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Assistive technology is any product, device, or equipment that maintains, or improves functional capabilities of a person with a disability. Assistive technology can include anything from a pencil grip to help a student write more accurately, to a speech synthesizer to help those who have difficulty reading. The first step to finding technologies for the disabled is to identify the area where assistance is needed. A person who has difficulty speaking, for instance, may benefit from a communication device to express themselves. Below find a list of some common tools your child or student may use in the classroom.
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Assistive Learning Technology in the Classroom
For those that have difficulty listening, remembering, or processing spoken words, such as a lecture in the classroom there are a variety of listening devices available.
- Tape Recorders -Tape recorders help by allowing the recorded audio to be played back at a later time and repeatedly if necessary.
- FM Listening Systems - The speaker wears a microphone and the listener wears a headset. This helps students with mild or moderate hearing loss to better understand lectures.
Assistive technology for math includes devices to help with aligning, calculating, or copying problems into columns.
- Electronic Math Worksheets - For students that have difficulty copying down math problems with a pencil and paper, or aligning these problems on the page, the MathPad can be used. MathPad, by Intellitools, requires a teacher or para-educator to enter the problem into the tool.
- Talking Calculators - Each time a number or an operand is pressed on a talking calculator, a built-in speech synthesizer lets the user know what was pressed. This helps users to verify that they have selected the correct buttons. Talking calculators are very affordable and many offer adjustable volume, clock, and alarm features as well.
Technology can help in the area of organization by enabling users to track their schedule, due dates, deadlines, manage the days events, or remember important tasks.
For those who struggle with reading, assistive technology helps present the written word in a different format. The most commonly used devices are those that synthesize written text into the spoken word.
- Optical Character Recognition - For those that cannot read the written word, optical character recognition is a computer aided scanning device that reads written characters. It is often combined with a speech synthesizer, and reads the word aloud through computer generated speech. Scanning the page of a text generates computer synthesized speech allowing the user to hear almost any text in audio format.
- Other Alternative Text Formats - Audio books and books available in braille are an example of alternative forms of text. These technologies can be useful by allowing those that cannot identify written text to read and learn in another format.
For those who have difficulty writing, there are tools available which allow a student to dictate their answers rather than write them down. Other tools include spelling or grammar checks and word prediction. This type of technology is used regularly by those without disabilities.
Assistive learning technologies can help people succeed in the classroom by assisting and improving their capabilities in their areas of weakness. If one of the above areas is holding someone back, one of these devices may help them succeed.
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The above list may help identify educational devices that can be of assistance in the classroom. If these devices are determined necessary for a child to learn they will be placed in the Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. These AT devices will be paid for by the school. The school retains ownership of the device and when the child leaves the school, they must return the device. If the child’s IEP specifies that the device is needed at home to ensure appropriate education, the device may be transported home from school.
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Technologies for the Disabled at Home
In addition to the technology listed above for school, remotes and electronic control devices may help people with disabilities to operate televisions, radios, cassette recorders, and other electronics more independently at home. Audio prompting devices may help to remind them to complete a task from start to finish. Examples of these tasks include, making the bed, brushing teeth, staying on task with school work, or managing time. Funding for these devices at home may be available through an assistive technology grant.