Assistive technology (AT) refers to the products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working, and daily living for individuals with disabilities. If you’ve heard of AT, you might be thinking of communication devices and/or tools recommended for reading disabilities. However, AT includes a variety of tools to increase access to all areas of life that range from high to low tech and include anything from physical devices or built in functions found on personal devices.
Working with clients across the lifespan, it is evident that the impact and necessity for AT is undeniable. It is enthralling to discover the many tools that can help an individual access their education, perform their work duties, and live independent lives. AT is a vast and diverse area that can be explored from many angles and perspectives, which we aim to dive into with our readers in subsequent blogs. For this blog, the focus will be the educational setting, specifically upper elementary and post-secondary students.
One of the gifts of technological advances is there are numerous tools, many which are built-in functions to personal devices, which may contribute to increased success, especially now that students are participating in varying forms of virtual learning. Computers and smartphones offer readers and dictation features that can help with reading/writing. Organization is key to successful distance learning. The Google and Microsoft platforms offer calendars, reminders, and notetaking features that can facilitate streamlining daily tasks/assignments. Microsoft offers OneNote which is a helpful tool to keep all notes electronic, while allowing you to type, sort, and draw information. Recently, I purchased the Rocketbook notebook and planner, which is reusable and allows you to sync and send information to a variety of platforms to avoid ‘losing’ any information.
Additionally, web browsers such as Google Chrome, offers a variety of apps and extensions that are geared to support reading, writing, math, vision, and executive functioning skills. Some extensions I personally have trialed and used for students, colleagues, and myself include: StayFocused, MyHomework, Session Buddy, Google Read&Write, Mercury Reader, and Visor. There are also numerous websites that facilitate the writing process from planning, developing theses, citing, and editing, which we will explore in future blog posts.
Noted above is a short list of available tools, however it is imperative that if you are looking for tools to increase access for individuals, particularly school aged-children, that an Assistive Technology Evaluation be completed in order to determine appropriate recommendations, trial recommendations, and provide initial/ongoing training. Being educated in available resources will allow parents and students to be active participators in the evaluation process, which is an invaluable component.
As we gear up for another school year, one that relies particularly more on technology, I welcome you to explore some options for your child in conjunction with your child’s team. For students using school-issued computers you may need to inquire with their technology department, as adding programs/extensions is not usually accessible outside of the network and is limited to device managers. You may also consider the need for these accommodations to be added to your child’s 504 or IEP plan, and/or that the need for assistive technology be assessed as a PPT recommendation. You can find these services through agencies such as your local Regional Education Service Centers (RESC) and the New England Assistive Technology Center (NEAT) if you are looking to pay out of pocket, or this can be requested through a planning/placement team meeting as well.
If you have questions about how to increase your child’s access to AT or would like to discuss further, please contact us at KidSense Therapy Group!
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