It’s time to re-acclimate the kids to the concept of ‘early to bed, early to rise,’ shop back-to-school sales in the vain hope of saving some bucks, and stock up on pens, pencils, and USBs doomed to be lost by Day 2 of the new school year. For many parents, considering a child’s assistive technology (AT) needs should also be on the school-preparedness checklist.If your child has an IEP, and the IEP team determines that AT is necessary to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), the school must provide AT. If your child does not have an IEP, it’s likely he could still benefit academically from utilizing technology. In this case, a program like MonTECH is extremely beneficial, allowing families to try tools to ensure they will be of use before purchasing something.
AT ranges from a simple pencil grip to complicated eye-gaze computer access. The many options available can be overwhelming. MonTECH’s Julie Doerner advises parents focus on the needs of the child rather than on a specific technology. Put another way, don’t purchase an iPad for your child because you’ve heard iPads are the answer; your child only needs an iPad for school if the features of an iPad will help your child overcome particular challenges. Identify your child’s needs, then search for a device with features that meet those needs.
Below is a list of AT that can be very helpful for students. If you would like to comment about any of these tools, or share a new one, please write Shawna.firstname.lastname@example.org. Your suggestions and experiences are welcome and appreciated!
ModMath App (iOS only, free): Allows students to type, rather than write, math problems. In-app purchases available for more complex math. Useful for students with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia.
Voice Dream Reader and KNFB Reader: These apps read text aloud. Voice Dream Reader reads electronic documents ($4.99 for Android, $14.99 for iOS). KNFB Reader allows you to take a photo of a printed document or object (label, sign, menu, article) which is then read aloud. KNFB reader can also read PDFs and JPEG files. (Currently a free download for Android, $99.99 for iOS). Useful for students with ADHD, dyslexia/print disabilities, low vision/blind, or those who are auditory learners.
Livescribe: The MonTECH team has discovered that many schools in Montana haveLivescribe Smartpens gathering dust in cabinets. This is unfortunate, because the Livescribe can be a valuable note-taking tool minus the distraction of using a tablet or phone to record notes. The pen records audio while the student takes minimal notes in a microdot notebook. Tapping on a written note starts playback of the audio recorded at the time the note was written. The audio recording and a visual of the notebook page can be saved to a computer via USB cable. Students need to be taught to write key words at regular intervals in order to make good use of this tool. Useful for students with ADHD, handwriting issues, dyslexia, or processing issues. Available for loan through MonTECH’s MATP program.
Time Timer: This app is a visual timer. A red circle silently disappears as time winds down. You can purchase it in multiple formats [a standing timer, $35-$50; a watch, $84.95; or as an app ($2.99 for both Android and iOS)]. Useful for students with behavior issues, difficulty with time management, and difficulty staying focused on a task. Standing timer and watch available for free loan through MonTECH’s MATP program.
Bookshare: This online library provides access to books in a variety of formats, such as digital file (which can be used with screen readers), Braille, and audio only. Bookshare has over 500,000 titles. The service is free to U.S. students who have a print disability that “prevents you from reading traditional print materials.” Print disability must be confirmed by a teacher, psychologist, or doctor. The books can be read on tablets, phones, and computers, and features include highlighting and text to speech. Useful for students with dyslexia/print disabilities, learning disabilities, and vision impairment.
AudioNote (Mac, $14.99; iOS, $9.99; and Android, $5.99): This app is inexpensive and allows students to combine audio, photos, drawing, and written/text notes into one document. Your document can then be shared with iCloud, Dropbox, iTunes, or email. If your student is not too easily distracted by having his phone or tablet in class, this app is a great note-taking option. Useful for students who have difficulty with handwriting, processing, or multi-tasking. (Pass on the free or lite version.)
Sonocent Audio Notetaker: This software allows a student to record a lecture and color code the audio. He can import slides and pictures, as well as type notes. The result is a multi-media note that can be printed, saved, or exported. A subscription to Sonocent includes a free companion app (for Android and iOS), useful when a laptop isn’t readily available. A 6-month subscription costs $10.00 per month. A 12-month subscription costs $8.25 a month. A “perpetual license” is $250.00. Site licenses are also available. Sonocent offers a free 30-day download, so you can give it a try without obligation. Useful for a variety of learning styles since it provides auditory as well as visual note-taking capability. Could be a valuable tool for anyone who has difficulty taking quality, comprehensive notes.