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Adults with LD

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

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.

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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.

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