Last updated: 12.08.14

How online education can work for special-needs children

Meeting the special needs of some children has been a challenge for the education sector for many years.

While some schools are able to incorporate special-needs children into their establishments, other authorities decide a better method is to have schools that are dedicated to these youngsters.

Technology is providing a third option - with e-learning increasingly being used for special-needs children. As individuals can use virtual learning to develop at their own pace, this can be a great way for them to learn.

Among the companies branching out into this growing industry is Presence Learning, which provides online speech and occupational therapy for children. Speaking to Heartland, vice-president of marketing Katie Povejsil, explained that the firm aims to improve education for children with speech problems.

She said: "There were a lot of students who were not being served and were being underserved, especially with speech therapy. No one had been able to put together all the pieces."

Students can access tutors via video conferencing, although some lessons are also carried out in person. Presence Learning notes that it can be particularly challenging for schools to meet the needs of children who are from different cultures that have speech problems.

There are huge benefits from e-learning, among them financial. According to a study by the Thomas B Fordham Institute, reported in American Thinker, full online learning on average costs about $4,300 (£2,561) annually less than traditional schooling. As even a blended model saves about $1,100 per student per year, it is clear that online learning is going to play an increasingly large role in education in the future.

Among the organisations working to further progress within e-learning is the Digital Learning Council, which was launched in 2010 with the goal of integrating current and future technological innovations into public education. It has produced publications such as 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning to help to explain the benefits of online learning methods.