In the last few years, there has been more assistive technology (AT) made available to kids with learning and attention issues. These tools are often inexpensive and easy-to-use.
What is assistive technology? How can your child benefit from these tools, and where do you start?
Assistive Technology Basics
In a broad sense, AT is any device, software or equipment that helps people with disabilities work around challenges so they can learn, communicate and simply function better. For instance, software that reads aloud text from a computer is AT. So is a keyboard for a child with handwriting issues.
AT tools can help kids work around their weaknesses, while also playing to their strengths. This is especially important for kids who struggle with reading, writing, math and other issues. AT can help these kids become more successful, productive students. And that can help grow their confidence and independence.
Unfortunately, there are many myths about AT. These myths are often connected to the stigma of learning and attention issues.
For example, some wrongly believe that using AT is “cheating.” And some parents worry that kids may become too reliant on AT.
One of the biggest myths is that using AT will prevent a child from learning academic skills. That’s simply not true. For instance, experts agree that listening to audiobooks doesn’t hinder kids from learning to read.
While AT has many benefits, keep in mind it can’t “cure” learning and attention issues. But it can improve the current skills. Your child may also need other treatment and supports.
Examples of Assistive Technology Tools
AT includes many simple adaptive tools, like highlighters and organizers. A great example of low-tech AT is a pencil grip for a child with writing issues.
But there are many AT tools which are high-tech, though. Examples of high-tech AT tools include text-to-speech (TTS), dictation (speech-to-text) and word prediction.
How to Find the Right Assistive Technology Tool
If your child struggles with writing, try dictation technology. As your child speaks, words will appear on the screen. If your child has access to a mobile device, like a smartphone or digital tablet, you can add AT tools to it with apps.
Finally, if you don’t know where to start, you may want to try text-to-speech as your child’s first AT. Text-to-speech converts electronic text to spoken words, so kids can listen to digital text. It’s useful for kids with many different struggles, including reading and attention.
- A good way to choose an assistive technology tool is to start with a specific struggle or need that your child has.
- Text-to-speech can be a good first assistive technology for your child to try.