Our previous article discussed what assistive technology is, what assistive technology for learning disabilities means, and the types of learning difficulties that assistive technology helps with. This article will build on the previous one, and it will address the different kinds of assistive technology that are out there. Additionally, we will focus on the factors that should be considered when evaluating assistive technology for a child.
There are various assistive technology tools out there. The ones that will be covered are some of the most commonly used ones. Moreover, these assistive technology tools are directly related to helping with the learning difficulties addressed in the previous article. These learning difficulties are explicitly reading, writing, organization and memory, math, and listening.
What are the Kinds of Assistive Technology that are available?
The term assistive technology has been applied to and associated with computer hardware, software, and electronic devices. However, many assistive technology tools are now available online on the internet. The following is a list of some assistive technology tools that support children with a learning disability.
- Abbreviation expanders
This tool is used with word processing to help individuals who struggle with writing. These software programs allow users to create, store, and reuse abbreviations for words or phrases frequently used. Creating these abbreviations for words and phrases ensures that the learner uses the proper spelling of words and phrases that s/he coded as abbreviations. Click here for a list of abbreviation expanders tools.
- Alternative keyboards
These are programmable keyboards, and they allow you to customize the appearance and function of a general keyboard. Students with learning difficulties and that struggle with typing may benefit from this customization because it reduces their input choices. It groups by color or location and can add graphics that help with comprehension. Click here for a list of alternative keyboard tools.
- Audiobooks and publications
Recorded books allow users to listen to texts, and they are also available in a variety of formats. Users can listen to CDs and MP3 downloads. In addition to users being able to playback the audio as often as they need to, some features allow users to search and bookmark pages and chapters. There are subscription services that give the users access to a vast electronic library collection. Click here for a list of audiobooks and publications tools for learning difficulty.
- Electronic math worksheets
Electronic math worksheets are software programs that help learners organize, align, and solve math problems on a computer screen. The numbers which appear on the screen can be read out loud with a speech synthesizer. Click here for a list of assistive technology tools for math.
- Graphic organizers and outlining
Graphic organizers and outlining programs help users who struggle with organizing and outlining information for a writing task. These programs allow users to write as much information and as many details as they want. Later on, the tools help them organize the information into appropriate, coherent categories. Click here for a list of graphic organizing and outlining tools that help children with dyslexia. It is worth mentioning that specific graphic organizing and outlining tools help children with other learning difficulties such as ADD or ADHD.
- Information data managers
This type of tool helps a person plan, organize, store, and retrieve their calendar, task list contact data, and other information in electronic format. Personal data managers can be handheld devices, portable or computer software, or a combination of those mentioned earlier. Click here for a list of tools and software that manage data.
- Optical character recognition
This technology allows users to scan documents into a computer or handheld device. Moreover, the scanned text is read out loud through a speech synthesis and screen system. Optical character recognition is available as stand-alone units, computer software, and portable devices. Click here for a list of optical character recognition tools and software that help learners struggle with reading.
- Proofreading programs
Students who struggle with the writing process, specifically with grammar, spelling, punctuation, word use, and sentence structure, can benefit from proofreading programs. These programs scan word processing documents and alert users to possible errors. Click here for a comprehensive list of assistive technology for writing and organize thoughts and ideas.
That’s Not All! Other Technology Tools for Learning
Other technological tools are used to help students and students with learning disabilities improve their performance at school. It is important to note that these technologies are different than assistive technology, but they are still important and add value. Universal design for learning (UDL) is a learning philosophy that utilizes learning models, methods, and products to enhance diverse learners’ learning experience, whether they have learning disabilities or not.
Another form of technology is instructional software, which is used to teach specific subject matter such as history and science. It is also used to teach skills such as writing or reading. Instructional software differs from assistive technology in that it provides instruction rather than bypassing students’ areas of difficulty.
Every Child’s Profile is Unique: Considerations and Takeaways
Since every child’s profile and needs are unique, there are a couple of questions that should be considered before choosing the appropriate assistive learning tool. The following are a list of questions that should be considered:
- What are the child’s specific needs and challenges? What particular skills or academic areas s does the child struggle with?
- What are the child’s strengths? Remember, assistive technology should utilize the child’s abilities to overcome or bypass the difficulties. http://www.cast.org/impact/universal-design-for-learning-udl
- What are the child’s interests, skills, and experience in using technology? What are the settings and situations in which the child will use the assistive technology tool? Assistive technology can help a student with learning difficulty function better at school and other locations such as home and social gatherings.