By Amanda Morin
Assistive technology is one of the core strategies schools use to help with learning and attention issues. Some adaptive tools are low-tech and some are pretty fancy. Here are some common examples.
It may help your child to be able to listen to the words as she reads them on the page. Many e-books have audio files, and smartphones and tablet computers come with text-to-speech software that can read aloud anything on your child’s screen. If she struggles with writing or taking notes, an audio recorder can capture what the teacher says in class so your child can listen to it again at home.
From wristwatches to hourglass timers, these inexpensive devices help kids who have trouble with pacing. Timers can be used as visual aids to show how much time is left to complete an activity. If your child has difficulty transitioning from task to task, timers can help him mentally prepare to make the switch.
Reading guides are good tools for kids who have trouble with visual tracking or who need help staying focused on the page. The plastic strip highlights one line of text while blocking out surrounding words that might be distracting. The strip is also easy to move down the page as your child reads.
An inflatable seat cushion can help kids with sensory processing and attention issues. The cushion can provide enough movement and stimulation to help a child maximize his focus without having to get up and walk around.
Frequency modulation (FM) systems can reduce background noise in the classroom and amplify what the teacher says. This can help with auditory processing issues as well as attention issues. The teacher wears a microphone that broadcasts either to speakers around the room or to a personal receiver worn by the student. FM systems are also used to help kids with hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorder and language-processing issues.
Depending on your child’s math issues, it might be appropriate for him to use a basic calculator in class. There are also large-display calculators and even talking calculators. A talking calculator has built-in speech output to reads the numbers, symbols and operation keys aloud. It can help your child confirm that he has pressed the correct keys.
If your child has trouble with writing, try using plastic pencil grips or a computer. Basic word processing programs come with features that can help with spelling and grammar issues. For students whose thoughts race ahead of their ability to write them down, different kinds of software can help. With word prediction software, your child types the first few letters and then the software gives word choices that begin with that letter. Speech recognition software allows your child to speak and have the text appear on the screen. These kinds of software are built-in features on many smartphones and tablet computers.
Graphic organizers can be low-tech. There are many different designs you can print out that can help your child organize his thoughts for a writing assignment. There are also more sophisticated tools such as organizing programs that can help him map out his thoughts. Talk to your child’s school about finding the right assistive technology for your child.
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A parent advocate and former teacher, Amanda Morin is the proud mom of kids with learning and attention issues and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Jun 07, 2014
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Bookshare should be on the list. Bookshare is a free service that is available to all students with a documented print disability. There are over 450,000 books that students can access in this service including textbooks. It works on iPhones, iPads and Android and computers. This is an essential tool to anyone with a print disability! Benetech is the parent company and supports the Understood website.
@lmdsnow: We love Bookshare! (It is a program of Understood founding partner Benetech: www.understood.org/.../benetech). This slideshow didn't include text-to-speech services, but you're absolutely right: that's a critical (and popular!) piece of assistive technology.
Most of students are digital native. And to find a common language with them, teachers have to master the principles of the technologies operation. In addition there is a great amount of technological products which can engage students in diligent learning, boost their productivity and what is more edtech tools are able to improve the quality of education in general. If I could, I would add to this 'great 8' a plagiarism checker software Unplag unplag.com/.../ which is able to find duplication and wrong formatted citations. It is necessary to bring up students to respect the intellectual property rights. It seems to me, plagiarism is becoming a vital problem in educational sphere.
Thank you for your suggestion Tiabald! We'll be sure to share it with our team.
I have to laugh at the one line, "Talk to your child’s school about finding the right assistive technology for your child." Maybe at some fantasy school, but at the schools my child has been to, we're lucky if they even know that assistive technology exists, let alone know what my child needs. If we don't tell them and try to get it to assist my child, they'd as soon as leave the kids with stone tablets and hammers.
Reading guides are excellent tools to help focus a challenged reader. Thank you for including these in your good list of assistive technology and adaptive tools for ADHD.
You may be interested to know of another low-tech yet customizable reading solution called the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759). These research-based and sensory-appealing reading tools focus the eye on 1 or 2 lines of text to be read AND block out more surrounding text than any other reading aid available.
Recently, a digital extension of this low-tech tool was published as a means of helping challenged readers more easily read digital media. The Reading Focus Cards desktop app (Patent 8,360,779) is an innovative application for Windows PCs and Macs that can be infinitely customized to meet the needs of each individual reader. (Recent article by http://TeachersWithApps.com: http://teacherswithapps.com)
Thanks for the good list here!
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