Guide to Assistive Technology

Assistive tech can apply to many things, from hearing aids and mobility devices through to assistive software and sports equipment

While very different, all help enable those with disabilities to perform tasks that they were previously unable to accomplish, or had difficulty doing so.

In particular, assistive technology tools have proven to be extremely beneficial in education, where they can help young people with learning difficulties work around the challenges that can arise from cognitive problems or physical impairment. Learning difficulties might not be curable, but by using the right technology, children are able to reach their potential for reading, writing, spelling or mathematics.

True, assistive technology cannot compensate for inadequate teaching, nor can it be expected to benefit every user in the same way. It can, however, assist well-implemented instruction and help young people become much more independent and empowered learners.

Mobile tablet devices are now able to fulfil many roles of older assistive tools, with apps to aid dictation, reading, note taking, maths, managing data and more. It has also led to many types of assistive technology becoming mainstream. However, students with learning difficulties might also use the following tools to help with their education:

Paper-based smart pen – This device records and links audio to what a person writes on a piece of special paper. The pen simultaneously captures the audio of a speaker (such as a teacher) while notes are being taken. The user can later listen to the audio by touching the pen on the notes taken. These pens can be useful for those who struggle with writing, reading, listening or with their memory.

Personal FM systems – This device transmits a speaker’s voice directly through a microphone to the user through an earphone and is designed for those who struggle to listen or pay attention.

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Electronic maths worksheets – These worksheets can help students through basic maths problems on a computer screen. As well as helping those who have trouble aligning maths problems with a pen and paper, a voice is able to read the numbers aloud to help those who need speech output. Certain software programs can help those who struggle to concentrate on maths problems with an element of ‘gamification’ – creating puzzles and giving rewards for completing tasks.

Speech recognition software – For dyslexic children or those with learning difficulties, speech recognition software, which transfers speech into text, allows for easier, dictated note taking, help with spelling and faster writing. For those with limited motor skills, it enables the ability to make reports, manage software and perform research just like other students. Also, some portable voice recorders can combine with speech recognition software to allow transcribing of dictated notes or speeches while on-the-go.

Assistive technology computing devices – Those with learning difficulties are likely to make great use of computers and assistive technologies can help make operating them easier. This could include alternate keyboards (with larger keys or different layouts), electronic pointing devices (such as controlling a cursor with eye movements or nerve signals), touch screens or refreshable braille displays (which can show characters as they appear on the computer screen).

For more information call the Misco Education team on 0800 035 0799 or alternatively email education@misco.co.uk

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