Assistive technology (AT) has made significant advancements in recent years, helping individuals with disabilities access, participate in, and benefit from education. Here we will discuss the latest developments in assistive technology, share reviews, provide tutorials, and offer practical tips for educators and families supporting special education students. Let’s dive into the exciting world of assistive technology!
One of the most effective assistive technologies for students with dyslexia or other language-based learning disabilities is speech-to-text software. Tools like Google’s Voice Typing, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and Apple’s Dictation have made significant advancements, allowing students to dictate their thoughts and have them transcribed into written text quickly and accurately.
Tutorial: To use Google’s Voice Typing, simply open a Google Doc, click on “Tools,” and select “Voice typing.” Click the microphone icon and start dictating your text. It’s that easy!
Practical tip: Encourage students to proofread and edit their work after using speech-to-text software, as it may occasionally make mistakes or misunderstand spoken words.
Text-to-speech software can be a game-changer for students with reading difficulties, visual impairments, or attention issues. Solutions like NaturalReader, ReadSpeaker, and Voice Dream Reader convert written text into spoken words, enabling students to listen to their study materials.
Tutorial: To use NaturalReader, simply copy and paste the text you want to be read aloud into the software, or upload a file. Then, select your preferred voice and reading speed, and click “Play.”
Practical tip: If the student has trouble focusing, encourage them to follow along with the text as it is read aloud, as this can help improve comprehension.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices:
AAC devices have revolutionized communication for individuals with speech or language difficulties. These tools, such as Proloquo2Go, TouchChat, and Snap + Core First, enable users to express themselves using symbols, images, or text-to-speech technology.
Tutorial: To use Proloquo2Go, customize the interface with the user’s preferred symbols or images. Users can then tap on the icons to create sentences or phrases that are spoken aloud by the device.
Practical tip: Regularly update and personalize the device’s vocabulary to keep it relevant and engaging for the user.
Eye-tracking technology, like Tobii Dynavox and EyeTech Digital Systems, allows individuals with limited mobility or motor skills to control a computer or AAC device using just their eye movements. This can be transformative for students with conditions like cerebral palsy or ALS.
Tutorial: To use a Tobii Dynavox device, first, complete the calibration process to ensure accurate eye-tracking. Once calibrated, users can navigate the interface, selecting icons or buttons with a simple gaze.
Practical tip: Regularly check and maintain the device to ensure optimal performance and accuracy.
Assistive technology has come a long way in recent years, providing innovative and effective tools for students with disabilities. As educators and families, it’s essential to stay updated on these developments and leverage them to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment. By incorporating these technologies into the classroom and daily life, we can help special education students reach their full potential.