Assistive technology to support students with special needs
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Assistive Technology to Support Students with Special Needs. Doreen Engel, MA Director of Special Education Archdiocese of Washington Distributed by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Universal Design.

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Assistive technology to support students with special needs

Assistive Technology to Support Students with Special Needs

Doreen Engel, MA

Director of Special Education

Archdiocese of Washington

Distributed by the

National Catholic Partnership on Disability

Universal design
Universal Design

  • Universal Design is a principle that is borrowed from architecture.

  • The idea is to “build-in” accessibility, so that as many people as possible can have access.

Example of universal design
Example of Universal Design

  • Curb cuts allow people in wheelchairs, people pushing a wheeling walker, consumers pulling a shopping cart, parents pushing a stroller, and children riding tricycles, all to seamlessly leave the sidewalk, cross the street, and return to the sidewalk. Walkers are not bothered by the curb cuts.

In education
In education:

  • Universal Design means planning ahead in regard to instruction, curriculum, materials, classroom layout, etc. so that children can have seamless or near seamless access.

  • Technology is a big part of making Universal Design a reality.

Purpose of this powerpoint
Purpose of this PowerPoint:

  • 1. Let you know about some possibilities. There are many good products and services – these are just a few. However, they give you a basic idea of price range and function.

Purpose of this powerpoint1
Purpose of this PowerPoint

  • Keep some basic principles in mind:

    • Portability is key.

    • Low tech is good.

    • Always try to arrange for the child/family to try out items before any purchases are made.

    • Try to consider how all students might benefit, even though for some students the technology might be essential, and for others, optional.


  • Parents may be over eager to make purchases for their child. Slow them down – be sure they have read carefully, and let the child try out the item for a length of time before purchasing anything at home.

  • Ideally, purchases used for school should be part of the school budget, not something you ask the parents to pay for.

Quick overview of several types of supports
Quick overview of several types of supports:

Assistive Listening Devices

Books on CD (RFB&D)

Free on-line software




Google Docs

Free Natural Reader

Other commercially available products:

Boardmaker Plus (communication)

WordQ (Word prediction software)

Soliloquy Reading (Reading assistant)

Solo (All-in-one product with text-to-speech, dictation, graphic organizer, and word prediction)

Books on cd
Books on CD

  • Available for free from the Library of Congress

  • Available for a fee from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (

  • You can visit their local office, to try out various players before recommending them.

  • Schools or students with financial need can receive free equipment and free books.

  • If they don’t have a book you need, they will record it.

  • Books on CD are mailed directly to the school or home.

Books on cd1
Books on CD

  • Excellent no cost or low cost strategy for many learners: ELL, learning disabilities, AD/HD

  • “Special” CD player is required, but many look like typical CD players.

  • Parents may worry the child “will never learn to read” using this technique, but the research shows just the opposite.

  • Also useful for children who are strong auditory learners, or children who have a very long commute to school.

  • Ideally, let the child try it out at school before asking a parent to order this.

Assistive listening devices
Assistive Listening Devices

  • For children with hearing loss, or occasionally for children with significant attention problems.

    (When working with a child with a hearing loss, be certain the audiologist is involved in the selection of the device.)

Assistive listening devices1
Assistive Listening Devices

  • Cost from $600 upwards.

  • I am trying to get donations of used equipment for children who may benefit from this.

Free on line software
Free On-line Software

  • Build-a-Book available from CAST.

    Universal Design approach allows children with different reading/comprehension levels to access the same book.

    Also check out

Sparktop org

  • Available from

  • Game format explains to students that every brain is different, and that we all have strengths and weakness. Good explanations of multiple intelligences, learning differences, and attention for children.


  • Word prediction software for Macs only.

  • Single user is only $27.00

  • See

  • More info at

Google docs
Google Docs

  • FREE

    Two people can look at the same document on-line in real time. They can both edit the document, and the other person can see the changes immediately.

  • This has caught on as a way for parents who are out of town to be involved in homework.

Free natural reader
Free Natural Reader

  • Natural Reader is a free text to speech reader. The free option comes with only one voice. However, it may be a good way to let a student try out text-to-speech software before making any purchases.

  • More info

Boardmaker plus
Boardmaker Plus

  • Creates communication boards for students with limited communication ability.

  • Very useful for students with expressive language issues, or limited vocabulary.

  • I found it a bit complicated to use, but might be worthwhile for a motivated paraprofessional who is working one-on-one with a student.


  • Word prediction software.

  • Has various levels (k-2) (2-8) and adult.

  • More info at

  • One computer: $211.00.

    Unlimited Site License: $1800. Maybe we have schools who would like to share this?

Reading assistant
Reading Assistant

  • Students read aloud, and this software corrects their errors. It provides immediate feedback on pronunciation, and fluency.

  • $210 for stand alone (home) elementary version.

  • $510 for stand alone (home) secondary version.

  • There is a network version – call for


    More info at

Excellent newsletter
Excellent newsletter

  • Family Center on Technology and Disability.

  • FTCD offers information for parents and teachers, free newsletters, funding sources, etc.

  • More info at

Mathpad and mathpad plus
MathPad and MathPad Plus

  • Allows students to use the computer to work math problems, including fractions and decimals. Will accommodate problems up to 6th grade level.

  • Demo available at

  • Cost: $80 (five pack = $320)