Types of Assistive Technology
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.