The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes information for schools about assistive technology devices. For students with learning disabilities, assistive technology may include “any item, piece of equipment, or product system […] used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” According to LD OnLine, assistive technology may increase a student’s strengths to “counterbalance” their disability. It may also provide students with another way to complete the task, bypassing the disability. These devices can include everything from inflatable seat cushions for students with sensory processing issues to FM listening devices for students with autism or auditory impairments. Regardless of the form it takes, assistive technology helps students with learning disabilities succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Voice and Audio Technology
Voice command and audio recording are both available on most modern computers. This type of software listens to speech and relays each word through text or audio. With this technology, students are able to take notes for themselves. Plus, if carrying around a computer is not an option, there are also handheld Text-to-Speech devices. Some technology can even relay verbal communication to text, which benefits students with hearing impairments.
Language disabilities don’t stop at speech. They may also cause issues with spelling and grammar. Having difficulties spelling after taking multiple grammar classes can affect a student’s confidence. However, Ali Alghazo and Boshra Al-Otaibi find that computers improve student motivation. Just like audio and voice command, computers host several different proofreading programs. A common built-in editing tool for online writing programs is spellcheck. Spellcheck has many different versions that adjust to fit an individual’s needs. But to make things simpler, most online writing platforms offer a standard version. This means that students receive a notification if something isn’t spelled correctly or if the grammar usage is wrong.
Learning math in school can be intimidating. This is especially true for students with dyscalculia, a disability that hinders a student’s ability to understand and perform basic mathematical concepts and skills. Dyscalculia can have just as much an impact on math skills as dyslexia does reading. In fact, dyscalculia often appears in students who also have dyslexia. A student with dyscalculia or dyslexia might see numbers on a calculator misplaced. As a result, using a regular calculator can cause frustration and poor test scores. However, the use of a talking calculator may help them bypass that obstacle.
A less visible disability is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Keeping the attention of a student with ADHD can be challenging. However, the addition of interactive whiteboards in the classroom can help. An interactive whiteboard mixes technology with a standard marker board. Juliet Barnett in Helping Students with ADHD in the Age of Digital Distractions discusses the uses of visual stimulation given from colorful lesson plans on a whiteboard. This both entertains the student and teaches them what they need to know.
Making Technology Safe
A school’s primary objective is to educate students. As part of that, schools also must maintain a safe learning environment. In this way, schools ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to learn. But a school’s responsibility to maintain a safe learning environment doesn’t end at the classroom door. Online spaces are learning spaces too, and schools must make sure that these spaces are safe for students. That’s particularly important for students with learning disabilities. According to some studies, students with disabilities are 63% more likely to experience bullying than their peers. With screen monitoring software like LearnSafe, schools can keep students from emotional harm by flagging instances of cyberbullying. Also, according to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, “children with learning disabilities are prone to chronic depression.” LearnSafe can also detect mentions of depression, self-harm, or suicidal ideation, allowing administrators to step in and help students find the help they need.