Assistive Technology (AT) — Making Good Decisions
Reflecting back on my time as a rookie junior high school teacher in the mid-1970s, I remember regularly asking my LD Resource Room students to reflect (we called it 'constructive complaining') on how their time could be better spent, both in class and at home, and how their efforts might result in greater productivity and, of course, better grades. Hours were spent designing reproducible charts and creating homework assignment sheets (they could have easily been prototypes for today's mobile managers and handheld Personal Digital Assistant, known as PDAs. These young teenagers wanted to be faster and better at completing high-quality work assignments, and they especially wished that someone would "invent a machine" that could help them be more independent and minimize their struggles with reading, writing and spelling.
Fast forward 35 years. Students today are using pocket-sized solar-powered calculators to help with math problem solving. They are sitting at computers that have read-aloud programs and are listening to lines of text read aloud from their screen as they surf the Internet. Nearby scanners allow them to copy pages from their textbooks onto computer monitors and read them aloud using screen-reader software. Their Palm Pilots remind them when they have calendared tests, assignments due and after school sports activities, and they write and rewrite compositions with a smile, easily making changes and using spell-check, thesaurus and track-change functions with a light finger click on an optical mouse.
- Does every student with special learning needs require the same types of learning accommodations? No.
- Will all students with LD benefit equally from assistive technologies? No.
- Is there a definitive body of research that tells us which students will benefit from what types of assistive technologies? No.
How then do we make good decisions? The answer is to be an informed consumer. Think about the learning disability, understand the features and limitations of each AT product, try them out (and be sure to ask for help if needed), and personalize the application to address your specific LD-related needs.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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