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Assistive technology basics

How Can I Get My Child a Free Laptop or E-Reader?

By Jessica Millstone

My child is a very slow reader and also has a really tough time with writing. I think she might have dyslexia. I know there are computer programs that can help with these issues. How can I convince the school to give my child a free laptop she can use in class and at home?

Jessica Millstone

Former Education Fellow, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

To qualify for a free laptop computer to use at home and school, your child must first be evaluated to determine what (if any) learning needs she has and which kinds of assistive technology might best address those needs.

Let’s say your daughter is evaluated and found to have dyslexia. Her need for assistive technology would then be outlined in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). You and the school work together to create this legally binding document.

Often the best assistive technology for a child with dyslexia is not a laptop but an e-reader. An e-reader lets your child easily change the font size on a document or highlight individual rows of text to help her focus while reading. E-readers are also very light and sturdy.

These devices don’t have as many features as laptops do. But that can be a good thing for many kids. Fewer distractions from email or Facebook can help students focus on their reading.

You can get the process started by requesting an evaluation. If your child qualifies for an IEP, then you and the school will consider a range of tools to help her become a stronger, more independent reader and writer.

Keep in mind that not every student with a disability qualifies for an IEP. But some kids who aren’t eligible for an IEP may be able to get assistive technology through a 504 plan. Under either type of plan, the assistive technology is provided at no cost to parents.

Read more about how to find the right assistive technology for your child. And learn more about who pays for assistive technology—the school, parents, or insurance?

About the Author

Jessica Millstone

Jessica Millstone

Former Education Fellow, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

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