Recently we read about several special needs students in Bloomfield who are taking learning to a whole new level. These students may not be able to read, write or even talk like others in their classroom, but one thing is for sure: They can learn just like the best of them.

Technology is great for saving lives, communicating with loved ones, and in this case, learning. It's great to see Bloomfield Schools make available all things necessary for learning. The use of machines to assist in communications is not a novel idea.

For more than 50 years, people with disabilities have been using technology to communicate. But those early devices were neither portable nor affordable, like an iPad is these days. Even today, specially designed devices can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 and weigh upwards of 5 pounds.

An iPad, by comparison, costs around $600 and weighs about a pound and a half. This is a small price to pay for engagement and enablement.

This year, the Bloomfield School District distributed about 30 iPads to students with various special needs, an experiment that is becoming increasingly popular with school districts around the nation. While little research exists regarding the effectiveness of such methods, the feedback from educators across the nation so far is positive.

We encourage and commend the use of technology to improve the lives and wellbeing of these special needs students.

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It's great to see schools stepping up to the plate, offering alternatives to those who need them.

Maybe what one student can say aloud, another has to push a button to relay the same message. Neither one is better than the other if both are doing the work and making the grade.

Some students, for example, better learn coordination on an iPad because they can draw, but are not forced to hold a pencil to do so; they can use their finger. Others learn how to better articulate because the iPad can repeat back what it thinks students are trying to say, showing students what words or sounds they need to work on once they see which words were misunderstood.

It's nice to see that the iPad is not the sole tool used to teach students, who still use tangible items such as books, puzzles and toys, but it's also nice to know there are alternatives out there.

The teachers of these special needs children should get a pat on the back as well. Keep up the good work and keep doing what you do.