Assistive technology can be low tech, mid-tech, or high tech devices. Low tech solutions include items like pencil grips, a color overlay for reading, or manipulatives for counting. Mid-tech assistive technologies include items like a calculator, handheld speller, or a tape recorder to record lectures. High technology solutions include computers, sophisticated communication devices, and comprehensive software programs.
The executive functions involve planning, sequencing, organization, attention, and other cognitive functions involved in oversight and control. People with deficits in Executive Functioning or ADHD often need tools to help them with planning and organization. The assistive technlologies for executive functions can make the difference between successful organization, planning, attention to schedules and other details.
The most common assistive technology for math disabilities is the calculator. Early elementary children use their fingers for counting. When math becomes more complex, a teacher may use manipulative blocks, an abacus, geometric shapes, and other physical representations for math concepts. When a child has a math learning disability, sometimes called dyscalculia, the child may require mathematical assistive technology on an ongoing basis. Often a child with dyscalculia has difficulty remembering math facts and a calculator can enable him to stay on grade level when he’s able to understand the math concepts. The Assistive Technology for Math and Dyscalculia section discusses options for making math instruction accessible.
The most common assistive technology for reading disabilities is audiobooks. When children are little, parents and teachers often read books to children whether they have learning disabilities or not. While most children develop the ability to read for themselves around the third grade, many children do not due to dyslexia. At the third grade, children start reading to learn, so assistive technology becomes essential as assistive technology for children who cannot yet read. Having assistive technology for reading enables the child to continue learning core content and stay on grade level while still learning to read. The Assistive Technology for Reading and Dyslexia section discusses options for making book-based learning content accessible to children who have specific learning disabilities in reading.
The most common assistive technology for writing disabilities is a word processor. A close second is dictation software which enables a child to create compositions if he can’t yet write by hand. When a child has a learning disability in written expression or handwriting, it’s not uncommon to use pencil grips, specially lined paper, and keyboarding. A child with a specific learning disability in written expression that includes handwriting issues often receives occupational therapy. If therapy doesn’t bring about the ability to write compositions by hand, a child often needs more advanced assistive technology to allow him to remain on grade level with his composition writing. The Assistive Technology for Writing and Dysgraphia section discusses options for enabling a child who has a specific learning disability in writing or dysgraphia to write.
What is Assistive Technology and how can you use it to help your child learn?
Assistive technology is used to help kids with learning disabilities access general information. A.T. helps kids communicate more effectively, complete learning tasks, and have an equal ability to finish educational tasks.
Assistive technology can help people with learning disabilities learn more easily. It can provide better access to the general curriculum. A.T. can also help kids complete assignments they might otherwise not be able to finish. There are many different types of educational and commercial technology that can be used for learning.
Learning disabilities are covered under the U.S. Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Both of those laws require equal access to learning as a key in learning abled kids’ education. Technology can provide the required access, especially when a child can’t yet read, write, or perform math calculations.
Using technology to make learning more accessible to kids just makes sense. Since it helps a child learn, there is no reason to withhold learning technology. Whether your child has ADHD, Aspergers, dyslexia, dysgraphia, executive function deficits, or some other learning disabilities, he deserves to learn!
This Learning Abled Kids’ site focuses on assistive technology for reading, writing, math, and general education accessibility for kids with learning disabilities.
If you want to see some really COOL Assistive Technology that can help your child learn all kinds of things, check out the Amazon Echo!
Assistive Technology Resources and Reviews
This site is in its infancy, so there isn’t a lot of content here yet. However, there are lists of types of Assistive Technology for kids with learning disabilities in each of the above categories.
I will add information about tools for learning and how to use the tools. I intend to build this into a great resource site for helping kids learn through different types of technology and multisensory learning.
Check out the wide variety of Assistive Technology available to you:
Have you ever wished your child would just sit still and do his schoolwork?
If you find yourself constantly saying, “Sit down,” or “Sit still,” or you find your child is wandering around the house again when his work isn’t done, then you may need a solution to let your child move while doing his school work.
Kids with ADHD, or who are kinesthetic learners, may have difficulty sitting still long enough to complete their assignments. Kids with ADHD are often like popcorn–up and down–up and down.
Kinesthetic learners will constantly move while learning, and moving is the key for enabling their learning retention. But how do you let a child move all day, while trying to get school work completed?
Why Use a Pedal Desk ?
Kinesthetic learners MUST move to learn. Kids with Active-type ADHD need to move a lot too, so their movement behaviors are often a distraction to their teachers or homeschooling moms!
For some kids, the need to move can be so overwhelming it interferes with the child’s school work.
Thus, using a pedal desk is a good way to give your child a way to move while working. Having such a desk can keep your active child on task and academically engaged for longer periods of time.
Pedal Desk Options
There are different styles and types of pedals and/or pedal desks you can use.
For a smaller, growing child, or for portability under kitchen or work tables, I like the under-the-desk pedal option the best. These small, weighted desk pedals can be used under a table, under a child-sized table-desk, or under a work table. They can be used as a child grows in size too, which is a great benefit.
For larger kids in middle or high school, using a standing or walking desk or a bike pedal desk tends to work better. Either of these desk styles are adjustable in height. The adjust-ability lets you change the desk’s dimensions as your child grows.
As a high schooler, my son liked the standing pedal desk type of option the best! Since we already had a treadmill, we used a WalkTop Treadmill Desk type of solution to make a standing / walking desk.
How to use a pedal desk
The biggest key to using a pedal desk while doing school work, particularly the standing desk, is to take it slowly. The goal is not to pedal hard or walk fast, but rather to provide rhythmic movement for an extended period of time.
Your child will have more stamina and the pedal desk will work better if our child uses a slow, steady pace for pedaling or walking. My son sets our treadmill desk to one mile per hour, so it is a slow pace he can easily walk while reading. He can walk a long time at that pace.
Additionally, by taking it slowly, your child is better able to focus on the school work and is less likely to get injured.
For many kids, the slow, rhythmic pedaling or walking becomes soothing. They can pedal or walk for hours throughout the day! Using a pedal desk or a walking desk really is a great option for kids who need to move it, move it!
Amazon echo : Cloud Computing Education at Your Child’s Command
If your child hates writing, researching, or has difficulty with reading, the Amazon echo could be your child’s most accessible reading and research tool!
The Amazon Echo is a voice activated tower that uses a cloud computing hosted knowledge base. With the echo’s brain being hosted on the cloud, the information will always be up to date.
Your child doesn’t have to type anything, read anything, or look anything up. Your child can simply ask a question and receive an answer! Additionally, for any information that can be accessed via the Internet, Alexa can read it to your child.
Not only is this a GREAT Assistive Technology choice for your child, think of all of the “Why?” and “How?” questions the Amazon Echo can answer for you! 😉
The greatest benefit of the echo is that it will allow your child to work independently. Having personal independence can take a lot of the frustration out of schoolwork that involves research. It can also let your child finish his schoolwork faster because he doesn’t have to spend time trying to read things that are difficult for your child to understand.
The bottom line: Your child won’t have to spend time doing what is hard for him.. reading and researching.
How the Amazon Echo Works
Since the Amazon echo is voice activated, your child can simply talk to the echo to get information.
The Echo idly listens for it’s activation keyword. If the activation Keyword is “Alexa,” when your child wants to know something, he can start talking to the unit using that Keyword.
For example, with the activation phrase, “Alexa,” your child can say, “Okay Alexa, how big is an elephant?” The Amazon Echo tower will tell your child how big an elephant is.
The Echo was designed to be a completely hands-free, completely voice-controlled, cloud-based computer. Your child doesn’t have to know how to read or write in order to use it! This is how Amazon describes the Echo:
Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo begins working as soon as it detects the wake word. You can pick Alexa or Amazon as your wake word.
Since it is a cloud-based computing engine, the Echo is always tuned in to the latest information available and it is constantly learning through it’s input. Additionally, the Echo can be used to save grocery lists, ask for recipes, sports scores, etc., so it’s really a great device for anyone in the family.
The Amazon Echo is Ideal for ANYONE with Reading Difficulties
Ease of use for kids in each of these age groups:
a) Elementary School 6-10 years-old – For a young child, understanding the broad-reaching body of information that would be accessible through the Echo would be similar to accessibility of information on the Internet. Therefore, you would want to monitor your child’s use of the Echo. The great thing about the Echo as an alternative to research on the computer is that your child will not happen upon any imagery you don’t want him to see!
A young child may have difficulty understanding some of the language used, in the way of sophisticated vocabulary, but those can be teaching opportunities. You can explain to your child the meaning of the words, or your child can simply ask the Echo for the meaning of the word.
b) Middle School ages 11-13 years-old – The Echo is a great device for any middle school aged child. Again, your child won’t happen upon illicit images when using the Echo, so that is a big plus factor.
At this age, when a child is starting to do more research and write papers, your child would have to be able to take notes to include information in papers. The Echo would not be as easy to use for quotes as it would be to copy and paste quotes on a standard computer. However, for factual information your child needs to research, using the Echo can help your child avoid straight copying and pasting that can get kids in trouble for plagiarism and/or copyright infringement.
c) High School ages 14-18 years-old – For a high school student, there really is little in the way of drawbacks. They are basically the same as for a Middle School aged child. The Echo will speed up your child’s ability to obtain needed information with a simple voice command, so looking up formulas, terminology, dates, etc. can be much quicker when using the Echo.
Basically, the Amazon Echo can speed up your child’s homework completion by putting factual information at the tip of your child’s tongue!
The Next Best Thing: Smart Phone Usage with Google Alternative
There really isn’t a comparative alternative to using the Echo Tower other than using voice-activated searches via Google on a Smart Phone. Both iPhones and Andriod Phones have voice recognition features that can allow your child to similarly ask questions and receive answers.
Since the voice recognition search capability is a secondary feature of the smart phones, it is highly likely that the Amazon Echo will significantly outperform the smart phones. Voice activated access to information is the entire foundation on which the Echo was designed.
The Amazon Echo Is Your Always-Ready, Question-Answering, Non-Reader’s Assistant
Things just got easier for people with dyslexia and the non-readers in the world! Whether your child can read or not, the Amazon Echo can help your child quickly access information. If your child is a non-reader, struggling reader, or simply hates reading, the Amazon Echo can help your child love learning without the hassle of trying to read!
One of the simplest tools you can use in the way of reading strategies for kids is to use a Reading Guide while reading with your child.
A reading guide is simpler to use than pointing with a finger because the guide doesn’t have to be moved left to right as your child reads. Your child can simply slide the reading guide down the page as he reads.
Many remedial reading programs for kids recommend the use of side-by-side guided reading to help with reading. This simple tool makes reading easier for children with visual perception difficulties, ocular motor deficits, dyslexia, etc.
Reading guides are recommended as dyslexia reading aids because they help kids maintain their place. If your child loses his place frequently when reading, then a reading guide allows your child to keep his place easily.
If you need to be sure your child is tracking each sentence properly as you read aloud to him, use a reading guide with a reading window in it. This will insure your child is focusing on the actual sentence you are reading.
Another key benefit of using a reading guide is that it is proven to increase a child’s reading rate. When a child easily moves his eyes across the line, then back to the beginning of the next line, his reading goes more smoothly. When reading is more fluent, your child’s reading speed will be improved.
How to Use a Reading Guide with Guided Reading
When your child is struggling with a reading disability, one-on-one, direct instruction is proven by research to be one of the key reading strategies for success. Guided reading is a direct instruction strategy that is highly recommended, and it is proven to improve reading abilities.
To use the guided reading strategy, you will need a reading guide (as shown in the pictures on this page).
With your reading guide in hand, sit side-by-side with your child. You can have your child read aloud, you can read to your child, or you and your child can take turns reading aloud.
The key in the guided reading strategy is for you to assist and instruct your child as you read together. When your child reads, if he struggles with a word and the reading guide is underlining the word, you’ll know precisely where to point in helping your child decode the word.
As you read aloud to your child, you can read fluently with proper tone of voice. Having the reading guide indicate where you are reading will help your child see and hear how you vary your voice along with the words in the sentence.
This type of side-by-side reading practice is one of the best ways to demonstrate good reading skills while assisting your child in developing his own reading abilities.
Guided Reading Guide Techniques
To use the reading guide, you simply slide the card down in one of three ways while reading:
Slide the reading guide so that the sentence currently being read shows through the reading window
Slide the edge of the reading guide down to underline each sentence as it is read, or
Slide the reading guide down from the above the line being read to cover the sentence that was just read.
No matter which of the guided reading strategies you use, the reading guide will help your child focus on the sentence being read.
For any child who frequently loses his place while reading, using a reading guide can become an essential reading aid to help make reading easier. Not only will the use of the guide eliminate frustration over frequently losing his place, your child’s reading speed will increase because he won’t have to spend time figuring out where he was.
A Reading Guide is Easy for Readers of All Ages to Use.
Reading Guides can be a little bit difficult to use with elementary aged kids who are just learning to read. Until the child learns the concept of word-by-word reading, the guide itself is not a highly useful tool.
In the very beginning, when first learning to read, it is better to use your finger as a reading guide to point to each individual word being read. As your child learns many of the easier words, it becomes easier to introduce a reading guide to eliminate the word-by-word pointing.
If a child can read more than half of the words in each sentence, then a reading guide becomes a useful tool. At this point, your child will recognize the words he knows, and he’s likely to be able to focus on the words he doesn’t know because there will only be a couple of unknown words on each line.
Once your child reaches the point of using a reading guide, it can be a good tool to use for reading fluency throughout the rest of his schooling. Reading guides are so easy to use, that many readers chose to use them for all of their reading because they can read faster using a reading guide. (You might want to try it yourself!) 😉
High School aged kids are less likely to want to use a reading guide at school, but if you can demonstrate how the guide increases their reading speed, they may adopt the reading guide for homework. Because a reader can “sweep” down the page easily using a reading guide, it is usually easy for them to see how their reading speed increases.
Guided Reading Guides
Three of the most loved reading guides are the following three types of guides:
Guided Reading Strips Asst. Set of 7 (Colored Overlays) is one of the most popular choices. This pack of reading strips lets your child choose his favorite color or pick a different color based upon his mood. For kids with organizational issues, buying a multi-pack like this helps with having one handy whenever another one is misplaced. When reading guides go wandering, hopefully one will end up in each of your child’s favorite reading spots.
These Deluxe Durable Plastic Eye Lighter Reading Guide Strips (4 pack) are harder, like a plastic ruler, and some kids much prefer them over the thinner, flexible plastic reading guides. The jewel tones are enticing to kids, and the thinner, transparent “highlighter” function of this reading guide is helpful for kids who prefer to read with a colored overlay affect.
This Cut Out Window Blue Trakker Reading Guide is our favorite type of reading guide. It is about the size of a 3×5 index card (slightly larger). We like this type of card because you can curl up the bottom edge a bit and hold it, which makes moving the card from one page to the next easier. For the thinner reading guides, they lie flat as you slide them down the page, but you have to then grasp them and lift them to move them to the next page. With this kind of card, your grip on the bottom edge of the card can remain constant and that helps with fluency (at least, it does for us). This is my preferred type of card, but it is not the top-selling kind, so a lot of people obviously prefer the other kinds listed above! 😉
Of course, there are more reading guide options available, and you may prefer a different type of reading guide. Choose whichever you think your child will prefer. You can buy a variety if you want to find the one your child likes best. You can use the less preferred ones yourself or take the less preferred ones with you when you’re traveling. That way, if one gets lost or left behind, it won’t be the favorite one your child uses all the time at home. 😉
Help with Reading Strategies Through Guided Reading Guides
So now that you have the low-down on guided reading guides, I hope you’ll give them a try. A reading guide can make a big difference in your child’s willingness to read, and it can improve your child’s reading abilities quickly if your child is already a functional reader but struggles with fluency.
Reading Guides are quick, simple tools you can use as a reading aid. As a very low-tech solution, reading guides are always worth a try if you’re looking for simple assistive technology to make reading easier for your child.
Help Your Child Focus and Learn with Assistive Technology for Kids with ADHD
Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) are known to be highly distract-able. They pay attention to EVERYthing. Therefore, sitting and reading a book is a recipe for a wandering mind, intruding thoughts, interference from sounds, etc. Environmental noises can easily distract a child with ADHD from learning.
Similarly, kids with dyslexia or executive function deficits may benefit from more focused learning engagement through the use of audiobooks and noise cancelling headphones.
Kids with ADHD tend to love animated, active, audio-visual learning. Additionally, current research shows that multisensory learning using books and programs enables kids with ADHD to focus on their lessons better.
What is Multisensory Learning Using Books and Programs?
Multisensory learning involves hearing, seeing, touching and/or moving all at the same time.
Multisensory learning with books involves listening to an audiobook, while reading along in the book, and using a finger or pencil to track each word. A child who is reading in a multisensory manner is hearing the words, seeing the words, and tracking the words with his finger.
Learning Programs on computers are similar in their ability for a student to see, hear, and interact with the lessons.
Noise Cancelling Headphones Used for Assistive Technology Helps Keep Distractions OUT
Using Noise Cancelling Headphones help kids, particularly those with ADHD, have the sound component of the multisensory lesson close to them. The headphones mask exterior noises that might distract your child, even if your child doesn’t actually have ADHD.
Proven benefits of using audiobooks along with print books include increased reading comprehension, increased reading speed and fluency, greater attention, and an improved working speed.
How Noise Cancelling Headphones Act as Assistive Technology for Kids with ADHD
Having the sounds from a program or audiobook “close” to your child engages your child as if he were in the same room as the audio speaker. This makes focusing on what is being said is much easier for your child.
Think of it this way, if someone whispers in your ear, you are more focused on what the speaker is saying than you are when a person is speaking to a general audience. It’s the same when a speaker is talking directly in your child’s ear, even if that speaker is coming through headphones.
Similarly, kids love using headphones for music because it allows them to focus on their music and drown out external noises. You can use this to your child’s learning advantage simply by using noise cancelling headphones for learning!
A SUPER SIMPLE Assistive Technology Solution
Many assistive technology solutions have a learning curve that is required when the technology is implemented; this is not the case with noise cancelling headphones. I bet you know how to use them and already see the benefits of the headphones!
Noise cancelling headphones are extremely easy for kids in every age group to use. Many kids with ADHD prefer using headphones with audio learning through programs and audiobooks with the possible exception of kids who have a high Hyperactive component to their ADHD.
If your child has a high Hyperactive component to his ADHD, then you will want to consider acquiring audiobooks in a mobile format, ripping audiobook CDs to MP3 player formats, or use the text-to-speech aspect of a tablet like a Kindle. Using one of these mobile audio option will allow your child to get up and move around while listening to an audiobook through the noise cancelling headphones.
The main complaint or problem parents have in regard to using the Noise Cancelling Headphones is that their child can’t hear them calling from another room! You can’t distract your own child without touching him or appearing in his field of vision.
Options for Headphones for ADHD Assistive Technology
One complaint some parents have about the Dr. Dre Beats headphones is that they “leak” noise. It can be bothersome if your child is listening to music you don’t love. HOWEVER, the noise leak is beneficial because you can hear what your child is listening to. When your child is supposed to be doing schoolwork, you can HEAR if he’s listening to a lecture, an audiobook, or his music!
Among the top rated noise cancelling headphones is the V-MODA Crossfade Noise Isolating Headphones line of products. People love the sound quality, but complaints are primarily about mechanical failures or low quality. These headphones would probably be good for a child who has a gentler nature, but may not stand up to rigorous use by an active, dynamo child! 😉
Your highest sound quality option may be the Bose Quietcomfort Noise Cancelling Headphones. If your child loves music, you may want to consider these for your child’s musical enjoyment in addition to using them for learning. You’ll pay for the Bose name, but your child will surely appreciate it if he’s a music fan.
Let Your Kid Listen UP! And Learn with Assistive Technology for Attention Deficits
Whether your child has ADHD, Dyslexia, Executive Functioning deficits, or any other learning disabilities, using Noise Cancelling Headphones for learning can help your child stay academically engaged. Using headphones for multisensory learning is proven to be an effective way for kids to learn, and it is particularly true for kids with learning disabilities.
Therefore, I hope you’ll consider the use of headphones with computer-based learning programs and audiobooks to help your child remember learn more effectively.
An E Reader is a GREAT Assitive Tool with Text-to-Speech Capabilities
If your child is not yet able to read, having an E Reader can give your child access to hundreds of books.
Kids with reading disabilities like to read the same books their friends are reading, but they can’t. Your child can enjoy all of the popular books if he can have the books read to him by his eBook tablet.
Today’s E Reader tablets have text to speech capabilities. Some of them have built-in read aloud software, but others have an app you can install for the read aloud capability. Either way, if your child has an E Reader equipped with the text to speech function, he can have access to all of the books he wants or needs to read.
E Readers can give kids with reading disabilities of all ages access to books. Providing your child with an E Reader that has text to speech capabilities will open the door to reading that is typically closed for kids with dyslexia or a reading disability.
The Benefits of E Readers for Kids with Reading Disabilities
As mentioned, having equal access can help your child read the same books his friends are reading. That may not seem like a big benefit, but reading the books will allow your child to talk to friends about popular books. It will let your child be included socially and be like everyone else. The value of being able to read the same books as everyone else can’t be underestimated.
Having an E Reader let’s your child access educational books and content too. Your child can access the same books other kids access when he’s studying for school. Additionally, textbook publishers are increasingly offering versions of their books for E Reader tablets, especially at the college level.
As a matter of fact, my son’s college INSISTED he have audio textbooks to help him with the quantity of reading, even though my son could read well. Why is that? Because, even after your child CAN read, reading speed is likely to remain slower than for typical readers.
When your child takes literature classes in high school or college, all of the reading can really bog your child down UNLESS he has an E Reader. For higher level science and social studies classes, your child will run into words he can’t pronounce. Having the text to speech ability will let him hear the word. Then he’ll know the word when his teacher is talking in class, and he may recognize the word when he sees it in print.
How E Readers Work
The read aloud option is usually setting on the E Reader which your child can turn on or off.
In the case where the tablet uses an app, you just start the app to read the book.
There is often a “play” button to start or pause reading. We use headphones with our text to speech function. Using noise cancelling headphones help with focus, especially when a child has ADHD.
E Reader Ease of Use
Generally speaking, the text to speech option is quite easy to use.
A middle school or high school child who is adept with technology will have no difficulty turning the text to speech reader on or off.
For an elementary-aged child, you may have to turn the text to speech option on for your child. Once the reader is turned on, you child should be able to start and stop play without any problem.
E Reader Options:
Kindle Fire is my TOP choice! It’s what I own. There are two options for read aloud books on Kindle. You can use either the text to speech option with the electronic voice or their Whispersync books with simultaneous reading highlighting. The Whispersync titles are more limited, but they are an awesome tool for your child to use whenever the books are available. You can read more about the Kindle Fire as an assistive technology option in our Using the Kindle Tablet for Reading Disabilities or Dyslexia Article.
Nook – The older NOOKs do not have a text-to-speech function. The HD versions of the NOOK have a text-to-speech option, but several user forum questions indicate that the text-to-speech function is not always easy to use. Users like listening to audiobooks on their Nooks, so your child would still have the ability to listen to recorded audiobooks. I imagine the text to speech functionality on the Nook will be improved if Barnes and Noble continues upgrading the Nook.
BOOX – You may find the new Onyx Boox has the most natural text to speech functionality. The Boox uses IVONA Text-To-Speech functionality for smooth reading. As a new advice, the Amazon reviews are mixed. Please read the latest reviews on the model you’re considering. I think the Boox has the potential to become a great, natural E Reader if the glitches are worked out.
iPad – Although the iPad isn’t actually an E Reader, it has the ability to function as a ebook reader via apps. There are a lot of books available in the iTunes store, and iPads are known for their high quality. Using either a full-sized iPad can make visual reading of books easier. However, an iPad mini is often easier for younger kids to handle. ➜Compare eBook Readers and Prices Available on Amazon
Help Your Non-Reader Read Independently With an E Reader
Giving your child a reading tablet with text-to-speech capability could be one of the best assistive technologies you can make on behalf of your child. Most kids want to be able to read independently. Kids develop a love for books when they aren’t frustrated by an inability to read.
You can open up the world of books for your child and help him be more successful in school with a great E Reader.