8 examples of assistive technology and adaptive tools

ByAmanda Morin

is one of the core strategies schools use to help with learning and thinking differences. Some adaptive tools are low-tech and some are pretty fancy. Here are some common examples.

1. Audio players and recorders

It may help your child to be able to listen to the words while reading them on the page. Many e-books have audio files, and smartphones and tablet computers come with text-to-speech software that can read aloud anything on your child’s screen. If kids struggle with writing or taking notes, an audio recorder can capture what the teacher says in class so they can listen to it again at home.

2. Timers

From wristwatches to hourglass timers, these inexpensive devices help kids who have trouble with pacing. Timers can be used as visual aids to show how much time is left to complete an activity. If kids have difficulty transitioning from task to task, timers can help them mentally prepare to make the switch.

3. Reading guides

Reading guides are good tools for kids who have trouble with visual tracking or who need help staying focused on the page. The plastic strip highlights one line of text while blocking out surrounding words that might be distracting. The strip is also easy to move down the page as your child reads.

4. Seat cushions

An inflatable seat cushion can help kids with sensory processing and attention issues. The cushion can provide enough movement and stimulation to help a child maximize focus without having to get up and walk around.

5. FM listening systems

Frequency modulation (FM) systems can reduce background noise in the classroom and amplify what the teacher says. This can help with auditory processing issues as well as attention issues. The teacher wears a microphone that broadcasts either to speakers around the room or to a personal receiver worn by the student. FM systems are also used to help kids with hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorder and language-processing issues.

6. Calculators

Depending on your child’s math issues, it might be appropriate to use a basic calculator in class. There are also large-display calculators and even talking calculators. A talking calculator has built-in speech output to reads the numbers, symbols, and operation keys aloud. It can help kids confirm that they pressed the correct keys.

7. Writing supports

If your child has trouble with writing, try using plastic pencil grips or a computer. Basic word processing programs come with features that can help with spelling and grammar issues. For students whose thoughts race ahead of their ability to write them down, different kinds of software can help. With word prediction software, your child types the first few letters and then the software gives word choices that begin with that letter. Speech recognition software allows your child to speak and have the text appear on the screen. These kinds of software are built-in features on many smartphones and tablet computers.

8. Graphic organizers

Graphic organizers can be low-tech. There are many different designs you can print out that can help your child organize thoughts for a writing assignment. There are also more sophisticated tools such as organizing programs that can help kids map out their thoughts. Talk to your child’s school about finding the right assistive technology for your child.

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About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.