Special Report
Special Education

Assistive Technology Devices

By Mary Catherine O'connor — August 22, 2011 5 min read

Educators have many options when deciding what types of assistive technologies to integrate into classrooms. Experts encourage schools to weigh all those options carefully based on the particular needs of students. Below are examples of the assistive technology products currently in use in K-12 schools. (Inclusion on this list does not represent an endorsement by Education Week of any of these products.)

Classroom Organizational Tools

Classroom Suite Software
Features: Customizable lessons for individuals; programmable keyboards with overlays for math, writing, and make-your-own overlays; stages software; programmable keyboards; switch inputs, which are large buttons that allow students to easily answer questions or give input
For: K-8 students; building custom keyboard overlays; developing reading and math skills

See Also

To read about the use of assistive technology in the classroom, see “Assistive Technology Broadens Its Range.”

Inspiration Software
Features: Mapping tools (mind maps, process flows); outlining tools with a variety of formats; text-to-speech; audio recorder.
For: Chunking information; differentiating lessons for individuals with unique learning styles; addressing attention disorders

Literacy Instruction

Kurzweil
Features: Focus on reading, reading tools, study-skills development; special edition of software designed for students who are blind and visually impaired; includes Braille note takers and embossers; many text-to-speech tools and features
For: Mix of students with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, visual impairments

SOLO Literacy Suite Software
Features: Templates, individual student preferences, scaffolding tools; phonics instruction and corrective feedback for beginning readers; SOLO’s Reading-Research-Writing program , step-based process; includes mathematics and language arts; focus on text-to-speech tools
For: Addressing dyslexia

WYNN Software
Features: Text automatically highlighted as it is broadcast in text-to-speech function; toolbars for reading, study, and writing provide different options for optimizing readability for students with visual impairments; text-to-speech function, with speed options and voice options; can annotate, zoom text.
For: Mix of students with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, visual impairments

Reading Resources

Natural Reader Software
Features: Converts text to MP3 or WAV files; typing-echo feature reads out words as they are typed—by letter, word, or sentence; converts electronic books to audio; offers audio recorder, editor
For: Students with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, visual impairments

Read: Outloud 6 Software
Features: Electronic book and text reader with study tools to boost comprehension; easy access to Bookshare’s library; includes a Web browser with the same interface as the electronic book reader
For: Students with dyslexia or others with comprehension barriers, low vision

Writing in Focus

Dragon Naturally Speaking
Features: Software calibrates user’s voice for speech-to-text; allows dictation of assignment, research, notes, email, and instant messages; enables voice-based searching on Web browsers
For: Students with attention disorders and dyslexia; students with motor-skill problems that make keyboarding challenging

Ginger Software
Features: Designed specifically for helping students with dyslexia in spelling and in checking and improving grammar; by using contextual spell-check, catches both misspelled and misused words
For: Students with dyslexia

Ghotit Software
Features: Includes integrated text-to-speech function; checks spelling, context, and grammar to ensure correct word usage
For: Students with dyslexia and attention disorders

Go Q Software
Features: Integrates word prediction, speech-to-text, and audio playback, allowing students to write—by typing or dictation—and immediately review and hear the text, to identify errors
For: Elementary school or older students who struggle with reading and writing and need to hear text read back to them to identify errors

Visual Impairments

JAWS Screen Reader
Features: Reads aloud all on-screen content; MAGic large print keyboard and Braille keyboard input; translates Braille to regular text; bookmarking function allows users to return to place in text where they left off; can be used without a computer monitor
For: Students who have low vision or are blind and who want access to all digital content, not just electronic books and documents

ZoomWare Screen Magnifier
Features: Magnifies content on screen by up to 26 times; gives audio reading of on-screen content; multiple viewing options, including various color combinations that aid viewing and reading for low-vision users; works on Web browsers
For: Students with low vision who want access to all computer functions

Duxbury Braille Translation Software
Features: Works with all commercial Braille embossers to translate text into Braille and Braille into text; works with Word and HTML files; translates into and from many foreign languages
For: Students who read Braille and want fast, complete translation of assignments, and students who want to complete assignments using Braille for non-Braille reading audience

Speech Therapy

ArtikPix
Features: An iPhone/iPad application that helps students’ articulation using flashcards and matching activities for students with speech-sound delays; enables users to record and play back their voices for quick assessment
For: Elementary school-age students

Earobics
Features: Boosts phonological awareness and processing skills; tools help students segment, blend, and rhyme sounds
For: Tailoring for specific skills development; used in classroom, speech therapy, and home settings

Ablenet
Features: Alternative and augmentative communication devices
For: Students with speech impairments

Dynavox
Features: Communication boards and text-to-speech keyboards
For: Students with speech impairments

Hardware Tools

LiveScribe
Features: Audio-recording pen and paper systems that allow students to take notes in class while also recording the audio portions of lectures through a microphone built into the pen; audio files can be saved in PDF format and sent to GoogleDocs
For: Students who need help taking notes or transcribing

AlphaSmart
Features: Wireless keyboard intended to help students who have dysgraphia (difficulty writing, especially handwriting), but who can type, to capture notes during class
For: Students with dysgraphia

Intel Reader
Features: Mobile document reader captures printed pages and converts them to audio files, which students can read and listen to at the same time
For: Students who need help reading printed text

A version of this article appeared in the August 24, 2011 edition of Education Week as Assistive Technology Broadens Its Range

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