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Processing Deficits

The following are questions and answers from Dr. Tracy Gray on this topic.

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

Finding the right software program, or programs, can be challenging, especially for students who have multiple disabilities or are struggling academically in a number of different areas. Some of the process of finding something that works well for your daughter might be trial and error, as you find the tools that work best for her; but a few resources can help get you started.

LD OnLine is a great source of information for parents. Checking out some of the many articles on teaching strategies for students may give you a better idea of what types of support your daughter would benefit most from. There are several resources that might help you figure out what technologies might work best for a student with an auditory processing disorder.

Though audio books may not be the best solution for your daughter, she may still benefit from hearing text read aloud, using a text-to-speech program and following along with text on the computer. Many reading programs that do this 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.

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.

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.

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