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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Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.
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