A Cognitive and Augmentative Communication System for Special Needs Education

A Cognitive and Augmentative Communication System for Special Needs Education

Jihad M. Al Ja'am (Qatar University, Qatar), M. Samir Abou El-Seoud (British University in Egypt, Egypt), Amal Dandashi (Qatar University, Qatar) and AbdelGhani Karkar (Qatar University, Qatar)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3827-1.ch012
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A triple component system which can serve basic communication and cognitive needs of developmentally disabled children in the Arab world is proposed. This system is based on a combinational cognitive model which merges Mayer's Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning and Skinner's Operant Conditioning Theory. The system aims to benefit three main groups of children: 1) children with hearing impairments (HI), 2) children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and 3) children with Down syndrome (DS) and other intellectual disabilities (ID), in their struggle for augmentative communication and enhanced learning. This study elaborates on the cognitive models and the methodologies for each of the three proposed components: Pedagogical approach, Dynamic Arabic text translation to multimedia elements, Multimedia-based system for daily living task learning, as well as Cognitive multimedia tutorials and exercises. The proposed Multimedia-based triple component system has been tested on a group of 100 children, 50 with DS and 50 with other IDs. Evaluation results from these studies demonstrated that the multimedia system is effective in terms of cognition and motivation for children with DS and ID.
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A large number of children with disabilities in the Arab world lack the proper means for communication, cognition and integration within society. During the Qatar Information and Communication Technology Conference and Exhibition (2011) held in Doha, Qatar, information technology (IT) specialists mentioned that, “…the lack of assistive tools and software for people with special needs is a major concern in the gulf countries….” (Qatar Tribune, 2011). They called for the following urgent need: “We need local IT solutions, and more collaboration between Arab institutions should be enhanced to cater to the needs of the special needs community.” It was also noted that “…an important technology gap [exists] between Western and Eastern countries. While assistive technology has developed much faster in the West, in the Gulf and Arab countries it is still lagging behind in terms of availability of language independent tools and localized solutions” (Qatar Tribune, 2011). IT experts concluded that “…there is a major need for more collaborative efforts among key institutions, besides advocating value-added services like training, coaching, motivation and mentoring in order to address the technology gap between the East and the West.” Highly motivated by these ideas and suggestions, the authors decided to conduct this research project to serve the community of special needs in the Arab world and to provide them with the tools and software to enhance communicative abilities and learning skills.

This study focused on three main groups of disabled children:

First of all, children with hearing impairments (HI): These are the children with little or no functional hearing. There are also children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which poses major challenges for processing verbal information. The authors carried out intensive research on the needs of children with HI in Qatar. They held several meetings with representatives of local deaf institutions and schools, such as the “Qatar Society for Rehabilitation for Special Needs”, and the “Audio Education Complex School for Children with Hearing Impairments”. Investigation took into account the differences between the Western and Arab world deaf needs. Vast differences have been found in the availability of cognitive and assistive resources for the deaf and hearing impaired.

In the West, deaf children have access to speech therapists, early intervention in education, technology such as cochlear implants, and public and private schools have systems incorporated for non-verbal students which take into account their disability and to integrate them with verbal children, as well as providing the necessary resources. However, in the Arab world, speech therapists are uncommon, and specialized schools and centers rarely have specialized instructors for the deaf. Communication is a problem, and early intervention is only allocated for some children. The weaknesses and needs of the deaf society in the Arab world and the various ways assistive technology can help, have been assessed.

Secondly, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD): These children fall under the umbrella of several pervasive developmental disorders such as Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, autism, Heller's syndrome, and others. Some of the above mentioned disorders are caused by problems in neural development, and others are caused by uncertain factors related to genetic variations or birth defects. However, children with ASD are characterized by disabilities in social interaction and communication, lack of intuition, limited eye contact, repetitive behavior, and limited interests.

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