Can My Child Get a Free Laptop or Tablet From the School?
Andrew M.I. Lee, JD
Question: My child is a very slow reader and has trouble with writing. I think the cause might be dyslexia or another learning difference. I’ve heard there are computer programs that can help. Can my child get a free laptop or digital tablet from our local public school?
Yes, your child may be able to get a free school-issued computer.
What if your child doesn’t have an IEP or a 504 plan? Kids may qualify for an IEP or a 504 plan because of learning differences, so you may want to look into one. Here’s how to ask for a free evaluation from the school.
Not every child qualifies for an IEP or a 504 plan, though. Without an IEP or a 504 plan, it’s still possible to get a free laptop or digital tablet from school. However, it’s more difficult.
To understand what’s possible, I spoke to Chris Gibbons, a technology expert with over 20 years of experience working with local school districts around the country.
There are thousands of school districts in the United States. “Each district handles technology in a different way,” says Gibbons. “Some offer computers and technology to all students, not just those with educational plans like IEPs.” A
recent study found that 43 percent of public schools had one device per student, with more and more moving in that direction.
Gibbons suggests looking on your school’s website to find the person responsible for student technology. This person might go by different names, like tech specialist or assistive technology coordinator.
When you make contact, ask what’s available. Make sure to explain why you’re asking, including that your child is struggling with reading and writing. You can even suggest options. For example, if your school has a computer lab with Chromebooks, maybe the school will allow your child to take one home each day.
Another place to look are nearby public charter schools. Some charter schools offer one-to-one computing, where every child gets a device. There may be a lottery to get into the school. Charters aren’t right for all kids. But it could be an option to consider.
“Lastly, if you do get a school-issued laptop or tablet,” Gibbons says, “your child needs to be taught how to use it.” Someone from the school should help with finding the right software and computer tools for your child’s challenges. Otherwise, just having a device probably won’t be helpful. Check out this checklist for what to ask about technology.