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Your UCP: National October 04, 2003

For Families

Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities

by Kari Jaehnert,
PACER Simon Technology Center for FCTD

Students with learning disabilities often struggle with skills such as reading, listening, spelling, writing, or organizing information. Appropriate computer software and assistive technology can make these tasks easier and allow a student to feel a sense of accomplishment.

The following is a brief description of assistive technology that has been successfully used by people of all ages with learning disabilities. This is not a comprehensive list of specific programs and devices, but is a starting point for identifying assistive technology that may be useful for your child or student.

Technology such as talking word processors or text-to-speech programs, will read aloud what a student has typed. If the student hears an error they can easily go back and correct themselves. Word prediction software can assist writers by reducing the time spent typing and helping to prevent misspelled words. The student simply types the first letter or letters of a word, and a list of possible words starting with those letters appears on the screen. (For example, type the letters "ap" and the words "apple," "ape," and "apartment" will be displayed).

The appropriate word is selected by clicking the word or by selecting the word's corresponding number. For students who struggle with reading, E-texts, or electronic books, can be downloaded from the Internet and read aloud to the student using a screen reader. Screen reading programs will read text aloud from books, magazines, or any other text document that can be scanned into a computer.

Other assistive technology devices such as portable note takers, hand-held spelling checkers, and speaking dictionaries offer students with learning disabilities flexibility and assistance when they are away from a computer.

Again, this is only a brief summary of the many types of software and assistive technology devices that may be appropriate for a child with learning disabilities. For more information about these and other programs, inquire with one of the many organizations that offer information, support, assistance, advocacy, and training for individuals with learning disabilities.

In general, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when selecting software for a student with learning disabilities:

  • The software should have various levels to allow the student to progress through the program.
  • Computer displays should not be cluttered. Students with learning disabilities usually concentrate better with few distractions.
  • Directions should be straightforward. Long, wordy directions at the beginning of the program are frustrating to most students with learning disabilities.
  • It should be easy for the student to correct mistakes.
  • The program should be easy to enter and exit. Ideally, the student should be able to operate the program independently.
  • The software should be fun and motivating, with topics of interest to the individual.
  • Saving the work should be easy. Students with learning disabilities should be allowed as many sessions as necessary to complete the project.

For more information on Technology and Learning Disabilities, contact the PACER Simon Technology Center. Download an in-depth handout with resources and information for the technology mentioned in this article or request by phone at 952-838-9000.

You can also visit the Family Center on Technology and Disability Web site and look up assistive technology and LD resources and organizations in your state.

Source: Family Center on Technology and Disability

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