Students with learning disabilities (LD) may struggle with schoolwork in many different areas. While most are likely to have trouble with reading, others may have issues with math, memory, organization or writing. Assistive technology (AT) can be a great way to minimize the extent to which they need to ask for help and to enable them to be more independent learners. Assistive technology (sometimes referred to as “adaptive technology”) is a general term that describes the types of tools and devices that assist people to achieve greater independence. For individuals with LD, assistive technology can include such things as scanners and screen reading software, voice recognition software, calculators, highlighting and note-taking programs, electronic/digital organizers and much more.
Here Are Some Tips to Guide You as You Explore AT Options for Your Child
- If you’re just starting to investigate assistive technology, make sure you understand the basics—what AT can and cannot do.
- Review your child’s IEP or 504 plan to see if it includes provisions for assistive technology. (Federal law includes a mandate for IEP teams to consider assistive technology.) Many students with LD are under-referred for AT supports!
- If your child doesn’t have an IEP or 504 plan (or even if one is in place), use The Family Center on Technology and Disability’s “Assistive Technology Solutions Fact Sheet” to identify AT devices that may best suit your child.
- Include your child in the selection process. Make sure the technology really addresses his or her needs, and that it’s easy to use.
- For students who struggle with a reading disability such as dyslexia, audio or digital books can make a huge difference! Learn more about how reading technologies can help.
- Try out the AIM Explorer, a free simulation tool that combines grade-leveled digital text with features common to most text readers and other supported reading software. This tool is designed to identify which of these supports might help a struggling reader best access and understand text.
- New “apps” for smartphones and tablets are being developed all the time. Learn how to evaluate them to see whether or not one might provide the right kind of support for your child.
- Review the standard features and functions that your existing computer hardware and software provide. Most built-in technologies easily allow for adjustments to text size, font, background color and line spacing.
- Don’t forget to consider low-tech (and low-cost) options such as highlighters, color coding files or drawers or a different paper color.
- There is no one-size-fits-all assistive technology, so be prepared to spend some time finding the right matches for your child’s particular needs.