This has led to a boom in assistive technology tools for students and adults who learn differently. But with the sea of services, software and devices available, sometimes it feels like you need an advanced degree in computer science just to find the right tool!
At Lawrence School, we are fortunate to have a team of dedicated, talented and enthusiastic technology experts on staff. Jackie Hersh, our Director of Assistive Technology and Learning Support, offered the following tips to help parents navigate these seemingly murky waters:
- Consider your student first. Understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses is the most important consideration when determining which assistive technology tool to implement. For instance, if you have a child who struggles using a touch pad, you may want to consider a touch screen or a mouse. Likewise, a student who struggles with reading but has strong listening skills may benefit from the use of audio books or a text-to-speech app.
- Understand the environment where the device will be used. Some environments will impact the use of the device. Consider whether your student will have access to Wi-Fi at school, which is required for some programs and apps. Speech-to-text software is an excellent tool, however in a class of 30 students its benefits would be very limited. Additionally, if personal devices are not allowed, bringing your iPad loaded with the best programs would be pointless.
- Keep the task in mind. It’s easy to get excited about a shiny new tool, but your child’s academic task or need must come first. One way to keep the task at the forefront is to use the teacher’s directions and expectations as a guide. IEP objectives are also a great starting point for identifying tasks.
- The timing of learning a new tool is just as important. Learning a new tool can be stressful. Starting a new implementation process right before midterms or other stressful times in your child’s life will only add to their anxiety. At the same time, I don’t recommend starting this process right before a holiday break as there will be few opportunities for immediate application.
- Training is key! Training is crucial in the implementation of any tool as it allows us to learn how we can best use it to achieve our goal. Training also includes troubleshooting tips and follow-up to make sure things are running smoothly. Training supports for parents are important so they can help their child when they are struggling.
Do you have specific questions about your device or want to learn more about the assistive technology tools used and endorsed at Lawrence School? Join us at the Upper School tonight (Nov. 11) from 7-8:30 p.m., as our expert tech staff presents, Assistive Technology Tools for School and Work. This free session will feature plenty of time for Q&A and hands-on demonstrations. Register online here.