tagline
WETA

Where can we find information about apps for the iPad in special education?

As more and more schools look towards integrating the iPad and iTouch into their classrooms, the range of educational applications available is growing. For specific apps that may be helpful for students with disabilities, you may want to check out iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps for Special Education, an extensive list compiled by assistive technology specialists and helpfully broken down by category (communication, math, writing, music, art, etc.). For another view of how the iPad might be beneficial for students with disabilities, The iPad: a Near-Miracle for My Son with Autism chronicles one mother's use of assistive technology and educational apps with her autistic son; she has some great suggestions and videos of her son using different apps.

For older children, apps like The Elements are exciting examples of what is possible with the iPad, as students can explore the Periodic Table in an interactive, media-rich and engaging way. Penultimate is a popular note-taking app that students may enjoy; students may also do well with fun games that teach math skills, such as Alien Equation. Apps for astronomy, Star Walk and Solar Walk would also be good choices for older students.  BrainPop has just released a free app that delivers a new featured movie every day, teaching students about a wide variety of topics.

There are so many educational apps available, with new ones coming out every day, that it can be hard to keep track of them all. You may want to check out reviews of educational apps from other teachers to help you find those that are worth checking out for your students. I Education Apps Review has a collection of reviews from teachers that can help get you started.

What cell phone applications can benefit students with ADHD?

There are many ways that students can make use of the features available on their cell phones to benefit learning, time management, and study skills. For example, if your students' phones are equipped with cameras (as most phones now are), they can use it to snap photos of the whiteboard/blackboard after class to make sure they don't miss notes or an assignment. Photos may also serve as a helpful visual reminder of what needs to be done (i.e. create a photo series of packing up homework, lunch, and other typically forgotten items).

Students can use text messaging, such as Google SMS, to get definitions, facts, weather, and conversions sent directly to their phones. As with Google searches, if a student spells a word incorrectly, Google SMS will generally prompt with "Did you mean…?" and provide both the correct spelling and the related information.

Online to-do lists such as Remember the Milk can send text alerts (or IM or email) reminding students of an upcoming appointment, assignment, or project. Unless the students have unlimited text messaging plans, it is important to discuss texting charges and how using these services can affect their cell phone bills.

Finally, many companies are capitalizing on powerful new cell phones and creating programs for sending flashcards and study materials directly to your phone or iPod. Students can browse flashcards created by others or create their own and study wherever they are.

Where can I find more books to use with a reading pen?

Your question depends a bit on what type of reading pen system you are using, as different companies use different technology. Products such as LeapFrog Tag and VTech's Bugsby Reading System use specially-designed books with their reading pens. In order to access more titles, you will need to purchase their books, most of which are targeted towards younger or early readers. The benefit of books like these is that the text is typically read by a human voice, rather than a computerized voice. Children can also click on different icons within the text to get more information or sound effects while reading. The disadvantage to such products is that they can only be used with a limited number of titles and so may not be a good solution for a student with disabilities who needs to access a wider array of books. You may also look at the different types of reading pen/scanners available — many of these tools you use like a highlighter, running over printed text and getting instant speech feedback. While most of these pens are not appropriate for reading an entire book, they can serve as a valuable support for difficult words, definitions, and pronunciation.

What options are there for a teenager who needs a communication device?

Communication devices can often be large, bulky, and single out AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) users as "different" from their peers. This can be particularly frustrating for teenagers, who may want something more portable as they go about their day and something that doesn't set them apart from their non-disabled classmates. With advances in mainstream technologies, computing, and cell phones, there are now many options for the AAC user — from handheld devices to applications that run on a cell phone — that your daughter can choose that will fit her needs.

Many apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, and Droid phones; Prolquo2Go is one popular option, but there are many more programs out there. You can also try a web-based AAC service that can be used on a variety of devices. Many children with speech difficulties have had success with these devices, so you may consider trying one out with your daughter. If she struggles with making precise movements, she may find that a larger screen (as on the iPad or similar tablet computer) is easier for her to use. Try out a few different options if you can to find the right fit. If you're interested in sticking with a traditional AAC device, many companies now make much smaller and more portable AAC devices; so there are a number of options there as well. Before you make any decisions, it may be helpful to review some of the features of AAC devices and think about what your daughter's needs are with regard to communication. With the many new choices for communication devices, you should be able to find something smaller, lighter, and more usable for your daughter.

What technologies can help a high school student with dysgraphia in science and math classes?

The writing involved in science and math classes can be challenging for a student with dysgraphia. Formulas and equations must be written down precisely to avoid errors, and drawing accurate diagrams can be a painstaking process. Additionally, if students are required to write observations in science journals during labs, a laptop with voice recognition software may not always be practical. If the difficulty with writing in journals is due to the student not being able to safely use their Alphasmart/laptop (e.g., when doing labs where spills or safety could be an issue) to take notes, you may consider allowing the student to take voice notes using a digital voice recorder. Current models are inexpensive and small enough to fit in a pocket. The students can easily voice their observations and use the audio file to generate typed notes later. If students are able to draw diagrams and graphs but struggle with writing lengthier notes, they may do well with a Smartpen, allowing them to combine audio notes with their drawings and graphics.

Finally, for more complex tasks in both math and science, you may want to investigate software that allows the user to generate mathematical and chemical equations, graphs, and diagrams. One possibility is the math and science software from Efofex, with math and science programs for drawing diagrams, graphs, and generating equations. Efofex also has a program for students with disabilities, providing students with a free 10-year personal subscription to the software, allowing them to use it both at home and school. Another possibility for math classes is MathType, which allows students to enter math by hand (using handwriting recognition; Windows only) and create equations using templates, keyboard shortcuts, or copying and pasting from other applications (such as Wikipedia). Microsoft Word and Excel also feature a built-in program, Equation Editor, which would allow your student to create and enter mathematical equations into a document. This may be helpful for writing and creating math journals. Although the program is not as full-featured as some other software programs currently available, it may be an ideal solution depending on the math content.

What technology tools can my daughter use over the summer to practice her math skills?

Since your daughter will be using these programs over the summer, and she enjoys games, it's a great idea to combine fun activities with learning and skill building! There are many online math programs, games, tutorials, and lesson available, so it can be a challenge to find these most appropriate ones for your child. If you know what specific areas your daughter is struggling with, that can help to narrow your search (i.e., search for games that teach fractions). In addition, you can talk with her teachers to see if they can recommend some high quality, standards-based math programs. Two good choices for math games that are also fun are BrainPop (subscription-based; free trial) and Fun School (free). The games on Fun School may be a bit below your daughter's skill level; if she is need of some remediation, they may be just right. BrainPop features a wide range of animated videos, quizzes, games, and activities addressing a variety of topics in an easy-to-understand and engaging way.

If your daughter is interested in trying to catch up on her math during the summer, she may also enjoy watching the free videos from Khan Academy. With over 1400 videos covering topics from basic addition to the Pythagorean Theorem, your daughter can watch and re-watch these easy to follow visual lessons on a variety of topics where she needs help. Finally, check out our custom searches on the TechMatrix to find suggestions for math software for teaching geometry, money skills, algebra, early math concepts, and more.

How can I get accessible instructional materials for my son if the school will not provide them?

This is certainly a frustrating and confusing situation to be in for a parent. I hope some of these resources will be helpful for you. First, you may find it helpful to review some of the available information on Center for Accessible Instructional Materials site on the key provisions of IDEA with regard to accessible materials and the requirements of the IEP. IDEA provides a legal mandate for accessible materials for qualifying students, through high school. We suggest that you become familiar with this information so that you can ensure that your child receives the materials necessary for success in school. For additional information, go to Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004, a website developed by the U.S. Department of Education, for additional information and services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, and children and youth (ages 3-21).

If your son's IEP does not currently list accessible instructional materials as a recommended support, you may want to consider addressing that issue with his IEP team. Find valuable guidance at Bookshare and Accessible Instructional Materials and the IEP. As your son moves into high school, you should discuss his needs with the new IEP team to ensure that supplementary aids and services, such as accessible texts, are included, if your son is eligible, for this type of support.

Finally, I'd like to reassure you that there are many options for resolving disputes and disagreements with your son's school district, many of them spelled out in special education law. LD Online, Wrightslaw, and NICHCY have some excellent resources available on this topic. You may also want to check out the expert advice from Matt Cohen, Esq. on this site for more information about special education law.

How can I track down appropriate software for my daughter with multiple disabilities?

Finding the right software program, can be challenging, especially for students who have multiple disabilities or are struggling in different areas. The process of finding something that meets your daughter’s needs involves a process of trial and error, but a few resources can help get you started.

The Tech Matrix is a great resource to help you find assistive and educational technology tools. You can search for software and technology tools by IDEA disability category, content area, and grade level. You can also compare up to four different products to find the product that best meets your daughter’s needs.

LD Online is another great source of information to consider.  Check out some of the many articles on teaching strategies for students to get a better idea of the different types of supports that would be of benefit to your daughter.  LD Online has numerous articles on how to select the right software in reading and in math. For example, there are several resources that might help you figure out what technologies might work best for a student with an auditory processing disorder and other learning disabilities.

Your daughter may enjoy hearing text read aloud (example), using a text-to-speech program (example) or following along with text on the computer. Many reading programs can highlight each word or each sentence as it is spoken, giving your daughter two ways to get the information. The highlighting can also help her focus on the information being read to her. Try looking for reading and writing programs that have text-to-speech, dynamic highlighting and allow your daughter to control the speed of the reading. She might also benefit from software programs that focus on early reading skills. Our article on Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials has some good suggestions.

For additional ideas on different technology tools, be sure to check out PowerUp WHAT WORKS (www.PowerUpWhatWorks.org). This site provides a wealth of free, online resources on strategies and technology ideas to help struggling students in English Language Arts and Math.

Is peer support an acceptable substitute for assistive technology in the classroom?

The 2004 update of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) requires that Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams consider the appropriate assistive technology when determining what accommodations, services, and aids your child may need to be successful in school. Check out Considering Your Child's Need for Assistive Technology and Knowing Your Child's Rights for more information on this subject.  You may also want to review the relevant sections of IDEA related to assistive technology and the parent resources on IDEA 2004 from Great Schools. Both resources can provide valuable information to bring to meetings with school staff.

In your email, you don't say whether the school has considered the benefits of assistive technology to support your child.  If the school has not made this decision, you have the right to request an assistive technology evaluation. This evaluation should be provided at no-cost. According to IDEA, the school should offer both devices and services, including training and support for the teacher and school staff who work with your child.

While peer support from the other kids in your child's class may be beneficial, their help does not replace needed assistive technology devices and training. It is important to discuss these concerns with your son's IEP team, as you have the right to disagree with their decisions regarding the use of assistive technology for your son. If you think that your son is not getting access to the appropriate tools and services, or you think that additional supports might be warranted, you should arrange a meeting with his IEP team to address your concerns.

For more information about special education law, check out the expert advice from Matt Cohen, Esq. on this site.

Where can I find information about software to help my child with Down Syndrome?

Children with Down Syndrome, as with other children, both with and without disabilities, are unique, and will learn and develop at their own rate. There is unlikely to be a "one-size-fits-all" software solution for your child. For example, some students with Down Syndrome may struggle with distractibility and need a quiet place to work, away from possible disruptions. For other students, this may not be an issue.

There are likely several technology tools supports that will be helpful for your child as they learn new skills and move forward in her education. Modeling, concrete visual and symbolic representations of information, and multiple opportunities for practice and reinforcement may all be beneficial for learners with Down Syndrome. Potentially challenging areas in education for children with Down Syndrome include math, reading and writing, speech and language, memory, social development, or motor skills.

Your child may have difficulties with all of these areas or may only experience significant difficulties in a few areas. Determining what his or her needs are is the first step to finding the appropriate technology supports for your child.

Many children with cognitive impairments learn best when they can see the material in the form of videos, modeling, or another type of visual presentation.  You should look for educational technology tools that break down the skill or skill being learned into small, concrete chunks and that allow the student to go at their own pace. Investigating Free Software for Children with Down Syndrome can give you a brief overview of the types of software tools available and what areas of need they may address. Also explore some of tools for students using the Tech Matrix, or Understood.org's Tech Finder.

Other good resources for information on supportive software tools are local and national organizations for individuals with Down Syndrome. These organizations included:

There is also a growing online community, including blogs and social media (such as @GDSFoundation on Twitter and on Pinterest) where parents can learn, find resources, and share information with other parents.

What technology options are available for home schooled children?

Homeschooling parents have to be creative and persistent in their search for funding for AT. Get some ideas in Finding Alternative Sources for Funding for Assistive Technology. You can also try out equipment, software, adaptive devices and telecommunications systems at local AT Centers before you purchase. Find those AT lending libraries through the national registries of the AT Alliance or through the National AT Technical Assistance Partnership.

What reading technology tools and supports are effective for students who struggle with reading?

TheTechMatrixcan help you become an informed consumer of technology tools and resources. This matrix is intended to serve as a resource that matches technology tools with supporting literature on promising practices for the instruction of reading for students with disabilities. With the matrix, you can examine the features of reading software for students who struggle with various aspects of reading, as well as the research on which such products are developed and used. PowerUp WHAT WORKS is also an excellent free, online resource for teachers who are looking for strategies to incorporate technology tools and software to help struggling readers. PowerUp's Teaching Strategies cover a range of topics related to reading, including fluency, context clues, word analysis, and more.

There are a growing number of reading software programs that can help students who struggle with reading. Before you select a tool, read some of the following articles on how to select the tool that best fits the student's particular needs. Education Week's article on Finding the Right Reading Program explains the importance of selecting an evidence-based reading program, intervention strategies, and suggestions of technology tools. Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials is another great article if you are lookingfor some suggestions about selecting tools and identifying resources.

Are there any downloadable games or software available that are not timed?

I know of a couple of resources that may be of help to you. MathTools is a community digital library that supports the use and development of software for mathematics education. Through this site you can search by grade level and math topics to find a wealth of games and activities. As you will see, some of them are timed, although many are not. Improving Basic Mathematics Instruction, a monograph published by the Technology and Media Division of CEC, offers resources and tips for selecting the appropriate technology for students with disabilities and includes a matrix of online games reviewed for several features, including whether it is timed. As noted above, the TechMatrix offers valuable information on the features of more than twenty math software products that will help you find math games and activities to motivate your son to increase his math skills.

Can you recommend an effective typing program for our son, who is dyslexic and dysgraphic?

As you noted, there are a variety of typing programs on the market. The best answer to your question is that there may not be one single program that best meets your son's needs. Keyboard development requires practice and unfortunately, repetitive exercises can be boring. Access to a variety of programs offers choice, lessens boredom, and increases motivation for practicing keyboarding skills. Find them through a Google search for 'free keyboard tutorials for children". A program that might work is Read, Write and Type by the Learning Company, which has been rated as an effective early reading intervention by the What Works Clearinghouse. Many dysgraphic students have difficulty with correct fingering in keyboarding skills. It would be best if your son used correct fingering, but he should not be forced. The ultimate goal is for him to type fluently, with speed and accuracy. Some students who type in their own style have been known to reach 60 words per minute. Others gradually begin to type with correct, or partially correct, fingering. The key to improvement is practice and consistency. I suggest that you encourage him to practice every day, but limit the practice time to 10 minutes. Let him choose which program he wants to use, what he wants to type and what fingering method works best for him.

Are there any scanning devices available that can help my dyslexic child improve his reading and math skills?

There are many devices that can scan and read. As with all assistive technology, the key is to find the right match for the individual user. You know your child better than anyone. You need to find out all you can about the various devices. The TechMatrix is a gateway to reading and math software products that provides a brief description, including a side-by-side comparison, and links to more product details that will help you identify the most appropriate software for your child. There are several reading pens on the market in addition to the ones listed on the matrices, such as the Reading Pen II, the LeapFrog Fly Pen and the Wizard. You might want to contact the distributors to ask for an evaluation copy or whether the company is displaying the devices somewhere close by where you and your child can go and try it out. You might want to pose a question on a listserv provided by Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT), where parents and practitioners post their questions and comments about AT. There are currently several postings on the listserv related to reading pens. I recommend that you review the TechMatrix to compare the various products, search the Internet for product information for the different talking/reading pens, and also search the QIAT listserv by keyword to learn from the experiences of other parents and teachers.

How can a student who has a learning disability and no computer skills survive college?

Thanks for going the extra mile to help this young woman. There are actually several underlying issues related to your question: Can this student use any kind of computer technology?; Are there any assistive technologies (AT) that may be effective for her?; What accommodations can the post-secondary institution provide and what are her legal rights in regard to accommodations? An initial step to consider would be an assistive technology assessment, possibly arranged through the local Vocational Rehabilitation Center as an element of her Transition Plan. The next step would be a visit to a local college and discuss options with the Disability Resource Center. Here is some information on these steps:

  1. AT assessments: It may be that computers will work for her with appropriate accommodations, or perhaps some other type of assistive technology will be more appropriate. This student needs to know what she needs before she can request appropriate accommodations. If there are personnel in the school who can do this, seek them out. Otherwise, start with Step 2.
  2. If she is not currently a client of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in her state, she may be eligible to apply for services. Work with the Transition Coordinator at the high school who should have a connection with the VR system. They may be able to help provide an (AT) assessment for her and perhaps even assist with funding.
  3. Plan a visit to a Disability Resource Center at a local college. They can counsel her about expectations and assumptions, inform her of the types of accommodations they are able to provide students, and may have information about other colleges' programs.

The guide, Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators will provide you information about students' civil rights in regard to post-secondary education. You may also want to check out the questions answered on this site by Matt Cohen regarding special education law. His answers on the legal rights of adults with LD may be particularly helpful.

Can you recommend any computer games that can help my daughter understand math concepts?

There are a lot of free, online math games and apps available today. The challenge is to select the ones that best meet the needs of your daughter. . A great place to start is to read Learning Mathematics with Virtual Manipulatives, which provides background information and the research on virtual math manipulatives. One of the best online resources is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives for Interactive Mathematics, a free online library of web-based interactive virtual manipulatives is a great resource. You can also search for age appropriate math software products and resources on the TechMatrix, a free, online database which can help you match up your daughter with appropriate technology educational and assistive tools.

There are also a plethora of apps for iPhones, iPads, or Android that can help your daughter master math concepts. You can choose a traditional skill-and-drill app such as Math Flash Cards* (Free) or Quick Math-Arithmetic & Times Tables ($1.99). Apps that present math concepts through a game are a powerful way to engage a student. Math Vs. Zombies is a popular app that requires students to answer questions correctly to keep the zombies at bay. Another favorite is Operation Math ($3.99), which turns a student into a secret spy to carry out different operations using math. All are great way to use technology to enhance learning for your daughter and have some fun learning math!

What treatment is needed for a child with dysgraphia?

This is a sticky question and one that causes a fair bit of disagreement in special education. Many teachers wonder the same thing — they want students to develop legible handwriting to ease their way in the world outside of school, but they also want students to be able to write and express themselves without being hindered by their physical difficulties with writing. And many parents and teachers worry that a student's hard-to-read handwriting will affect their ability to perform basic functions like writing down information on job applications, or filling out forms at the doctor's office. After all, while many things can be done with a computer, much of the world is still dominated by pen and paper tasks.

There isn't an easy answer to any of these questions. As with any technology tool used to assist students with disabilities, there is a concern that an 'assistive" tool may be used as a crutch. If a student always uses a calculator for math tasks, will they ever understand the underlying math? In the case of a dysgraphic student, it might be helpful to look at the tasks your daughter is being asked to do and what the goal is. If the goal is simply for your daughter to be able to write basic information as clearly as she can (her name and address for example), then handwriting instruction may be beneficial. However, if the goal is for your daughter to be able to use writing to express her ideas, demonstrate knowledge, or tell a story, then her difficulties with handwriting are making the writing process unnecessarily difficult. Perhaps a balanced approach will work best for your daughter. Try to find simple ways to eliminate the need for some handwriting tasks. Portable keyboards/laptops like the AlphaSmart can also be a good solution.

Such products are small and light and easy to take from class to class. Other options might include speech-to-text software to allow your daughter to more easily commit her thoughts and ideas to 'paper". Check out the Tech Matrix to search for different speech-to-text programs and possibly word prediction programs, depending on your daughter's needs.

You may want to check out this article on writing with technology by Richard Wanderman about his experiences with dyslexia and dysgraphia and how computers have affected his writing.

How should I handle my trouble with math?

One reason that math might have become more of a problem for you as you moved into higher levels of mathematics is that the concepts you were learning about became more abstract. Early math is fairly concrete and easy to visualize — adding 12 and 26 is something you can picture in your head, or represent using blocks or counters. When you start to move into subjects like Algebra and Calculus, many of the concepts are more abstract and can be harder to understand, especially for students with learning disabilities. There is also a great deal of writing involved in these higher level classes, with lengthy formulas and multiple steps that need to be copied exactly. When you combine these challenges with dysgraphia and the difficulty that many people have with more abstract thinking, it isn't surprising that you'd find Algebra tricky!

There are a couple of things you can try, both high and low-tech. For a low-tech solution, you might try asking your teacher to provide you with copies of the formulas you need, or worksheets with the formulas pre-printed, so you don't have to worry about copying information down incorrectly. You could also ask if your teacher would review your notes after class to make sure that you haven't missed any important information. If notetaking is the primary reason that you're having difficulty understanding the material, working with your teacher can be an easy solution.

If you're also having difficulty understanding the concepts, using a software program that helps you visualize the mathematics might be beneficial for you. Riverdeep has a series of math programs available that might be helpful. Some of their programs are only available to schools, but the Mighty Math series (Astro Algebra and Cosmic Geometry) might be good to look at. You might also want to check out virtual manipulatives. Like the counting blocks you may have used in elementary school, virtual manipulatives can help you visualize a math problem or process and make an abstract concept more concrete. A number of websites have virtual manipulatives for different areas and levels of math:

What social networking sites are safe and appropriate for a student with learning disabilities?

Social networking and online communication can be a great way for kids and adults to connect with each other and make new friends, so it's a natural choice for a student who is struggling to make friends.

However, you're right in being concerned about online safety and finding an appropriate place for a middle school student to socialize. Many of the more popular social networking sites (MySpace and Facebook) and virtual worlds (Second Life) may have questionable content. You may consider checking out kid-friendly versions of adult websites, such as Teen Second Life, or you may want to stick with websites that are especially for kids.

Fortunately, there are a number of new social networking sites designed specifically for teens and pre-teens. Imbee is one such site, designed for teachers, parents, and young children. As a teacher, you could also join Imbee and keep an eye on your student's interactions to make sure they're appropriate. Whyville is another popular website for kids. In this virtual world, kids can create their own character and chat, play games, and engage with kids from around the world. Students earn Whyville money by playing games, can explore the town, go to the beach, start their own business and engage in a variety of other activities with other kids. There are also sites affiliated with children's products and entertainment, such as Disney's Club Penguin that have online games, chat, and social networking features. Club Penguin is free to join, but advanced features require paid membership, so this may be a consideration.

Before introducing any student to an online community, be sure to talk to them about online safety and appropriate behavior online. There are a variety of excellent resources online about online safety and kids with LD:

Where can I calculate readability levels online?

There are many websites and software programs that can calculate readability for you. For shorter pieces of text, you can use one of the many online readability programs available listed below. Most of them allow you to paste text into a window, or link directly to an URL (for determining readability of websites).

Before getting started, it would be a good idea to read about the different readability metrics and how reading level is determined. Once you have an idea of what might work best, you can check out some of these online tools for calculating readability.

For example:

  • Readability Test Tool: test the readability of a webpage or specific text
  • Readability-Score.com: read text and URLs for free, and files and bulk content for a fee
  • Readability Formulas: takes a sample of your writing and calculates the number of sentences, words, syllables, and characters in your sample
  • JuicyStudio: Test website readability; also provides information about different scales, what scores mean, etc.
  • SMOG Readability Calculator: Can calculate up to 2000 words; includes detailed explanation of the SMOG formula

Where can I find multilingual text-to-speech solutions?

Most major software now automatically incorporates assistive features, such as text-to-speech, directly into the software. This includes the Microsoft Speech Platform for Microsoft Office programs (PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, and One Note) and VoiceOver for Apple IOS systems. There are also a number of free websites that offer text-to-speech tools, such as Read Speaker. Kurzeweil 3000 is another program option if you need a more feature-rich program that combines a speech synthesizer with the ability to create documents and tables, talking reminders, and website reader. Kurzweil 3000 is also available in a variety of languages. These programs usually have a limited variety of languages. Depending on your student population, it may make sense to purchase a text-to-speech program that is compatible with add-ons, and purchase additional voices in other languages, as needed from a third party.

There are also a growing number of text-to-speech apps for iPhones/iPads and Android with multilingual options. Text-to-speech technology on a mobile phone is an incredibly useful and helpful tool for students, especially with the growing number of schools incorporating iPads and tablets into the classroom. Speak it! Text to Speech is by far one of the most advanced text-to-speech options for a mobile device and offers language options in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Other multilingual text-to-speech apps include Scan and Read Pro, Voice Dream Reader, and ClaroSpeak US.

Where can young adults with learning disabilities find social networks and dating sites?

Given the explosion in online dating in recent years, I did a quick search for sites that tailor to individuals with disabilities. There are a number of relevant websites to consider, but many of these seem to be geared towards individuals with physical disabilities. However, your nephew might want to check out a few to look at some profiles. The Whispy directory has a good list, with everything from dating sites for the deaf and those for individuals with neurological disabilities.

Depending on how your nephew's learning disabilities and social skills affect his relationships, he may want to consider joining a group locally for adults with LD. There he might find support and friendship from other adults in similar situations and perhaps get some dating/relationship advice. Meetup is a good choice for finding groups locally. When searching for Los Angeles, I found a number of groups for adults with ADHD, adults with high functioning autism/Asperger's, and others. Meetup is also a great way to find local groups that share your nephew's interests. Meetup groups exist for just about any topic or interest you can think of — from monthly wine and cheese parties to knitting clubs to hiking groups or Scrabble players. Your nephew is sure to find at least one group in his area, and it can be a great way to meet people and make new friends.

Finally, it might be helpful for your nephew to read a bit about how his learning disability and potential social skill deficits can affect his relationships and life beyond school. It can be difficult to make the transition from school to the "real world" and navigate new relationships on your own, but there a number of excellent resources and groups that can help.

What online resources are available for a student in a rural area without access to special education services?

Finding help for your child can be difficult if you live in remote or rural areas without access to specialists. However, there is a wealth of resources available online through free websites. With the growing number of educational websites, students who live in such areas can now access a wide variety of tools, specialized information, and helpful hints for working with their struggling child. One great example of a website to explore is ReadWriteThink, a website that provides "resources in reading and language arts instruction through free, Internet-based content." Here you can find information on the best ways to teach reading and writing, as well as helpful tools and resources.

One of these online tools, a comic strip creator, may appeal to your child as a fan of comic books and superheroes. If you child enjoys these creative activities, you may also want to introduce them to Kerpoof, which allows children to create their own stories, animations, videos, and comics. Using these tools, your child can create stories of their own, perhaps with some help from you for some of the writing. It is possible that the high interest of creating his own comic strip may encourage him to try writing more. Such activities take advantage of your child's interests and help him engage in telling and writing stories; studies have shown that storytelling is the first step in learning to read and write, so encouraging your child to use technology tools and artwork to tell stories may help their build up his reading and writing skills.

Below is a list of other great websites for students with disabilities:

You may also want to explore the many free, online course providers now available to students of all ages and needs. For example, Khan Academy offers all online courses and instruction in traditional subject areas such as math, science, and English Language Arts, as well as other subject such as computer programming and art history. It is especially good for students with disabilities since the lessons are self-paced, allowing the student to take as much as time as they need to grasp the concept. If you child is more engaged with iPhone and handheld games, check out the many educational apps now available in the iTunes and Android store. To get started, explore the suggested resources on Children with Special Needs and their related resources.

How can I use software tools to teach my young adult son appropriate conversation skills?

Often kids with Asperger's or other autism spectrum disorders are extremely motivated by technology tools, and tend to learn very well from videos, software, and other visual representations of social situations. Because your son has already worked on social skills training, he is likely familiar with social stories, social modeling, and appropriate behavior for different situations. However, when in new, exciting or unfamiliar situations, he may forget what he's learned and have difficulty regulating his behavior or modulating his voice.

There are growing number of great apps for iPhones, iPad, and Android that young adults can use to assist with social interaction, including conversations. Below, is a list of some of the best apps and software currently available to help adults and teens learn social skills:

Another option is to use mobile phones to access short video clips, social scripts, reminders, about conversation skills, to remind them of appropriate social interaction and conversation skills. You may also want to consider using these apps or other multimedia tools or software at home to help reinforce the social skills lessons your son has learned in class.

How can I get help with technology accommodations in graduate school?

As a graduate school student, you will likely find that you have access to many of the same accommodations you had in your undergraduate program. Your first step as an incoming student should be to meet with your university's disabilities services office. Policies regarding resources available for graduate students with disabilities may vary from program to program, but you with a documented disability you are eligible for accommodations.

Depending on the university, you may need to provide additional documentation, or updated testing regarding a learning disability. Contacting disabilities services early will ensure that you have all necessary paperwork submitted in plenty of time for your first class. If you are requesting texts in alternate formats, or other reading supports, contacting the office well in advance also gives the university time to prepare accessible materials for you. You may find that your university is willing to provide the reading software you need; some universities have computer labs set up with accessible software for student use.

If the university is unable to provide you with the software accommodations you need, they may be able to help you find additional sources of funding to help you upgrade your computer. Many universities have hardship funds for their students, providing small grants for medical needs, emergencies or other issues.

Your university's disabilities services may also be able to help you locate grants, loans, or other options. The booklet Learning Disabilities, Graduate School, and Careers: The Student's Perspective may provide you with some helpful suggestions for working with your school. You may be able to find additional helpful suggestions for getting the technology tools you need from the community on the LD Online Postsecondary Education forums.

What tools can help my son with LD learn a foreign language?

Learning a foreign language can be frustrating for a student with a language-based learning disability. Many of the same elements that may have posed problems in English (letter sounds, decoding, spelling, grammar), can cause difficulties in foreign language learning.

Since your son has been successful in his regular classes with the assistance of a paraprofessional, I would suggest that he use many of the same strategies he uses already to help him with language. What tools and support have helped your son succeed in his coursework? Some of these same strategies can be easily adapted to his foreign language learning. It is a good idea for your son to work directly with his special education and foreign language teachers about what areas are presenting difficulty for him, and discuss strategies and accommodations that may make language learning less challenging for him.

There are also a number of excellent technology tools for learning language that your son may find helpful. Beyond the familiar CDs and language software, many language learners are now taking advantage of social networking tools for foreign languages. A number of websites feature online chats and forums where users can practice language with a native speaker. User-created social networks on the Ning platform also provide opportunities to join a group interested in learning a specific language. Try searching Ning for "learning a language" to find a list of available groups. Many of these groups are full of others learning new languages that are happy to share tips, support, videos, and ideas for practicing vocabulary.

Finally, if your son is a visual learner, he may enjoy watching subtitled movies. He can choose to watch movies in the target language (i.e. Spanish) with English subtitles or watch English movies with foreign subtitles. Watching movies is an enjoyable activity and may lower your son's anxiety around language learning.

How can I help my 14-year-old daughter who struggles with reading?

One difficulty with older struggling readers is that they can often become hesitant and anxious about reading, avoiding situations where they might read because reading is so challenging. A key strategy for older struggling readers is to find situations that make reading more enjoyable.

Though there's no replacement for instruction in basic reading skills, frequent opportunities for independent reading can be helpful for struggling readers. A good way to do that is to provide your daughter with high-interest (and lower level) reading material. There are a number of books available that are at a lower reading level, but are written with a style and topic selection that are more interesting for teen readers. You could also introduce her to book review Web sites by and for teens, to help her find books that she might find interesting and motivating.

Your daughter may also benefit from the use of reading software, or accessible books. Look into the many resources on this site and others (Bookshare) for more information about the types of accessible books available for young adults with print disabilities.

Another fun option that has been shown to be effective with kids with LD and struggling readers is watching subtitled or captioned television shows and movies. Find your daughter's favorite shows and movies, and put the captions on. Because your daughter will be watching something she enjoys, the reading of the captions will be less stressful and may encourage her to read. The captions can also help your daughter recognize words she hears when she seems them written.

Because all TVs made after 1993 have captioning built-in, this is an easy and free option that may help make reading a bit more pleasurable for your daughter. Your daughter can also watch captioned programming online, Web sites such as Hulu offer free viewing of most television shows, many of them with closed captioning.

Should I go back to school as an adult if I suspect I have a learning disability?

Many college students, both of traditional and non-traditional age, have learning disabilities and learning difficulties. You can absolutely still pursue your chosen career! The first thing you should do is discuss your concerns directly with your university's Disability Services. They can help you find resources at your school, explore avenues for being tested for a learning disability and recommend accommodations and strategies that might help you with your coursework.

With a documented disability, you are entitled to accommodations and support, so it may be worthwhile to get tested and identify your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Working with Disabilities Services, you can identify strategies and resources to help you succeed. Check out the wide variety of resources on LD Online for more information about LD, testing, and learning strategies that may help you.

How can I prepare parents for our new online curriculum?

If the parents in your school district are not familiar with online learning, and the platform you will be using, it might be helpful to start out with a discussion of why you chose to use technology to teach mathematics, and how the tool you're using might benefit your students. It's possible that parents will be skeptical about using online technology tools such as virtual manipulatives or math games, so highlight benefits for students, particularly those with disabilities or who are non-English speakers. In particular, parents should hear about how technology usage can help teachers differentiate instruction and meet the needs of a variety of learners.

An excellent way of preparing parents and helping them to understand the online system you are using is to make the workshop engaging and interactive. If teachers will be using interactive whiteboards during classroom instruction, ask parents to come up and manipulate objects on screen, or solve word problems. Parents should also have an opportunity to experiment with the various features of the online system and should be given access to the same things their students will see. If there is a parent section of your online program, be sure that parents understand how to use it. Be sure to also provide resources for parents to engage in mathematics activities at home with their children. If students will be using the online system outside of school, parents can participate in completion of activities or modules. You may also opt to provide parents with suggestions for math games they can play with their children to help solidify skills.

Possible sites to include on a parent resource list:

FunBrain

Math Playground

PBS Kids Play

Funschool

BBC Numeracy Games

How can public libraries better support people with learning disabilities?

Many public libraries have grappled with the same issues, so looking at how other librarians have worked to make their libraries accessible is a good start. Many libraries provide their patrons with online resource lists (on accessible websites), in addition to offering a wide variety of accessibility options within the library building. It may be helpful to get in touch with other librarians, either online or in person to ask how they met their patrons' accessibility needs. The American Library Association has a number of excellent resources available to assist librarians in thinking about and respecting the needs of their patrons with disabilities. The ALA also has several options for connecting with other librarians, from online forums to an island in Second Life.

Some accessibility options for your patrons may include providing helpful links on your library website, pointing users to both local and national disability groups. Within the library, it is important to make sure that media is accessible — books on tape, audio books, captioned videos, descriptive videos, magnifiers and large print books can all help ensure that a variety of media is accessible to many of your patrons. Many librarians also provide patrons with assistive software and hardware where needed. This may include reading and writing software, software capable of reading text aloud (text-to-speech), software that can enlarge text on the screen or Braille embossers for blind patrons. Check out the Montgomery County Public Library website for a good example of the types of tools you might offer. For further ideas, check out the ALA's disability-specific Tip Sheets on Learning Disabilities, Children with Disabilities, Autism & Spectrum Disorders, and many others.

What resources are available for assessing student use of technology?

Technology and media skills have increasingly been recognized as a necessary component of education for today's students. As more and more teachers integrate 21st century skills, new media, and web 2.0 tools into their classrooms, the challenge of assessing these skills has become a hot topic among educators.

In looking for ways to assess your students' learning with technology tools, start with the groups that are at the forefront of determining technology standards and practice: the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Both organizations have written extensively on what children must know to be productive members of a technological society. Both groups have also produced guidance on assessing technology skills.

A number of teachers have used these materials to create their own rubrics and ideas for assessing student blogs, Twitter use, or wiki creation. Digital Age Assessments lists a variety of rubric suggestions; the forums in Classroom 2.0 can also be an excellent place to confer with other teachers about how they assess their students' work with technology.

What resources are available for adults with nonverbal learning disorders?

Resources on nonverbal learning disorders often focus primarily on children and issues related to school success. However, many young adults with NLD are making use of blogs and discussion forums as a way to share their experiences and help other adults with NLD. An NLD blog or discussion board may be a good suggestion for some of your students — they can share experiences, post questions and discuss with other NLD teens and young adults what life is like beyond the classroom.

NLDLine is one of the most popular sources of information on nonverbal learning disorder online. In their section on NLD Adults, you can find a number of resources and personal stories shared by adults with NLD on topics ranging from dating and relationships, employment, independent living, treatment plans and socializing with peers.

Yahoo Group NLD in Common can be another option for your students to learn from other young adults with NLD and post questions or concerns as they transition out of school and into the workforce. Finally, a number of books have recently come out about adults living with nonverbal learning disorder, you may want to purchase a few of these books for your classroom and make them available to your students.

What technology tools can help my son with spelling?

Spelling can be challenging for students with learning disabilities, especially if they struggle with reading. The types of tools you might want to try with your son depend both on his difficulties with spelling and the importance of spelling to the task that he is trying to complete. For example, on a writing assignment, it may be more important for your son to get his words out on paper and express his ideas than to spell every word correctly. In those situations, your son could benefit from a writing program with word prediction or the use of a contextual spell checker. By using software to remove the need to know how to spell every word correctly, your son can focus on the act of writing as a way of demonstrating his knowledge.

If the assignment for your son is to improve his spelling, it is important to give him a number of opportunities to practice and reinforce his skills. In addition to practicing at home with flash cards and rewriting words multiple times, there are a number of online spelling games and practice sites that you could try. Some online sites let you test your spelling skills with pre-generated lists, while others allow you to enter in your own spelling words to practice. Check out a few different options until you find one your son enjoys.

How can I find information about creating readings for blind or dyslexic students?

Providing accessible text to students with disabilities has received a lot of attention in recent years as both technology tools and publisher standards have modernized. The increasing availability of digitized texts from a variety of sources make it easier than ever before to find most materials available in multiple formats. For harder to find texts, software and hardware options are available to help you convert texts into formats more readily accessible by individuals with print disabilities.

If you are trying to find electronic text and audio books, there are several free options available for students with documented print disabilities: Bookshare and Learning Ally are both popular options for finding texts for students, and may be a good place to start if looking for academic texts and grade-level literature. Project Gutenberg is another option for free eBooks, and Librivox has free audio books available for download. Both websites offer books in the public domain, so they may not always have everything you are looking for.

If you can't find the texts or the materials you need, or if you prefer to create your own alternate formats for student readings, a number of software programs and scanning options are available; see this customized Tech Matrix for digital text. For students who are blind, you may be interested in purchasing a Braille printer or refreshable Braille displays; check out the customized Tech Matrix on Braille for suggestions.

How can our school make our arts programs (music, art class, etc.) more inclusive for all students?

The arts, whether as part of a separate program or integrated into your content area lessons, can offer a variety of benefits for diverse learners. Research has shown both academic and social benefits for students with disabilities and students who are at risk; integrating the arts and technology into your teaching can help differentiate instruction and provide more individualized learning for students with diverse learning needs.

You may want to check out two organizations that focus on students with disabilities and the arts: VSA Arts offers a curriculum for early-grades arts instruction called Start with the Arts, as well as other educational resources that may be helpful. Art Partners offers sample lesson plans and units on their website.

Technology tools can also play an important role in making your arts programs more accessible. Many art museums feature virtual field trips, allowing your students to view important exhibits from around the world. Software programs that allow students to draw and paint, animate, manipulate images, and create music are becoming more readily available and can provide a way for students with a variety of learning needs to interact with content and express knowledge.

What virtual worlds are appropriate for kids?

Many schools and teachers are beginning to think about how to harness their students' innate interest in gaming for educational purposes. With the popularity of virtual worlds like Second Life, many companies (including the makers of Second Life) have set about to create similar platforms appropriate for a younger audience. Virtual worlds and simulations for kids represent a continuum of educational benefits. Some are clearly designed for educators, or with educational purposes in mind. Others are designed more for entertainment value than educational merit, and still others fall somewhere between the two.

If this is your first foray into using these types of technologies in your classroom, you may want to stick to strictly educational sites such as Whyville or Secret Builders. Generally, such sites will have pages dedicated to teachers and may even include lesson plan ideas or activities for your classroom.

For much younger students, check out PBS Kids Island. It isn't a 'virtual world' in the technical sense, but it does introduce students to the concept of another world where they can complete activities, challenges, and earn 'tickets' to use towards prizes. Just because a virtual world isn't necessarily designed for education doesn't mean it can't be used in your classroom, but it may mean you need to use it creatively.

Second Life didn't initially start out for classroom use, but many educators have found ways to build it into their teaching. For older kids, check out Teen Second Life or Free Realms. Other popular entertainment-based websites, like Club Penguin or Tootsville, may be places your students already spend a lot of time. Though they are generally for 'fun' you can certainly find ways to incorporate some of the activities into your lessons. For example, players must generally earn in-world money by playing games or completing activities, and these can be good ways to teach students early skills for adding, budgeting, and planning.

Additionally, these sites allow chatting with online friends and have a clearly outlined code of online conduct, so they can be a good way to begin teaching young kids about online safety and etiquette. These sites may also be good recommendations for parents to explore at home with their children.

How can I help a student with dyscalculia learn two-digit addition?

Color coding is a low tech but very effective strategy to use with students who have difficulty keeping their numbers in the right place. Use a different color for the ones' column and the tens' column, and give the student a crayon or pencil of each color. Help him add the numbers of the same color, then write the solution in the appropriate place with the matching color.

As he improves, you can begin to omit the color from one column at a time until eventually he can perform the task without the assistance of color-coding. Strategies to Facilitate Math Concepts and Homework contains a visual and detailed explanation of this method.

Consider showing him one of several free, online videos that visually demonstrate two-digit addition, as well. Simple Flash files or videos, like those from Math Is Fun or Math Mastery, show the continuity between steps better than we can using pencil and paper. Seeing the big picture and the movement of the numbers may help your student catch on. A free, online game, like Callum's Addition Pyramid or Who Wants to Be a Mathionaire, is also a great way to encourage him to practice this skill.

What technologies can help my third grade daughter organize her writing?

Your daughter's challenges echo those of many struggling writers, and while there are no quick and easy fixes, there are technology resources that can help. Tools known as "graphic organizers" may be particularly useful to your daughter as she works to get her ideas on paper in a coherent manner. These tools help students generate and organize their ideas through building visual relationships among them.

Graphic organizers can be as low tech as an arrangement of sticky notes on a sheet of paper or as high tech as online, interactive tools like bubbl.us, a free website which allows you to create and share colorful mind maps, and ReadWriteThink's Essay Map, a free step-by-step guide to organizing essay content. View this list of graphic organizers from our sister site, AdLit, for more free options.

More complex software solutions, like Draft:Builder or Inspiration, have features that help students arrange their ideas, create an outline, and transition from an outline or concept map into a draft. This customized matrix from the www.TechMatrix.org shows many software solutions that use graphic organizers to support writing. Compare products' features, and click on a product's name in the column header to see a full review of its capabilities and purchasing information.

What tools help students stay organized?

You have done a good job laying the groundwork for success by helping your student organize his binder with dividers and pockets. Now we have to figure out how to get him to use it!

Students who struggle with executive function tasks like organization often have difficulty remembering things, keeping track of time, and initiating tasks as well. Perhaps he does not remember to place papers into his binder until the last minute and is then forced to hurriedly throw everything in. Or maybe he does remember that he should organize his materials, but he's having a hard time actually getting started.Technology can help with these challenges.

A PDA, electronic organizer, or cell phone with an alarm function can remind him to perform a task, like place his notes in his binder or write down his homework, at the same time each day. You can program the alarms on the device itself, or use a free, online service like Remember the Milk to automatically send a text message, IM, or email reminders. The regularity of these reminders helps create positive habits, and the fun, high-tech nature of the PDA or cell phone motivates action.

I also suggest that you give your student fun opportunities to practice his organizational skills. Encourage him to create a new playlist on his iPod, coach a fantasy sports team on Sports Illustrated for Kids, or play a video or computer game that emphasizes organizational skills (see LearningWorks for Kids for suggestions and reviews). The categorization, memorization, and time management abilities he develops through these fun activities will serve him well both in and out of school.

What assistive technology tools could we use with a middle school student so he doesn’t feel singled out and different from his peers?

Using assistive technology tools can be a challenge for students as they enter middle and high school. Many kids that age are incredibly aware of how they look, and what their peers are doing, and want nothing more than to blend in with the other kids. Using a device or "different" technology tool than the rest of the class can certainly make a student feel that they stick out.

One solution is to make all technology "assistive" technology in your school. Creating a creative technology environment in your school can help students remove the separation between "regular" technology and "special" or "assistive" technology. Learn more about various technologies that support the writing process in the article, Using Assitive Technology to Support Writing.

This is one benefit to using technology to differentiate instruction in your school. If all students are using a computer to write an essay, then it isn't all that noticeable that some students are using word prediction software, others are using text-to-speech software, and others are using voice-recognition software. Technology is just something that everyone is using. For example, every student in your class could be using a literacy software package (see several compared in the TechMatrix).

Strong writers could be using the built-in word processor and spell checker, struggling writers could be using text-to-speech to edit or word prediction to help them compose, other students may use the graphic organizers or the audio notes. Each student is using the same program, but different students make use of different features according to their needs. See more ideas for differentiating instruction through technology at the free online course offered by CITEd.

Would a portable book reader be appropriate for a child with visual processing issues?

Amazon's Kindle is a wireless reading device that does allow the user to adjust font size, so it might be appropriate for your son. The Kindle offers variable font size, with the largest font appearing to be about the size of a typical large print book. Currently there are 200,000 books available, but most of them are targeted to adult readers.

The Kindle is also rather expensive, so you may want to do a little research first. If your son needs something larger than a typical large print book, the Kindle's largest font may not be what he needs. Another good place to do some research and ask questions is the Kindle discussion board on Amazon's website. Here you can ask other users about their experiences, talk to other parents who may use the Kindle with their child, or even arrange to see a Kindle in your city so you can try it before you buy. Find other reading hardware and software options in the article, Reading Software: Finding the Right Program.

If your child has a diagnosed print disability, he is eligible to receive texts in alternate formats through his special education program. Discuss this option with the school. Learn more in these articles for parents: Accessible Textbooks: A Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities and Making the Written Word Easier for Readers with Print Disabilities.

What options are available for audio versions of textbooks?

Scanning and converting a text to audio can be time consuming and expensive, depending on the software you use. If you only need one textbook (and all of his other textbooks are available in audio format), it may not be worth it to purchase software for yourself. Start with Learning Ally or Bookshare.org; they often have textbooks available when you may not be able to find them elsewhere. If your son has a documented disability, he can access any books from Learning Ally or Bookshare.org.

If you cannot find his textbook through a source such as Learning Ally or Bookshare.org, or you think you'll need to scan and convert texts on a more regular basis, you may want to consider purchasing a scanner and accompanying text-to-speech software. What you end up purchasing will depend on your needs and how much you want to spend. Solutions for having text read aloud range from the incredibly simple — scanning in text and using built-in voices to read — to the more complex — scanning in text and using human sounding narration and converting to an mp3.

For example, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Microsoft Word both have very simple text-to-speech capabilities. If your son just needs to have the text read aloud to him while sitting at the computer, and doesn't mind synthesized speech, this could be a very basic solution. However, if you'd prefer something with more natural-sounding narration, you might need something with more features. Find a variety of solutions for scanning and text-to-speech in this customized search on the TechMatrix.

How can I use the SMART Board in my math classroom more interactively to meet the needs of all my students?

One of the great features of interactive whiteboards (such as the SMART Board) is that you can use them to allow students to manipulate objects on screen, add text and diagrams to math problems, and save work. These features can have several benefits for your students, particularly those who are struggling. Because you can save the lessons and activities you present on the interactive whiteboard, you can upload your lessons to a classroom website for student review at a later date. This can be helpful for students with disabilities who may benefit from repetition. It also allows any student to revisit the lesson from home to refresh their memory about how to solve a problem.

The interactivity of the whiteboard is also a benefit for kids with LD, as well as students with a variety of learning styles. Because students can come up to the board to add diagrams, highlighting, arrows, text and move objects on screen, it addresses the needs of students who are more tactile and kinesthetic learners. Providing a colorful visual representation of math problems can also be helpful for visual learners.

You might consider using interactive applications for math that will enable students to participate more during lessons. Virtual manipulatives and applets are a good choice. Check out some of these resources for ideas:

You might also check out some teacher-created websites on the use of interactive whiteboards, they can be a great way to share lesson plans and ideas.

What strategies are there to help kids with LD in gym class, sports, etc.?

Students with learning disabilities and ADHD can often struggle with motor control, movement, rhythm and directionality (i.e., telling right from left), which can make certain physical activities in gym class or team sports challenging. Motor challenges can also affect academic performance as they can hinder writing and other activities. Additionally, recent research has led some researchers to conclude that there is a link between poor sense of rhythm and dyslexia.

Given the links between learning disorders and motor coordination, it is an excellent idea to think about how to address these issues within gym class or as part of a team sport. It might be a good idea to check out information about adaptive PE (or speak to an adaptive PE teacher if your school or district has one) for some ideas on activities.

Another option is one that has been discussed by parents and caregivers on our forums — using video games as rhythm, sensory integration and directionality training. A number of individuals with ADHD and learning disabilities have some success using Interactive Metronome (IM, a computer-based training program used by therapists to help improve coordination, timing and attention.

Some parents and therapists have found that children who do well with IM also seem to do well with video games like Dance Dance Revolution and the interactive sports games on the Wii Fit. While the use of these types of games with kids with LD and ADHD is fairly new, anecdotally it seems to be helpful for some students. As many schools are starting to purchase the Wii Fit for use with their students, it might be an idea to try.

Video games are often inherently motivating for young people, and may encourage them to try different activities. Each of these games tells players how to move using a combination of visual and auditory cues in addition to watching movement on screen. These cues may help students who struggle with movement and directionality.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver’s Accommodations and Modifications section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist’s response to the same question.

What technology tools can I use in my work writing to make sure I haven’t made errors?

This is a common issue for adults (and kids!) with dyslexia. It can be particularly challenging when you have a word spelled correctly, but your usage is wrong. Swapping "their," "they're," and "there" is a great example. A traditional spellchecker won't identify the mistake, so you may not discover it.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of technology tools and apps that can help check your writing to make sure that you have made these types of errors. Google Docs has a built in free grammar checker that works much better than Microsoft word. In addition, Google Docs has an add-on feature called the Consistency Catcher, which will catch any variations in spelling, abbreviations, titles, dates, etc. There are also a number of great apps, such as Ginger and Ghotit. There two contextual spellcheckers work in a similar way, by identifying both incorrectly spelled words and those that might be incorrect based on the context of the sentence (i.e. saying "they're dog" instead of "their dog"). Grammarly is another free great technology tool that helps catch errors in writing, especially for adults that are looking to enhance the clarity and readability of their work.  Find other software and technology tools that could help with your writing in the TechMatrix.

What social networking sites are safe and appropriate for a student with learning disabilities?

Social networking and online communication can be a great way for kids and adults to connect with each other and make new friends, so it's a natural choice for a student who is struggling to make friends. However, you're right in being concerned about online safety and finding an appropriate place for a middle school student to socialize.

Many of the more popular social networking sites (MySpace and facebook) and virtual worlds (Second Life) may have questionable content. Fortunately, there are a number of new social networking sites designed specifically for teens and pre-teens. Imbee is one such site, designed for teachers, parents, and young children. As a teacher, you could also join Imbee and keep an eye on your student's interactions to make sure they're appropriate.

Whyville is another popular website for kids. In this virtual world, kids can create their own character and chat, play games, and engage with kids from around the world. Students earn Whyville money by playing games, can explore the town, go to the beach, start their own business and engage in a variety of other activities with other kids. There are also sites affiliated with children's products and entertainment, such as Disney's Club Penguin that have online games, chat, and social networking features. Club Penguin is free to join, but advanced features require paid membership, so this may be a consideration.

Before introducing any student to an online community, be sure to talk to them about online safety and appropriate behavior online. There are a variety of excellent resources online about cyberbullying, safety and kids with LD:

How should I handle my trouble with math?

One reason that math might have become more of a problem for you as you moved into higher levels of mathematics is that the concepts you were learning about became more abstract. Early math is fairly concrete and easy to visualize - adding 12 and 26 is something you can picture in your head, or represent using blocks or counters. When you start to move into subjects like Algebra and Calculus, many of the concepts are more abstract and can be harder to understand.

There is also a great deal of writing involved in these higher level classes, with lengthy formulas and multiple steps that need to be copied exactly. When you combine these challenges with dysgraphia and the difficulty that many people have with more abstract thinking, it isn't surprising that you'd find Algebra tricky!

There are a couple of things you can try, both high and low-tech. For a low-tech solution, you might try asking your teacher to provide you with copies of the formulas you need, or worksheets with the formulas pre-printed, so you don't have to worry about copying information down incorrectly. You could also ask if your teacher would review your notes after class to make sure that you haven't missed any important information.

If note-taking is the primary reason that you're having difficulty understanding the material, working with your teacher can be an easy solution. If you're also having difficulty understanding the concepts, using a software program that helps you visualize the mathematics might be beneficial for you. Riverdeep has a series of math programs available that might be helpful. Some of their programs are only available to schools, but the Mighty Math series (Astro Algebra and Cosmic Geometry) might be good to look at.

You might also want to check out virtual manipulatives. Like the counting blocks you may have used in elementary school, virtual manipulatives can help you visualize a math problem or process and make an abstract concept more concrete. A number of websites have virtual manipulatives for different areas and levels of math:

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's Technology section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

What treatment is needed for a child with dysgraphia?

This is a sticky question and one that causes a fair bit of disagreement in special education. Many teachers wonder the same thing. They want students to develop legible handwriting to ease their way in the world outside of school, but they also want students to be able to write and express themselves without being hindered by their physical difficulties with writing. And many parents and teachers worry that a student's hard-to-read handwriting will affect their ability to perform basic functions like writing down information on job applications, or filling out forms at the doctor's office. After all, while many things can be done with a computer, much of the world is still dominated by pen and paper tasks.

There isn't an easy answer to any of these questions. As with any technology tool used to assist students with disabilities, there is a concern that an "assistive" tool may be used as a crutch. If a student always uses a calculator for math tasks, will they ever understand the underlying math? In the case of a dysgraphic student, it might be helpful to look at the tasks your daughter is being asked to do and what the goal is. If the goal is simply for your daughter to be able to write basic information as clearly as she can (her name and address for example), then handwriting instruction may be beneficial. However, if the goal is for your daughter to be able to use writing to express her ideas, demonstrate knowledge, or tell a story, then her difficulties with handwriting are making the writing process unnecessarily difficult.

Perhaps a balanced approach will work best for your daughter. Try to find simple ways to eliminate the need for some handwriting tasks. Portable keyboards/laptops like the AlphaSmart can also be a good solution. Such products are small and light and easy to take from class to class. Other options might include speech-to-text software to allow your daughter to more easily commit her thoughts and ideas to paper. Check out the Tech Matrix to search for different speech-to-text programs.

You may want to check out this article on writing with technology by Richard Wanderman about his experiences with dyslexia and dysgraphia and how computers have affected his writing.

How can I learn my basic academic skills when the high school will not help me?

First, discuss your concerns about your skills with your parents. Your parents could request an assessment of your skills by the school, or possibly through a professional outside the school. If you currently have an IEP, the school should also evaluate you to determine whether assistive technology could be a helpful accommodation. Under IDEA, possible technology accommodations must be considered for students with disabilities in addition to other accommodations and modifications as part of the IEP process.

There are a number of software programs available that can assess your skill levels in reading and mathematics, including AutoSkill, Skill Detective, and Skill Navigator. These programs will then provide you with targeted activities and lessons to help you improve areas of deficit. Because many of these programs are specifically designed for use in schools, your school would have to order one for your use.

It may be worthwhile to have your parents discuss your skill levels with your teachers and determine whether skill-building software might be a helpful solution for helping to get you caught up with your peers. Once you start improving your writing and grammar skills, I'd also recommend finding ways to engage in more writing opportunities outside of school.

If there is something you are particularly interested in, or know a great deal about, you might consider starting your own blog or contributing to a public blog or to a wiki. Consistent experience with writing in a more informal and "fun" setting might make you more comfortable with writing. The more you write, the more you'll have the opportunity to practice your new skills and continue to improve.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's About LD section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

How can I help my homeschooled daughter who has trouble with comprehension?

You mentioned that your daughter retains information from TV shows and comic books, so you may want to consider using multimedia to help your daughter learn new material. Multimedia tools should not replace the instruction you give your daughter, but they can be used to enhance and supplement lessons. For example, a wide variety of science documentaries are available online; perhaps you could find a short program that illustrates a point you are trying to teach.

PBS frequently makes specials and short documentaries available on their website, so you could try searching there for relevant material. Hulu, a website where you can watch full episodes of TV shows online, has episodes of NOVA, National Geographic and other educational programming available. Hulu also has programming on current events, politics and other topics that you may find useful. You can also find a number of suggestions for using multimedia to teach different topics in CITEd's series of articles on Multimedia Technologies.

Another option is to use online tools for visual storytelling. You could have your daughter create a comic to illustrate a concept she's learning, or use images and photos found online to create a slideshow. ReadWriteThink has a very basic comic creator available that your daughter could use to make simple comic strips.

She could also try using a free animation creation website such as Kerpoof to create her own short animated movies to demonstrate understanding of a topic. You can also find a number of suggestions for visual storytelling in Alan Levine's wiki post 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story. If you discover that your daughter really enjoys creating her own comics and multimedia, you may consider purchasing software such as HyperStudio.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's Home Schooling section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

Can an ADD child get addicted to video games?

With the surging popularity of video games and interactive technology, it is smart to worry about the effects that too much time spent in front of the computer or TV can have on your child. While there is some research on the negative effects of gaming and game addiction on kids, as your doctor pointed out, it is also important to look at the positive effects video games can have.

MediaWise has a number of excellent materials on children's media (including video games), looking at the potential benefits of gaming as well as the possible detrimental effects video games could have on your child. You might also check out the Children and Media page on PBS Parents for more information on these topics broken down by age range.

Unfortunately, when video games are discussed, it is often as an umbrella category, when in reality there are many, many different types of video games, some good and some not so good for kids and learning. Many researchers initially took the view that playing video games is a pastime with few (if any) educational or social benefits.

However, recent research has demonstrated some measurable learning changes when playing certain types of video games. Playing video games has been linked to problem-solving skills, improved dexterity, and collaboration among peers.

It all depends on the type of video game being played. It is indeed true that students who frequently play violent video games may view violence as more socially acceptable and may be more prone to getting into fights and arguments. However, research has also shown that children who play more social video games are less likely to get into fights and may be more helpful to their peers.

Other researchers think that the more complex video games could help players develop the ability to set goals, prioritize tasks, and memorize complex steps in a process; gains made in game have been shown to translate into real life gains in the same areas. For someone with ADHD, these may be valuable opportunities for improving those skills.

The important thing for you as a parent is to recognize that there are aspects of playing video games that may be helpful for your son (in addition to being fun!), but that it is important to monitor his game playing closely. Don't allow him to play violent video games, or games that portray others negatively (for example, many games show women in a demeaning way or as victims of violence).

Schedule a routine or break times that don't become argument times. And make sure that video games don't completely eclipse other activities, such as getting outside to play with other kids.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's Behavior and Social Skills section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

How can a first year special education teacher learn more about how to document special education services?

Your first year as a teacher can be a challenge, particularly for a special education teacher. Trying to balance the burdens of paperwork, designing instruction and accommodations based on diagnostic testing and finding time to work with students can be overwhelming. Seek out additional educational opportunities and mentoring from other special education professionals.

You may want to investigate options for online mentoring and professional development. With the explosion of blogs and social networking sites, more and more teachers are developing an online presence. Educator blogs can provide a window into other classrooms and help you see how other teachers address some of the issues you mentioned.

You might also try posting questions in an online forum for educators. LD Online has a forum, as do a number of other educational organizations. You may try asking about resources on diagnostic testing in the LD Online forum Teaching Students with LD and ADHD. You might also try posting questions on the Teacher to Teacher forum at the National Association of Special Education Teachers.

Here are some other places you might look for teacher opinions and advice:

Amazon.com Listmania: A collection of user-created lists of Amazon products in a variety of categories. Searching for Special Education returns lists of books and educational tools recommended by people in the field. Here you may find some excellent suggestions from teachers for books on assessment, first year teaching and other topics of interest.

Special Education Channel on About.com: About.com has a special education channel written by Sue Watson, a special educator with 19 years of experience in the field. The channel features a blog, articles, printable worksheets, resources and a community forum.

Center for Integrating Technology in Education (CITEd): CITEd provides a variety of resources and information on using technology to differentiate instruction for students with disabilities. You might want to check out the Teacher Center sections Assess Student Progress and Manage IEP and Administrative Tasks for a list of resources.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's special education section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

How can a parent help their teenager with ADHD (and/or LD) who has trouble staying organized?

Staying organized can often be a challenge for students with ADHD or learning disabilities. There are a number of strategies for students with ADHD to help them be more successful academically that may be helpful to your son. You mentioned that you have purchased planners for your son, but that they have been unsuccessful. As you have no doubt noticed, the difficulty with using a planner is that your child must first remember to write assignments in the planner and second must keep track of where he's left the planner. This can just add to a burden.

One possible solution is to continue the idea of a planner or to-do list but use one of the newer online to-do list programs. There are several popular free online programs available, including Remember the Milk, Ta-da Lists, and Backpack. These programs may have several advantages over a traditional planner for your son. First, they take advantage of technology your son is most likely already using (text messaging, instant messaging, and email) as a way of keeping track of tasks. Using technology can be inherently motivating for some teenagers. Many of these programs allow users to add tasks through their email, so if your son has a cell phone capable of sending email he can add tasks as soon as he finds out about them.

Another advantage is that most to-do list programs allow users to share their lists with others. Your son could share his assignment lists with you, his teachers, and anyone else who might need to monitor his progress. This way you can check assignments regularly and communicate with his teachers to ensure he isn't forgetting anything.

Finally, online to-do list programs have a number of ways of notifying users when deadlines approach. Your son could opt to receive text message reminders on his cell phone, email updates or even instant messages. These programs take away the necessity of checking in a paper planner for assignments, as your son may be more likely to notice a text message reminding him of a project due the next day than remember to look in his planner.

An online program may not solve all of your son's difficulties with organization and keeping track of tasks, but getting electronic reminders may help him manage his assignments more efficiently. Check out some of the different programs and try a few out to see what works best. Try discussing these programs with your son's teachers and see if they would be willing to assist him in this process.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's ADHD section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

What technologies are available to help a college student with a reading disability access textbooks?

With the strong public interest in books in MP3 format, portable reading devices and the availability of simple to use scanners, more and more books are becoming available in a variety of formats. While you are correct in that many of the audio books available through bookstores and others are not college textbooks, there are options for finding audio versions of academic texts.

One of the first places for your daughter to check is Learning Ally. Learning Ally has a wide variety of textbooks available freely accessible by anyone with a documented disability. She will more than likely be able to find some of her required textbooks there.

Additionally, many textbook publishers are making digital versions of their textbooks available. It would be worthwhile for your daughter to check with publishers to see whether any of her required readings are available in another format. If your daughter can get her texts as PDFs, she can use the built in text-to-speech feature in Adobe Reader. Adobe's Read Out Loud is a scaled-down text-to-speech application, so it may not have every feature your daughter needs. However, it is freely available and would be a good tool to use with digital texts.

Both Apple and Microsoft computers also have simple text-to-speech capabilities built into their operating systems. Again, these built-in programs are very basic and so they may not meet all of your daughter's needs. They are also generally designed for the blind or those with low vision; however you can use them to read selected text aloud rather than reading the entire screen.

Because you aren't sure whether a text-to-speech program might be beneficial for your daughter, one of these free programs might be a good place to start. If she tries using a simple speech-to-text program and finds it helpful, she can investigate purchasing a more full-featured program. I wouldn't advise starting off purchasing a piece of software until you and your daughter are sure it will help her.

She might also try talking to the Office of Disability Services at her university. They may have text-to-speech software available on some university computers. This could allow your daughter to try out a program or two before making a purchase. You can also search for and compare programs with text-to-speech capabilities on the Tech Matrix.

Are there any assistive technologies for dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia can create various problems in writing skills, ranging from poor handwriting to difficulty in organizing and sequencing information. Without knowing your specific needs, it would be difficult to recommend an assistive technology (AT) tool for you. However, there is a wide range of AT tools available to help students who struggle with writing:

  • Word prediction tools can support spelling or word choice
  • Voice recognition programs allow a user to dictate writing to the computer and then edit and make corrections via voice or keyboard
  • Spell and grammar checkers are commonly used to support word processing
  • Concept mapping and outlining tools can support organization and brainstorming
  • Reference manager tools can support and organize research organization

Some of these tools can help you circumvent the actual physical task of writing, while others can facilitate proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, word usage, and organization. The key is to select the AT that works for you. Using Assistive Technology to Support Writing might help you focus on the particular aspects with which you need technology support. As a graduate student, you could consult the Office of Disabled Student Services (or its equivalent) on campus and ask to try out some of these tools.

Is there a computer program that allows students to do math computation?

Computer-aided instruction has been shown to be an effective tool for mathematics instruction, and there are many math software products on the market. Children who find it difficult to write math problems legibly or accurately can benefit from computer-based programs that allow them to focus on calculating and problem solving. Some software programs have a game-like format, others allow a student to solve teacher-made problems. The key is to select programs that are rich in content as well as motivational for your student. 10 Tips for Software Selection for Math Instruction may assist you in making an appropriate product selection. See also the Tech Matrix for reviews of math software programs and related research.

Does technology affect learning in young children?

Technology definitely can affect learning in young children, and as with most things there are advantages and disadvantages of its use. Ultimately, the decision rests with the parent or caregiver, how often and under what circumstances their children should use video games, computers, and other types of technology tools. One point is consistently made by researchers and child development experts: young children's play with technology should be rich in conversation with peers and adults to help them make sense of the technology and the experiences. Adults who are playing and talking with children can help them make connections between the technology-based experience and other learning experiences. To help you make an informed decision you can find information on the pros and cons of technology for young children at Technology in Early Education: Finding the Balance.

What resources can help parents find technology tools for children with disabilities?

Without knowing more details about your son’s specific needs, I can’t make a particular technology recommendation. However, there are a variety of resources and professionals available to help you make that choice. Many schools have an assistive technology coordinator in the building, or someone who provides assistive technology support for the district. You might check with your school’s special education coordinator to find out if someone is available for a technology consultation.

If your school district does not have an assistive technology specialist, you can also contact your local children’s hospital. They will often be able to conduct assistive technology assessments and make recommendations about technology tools that might be helpful for your son.

There are also a variety of websites that sell software programs that may help your son build key academic skills. Tom Snyder Productions, Riverdeep and EnableMart all have excellent selections of software programs for improving core skills, supporting content area (math, science, social studies, and language arts) learning or engaging students in independent learning.

A great resource for evaluating software programs and finding the right one for your child is the TechMatrix – using this tool you can search for products by feature, subject area and learning support, as well as finding out information about where to purchase the tool. You might also check out some of the resources and articles on this website and the website for the Center for Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd). CITEd has a series of articles about using multimedia tools in the content areas. These tools (many of them free) might be helpful to try out with your son as a way of getting extra practice or helping him understand new information.

Where can I find research about technology as an appropriate intervention tool?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with disabilities be evaluated for assistive technology, so if your child has a technology evaluation, the assistive technology coordinator for your school or district should be able to help you with convincing teachers of the possible benefits of using technology. They will have access to research and accepted best practices for students with disabilities.

It can also be helpful to do your own research. LD Online has a wonderful collection of articles and resources on the various uses of technology for individuals with learning disabilities. You might start with the section for parents, but also check out articles in the section on technology. Here you can find specific articles about the benefits of calculators for students with LD, the use of tech tools to teach history and science, and the need for alternatives to print, along with many other articles that might be useful to share with your child's teachers.

Great Schools now features the information on assistive technology for students with learning disabilities that was produced for Schwab Learning (no longer a live site). Search the learning difficulties content for “assistive technology” and find short pieces on tools for reading, writing, math and others. They may be helpful in discussing options with teachers and staff.

How does NIMAS affect local school districts when purchasing new texts?

Local school districts (as well as State Education Agencies) are expected to play an important role in obligating publishers to submit essential source materials to the NIMAC (the National Instructional Materials Access Center). Districts and States who have indicated that they will coordinate with the NIMAC must include appropriate language in contracts and purchase orders that require publishers to submit NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC, or to provide assurances that they have already done so, for a specific title and version that is to be purchased. A sample statement that could be included in a contract or purchase order follows:



Sample Language for Adoption Contracts and LEA Purchase Orders

By agreeing to deliver the materials marked with "NIMAS" on this contract or purchase order, the publisher agrees to prepare and submit, on or before ___/___/_____ a NIMAS fileset to the NIMAC that complies with the terms and procedures set forth by the NIMAC. Should the vendor be a distributor of the materials and not the publisher, the distributor agrees to immediately notify the publisher of its obligation to submit NIMAS file sets of the purchased products to the NIMAC. The files will be used for the production of alternate formats as permitted under the law for students with print disabilities.

This is page __ of __ of this contract or purchase order.



For additional information about NIMAS, please refer to http://nimas.cast.org. And, for additional information about the NIMAC, please refer to http://nimac.us. For information about locating and purchasing accessible texts, An Educator's Guide to Making Textbooks Accessible and Useable for Students with Learning Disabilities is a good place to start.

What software can help students keep track of deadlines and organize their work to send it in on time?

Keeping track of multiple assignments can be a challenge for many middle and high school students. As students enter the higher grades, having a different teacher for each class can make staying on top of assignments and quizzes difficult. For some students with learning disabilities, difficulties with organization and task management can make keeping track of work even more challenging. It might be helpful to do some reading on organizational strategies for your child so you can get an idea of some of the different ways of building organization and study skills.

There are also a number of tools (both high tech and low tech) that can help your son stay organized. One of the simplest and most frequently used tools is a basic day planner. One benefit to using an assignment book or planner is that it is inexpensive and easy to use. However, this does require that your son either consistently writes down his assignments, or that he ask his teachers to check his planner each day to ensure that he has everything down properly.

An alternative to using a planner or assignment book is to use a web-based calendar or to-do list. Google Calendar is one option. It is simple and free to use; users can share calendars and get email reminders before events or tasks. Again, your son would have to reliably enter information into his calendar, but he may find the use of technology more engaging than a pencil and paper planner. Because Google Calendar enables you to share calendars, this could also be a great way for parents to keep an eye on approaching deadlines.

Another popular program for reminders, to-do lists and project planning is Remember the Milk. Remember the Milk is a free task tracking and organizational program; users can receive reminders via email, instant message, and text message. Adding tasks can be done online or via email (even sent from your phone). Remember the Milk interfaces with both iCal (Apple) and Google Calendar, so you can add tasks to your personal calendar as well.

If students have a web-enabled cell phone, they can even access their lists that way. Like an online calendar, your son would have to be sure that he enters his assignments. However, young adults are active users of text and instant message, so they may find these features motivating. As with Google Calendar, you can share to-do lists with others, so as a parent you can check your son's assignments for the week.

Finally, many teachers are starting to use online calendars and assignment tracking for their students. Some teachers use more feature-rich programs that allow students to upload assignments directly, rather than printing them out and handing them in the next day. Others may use a simple online calendar for assignments and quizzes. It might be worthwhile talking to your son's teachers to see if they are using a program like this. If they aren't, you may ask them if they'd consider it, both as a way to help your son stay more organized, and as a way to help other students and their parents keep track of important assignments.

There are a variety of different programs, many of them free. They range from programs that track grades, attendance, test scores, assignments and lessons such as TeacherEase, SmartGrading, or Engrade, to programs that are a classroom calendar only, such as Assign-a-Day. Many schools are using these types of programs system-wide, so you may also want to talk to administrators and see if this is something they're considering.

What technology is available to help a nine-year-old read?

Reading doesn't come naturally to some students, but there are many things you can do at home with your child to help improve his reading skills. The Reading is Fundamental website has a great list of 20 Ways for Parents to Encourage Reading, and Reading Rockets has a robust parent strategy section. You can find helpful suggestions at both of these sites.

There are also a number of free games and activities online that can help encourage struggling or reluctant readers. Depending on your son's reading level and maturity, some of these websites may feel too young, so it is important that you give him a variety of options and see what he likes best. A good resource to help you get started is Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials. The article discusses the different ways multimedia tools can be used to support reading instruction and provides a resource list with suggestions of different websites and games to help kids build reading skills.

Starfall has a collection of online books and activities for different reading levels and ages. Students can hear words read aloud and read at their own pace. The section I'm Reading might be most appropriate for your son. Sylvan Learning has a free website called Book Adventure that may also be motivating for your son. Students read books, take a short quiz and earn points. Points can then be redeemed for prizes (books, games, etc.). Book Adventure also has a page for parents with suggestions for encouraging reading, making reading fun and recognizing reading challenges.

A game format can be a non-threatening way to practice reading. If your son enjoys the game or wants to find out what happens next, he may be more motivated to read. PBS has a great selection of educational games and activities for students. PBS Kids Cyberchase is designed for slightly older elementary or middle school students. While not a reading game specifically, there is a significant amount of text for students to read. All spoken dialogue is also shown on screen, and players have to read signs and other information in the game. This type of experience may help your son practice reading without even realizing it. The Kaboose Family Network also has a page with a variety of free online reading and spelling games for different age groups.

If you're interested in purchasing a software program for use at home, educational publishers such as Tom Snyder and Houghton Mifflin sell a number of programs, both games and skill building tools that can help struggling readers. You can also search for and compare reading programs using the Tech Matrix.

What is the role of technology in Response to Intervention?

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered approach to identifying and supporting struggling students. In this approach, all students receive the same high quality instruction and assessments. Students who do not respond to this instruction (as revealed by frequent in-class assessments) will then receive more targeted and intensive instruction. Students who continue to struggle will receive further interventions, possibly in the form of direct one-on-one instruction.

For some students these tiered interventions may be enough to accelerate their learning and help them catch up with their peers. For others, their lack of response to the intervention may signal a need for an evaluation for special education services. Because data on each student is collected at every stage, much of this data can then be used to help determine the presence of a specific learning disability.

Technology can play a key role in the response to intervention process, both as a means of assessment, and as a means of intervention. It might be helpful to check out the CITEd webinar on the Role of Technology in Response to Intervention. There are two national centers providing technical assistance to schools and districts, see the National Center on Response to Intervention and the RTI Action Network.

A critical part of response to intervention is ongoing student assessment and progress monitoring, often through the use of curriculum-based measurement. This data can help teachers make decisions about student learning and identify areas of difficulty right away. A variety of progress monitoring tools are software based, allowing teachers to quickly assess individual students and keep track of student data.

The relative ease of using technology to track, monitor and graph student assessment data may be an enticing benefit for teachers. It allows them to quickly determine student achievement and level without having to deal with data collection and recording themselves, leaving them more time to focus on teaching. The National Center on Student Progress Monitoring has a helpful chart of tools and the content areas they cover.

Technology tools can also be used as a part of the intervention process with individual students. Students who are identified as needing extra help may benefit from the use of skill-building technology tools. The use of these tools can help teachers differentiate instruction, which can be especially helpful when students require extra help in a particular area.

CITEd has an online module on differentiating instruction using technology that may be helpful; they also include a discussion forum and a number of helpful resources. The CITEd webinar on the same topic may also help teachers see how technology can assist in the teaching of different students at different levels. Each of these resources provides practical advice on using technology in the classroom to address the diverse needs of students.

Once teachers are comfortable that technology is an appropriate intervention tool, you can direct them (or technology coordinators for your school) to the Tech Matrix to find tools that match specific student needs. Because evidence-based instruction is a critical component of RTI, be sure to check out the research support articles listed with each tool.

What speech recognition programs work when the user's speech is inconsistent?

For users who struggle with reading clearly and precisely, training a speech recognition program like Dragon Naturally Speaking (particularly older versions) can be challenging. The good news is that Dragon 9 (the most recent version) does not require training. This allows users to get started right away without having to read lengthy texts or training scripts.

Other programs, such as SpeakQ, may also be helpful. SpeakQ allows users to choose from a list of training texts at various reading levels, or create your own training text. SpeakQ also has speech prompting if you have trouble reading a training text. Using this feature, SpeakQ will read the training text aloud, requiring the user to repeat the text aloud. This may be of assistance if you are struggling to read a training text correctly.

Another benefit of SpeakQ is that it is combined with WordQ, a word prediction program with text-to-speech capabilities. This feature means that you can directly dictate words, or opt to use the "speech-enabled word prediction" which presents your spoken words as a list of choices. This may help reduce errors and allow you to be more accurate.

What software helps students improve their typing on a keyboard?

There are a number of excellent programs available for teaching typing on a keyboard or for helping students practice their typing. You might want to check with your son's school and see what (if any) software they use to teach students typing. Using the same program would give your son the added benefit of continuity as he practices both at home and at school.

If you are interested in purchasing off the shelf software, you might check with some of the big educational publishers such as Scholastic, Broderbund, and RiverDeep. Broderbund makes a typing program called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing that is used by many schools. While it is often used by older students and adults, there are games built in that may be engaging and motivating for younger users.

Riverdeep also has a program for young typers called Read, Write, & Type that teaches students vocabulary and reading skills along with typing. Sunburst has a program used in many schools, Type to Learn, that is available for purchase directly from them, or as a download for home use from Scholastic.

Another program used in schools that also has a version for home use is UltraKey released by Bytes of Learning. Because several of these programs are used in classrooms already, you may be able to find one that your son is using already in computer class.

If your son is not using typing software in school, or you would like to purchase something different, there are also several websites that review software and may help you evaluate some of the products out there. Top Ten Reviews has a table comparing features of typing software programs for kids, as does the website Super Kids.

Finally, one great typing practice game that your son might enjoy is Typer Shark. The game is released by Pop Cap Games and is freely available online. While it won't teach your son proper finger placement or technique, it is a great tool for practicing speed and accuracy for a student who already knows how to type.

In this game, users play the role of a deep sea diver and must type letters, numbers, words and symbols as they appear on sharks and piranhas. Type too slowly and the diver gets eaten (no blood or gore — the diver merely disappears and reappears). Because the game is fun, challenging and feels like a real video game, it can be a motivating way of getting kids to practice typing skills.

What software can help me with financial planning?

This is a difficult problem that many people struggle with, whether they have a disability or not. Particularly as we get older and perhaps begin investing money, saving for retirement, paying back student loans, buying a car, thinking about buying a home or other major purchases, our finances get more and more complicated. Fortunately, because it is such a common problem, there are many tools out there to help us make sense of it all.

A first step might be to educate yourself about financial planning, retirement, investing, whichever topic you feel you might need additional information on. Many adult community education centers will offer inexpensive courses on everything from financing a home to balancing your checkbook. While you may know much of this information already, it might not hurt to have a refresher on a few topics. And you may learn some new strategies for keeping things organized.

You can also find much of this information online on one of the many financial help websites out there. The Motley Fool is particularly well-known and they tend to write things in a way the average person (i.e. one with no background in finance) can understand. They also provide a number of calculators, worksheets and planning tools that may be helpful.

Another source for calculators and planning tools is Bankrate.com. These calculators may not help you with the organization part of financial planning, but they may help you with running numbers and figuring out what you need to do to achieve certain financial goals.

This would also be a great time to evaluate what you want from personal financial software. There are a variety of options out there, from the fairly simple to the incredibly complex. Do you need something to help you create a monthly budget? Would you prefer software that can track all of your assets and spending? Do you need a tool that can connect to your online banking information?

When it comes to software to assist you with financial planning and organization, it is really a matter of choice and needs. Some people are fine with creating an excel spreadsheet to track their spending and create budgets, others prefer to use a software program that does most of the work for them.

Because people with learning disabilities often struggle with organization, you may want to keep an eye out for tools that track spending for you by category. This way you can see exactly what you are spending and where. Many programs can update your records automatically with information from your bank statement. This means you don't have to be organized enough to remember to enter things on your own. Simply download your bank statement and load it directly into the software program.

Some of these types of programs include Quicken and Microsoft Money. These programs are well-known and fairly easy to use, so they may be a good place to start. Most software titles such as these will offer you a free 30-day trial, so you can shop around a little.

If you are looking for a tool that allows you to analyze and forecast your financial future, in addition to creating monthly budgets, you might look at a tool like Financial Fate. Financial Fate features tools to help you look at the months and years ahead as well as evaluate the impact of your financial decisions.

Finally, there are also a number of free (or mostly free) online budgeting and financial planning tools, such as: Clear Checkbook, Pear Budget, Buddi, Cashbox, and Gnu Cash. Some of these programs are designed to interface with your mobile phone, meaning you can access or change your budget or financial information whenever you need to. Others are designed with very simple interfaces and limited features to give you only what you need. Because you can try these all out for free, you might want to play around with a few and see if anything clicks.

Of course, each of these programs requires some degree of effort from the user. If you have a hard time staying organized, or remembering to balance your checkbook, it may be difficult to remember to upload the information into your planning software. If your struggles are more in the realm of staying on top of things and keeping organized, you might also supplement your use of personal financial software with an online tool like Remember the Milk.

Remember the Milk allows you to create reminders, to-do lists and manage tasks from anywhere and have them sent to you via text message, email, and instant messenger. You could set up a variety of reminders related to financial planning (i.e. once a month upload bank statement, every two weeks check balance, etc.) and ensure that no matter where you are, you keep your financial life organized.

What recommendations does the Tech Expert have for students with short-term memory difficulties?

Difficulties with short term memory are very common for students with learning disabilities or cognitive delays. Several strategies can be helpful for students who struggle with short term memory. These articles on memory tips and strategies for students may provide some helpful ideas. While many of the suggestions in the articles are for low-tech solutions to memory issues, there are also several wonderful higher tech solutions that may work out well for your son.

For example, it can be helpful for students to represent information graphically or visually, by creating idea maps, word webs, charts, graphic organizers or drawings to help them remember information. A variety of software tools are available that can help students do this. Software graphic organizers help students create graphic organizers and outlines in preparation for writing. Organizing his notes in this way may help your son remember the information more easily.

Another tool, Evernote, allows users to copy and paste information from websites, upload photos, create diagrams, record audio notes and add comments and tags to information they find. Users can then access their notes on their computer, cell phone or handheld device. Organizational tools can help your son connect and categorize new information making it easier to remember. Other organizational tools can be found by searching the TechMatrix by the learning support Means to Organize and Plan.

Another strategy that can be helpful for students who struggle with short term memory is to give them opportunities for frequent practice and skill building. This can be especially helpful in math class, where information retrieval is a key element for success. You can find a variety of math practice tools by searching the TechMatrix by Subject Area: Math and Learning Support: Practice and reinforcement activities. It can also be helpful to work with your son’s teachers and see if they can help create study guides and graphic organizers in advance of lessons, so that your son knows which information will be most important and can focus on that.

What software will assist a manager who wants to overcome a learning disability to write better?

Because it sounds like your strengths lie in verbal communication, voice recognition (speech-to-text) software that helps you make the most of your skills would probably be your best bet. Several options are available that would be suitable for an office environment. One of the most well known, Dragon Naturally Speaking, has business and professional versions available as well as options for specialized language for the legal and medical fields.

You may also find it helpful to read reviews on a website like CNET. Because CNET focuses on consumer and business technology tools, these reviews may help you make a decision about what tool would function best in your office environment. Some users opt to include a digital audio recorder as part of their voice recognition set up. This allows them to record notes, ideas and presentations and then transcribe them later using a voice recognition program. If you are serious about using voice recognition as a productivity tool, you might consider working with a consultant or coach who can help you set up templates, wizards, and macros to meet your particular needs. The article, From Speech to Text, reviews products in a business environment.

If voice recognition is not an appropriate option for you, text-to-speech software may also be helpful. While you would still need to do the actual writing on the computer, text-to-speech would allow you to hear your writing read back to you. This may help you identify misused words, confusing elements or missing words and thus clarify your writing. Both Macs and PCs have tools available that can read text aloud, as well as software available for purchase. If you will be using Microsoft Word, WordTalk, a free-plug-in, is available to read any word document aloud.

Because there are a wide variety of tools available, you may find it helpful to contact the Job Accommodation Network. The Job Accommodation Network is a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. They provide free consulting services to help identify the most appropriate worksite accommodation as well as technical assistance regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability information.

How can a parent choose a good speech to text tool that will help their dysgraphic child ?

Choosing a software program for your child can be a challenge. There are many programs available and it can be difficult to sift through the options and make the right decision. Unfortunately, every technology tool won't work the same way for every child, so without knowing more details about your son's needs for schoolwork, it is difficult to make a specific product recommendation.

Depending on your son's needs, a word prediction program with simple voice recognition, such as WordQ and SpeakQ might be appropriate. Or he might need a more robust program specifically designed for voice recognition only, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, which would allow him to use voice recognition to send email, write documents, surf the internet and complete other computer tasks.

You can also find a variety of tools on the TechMatrix and compare features to find something that might best fit your son's needs. This article on choosing voice recognition software may also be helpful in identifying the different features available and determining which would be most helpful.

One of the best options for beginning your search is to talk to other users of voice recognition tools for dysgraphia. You should start with the assistive technology coordinator for your school or district. They can discuss your son's specific academic needs and help you find an appropriate tool. Richard Wanderman, who has several learning disabilities including dysgraphia, wrote an article, How Computers Change the Writing Process for People with Learning Disabilities, for his website about how he uses technology to help him write that you may find helpful.

Thanks to the Internet, you can also connect easily with parents of children with learning disabilities to discuss the available options. Yahoo! Groups has a dysgraphia message board where you can post questions and discuss options with other parents. Though selecting an appropriate tool can be time consuming, learning about other people's experiences with voice recognition software can help ensure that you find a program that will work for your son.

What technology products can help students learn social skills?

Most people learn social skills simply by watching the way their friends and family interact. But some people may struggle with learning how to behave in social situations. This could be because of a disability that makes it difficult to recognize non-verbal cues and social rules; others, like your nephew, may struggle because anxiety prevents them from engaging in the types of interactions that would allow them to practice social skills.

In either case, individuals who struggle with social skills need opportunities to engage in social interactions and practice appropriate behavior. Because social skills can be difficult for some individuals to learn, it is important to have plenty of chances to practice in a variety of different situations.

It may be a good idea for your sister to speak with her son's teachers, as well as school counselors and special educators. They may recommend that your nephew work with an Occupational Therapist or school counselor on a social skills program.

It can also be helpful for family members to help out with social skills practice. You can find a number of suggestions for teaching social skills in Practicing Social Skills: How to Teach Your Student Social Interactions. There are also a variety of resources available in the Behavior and Social Skills section of this website.

Technology solutions may also be appropriate for your nephew. One benefit of using technology to give social skills practice is that students can engage in an interaction — like asking a classmate for something appropriately — a number of times until they get it right.

In real life situations, students often only get one chance to interact appropriately. A variety of multimedia tools are available that can be helpful in teaching appropriate social interactions; you can find suggestions in Multimedia Instruction of Social Skills.

One important thing to keep in mind is that research has shown that students learn social skills best when they learn them in a real-life situation and in a variety of different formats. So an ideal social skill program for your nephew might include work with teachers at school to practice school-based interactions (working with a partner, hand-raising, asking to borrow rather than taking, etc.), work with family and friends to practice outside interactions (riding public transportation, responding to adults, getting along with siblings, etc.) and the use of technology tools for additional practice.

How can we e-mail a textbook page home to a student with dyslexia?

There are several options that might be appropriate for this student or for others in a similar situation. Some scanners come with software enabling the user to scan directly into a PDF document; however, it is more likely that you will have to purchase either Adobe Acrobat or third-party software that will allow you to convert scanned documents into PDF.

Converting the scanned image would enable you to maintain the original layout of the document and still work with Natural Reader since it is capable of reading PDFs as well as MS Word documents. Having the capability to convert documents to PDF could also be beneficial for other students, as the newer versions of Adobe Reader have improved read out loud capabilities. This could be helpful for students who don't have access to a screen reader at home. You could convert any text to a PDF and students could hear it read aloud using the free Reader program.

If purchasing additional software is not a feasible option, you may also try searching for a digital version of the text online. Learning Ally has audio versions of many textbooks, and websites such as BookShare and Project Gutenberg have electronic books freely available for download (BookShare provides books free for users with documented print disabilities).

Where can I find software that can read websites aloud to me?

Depending on your needs, there are several products available that can help you with being able to hear text on your computer read aloud. Some options are free, while others require software purchase.

If you are regularly downloading articles or documents to read that are in PDF, you can use the built in screen reader in Adobe Acrobat Reader called Read Out Loud to hear any text in the document read aloud.

If you need assistance with reading MS Word documents, or to have the text of your writing read back to you for editing purposes, one good option might be WordTalk, a free program text-to-speech program for Microsoft Word. You can also use the built-in screen reader/text-to-speech features on your computer.

Both Microsoft and Apple have simple text-to-speech programs built into their operating systems. Microsoft's Narrator is relatively limited in features, and is intended for users with visual impairments. However, some of the features may be helpful for you. Apple's VoiceOver has similar capabilities and can assist users with reading typed text, windows, menus and controls.

If you are mostly concerned with being able to hear text on websites read aloud, you might consider Talklets. Talklets is a small web-based application that allows you to hear any web text read out loud. Because it is web-based, you don't have to install software, which may be useful if you are using different computers (at the library, in the classroom, etc.). Talklets is free for a few websites (Google, Wikipedia, the BBC) and charges a monthly fee for unlimited access to any website. ReadPlease and Natural Reader also have free text-to-speech programs with limited functionality that may be sufficient for your needs. Several options are available from a basic copy for free download, to a more full-featured version for purchase.

If these free tools don't provide you with the level of functionality you need, you can also try searching the TechMatrix to find other text-to-speech products and compare features by selecting the Subject Area of Reading and the Learning Support of Access to multiple formats of text, notation, and symbols.

What web resources could help a third grader who needs to learn science and social studies?

The Internet has some great resources for helping students to learn science and social studies. See the article Using Multimedia Tools to Help Students Learn Science for a rich collection of web-based sites. The article is divided into three sections: Modeling Tools and Multiple Representations, Tools that Facilitate Collaboration and Discourse, and Simulations and Virtual Labs. Each section has a list of tools that you can implement in your classroom. Grade levels vary, but there are several tools that would be just right for third grade. Take a look at the tools, and hopefully, you will find some that will be engaging to your student.

In terms of social studies, see the articles Teaching History to Support Diverse Learners which describes ways to engage students with critical thinking and history learning. The article Learning History with Multimedia Materials is another great resource. Unfortunately, many of the tools mentioned in this article are for middle and high school grades. However, the Jean Fritz History Series is made for students in grades 3-7. The series explores different social studies themes and introduces students to key historical figures. CITEd's article Multimedia Geography Instruction also provides links to some really engaging online tools. Many of the tools mentioned in this article are aimed toward elementary students. Landscapes game, for example, includes activities for using relative location to construct maps. This program allows students to use map construction tools in a digital environment instead of using traditional materials such as pencils, crayons, construction paper, and clay.

We hope these resources will engage and instruct your student and be helpful to your classroom management.

What technology resources can be used for students with motor and speech limitations?

CITEd just recently updated the TechMatrix, a tool that allows you to search for information on assistive and learning software and tools. The TechMatrix now includes more than 190 products and tools in AT Access Devices, Reading, Math, and Writing. You can search for tools by subject area, learning supports, features, and product names.

It sounds like the "features" search may be most helpful to you. You can select one or more features (e.g. connection to computer, customizable interface, embedded resources, text-to-speech, word prediction, etc.), and then click the "Generate Matrix" to view a matrix of products having that particular set of features.

Popular types of products that have been successful as both AT for students with special needs and general classroom technology include portable notetakers, adapted keyboards that can be used by one or more student on a regular desktop computer, and text-to-speech functions on general computers that can stand in for dedicated speech devices and read a students' presentation or response. You can find out more about these technologies at the TechMatrix.

What tools would help a teacher decide if a child needed technology?

Choosing the right assistive technology (AT) tool for a student can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a variety of excellent tools and frameworks to help you make the best decision for your student. Regardless of which framework you choose, the most important factor in any assistive technology assessment is the student. Before even beginning to look at technology tools, you must first review the student's needs, abilities, and goals. This information will help you determine what type of tool will be the most beneficial for your student.

The SETT (Student, Environment, Task, Tool) Framework is one example of a tool for assessing assistive technology needs. Using this tool, teachers working with the student examine student needs, the environment in which the technology will be used (at home, at school, etc.), and the specific tasks the technology would help the student accomplish (reading a passage independently, interacting with peers, participating in classroom discussions, etc.). Only once these areas have been covered do they move forward and look at specific AT devices.

Another source of assistive technology assessment tools is the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI). Like the SETT Framework, the materials provided by WATI focus first on student needs and learning goals before looking at types of technology tools that might be helpful. WATI also offers handouts to help schools with an Extended Assessment Plan; students try several different technology tools for a set amount of time to determine which tool best meets the student's identified needs.

Once you have a completed an AT assessment for you student and determined what types of technology might be helpful, you might visit the Tech Matrix or your local Assistive Technology Center or loan library to find suggestions for specific technology tools. Find your state's contact at the national registery.

Is there an audio-system that helps the student to focus on the teacher's voice?

You are probably referring to an auditory trainer (also called an FM System) which is a type of Assistive Listening Device. Auditory trainers allow students to focus on what the teacher is saying, eliminating distractions from background noise. These tools can be used with students with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, students with hearing impairments, or other students (such as those with ADD/ADHD or learning disabilities) who may have trouble filtering out classroom noise. There is a brief description of auditory trainers in the article Auditory Processing Disorder in Children.

Boystown National Research Hospital has a good description of FM Systems that may be helpful in understanding how auditory trainers can be used in the classroom. There can be drawbacks to using an auditory trainer as it may keep a student from hearing questions or comments made by other students in the classroom. However, these tools can be helpful in a lecture format, or if the teacher is sure to repeat questions asked by other students.

There are many places online to find companies that sell Assistive Listening Devices; The Hearing Review has a good list, as does ABLEDATA. However, you may want to discuss your child's needs with the assistive technology specialist for your district, or work with a specialist at your local children's hospital to ensure that you select the right product.

What technology helps math, handwriting, and spelling?

You mention several different concerns that you have with your son's performance in school. Based on your descriptions, it sounds like memory may be an area of significant difficulty for your son. This may be what is preventing him from learning his multiplication facts and remembering spelling words.

A low-tech solution is to provide your son with a multiplication grid to use while completing math assignments. Some teachers opt to provide these grids for all students, while others give them only to students who are having particular difficulties. Similarly, a list of spelling words added to a personal dictionary to use in the weeks after the spelling test may help him build confidence to use the words in his writing. These types of reference tools can be great resources for students who struggle with memory and accessing information quickly.

Without knowing more about your son’s handwriting and spelling issues, it is difficult to recommend a specific tool. Is there a physical issue that interferes with your son's ability to write legibly? Does he have difficulty holding a pencil? A student with these issues may require different technological solutions than a student who has difficulty placing letters correctly on the page, or who switches letters (b for d, or p for b, etc.).

However, for many students with difficulty writing, word prediction software, (see From Illegible to Understandable) can be helpful. Other writing tools (see Tech Tools for Students with LD) such as talking word processors and portable note-taking devices may also be helpful. With any of these tools, it is best to discuss them with your son's special education teachers, and the school's assistive technology coordinator to ensure you find the best fit.

Finally, another good resource for locating assistive technology tools for different student needs is the Tech Matrix. As with any of the other technology tools mentioned, it is best to look at the different options with your son's teachers and the school technology coordinator to ensure that tools selected will be appropriate.

What technology can help a ten-year-old child with learning disabilities?

Without knowing more details about your son's specific needs, I can't make a particular technology recommendation. However, there are a variety of resources and professionals available to help you make that choice. Many schools have an assistive technology coordinator in the building, or someone who provides assistive technology support for the district. You might check with your school's special education coordinator to find out if someone is available for a technology consultation. If your school district does not have an assistive technology specialist, you can also contact your local children's hospital. They will often be able to conduct assistive technology assessments and make recommendations about technology tools that might be helpful for your son. While you are online here at LD OnLine, check out the products in our store, LearningStore, to see if some of them address the issues you have identified.

There are also a variety of websites that sell software programs that may help your son build key academic skills. Tom Snyder Productions, Riverdeep, and EnableMart all have excellent selections of software programs for improving core skills, supporting content area (math, science, social studies, and language arts) learning or engaging students in independent learning. A great resource for evaluating software programs to find the right one for your child is the TechMatrix — using this tool you can search for products by feature, subject area and learning support, as well as finding out information about where to purchase the tool.

Where can we get recorded books for our students who read slowly?

Fortunately, there are now a number of fairly inexpensive ways to provide struggling readers with access to printed materials by providing text digitally, see An Educator's Guide to Making Textbooks Accessible and Usable for Students with Learning Disabilities. Once you have digital text, you have many options.

Many publishers now offer their textbooks on CD-ROM and teachers can easily scan print materials into their computer to create digital versions of texts. One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to provide students with recorded text is use text-to-speech features built into your computer's operating system to read digitized text. These simple programs can read text files aloud for students and are freely available with all Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Although they lack more sophisticated control options and choices for speaking voices, they may be an appropriate solution for helping students read short pieces of text.

Another free option for helping students access text is to download books from a website such as Project Gutenberg or LibriVox. The books available from these sites are in the public domain, so you will not be able to find newer books here. However, they are freely available to all and may be a good solution for providing electronic versions of popular classics (Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, etc.). Files are usually available in HTML, PDF or Text format, which can then be read aloud using any text-to-speech program. The Adobe Reader has a built in Read Out Loud feature which allows the user to have any part of a PDF file read aloud. You could also use this feature with any hard copy text that you scan and save as a PDF.

A third option is to obtain audio books from Learning Ally. Membership is required in order to access audio books and a special player or software is necessary to play the books. Another site, Bookshare provides digital talking books for students of any age with disabilities. Students with qualifying print disabilities can now access the entire Bookshare collection free of charge. Additionally, audio books can be ordered from websites such as Amazon, Audible, or Barnes & Noble. However, this option will likely be more expensive than the cost of a Learning Ally membership.

The most flexible option (and also the most expensive) would be to purchase software capable of converting text files into audio files. A quick internet search will reveal several downloadable programs for running text to audio conversions. However, for a school purchase, it might make sense to investigate programs that can be used for a variety of reading and writing tasks such as Kurzweil 3000, Proloquo, TextAloud and WYNN. With these tools, you can convert any text file to a sound file; students can then listen to text using an MP3 player, their computer or CD player. Using a scanner, you can easily scan any print material and create recorded text for your students for any book, textbook, handout, or article you use in your teaching.

What technology helps students take notes in lectures?

It can be challenging for many students with disabilities to take notes while listening to teacher lectures or instruction. A couple of different options may be helpful for your son, depending on the resources available at your school and his teacher's instructional style. If your son's teacher regularly uses overheads or slide presentations, it may be helpful for your son to have access to the slides during the lecture. He can view the slides on a laptop and add his notes to them as the teacher presents information.

Another option if your son's teacher doesn't use slide presentations during lectures would be to ask the teacher to create electronic note-taking tools or graphic organizers for the lecture material. Depending on the specific content being covered, these could include partially completed outlines, concept maps, or story analysis webs. Your son could have these available on a laptop and fill them in as the teacher presents material. This article on Tech Tools for Students with Learning Disabilities offers some suggestions for students that may be helpful.

There are also several software options available for creating concept maps or online note taking. Inspiration and MindManager are both tools that allow users to create visual representations of information. These tools could be beneficial for writing activities or connecting concepts.

Online note taking software such as EverNote would allow your son to create searchable notes and diagrams using digital images, handwritten text from a tablet PC, text from websites or text from Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. If a laptop is unavailable for your son to use in the classroom, a portable note-taker might be a good solution. AlphaSmart and Fusion makes portable note-taking devices that are popular in schools; other options can be found on the TechMatrix website.

Are there any programs that can help my daughter who can spell, but can't write words correctly?

Without more information about your daughter’s difficulties with writing, it is difficult to give you a firm answer about why she struggles with writing words that she can spell aloud. If the difficulty seems to be the physical task of writing, it may be that your daughter has issues with fine motor control. Many students with learning disabilities find holding a pencil and forming letters to be extremely challenging. If your daughter is having difficulty with the mechanics of writing (writing legibly, writing words completely without leaving off letters, writing within lines, etc.), this article on Dysgraphia Accommodations and Modifications may be helpful. You should certainly work with teachers at your school to determine potential causes of your daughter’s writing difficulties. If her difficulty seems to be with the physical act of writing, you may want to speak to your school’s occupational therapist as well.

You might also take a look at these common questions about writing and students with learning disabilities, as well as Using Assistive Technology to Support Writing. Once you have determined what type of tool might be most helpful for your daughter, you can visit the Tech Matrix to find suggestions for specific software and hardware titles.

Can you recommend any technology to help my son with Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

Because individuals with auditory processing disorders mishear or misinterpret auditory information — particularly when in a noisy environment — they can struggle with academic tasks. Reading and writing may be especially challenging as students with CAPD can struggle with differentiating sounds and syllables. Students with CAPD may also:

  • have trouble remembering information that is presented orally,
  • have difficulty following multi-step directions
  • have language difficulties
  • struggle with reading, writing, comprehension, and spelling

See the article, Auditory Processing Disorder in Children, for more information about how CAPD affects learning.

Several technologies are available to help students with CAPD. If students are having difficulty remembering information presented orally, teachers may opt to record lectures for students so they can listen to them again later. Students may also use an auditory trainer. Teachers wear a microphone and students are able to listen to the teacher’s lecture directly using a headset. This set up allows students to filter out background noise and focus only on what the teacher is saying.

For difficulties with reading, several software programs may be helpful. Often, students with CAPD can benefit from activities designed to improve phonemic awareness, syllable and word recognition. You might try looking at programs like Earobics or Fast Forward. OutLoud+ is a program designed specifically for individuals with CAPD to help with following oral directions. The article, Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials, features a variety of suggestions for technology tools to teach phonemic awareness, phonics and word recognition, comprehension and fluency, many of them free.

You can also find suggestions for reading software (as well as other content areas) in the Tech Matrix, a product of CITEd and the NCTI.

Can you provide recommendations of things to consider when developing a university program for students with learning disabilities?

It is wonderful to hear about AUST working with parents to develop a program for students with disabilities. No doubt, collaboration between the two entities will enhance the process. There are many issues that need to be considered in such an endeavor in addition to those that you have mentioned.

I think a good place to start may be with the HEATH Resource Center Clearinghouse, which provides information for students with disabilities on educational disability support services, policies, procedures, adaptations and access, as well as links to many other valuable resources.

Also, explore the web site for the Association on Higher Education and Disability — AHEAD, which is the premiere professional association committed to full participation of persons with disabilities in postsecondary education.

In addition, I recommend that you contact the directors of various university programs for students with disabilities. These professionals should be able to provide you with information about the development and implementation of their own programs, as well as practical advice from their lessons learned.

Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities, a directory maintained by the American Educational Guidance Center, can provide you with links to dozens of universities that have registered programs.

Can you recommend programs to assist students in the third to fifth grade who are struggling with math?

There are many programs available for students who struggle with math. The key is to select programs that are rich in content that also match the specific needs of the students.

The Tech Matrix provides reviews of math software programs and related research. Products and research are categorized by the content areas identified by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics to help you find software that address the topic of concern: Number and operations; Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis and Probability, Algebra.

Features in the reviews may also help you identify products that can meet a particular need. A growing number of software programs offer a variety of features to help struggling students learn math skills, such as speaking the problems aloud, taking dictated answers, or adjusting the speed of expected responses.

Another valuable resource is the Learning Mathematics with Virtual Manipulatives that discusses how online manipulatives activities allow students to interact with and test concepts. The many free resources linked in this article are engaging for students and can help make abstract concepts more real. In addition, I suggest that you work with your child's teacher to identify activities that could reinforce classroom work in an alternative manner.

10 Tips for Software Selection for Math Instruction are resources that may help you in your search for activities that can reinforce your child’s math lessons.

You may also find MathTools, an online community library of technology tools, lessons, activities, and support materials for teaching and learning math.

Can you recommend any computer programs to help my son, who is dyslexic, with his writing?

An expanding array of technological devices provides new options for minimizing the writing difficulties experienced by students with learning disabilities. Programs and devices, such as talking word processors, word prediction programs, child-friendly voice recognition, and portable note-taking devices may assist your son with his writing.

Tech Tools for Students with Learning Disabilities: Infusion into Inclusive Classrooms will provide you with detailed information on each of these options.

Using Assistive Technology to Support Writing is another valuable resource that can assist you in selecting the best technologies to meet the needs of your son and may be worth sharing with his teachers to ensure that he has the support he needs in the classroom.

Also check out the Tech Matrix, which is a free online resource for writing products, reviewed for accessibility and instructional features. Related research on the use of technology for students with special needs will also be included with this tool to inform your decision on the best programs to provide support to meet your son’s needs.

Can you recommend any computer games that can help my daughter understand math concepts?

There are a lot of good computer math games. The challenge is to select the ones that best meet the needs of the student. The Math Matrix, which matches technology tools with research on promising practices for K-8 mathematics for students with disabilities, can help you make your selection.

There are also numerous online math games that are absolutely free. Learning Mathematics with Virtual Manipulatives provides background information on virtual math manipulatives and links to several really great math sites appropriate for various grade levels. As you know, having fun while practicing and reinforcing concepts and facts is important. I encourage you to look for software and online sites that offer scenarios that will hook into your daughter’s interest and can make the concepts come alive rather than drilling only on equations and facts.

How can a student who has a learning disability and no computer skills survive college?

Thanks for going the extra mile to help this young woman. There are actually several underlying issues related to your question. Can this student use any kind of computer technology? Are there any assistive technologies (AT) that may be effective for her? What accommodations can the post-secondary institution provide and what are her legal rights in regard to accommodations?

An initial step to consider would be an assistive technology assessment, possibly arranged through the local Vocational Rehabilitation Center as an element of her Transition Plan. The next step would be a visit to a local college and discuss options with the Disability Resource Center. Here is some information on these steps:

  1. AT assessments: It may be that computers will work for her with appropriate accommodations, or perhaps some other type of assistive technology will be more appropriate. This student needs to know what she needs before she can request appropriate accommodations. If there are personnel in the school who can do this, seek them out. Otherwise, start with Step 2.
  2. If she is not currently a client of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in her state, she may be eligible to apply for services. Work with the Transition Coordinator at the high school who should have a connection with the VR system. They may be able to help provide an (AT) assessment for her and perhaps even assist with funding.
  3. Plan a visit to a Disability Resource Center at a local college. They can counsel her about expectations and assumptions, inform her of the types of accommodations they are able to provide students, and may have information about other colleges’ programs. The recent guide, Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators will provide you information about students’ civil rights in regard to post-secondary education.

Are there any scanning devices available that can help my dyslexic child improve his reading and math skills?

There are many devices that can scan and read. As with all assistive technology, the key is to find the right match for the individual user. You know your child better than anyone. You need to find out all you can about the various devices. The TechMatrix is a gateway to reading and math software products that provide a brief description, including a side-by-side comparison, and links to more product details that will help you identify the most appropriate software for your child.

There are several reading pens on the market in addition to the ones listed on the matrices, such as the Reading Pen II, the LeapFrog Fly Pen, and the Wizard. You might want to contact the distributors to ask for an evaluation copy or whether the company is displaying the devices somewhere close by where you and your child can go and try it out.

You might want to pose a question on a listserv provided by Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT), where parents and practitioners post their questions and comments about AT. There are currently several postings on the listserv related to reading pens. I recommend that you review the TechMatrix to compare the various products, search the Internet for product information for the different talking/reading pens, and also search the QIAT listserv by keyword to learn from the experiences of other parents and teachers.

Can you recommend an effective typing program for our son, who is dyslexic and dysgraphic?

As you noted, there are a variety of typing programs on the market. The best answer to your question is that there may not be one single program that best meets your son’s needs. Keyboard development requires practice and, unfortunately, repetitive exercises can be boring. Access to a variety of programs offers choice, lessens boredom, and increases motivation for practicing keyboarding skills.

Another program that might work is Read, Write and Type by the Learning Company, which has been rated as an effective early reading intervention by the What Works Clearinghouse. Many dysgraphic students have difficulty with correct fingering in keyboarding skills. It would be best if your son used correct fingering, but he should not be forced.

The ultimate goal is for him to type fluently, with speed and accuracy. Some students who type in their own style have been known to reach 60 words per minute. Others gradually begin to type with correct, or partially correct, fingering. The key to improvement is practice and consistency.

I suggest that you encourage him to practice everyday, but limit the practice time to 10 minutes. Let him choose which program he wants to use, what he wants to type and what fingering method works best for him.

Are there any downloadable games or software available that are not timed?

I know of a couple of resources that may be of help to you. MathTools is a community digital library that supports the use and development of software for mathematics education. Through this site you can search by grade level and math topics to find a wealth of games and activities. As you will see, some of them are timed, although many are not.

Improving Basic Mathematics Instruction, a monograph published by the Technology and Media Division of CEC, offers resources and tips for selecting the appropriate technology for students with disabilities and includes a matrix of online games reviewed for several features, including whether it is timed.

As noted above, the TechMatrix offers valuable information on the features of more than twenty math software products that will help you find math games and activities to motivate your son to increase his math skills.

Can you recommend software that helps build phonological and phonemic awareness skills?

There are several such programs in addition to Earobics. The Reading Matrix, created by the National Center for Technology Innovation, matches technology tools with supporting literature and compares several skill building software programs.

An additional resource that may help you make an appropriate software selection is Technology Supports for Struggling Readers, a resource compiled by the Texas Assistive Technology Network, which reviews programs by essential reading sub-skills.

How can I get my son’s school to implement the technology provisions of his IEP?

First, congratulate yourself for being such an involved and supportive parent! Unfortunately, even with parent support, schools don’t always implement IEPs appropriately for a variety of reasons. For example, there is often not enough time for adequate teacher training, particularly when it comes to using technology.

However, IDEA legislation mandates that if the IEP team determines that a child requires assistive technology in order to receive an appropriate public education, such services must be provided. As a first step to ensure that your son receives the services outlined in his IEP, I suggest that you communicate your concerns to your son’s teacher, and request a meeting with the IEP team. It is always in the best interest of students if the parents and school staff can work as partners rather than adversaries.

However, sometimes parents must advocate for their child to ensure their rights are protected. The Parent Guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can provide you with information on your rights and options for recourse, if you are unable to resolve this issue at the school level. Additionally, you may suggest that the school request training from the company if they feel they do not have the knowledge to use the tool effectively.

You may also want to look into using BookShare.org, an online repository of scanned books, including many textbooks, which is available to eligible users with documented print disabilities. Having access to books already scanned alleviates the scanning effort at the local school.

What advice can you give me about the effectiveness of a computer training program vs. Slingerland tutoring for auditory processing disorders?

Before you make a decision about any single program or method to assist your son with his reading, it may be beneficial for you to explore Target the Problem, an on-line interactive tool that will help you learn more about auditory processing disorders and how they impact reading. Also, while Fast ForWord© may be of value to your son, there are other training programs on the market for you to investigate, as well as various tutoring methods in addition to Slingerland. There are also other strategies that can be used instead of, or in conjunction with, tutoring and training programs. Check to see if any programs can be supported with trained tutors or specialists in your area. The key is to understand how this disorder impacts your son and to match the strategies, methods and/or programs that best meet his specific needs.

What reading software is effective for students who struggle with reading?

Congratulations to your son's school for providing the opportunity for parent input! The Tech Matrix can help you bring the perspective of an informed parent to the table. This matrix is intended to serve as a resource that matches technology tools with supporting literature on promising practices for the instruction of reading for students with disabilities. Through the matrix you will able to examine the features of reading software for students who struggle with various aspects of reading, as well as the research base on which such products are developed and used.

Would you provide me with a list of assistive technology resources?

Kudos, for recognizing the importance of technology for students with disabilities and for making a concerted effort to integrate technology into your school! Rural and under-resourced schools can be successful in technology integration, but it does require a comprehensive approach that includes professional development and technical support. As you know, this type of support can be expensive, however, there are many ways to reduce these costs. One suggestion is to enlist school staff, or perhaps even student leaders, to take on the role of resident technical experts for individual products. You may be able to develop a train-the-trainer model with the product developer providing the initial training. In addition to a low-cost solution for professional development and technical assistance, the student as teacher/mentor model can be a valuable experience for your students, particularly those who are college bound. Given what you have already done with your limited resources, I've no doubt you can think of additional creative ways to leverage the resources you have. Also explore the Guide to Low-Cost / No-Cost Online Tools for People with Disabilities. Given the economic circumstances of your district, you may find this to be a very valuable resource.

What technology options are available for home schooled children?

Homeschooling parents have to be creative and persistent in their search for funding for AT. Get some ideas in Finding Alternative Sources for Funding for Assistive Technology. You can also try out equipment, software, adaptive devices and telecommunications systems at local AT Centers before you purchase; to find a Center close to you check the AT Alliance.

How can I choose a voice recognition system that is a good match for my children?

In addition to age, there are many factors to consider when selecting voice recognition software. Several systems are actually available in addition to the ones you mentioned. I recommend that you research the features of each system so you can make an informed decision as to which may be the best match for your specific 9 and 12 year old. You will want to consider training, recognition, and system compatibility issues to name a few. You can learn about another young student being assessed for a voice recognition system in a case study at Assistive Technology Assessment: More Than the Device.

What technology is available to assist my child in reading articles online?

What you are looking for is a speech synthesis program, which is a category of software or hardware that converts text to artificial speech. Kurzweil actually provides a variety of programs, some more complex than others. There are also several other companies that provide similar products. The Tech Matrix provides you a brief description of several such products, side-by-side comparisons, and links to the product site for further details. By exploring the pros and cons of each product you may be able to select the one that best meets your needs.

What are some technology resources that can help adult learners with print disabilities?

Those with print disabilities primarily struggle with reading and writing in a world where much of our information is created and available on electronic devices and the Internet. Audiobooks, text-to-speech software, and contextual spellcheckers are indispensable tools to have on hand. Fortunately, these types of tools have improved and multiplied in recent years. Here are a few of the best options:

  • Bookshare: Free to all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities, it includes a repository of over 300,000 audiobooks—including textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, and periodicals—which can be used online, along with free AT  tools. The texts can also be presented visually, with highlighting, larger font, accompanying audio, and physical or digital braille.
  • NaturalReader: This online and/or downloadable software can take any text input—Word files, PDFs, webpages, emails, etc.—and create and audio transcription with multiple voices. The downloadable software can be paired with other applications to read any text encountered. The program can also create audio files of text for portability and later listening, as well as transcribe paper text imported via a scanner.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking: Dragon is the leading software for speech recognition and dictation. It is available as computer software and as an app. It can be used to write documents, emails, search the web, and even control your computer or smartphone.
Ghotit and Ginger Software: Each of these tools can help those with print disabilities write better, utilizing a context and phonetic spell checker, proofreader, and other tools to ensure that the common errors those with print disabilities might make are caught and resolved.

(Contributor: Caroline Martin, Research Assistant, American Institutes for Research)

(May 2015)

How can I evaluate the accessibility of an instructional resource?

One of the simplest ways to evaluate the accessibility of instructional resources begins with a checklist. While the tools used to assess the accessibility features of a resource will vary depending on its format (e.g., hardcopy, digital, audio, etc.), a checklist serves as a guide to help avoid overlooking key elements that should be present. The Achieve OER Rubric VIII: Assurance of Accessibility Standards offers a list of features that meet accessibility standards which can be used to evaluate instructional resources.

Some software programs and websites are capable of scanning a resource to determine what key accessibility features are missing. The Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker alerts users of possible accessibility issues in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. The Web Accessibility Initiative has compiled a list of software programs and online platforms that can be used to check for accessibility depending on the format of the resource. These accessibility checker tools coupled with an accessibility checklist can help you to evaluate the accessibility of an instructional resource.

(Contributor: Caroline Martin, Research Assistant, American Institutes for Research)

(May 2015)

What is the difference between AT and Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the conceptual framework that is used to design technology devices, software, and learning materials to give all students equal opportunities to learn. UDL promotes creating technology tools that are flexible and can be personalized to meet the needs of each student. UDL has made a huge contribution to the development of educational and assistive technology (AT). In the past, AT devices were designed for a specific disability and assigned to a particular student as a dedicated device. Now, more developers of software and educational technology are using the concept of UDL to incorporate the accessibility features to help students with disabilities. For example, developers now add features that allow a student with low vision to access apps. If you would like more information on Universal Design for Learning, check out the National Center for Universal Design for Learning and CAST.

(Contributor: Caroline Martin, Research Assistant, American Institutes for Research)

(May 2015)

Does technology have to be "dedicated AT" in order to be considered or funded?

By definition from the Tech Act in 1988, the term assistive technology (AT) can be “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities”. Based on this definition, technology does not have to be “dedicated AT” to receive considered as a valuable device or funded. Often mainstream, consumer educational technology is better or better suited for the individual students needs. For example, iPads are in now a common piece of technology in the classroom and are becoming an increasingly powerful tool for students with disabilities. iPads allow for teachers to differentiate and personalize instruction through selecting apps that meet the individual student’s needs.

(Contributor: Caroline Martin, Research Assistant, American Institutes for Research)

(May 2015)

How do I pay for assistive technology?

First and foremost, it is important to identify the assistive technology (AT) needs of your student. These needs should be identified during the IEP process. Following this process,  you can now focus on how to pay for the technology needed to support your student.  The good news is that we now live in a world of increasing access to free or low cost technologies. In addition, AT has become much more affordable and easy to access. There are a number of funding resources available to purchase AT. The primary resource that funds AT is your local school system. The school system will pay for any technology or other special education learning materials that are specified in the student’s IEP. Government programs, such as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, and private health insurance companies will also pay for AT, if the technology is prescribed by a doctor. Private health insurance companies will also pay for AT when prescribed by a doctor as a necessary medical device.

In addition, there are a number of public and private funding sources that can help pay for AT devices. One great resource is the State Assistive technology Finalize Loan Programs by the RESNA Catalyst Project. This project provides aid and resources for statewide AT programs that provide low or no cost interest loans.  The Pass It On Center is a national network of centers that provide access to the reuse, recycle, and exchange of AT devices.  For more ideas on funding sources, consult the Assistive Technology Industry Association Funding Resources Guide.

(May 2015)

Where can we find information about apps for the iPad in special education?

My school is getting iPads to work with our students in special education next year. We've had one to "play with" and have used many of the educational applications that our computer center downloaded for us. Are there other specific apps out there that you would definitely recommend for using with students in special education? Are there any apps you would recommend for use with upper elementary students? We've found that many are aimed at students in the primary grades but would love to have more choices for our older students.

As more and more schools look towards integrating the iPad and iTouch into their classrooms, the range of educational applications available is growing. For specific apps that may be helpful for students with disabilities, you may want to check out iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps for Special Education, an extensive list compiled by assistive technology specialists and helpfully broken down by category (communication, math, writing, music, art, etc.). For another view of how the iPad might be beneficial for students with disabilities, The iPad: a Near-Miracle for My Son with Autism chronicles one mother's use of assistive technology and educational apps with her autistic son; she has some great suggestions and videos of her son using different apps.

For older children, apps like The Elements are exciting examples of what is possible with the iPad, as students can explore the Periodic Table in an interactive, media-rich and engaging way. Penultimate is a popular note-taking app that students may enjoy; students may also do well with fun games that teach math skills, such as Alien Equation. Apps for astronomy, Star Walk and Solar Walk would also be good choices for older students.  BrainPop has just released a free app that delivers a new featured movie every day, teaching students about a wide variety of topics.

There are so many educational apps available, with new ones coming out every day, that it can be hard to keep track of them all. You may want to check out reviews of educational apps from other teachers to help you find those that are worth checking out for your students. I Education Apps Review has a collection of reviews from teachers that can help get you started.

(September 2010)

What cell phone applications can benefit students with ADHD?

I work as an OT with high schools students and wanted to know… what cell phone applications can benefit students with ADHD? We have used the basic features (calendar, alarms, etc) but have not explored additional applications and are wondering what other ideas or suggestions you might have.

There are many ways that students can make use of the features available on their cell phones to benefit learning, time management, and study skills. For example, if your students' phones are equipped with cameras (as most phones now are), they can use it to snap photos of the whiteboard/blackboard after class to make sure they don't miss notes or an assignment. Photos may also serve as a helpful visual reminder of what needs to be done (i.e. create a photo series of packing up homework, lunch, and other typically forgotten items).

Students can use text messaging, such as Google SMS, to get definitions, facts, weather, and conversions sent directly to their phones. As with Google searches, if a student spells a word incorrectly, Google SMS will generally prompt with "Did you mean…?" and provide both the correct spelling and the related information.

Online to-do lists such as Remember the Milk can send text alerts (or IM or email) reminding students of an upcoming appointment, assignment, or project. Unless the students have unlimited text messaging plans, it is important to discuss texting charges and how using these services can affect their cell phone bills.

Finally, many companies are capitalizing on powerful new cell phones and creating programs for sending flashcards and study materials directly to your phone or iPod. Students can browse flashcards created by others or create their own and study wherever they are.

(September 2010)

Where can I find more books to use with a reading pen?

I recently bought a book that uses an audio pen to read the pages. You point the pen at the text in the book and can hear it read aloud. I'm wondering what kind of technology is involved here and if more of these books are available? Is there special software needed to convert text into encoded dots so the audio pen reads them?

Your question depends a bit on what type of reading pen system you are using, as different companies use different technology. Products such as LeapFrog Tag and VTech's Bugsby Reading System use specially-designed books with their reading pens. In order to access more titles, you will need to purchase their books, most of which are targeted towards younger or early readers. The benefit of books like these is that the text is typically read by a human voice, rather than a computerized voice. Children can also click on different icons within the text to get more information or sound effects while reading. The disadvantage to such products is that they can only be used with a limited number of titles and so may not be a good solution for a student with disabilities who needs to access a wider array of books. You may also look at the different types of reading pen/scanners available — many of these tools you use like a highlighter, running over printed text and getting instant speech feedback. While most of these pens are not appropriate for reading an entire book, they can serve as a valuable support for difficult words, definitions, and pronunciation.

(September 2010)

What options are there for a teenager who needs a communication device?

I have a 15-year-old daughter that has multiple disabilities. She is nonverbal with some vocal sounds, is visually impaired, and has mental and physical deficits. She has full use of her right hand and a left side stroke. I'm wondering … is there any technology that she can possibly use for communication other than Cheap Talk 8? This is heavy and bulky for a child with limited hand-use, and it is too large for her desk at school. In addition, I am trying to compile a communication book, similar to PECS (picture exchange communication system), but am hoping there is some kind of technology that is available and easier to access for her. Are there additional communication devices that you would recommend?

Communication devices can often be large, bulky, and single out AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) users as "different" from their peers. This can be particularly frustrating for teenagers, who may want something more portable as they go about their day and something that doesn't set them apart from their non-disabled classmates. With advances in mainstream technologies, computing, and cell phones, there are now many options for the AAC user — from handheld devices to applications that run on a cell phone — that your daughter can choose that will fit her needs.

Many apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, and Droid phones; Prolquo2Go is one popular option, but there are many more programs out there. You can also try a web-based AAC service that can be used on a variety of devices. Many children with speech difficulties have had success with these devices, so you may consider trying one out with your daughter. If she struggles with making precise movements, she may find that a larger screen (as on the iPad or similar tablet computer) is easier for her to use. Try out a few different options if you can to find the right fit. If you're interested in sticking with a traditional AAC device, many companies now make much smaller and more portable AAC devices; so there are a number of options there as well. Before you make any decisions, it may be helpful to review some of the features of AAC devices and think about what your daughter's needs are with regard to communication. With the many new choices for communication devices, you should be able to find something smaller, lighter, and more usable for your daughter.

(September 2010)

What technologies can help a high school student with dysgraphia in science and math classes?

What accommodations/modifications do you recommend for high school students in math and science when the main issue is dysgraphia? I have found that many of the "usual" accommodations (Alphasmarts, computers, voice activated programs, etc.) do not work as well due to the format of the math and science classes (i.e., drawing graphs, diagrams, writing in journals, etc.). What do you recommend?

The writing involved in science and math classes can be challenging for a student with dysgraphia. Formulas and equations must be written down precisely to avoid errors, and drawing accurate diagrams can be a painstaking process. Additionally, if students are required to write observations in science journals during labs, a laptop with voice recognition software may not always be practical. If the difficulty with writing in journals is due to the student not being able to safely use their Alphasmart/laptop (e.g., when doing labs where spills or safety could be an issue) to take notes, you may consider allowing the student to take voice notes using a digital voice recorder. Current models are inexpensive and small enough to fit in a pocket. The students can easily voice their observations and use the audio file to generate typed notes later. If students are able to draw diagrams and graphs but struggle with writing lengthier notes, they may do well with a Smartpen, allowing them to combine audio notes with their drawings and graphics.

Finally, for more complex tasks in both math and science, you may want to investigate software that allows the user to generate mathematical and chemical equations, graphs, and diagrams. One possibility is the math and science software from Efofex, with math and science programs for drawing diagrams, graphs, and generating equations. Efofex also has a program for students with disabilities, providing students with a free 10-year personal subscription to the software, allowing them to use it both at home and school. Another possibility for math classes is MathType, which allows students to enter math by hand (using handwriting recognition; Windows only) and create equations using templates, keyboard shortcuts, or copying and pasting from other applications (such as Wikipedia). Microsoft Word and Excel also feature a built-in program, Equation Editor, which would allow your student to create and enter mathematical equations into a document. This may be helpful for writing and creating math journals. Although the program is not as full-featured as some other software programs currently available, it may be an ideal solution depending on the math content.

(September 2010)

What technology tools can my daughter use over the summer to practice her math skills?

My 14 year old daughter struggles with math. We have tried several things, but she does not seem to retain the information. She enjoys games on the computer and likes technology. We would love to help her over the summer but aren't sure where to start! We are wondering… are there any technology programs, or tools, that you think would help her math skills?

Since your daughter will be using these programs over the summer, and she enjoys games, it's a great idea to combine fun activities with learning and skill building! There are many online math programs, games, tutorials, and lesson available, so it can be a challenge to find these most appropriate ones for your child. If you know what specific areas your daughter is struggling with, that can help to narrow your search (i.e., search for games that teach fractions). In addition, you can talk with her teachers to see if they can recommend some high quality, standards-based math programs. Two good choices for math games that are also fun are BrainPop (subscription-based; free trial) and Fun School (free). The games on Fun School may be a bit below your daughter's skill level; if she is need of some remediation, they may be just right. BrainPop features a wide range of animated videos, quizzes, games, and activities addressing a variety of topics in an easy-to-understand and engaging way.

If your daughter is interested in trying to catch up on her math during the summer, she may also enjoy watching the free videos from Khan Academy. With over 1400 videos covering topics from basic addition to the Pythagorean Theorem, your daughter can watch and re-watch these easy to follow visual lessons on a variety of topics where she needs help. Finally, check out our custom searches on the TechMatrix to find suggestions for math software for teaching geometry, money skills, algebra, early math concepts, and more.

(September 2010)

How can I get accessible instructional materials for my son if the school will not provide them?

My son is dyslexic — his fluency is in the 10th percentile, and he reads at half the rate of his peers. His verbal IQ is in the 99th percentile, and when he has accessible materials his ability to comprehend is high. He uses Kurzweil 3000 to read academic materials and finds he benefits from the synchronized, highlighted text with the speech.

Unfortunately, his school has stated that when he enters high school next year, he will receive materials "just like everyone else" and will be responsible for converting all of his materials to digital format himself if he wants them in electronic format. Though my son has individual memberships to Bookshare and Learning Ally, the school does not have an institutional membership, so he can't obtain his textbooks.

Do you have any suggestions on how to facilitate his access to print material? Should we purchase a high quality scanner, and if so, do you have recommendations on type? (Seems it would be cheaper than litigating this issue, which we can't afford.)

This is certainly a frustrating and confusing situation to be in for a parent. I hope some of these resources will be helpful for you. First, you may find it helpful to review some of the available information on Center for Accessible Instructional Materials site on the key provisions of IDEA with regard to accessible materials and the requirements of the IEP. IDEA provides a legal mandate for accessible materials for qualifying students, through high school. We suggest that you become familiar with this information so that you can ensure that your child receives the materials necessary for success in school. For additional information, go to Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004, a website developed by the U.S. Department of Education, for additional information and services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, and children and youth (ages 3-21).

If your son's IEP does not currently list accessible instructional materials as a recommended support, you may want to consider addressing that issue with his IEP team. Find valuable guidance at Bookshare and Accessible Instructional Materials and the IEP. As your son moves into high school, you should discuss his needs with the new IEP team to ensure that supplementary aids and services, such as accessible texts, are included, if your son is eligible, for this type of support.

Finally, I'd like to reassure you that there are many options for resolving disputes and disagreements with your son's school district, many of them spelled out in special education law. LD Online, Wrightslaw, and NICHCY have some excellent resources available on this topic. You may also want to check out the expert advice from Matt Cohen, Esq. on this site for more information about special education law.

(August 2010)

How can I track down appropriate software for my daughter with multiple disabilities?

My 14 year old daughter is really struggling in school. She has learning disabilities and difficulties with auditory processing. She's currently very far behind in all her classes and is really struggling to keep up with her work. I'm worried that the workload will be too much as she enters high school and she'll get discouraged and consider dropping out. The school has offered her audio books because her reading is so far below grade level, but she struggles to follow along with them because of her processing difficulties. How can we use technology at home to help with her reading and homework? How can I find the right program for her when she has multiple areas of need?

Finding the right software program, can be challenging, especially for students who have multiple disabilities or are struggling in different areas. The process of finding something that meets your daughter’s needs involves a process of trial and error, but a few resources can help get you started.

The Tech Matrix is a great resource to help you find assistive and educational technology tools. You can search for software and technology tools by IDEA disability category, content area, and grade level. You can also compare up to four different products to find the product that best meets your daughter’s needs.

LD Online is another great source of information to consider.  Check out some of the many articles on teaching strategies for students to get a better idea of the different types of supports that would be of benefit to your daughter.  LD Online has numerous articles on how to select the right software in reading and in math. For example, there are several resources that might help you figure out what technologies might work best for a student with an auditory processing disorder and other learning disabilities.

Your daughter may enjoy hearing text read aloud (example), using a text-to-speech program (example) or following along with text on the computer. Many reading programs can highlight each word or each sentence as it is spoken, giving your daughter two ways to get the information. The highlighting can also help her focus on the information being read to her. Try looking for reading and writing programs that have text-to-speech, dynamic highlighting and allow your daughter to control the speed of the reading. She might also benefit from software programs that focus on early reading skills. Our article on Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials has some good suggestions.

For additional ideas on different technology tools, be sure to check out PowerUp WHAT WORKS (www.PowerUpWhatWorks.org). This site provides a wealth of free, online resources on strategies and technology ideas to help struggling students in English Language Arts and Math.

(August 2010)

Is peer support an acceptable substitute for assistive technology in the classroom?

My son has autism and needs assistive technology tools. The school does not have anyone on staff that can help with AT decision-making or training and instead has students help each other. Is this acceptable? How can I talk to my son's school about getting more support for assistive technology?

The 2004 update of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) requires that Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams consider the appropriate assistive technology when determining what accommodations, services, and aids your child may need to be successful in school. Check out Considering Your Child's Need for Assistive Technology and Knowing Your Child's Rights for more information on this subject.  You may also want to review the relevant sections of IDEA related to assistive technology and the parent resources on IDEA 2004 from Great Schools. Both resources can provide valuable information to bring to meetings with school staff.

In your email, you don't say whether the school has considered the benefits of assistive technology to support your child.  If the school has not made this decision, you have the right to request an assistive technology evaluation. This evaluation should be provided at no-cost. According to IDEA, the school should offer both devices and services, including training and support for the teacher and school staff who work with your child.

While peer support from the other kids in your child's class may be beneficial, their help does not replace needed assistive technology devices and training. It is important to discuss these concerns with your son's IEP team, as you have the right to disagree with their decisions regarding the use of assistive technology for your son. If you think that your son is not getting access to the appropriate tools and services, or you think that additional supports might be warranted, you should arrange a meeting with his IEP team to address your concerns.

For more information about special education law, check out the expert advice from Matt Cohen, Esq. on this site.

(August 2010)

Where can I find information about software to help my child with Down Syndrome?

We are looking for guidance on how to help our child with Down Syndrome at home. She has moderate to severe cognitive impairments, and we'd like to use software with her to help build skills but don't know where to look.

Children with Down Syndrome, as with other children, both with and without disabilities, are unique, and will learn and develop at their own rate. There is unlikely to be a "one-size-fits-all" software solution for your child. For example, some students with Down Syndrome may struggle with distractibility and need a quiet place to work, away from possible disruptions. For other students, this may not be an issue.

There are likely several technology tools supports that will be helpful for your child as they learn new skills and move forward in her education. Modeling, concrete visual and symbolic representations of information, and multiple opportunities for practice and reinforcement may all be beneficial for learners with Down Syndrome. Potentially challenging areas in education for children with Down Syndrome include math, reading and writing, speech and language, memory, social development, or motor skills.

Your child may have difficulties with all of these areas or may only experience significant difficulties in a few areas. Determining what his or her needs are is the first step to finding the appropriate technology supports for your child.

Many children with cognitive impairments learn best when they can see the material in the form of videos, modeling, or another type of visual presentation.  You should look for educational technology tools that break down the skill or skill being learned into small, concrete chunks and that allow the student to go at their own pace. Investigating Free Software for Children with Down Syndrome can give you a brief overview of the types of software tools available and what areas of need they may address. Also explore some of tools for students using the Tech Matrix, or Understood.org's Tech Finder.

Other good resources for information on supportive software tools are local and national organizations for individuals with Down Syndrome. These organizations included:

There is also a growing online community, including blogs and social media (such as @GDSFoundation on Twitter and on Pinterest) where parents can learn, find resources, and share information with other parents.

(March 2010)

What technology options are available for home schooled children?

My question is one of access to technology for home schooled children with LD. Based upon the home school groups that we belong to, there are a great many families who choose home school over public school for their LD children. We would like to have access to technology but unless a child is enrolled in the public school system, technology is often too expensive for many home schooling families. Any leads, connections, or suggestions for us?

Homeschooling parents have to be creative and persistent in their search for funding for AT. Get some ideas in Finding Alternative Sources for Funding for Assistive Technology. You can also try out equipment, software, adaptive devices and telecommunications systems at local AT Centers before you purchase. Find those AT lending libraries through the national registries of the AT Alliance or through the National AT Technical Assistance Partnership.

(March 2010)

What reading technology tools and supports are effective for students who struggle with reading?

I have a 6 year old son who is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Although he is high functioning and has already met his reading goals at the kindergarten level, he does have difficulty with reading comprehension. I have the opportunity to provide ideas for reading software that will be used in the new learning center being developed by his school. I would like to bring ideas to the table for software that has been shown to be successful with struggling readers. Do you have any suggestions?

TheTechMatrixcan help you become an informed consumer of technology tools and resources. This matrix is intended to serve as a resource that matches technology tools with supporting literature on promising practices for the instruction of reading for students with disabilities. With the matrix, you can examine the features of reading software for students who struggle with various aspects of reading, as well as the research on which such products are developed and used. PowerUp WHAT WORKS is also an excellent free, online resource for teachers who are looking for strategies to incorporate technology tools and software to help struggling readers. PowerUp's Teaching Strategies cover a range of topics related to reading, including fluency, context clues, word analysis, and more.

There are a growing number of reading software programs that can help students who struggle with reading. Before you select a tool, read some of the following articles on how to select the tool that best fits the student's particular needs. Education Week's article on Finding the Right Reading Program explains the importance of selecting an evidence-based reading program, intervention strategies, and suggestions of technology tools. Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials is another great article if you are lookingfor some suggestions about selecting tools and identifying resources.

(March 2010)

Are there any downloadable games or software available that are not timed?

I am a parent of a nine-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome. He likes to do computer games to learn math, but he cannot handle the time constraints of most games. Are there any downloadable games or software that are fun, but not timed?

I know of a couple of resources that may be of help to you. MathTools is a community digital library that supports the use and development of software for mathematics education. Through this site you can search by grade level and math topics to find a wealth of games and activities. As you will see, some of them are timed, although many are not. Improving Basic Mathematics Instruction, a monograph published by the Technology and Media Division of CEC, offers resources and tips for selecting the appropriate technology for students with disabilities and includes a matrix of online games reviewed for several features, including whether it is timed. As noted above, the TechMatrix offers valuable information on the features of more than twenty math software products that will help you find math games and activities to motivate your son to increase his math skills.

(March 2010)

Can you recommend an effective typing program for our son, who is dyslexic and dysgraphic?

We recently purchased an AlphaSmart Neo for our son, who is dyslexic and dysgraphic. We have also tried the Mavis Beacon program, but he thinks it is boring. Do you know of another good typing program?

As you noted, there are a variety of typing programs on the market. The best answer to your question is that there may not be one single program that best meets your son's needs. Keyboard development requires practice and unfortunately, repetitive exercises can be boring. Access to a variety of programs offers choice, lessens boredom, and increases motivation for practicing keyboarding skills. Find them through a Google search for 'free keyboard tutorials for children". A program that might work is Read, Write and Type by the Learning Company, which has been rated as an effective early reading intervention by the What Works Clearinghouse. Many dysgraphic students have difficulty with correct fingering in keyboarding skills. It would be best if your son used correct fingering, but he should not be forced. The ultimate goal is for him to type fluently, with speed and accuracy. Some students who type in their own style have been known to reach 60 words per minute. Others gradually begin to type with correct, or partially correct, fingering. The key to improvement is practice and consistency. I suggest that you encourage him to practice every day, but limit the practice time to 10 minutes. Let him choose which program he wants to use, what he wants to type and what fingering method works best for him.

(March 2010)

Are there any scanning devices available that can help my dyslexic child improve his reading and math skills?

I am looking for a scanning device to help my child, who has dyslexia, with reading and math. I have looked into talking pens. Is there anything else?

There are many devices that can scan and read. As with all assistive technology, the key is to find the right match for the individual user. You know your child better than anyone. You need to find out all you can about the various devices. The TechMatrix is a gateway to reading and math software products that provides a brief description, including a side-by-side comparison, and links to more product details that will help you identify the most appropriate software for your child. There are several reading pens on the market in addition to the ones listed on the matrices, such as the Reading Pen II, the LeapFrog Fly Pen and the Wizard. You might want to contact the distributors to ask for an evaluation copy or whether the company is displaying the devices somewhere close by where you and your child can go and try it out. You might want to pose a question on a listserv provided by Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT), where parents and practitioners post their questions and comments about AT. There are currently several postings on the listserv related to reading pens. I recommend that you review the TechMatrix to compare the various products, search the Internet for product information for the different talking/reading pens, and also search the QIAT listserv by keyword to learn from the experiences of other parents and teachers.

(March 2010)


Go to page:   |<   <   1   2   3   4   5   6   >   >|

Sort by Date Title

Sponsored Links
About these ads
Consumer Tips