonate certain characters or to convey particular emotions related to the text, essentially making their speech more expressive.

Scanner with Optical character recognition OCROptical character recognition (optical character reader, OCR) is the mechanical or electronic conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machineencoded, whether from a scanned document, a photo of a document, a scene-photo (for example the text on signs and billboards in a landscape photo) or from subtitle text superimposed on an image (for example from a television broadcast). It is a common method of digitizing printed texts so that they can be electronically edited, searched, stored more compactly, displayed on-line, and used in machine processes such as cognitive computing, machine translation, (extracted) text-to-speech, key data and text mining. OCR is a field of research in pattern recognition, artificial intelligence and computer vision.

In this way students can digitize all kinds of documents to be studied or read.

Talking Calculator

A talking calculator has a built-in speech synthesizer that reads aloud each number, symbol, or operation key a user presses; it also vocalizes the answer to the problem. This auditory feedback may help him check the accuracy of the keys he presses and verify the answer before he transfers it to paper.

Students with dyscalculia, which make errors in transcribing the data of a problem or a calculation, can use this tool to optimize time and to focus on the resolution procedures, rather than in the writing of the numbers or in the application of the calculation procedures.

Speech recognition program works in conjunction with a word processor. The user “dictates” into a microphone, and his spoken words appear on the computer screen as text. This can help a user oral language ability is better than his writing skills.

Students with dysorthography can use these tools to verify written.

Interactive White Board IWB

An interactive whiteboard is an instructional tool that allows computer images to be displayed onto a board using a digital projector. The instructor can then manipulate the elements on the board by using his finger as a mouse, directly on the screen. Items can be dragged, clicked and copied and the lecturer can handwrite notes, which can be transformed into text and saved.

Some added tools to consider when using the whiteboards:

– highlighter;

– curtain;

– spotlight tools;

– various font options;

– magnifier tool;

– freehand shape and freehand text tools reinforce fine motor skill development for those with a dexterity disability;

– note taking for review of key concepts;

– recorded assignments that can be used to review lesson content and be saved, printed and taken home for additional reinforcement;

– audio or video supplements make information more accessible for emerging readers and ELL students;

– copies of board work and student/teacher notes can be captured and shared across the classroom or taken home for additional practice and review.

IWBs are a powerful tool in the classroom adding interactivity and collaboration, allowing the integration of media content into the lecture and supporting collaborative learning. Used innovatively they create a wide range of learning opportunities for whole class, nobody excluded.

Talking spell checkers and electronic dictionaries

Talking spell checkers and electronic dictionaries can help a poor speller select or identify appropriate words and correct spelling errors during the process of writing and proofreading. Talking devices “read aloud” and display the selected words onscreen, so the user can see and hear the words”.

Talking spell checkers and electronic dictionaries are very useful for pupils with dyslexia.

Dispensatory devices

Dispensatory devices are actions, or didactic strategies that allow students to not perform certain activities which, due the disorder, are particularly difficult and that are not essential for learning. These devices are not intended to “heal” the child from his/her disorder (because he/she is not sick!), but to help him/her reduce its effects, planning a learning modalitymore suitable to his/her characteristics. It is not useful to read for a student with dyslexia a long passage, because the disorder does not improve his/her reading performance.

Same didactic strategies are:

– longer time for written tests and study;

– planning oral tests;

– small extent homework;

– being able to carry out a test on a significant content but reduced in quantity.