Assistive technology (AT) is an effective element of the reading and writing curriculum for students with learning disabilities. It can be defined as a technology that allows an individual to accomplish a critical educational or life task.
In other words, AT is any equipment, device, or software that helps people work around challenges to communicate, learn, and function better. A wide range of AT tools are available to help students struggling with writing.
Some of these tools help students circumvent the actual physical task of writing, while others facilitate proper grammar, organization, punctuation, and word usage. Technological assistance for students with learning disabilities varies based on their specific needs.
Thus, choosing appropriate AT solutions – whether low-tech, mid-tech, or high-tech – depends on several factors. What is hampering success? How is it getting in the way? And how can a student best compensate for the shortcomings?
Other considerations can encompass strain, fatigue, physical constraints, and the duration required to complete a task without using technology. Let’s dive into some useful low-tech categories of assistive technology for writing and examples of mid-tech assistive technology devices.
Low-Tech Assistive Technology For Writing
Surprisingly, low-tech assistive technology writing software can make the biggest difference for a student. They include devices or equipment that don’t require much training, are less expensive, and don’t have complex mechanical features.
Alone or combined with other AT solutions, they may help your child gain access to an appropriate grade-level curriculum. Whether low-tech or high-tech, AT enables students to perform at a higher level than would be possible without the technology.
Therefore, if your child has language and writing disabilities, don’t dismiss the low-tech AT tools entirely. Interestingly, low-tech AT is the most common form of assistive technology. Most of these tools are in classrooms; we’re unaware we even provide these accommodations.
Some common examples of low-tech AT are various pencil grips, shorter pens, finger spacing writing tools, weighted pens and pencils, slant boards, letter stamps, number stamps, tactile letters, and adaptive papers like textured paper, raised lines, and graph paper.
Categories Of Low-Tech AT For Writing
ere are the two major categories of writing assistive technology devices.
Motor/Mechanics of Writing
- Pencil grips – various types
- Light Pen – enhances writing area
- Rug lock – stabilizes work/writing surface
- Evo pen – an oval pen that fits in the palm
- Binder – used as a slant board; hold in place with rug lock
- Grip It! – a holder for pens that attach to the desk, computer, etc.
- Raised line paper– primary or elementary – Red/Green paper indicates Start/Stop points
- Tactile rulers – some school rulers have raised numbers/lines with notches for locating points on the ruler, or make your own with puff paints
- Rubber stamps – It’s best for students who don’t have the strength or control to hold a pen or pencil. Letters, numbers, and math functions facilitate simple tasks, e.g., writing names on paper
- Adaptive paper – it’s beneficial to all students as it offers the choice of which paper is most easily used. It’s an easy AT that accommodates students with and without disabilities to guide them in successful writing.
Motor/Writing & Reading Supports
- Page holders (Top and/or Bottom) acrylic cardholders
- Magnetic picture frames – all sizes; to hold pictures/words
- Whiteboard – easier for some students to use (some are magnetic as well)
- Velcro – attach letters, words, sentences, etc., on a ruler/yardstick or garden gloves/mittens for interactive lessons
- Finger grip ruler– for students with fine motor difficulties; allows the ruler to be grasped by raised center grip bar; also used for focusing on words/lines while reading
- Magnetic sheets – can be cut as needed to create numbers, letters, words, and sentence strips; put on a cookie sheet, metal ruler/yardstick (also used as visual/reading supports)
- Writing templates – these tools help organize students’ thoughts, ideas, concepts, and knowledge of the topic they’re writing about. They are a starting point to jot down important points that can be elaborated into further detail.
- Clear picture holders – to hold story pages, schedules, directions, vocabulary words, math tables, etc.; placed in a page holder on a desk for continuous access; students can manipulate cards to create sentences, number problems, etc.
- Inquiry Box (make it yourself) – a fun, inexpensive, interactive, multi-purpose teaching/learning tool for the classroom using a cardboard mailing carton. The box has plastic page protectors/pockets on all six sides, allowing you to address a wide variety of content areas by inserting pictures, words, numbers, etc.
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Examples Of Mid-Tech Assistive Technology For Writing
Many mid-tech assistive technology devices may have complex features, be electronically operated, and require training to learn how to use them. However, this type of assistive technology for writing is the least common.
As technology continues to grow, we are seeing less and less of mid-techs being used. Here are a few examples of common mid-tech AT resources for writing.
- Screen magnifiers
- Word prediction software
- Electronic speller or dictionary
- Adapted keyboards
- Digital recorders
In a world and society designed for ‘normal,’ people with writing disabilities often find it difficult to access everyday opportunities. This reality is especially apparent in higher education, where university elevators are too narrow for wheelchairs and lectures have no transcriptions and closed captions for deaf students or Braille reading options for the blind.
But with today’s rapid technological advances, students with disabilities have a better chance of fulfilling their dreams and advancing their lives. Low-tech and mid-tech assistive technology writing devices remain crucial.
Academic institutions that want to set up their students for success must consider implementing all types of technologies. Accordingly, parents and educators should accentuate the significance of writing assistive technology devices and software to help students at all academic levels. Doing so will help students with writing disabilities feel accepted and equally treated.
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