Assistive technology

Assistive technology is any equipment that helps to overcome a particular difficulty. These can be 'low tech' equipment such as highlighters, reading rulers and coloured overlays; or 'high tech' screen readers, apps and software.

A lot of assistive technology is now free, and comes in the form of software with a computer package, or an app. It's worth trying different options to find the one that suits you the best.

Allow yourself time to learn to use the new technology properly to make sure you get the most out of it.

A few examples of assistive technology:

  • Reading

    Text readers (screen readers) are a type of software that convert text to speech. There are several on the market but many are now available as free apps for smartphones and tablets, and have been included on some e-readers as standard. 

    A text reader can be a really useful tool for helping you to check your homework. Use it to read back what you've written and you might spot mistakes that you'd miss otherwise. Text readers are also a useful way of reading longer texts. Always ask your teachers if you can have electronic texts so that you can use a text reader to help you prepare for class.

    Reading pens can be useful as they are easier to carry around, but they tend to be better for small pieces of text, or single words.

  • Writing

    Voice recognition and speech to text software/apps are really useful for people who find typing difficult.

    Different versions can help to search the web, take notes, send emails and dictate documents.  Many of these apps are free, and there are more that you can buy. It's worthwhile taking time to explore which works best for you.

    Some examples are: Siri, Google Keyboard, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Windows Speech Recognition.

    All word processing packages have spellcheck facilities. There are free add-ins which can support this facility such as WordTalk which will read back the text and the spelling suggestion.

    If you find using a keyboard easier than writing then there are free touch typing lessons available online to help you get faster and make fewer mistakes.

    A few examples are:

    BBC Dance Mat Typing (ages 7-11)

    Learning Games for Kids (5-11)

    Typing Study (11+)

  • Organisation

    Jo Crawford BDA's Youth Ambassador gives organisation tips.

    Your mobile phone can be handy tool:

    • Use the voice recorder to record lessons so that you can concentrate on the lesson without having to take notes (remember to ask your teacher's permission first, though!)
    • Use the camera to take a photo of the whiteboard or anything else that you need to remember.
    • Use the phone's organisational tools like the diary and notepad to keep a note of important dates and times.

    There are apps available that can help you to create 'stickies'.  You can colour code them and add them to your phone or computer screen to help you remember homework, or that you need bring your PE kit or musical instrument into school on a certain day of the week. A few examples are:

    Google Keep (you will need a Google account)

    Colour Note for Android

    One Note (you will need a Microsoft account)

  • Maths

    Below you will find a few helpful maths websites and apps. Remember that there are non-technical options too such as using graph paper. This can make it easier to line up numbers and symbols when solving maths problems. That’s very important when keeping track of things like place value. Large grid versions are also available.

    Manipulatives are physical objects that help to solve maths problems. A good example is the number line, you can use a number line to add or subtract numbers without having to write down any numbers or symbols. Another example is an abacus, although this seems very old-fashioned it helps to do calculations by moving beads. It shows the relationship between tens, hundreds and thousands etc. All of these are also available as apps.

    DyscalculatorThis tool presents numbers in three different ways i.e. Number symbol (76), in words (seventy-six) and in graphics (numbers can be illustrated as bars). There are other similar apps available online.

    WebMathThis is an American site. It helps you to solve all kinds of maths problems such as rounding numbers, percentages, conversions and fractions etc. It's particularly good because it explains how you get the correct answer which helps you to learn to solve the problem yourself.

    National Library of Virtual ManipulativesAn American site, it's not very attractive, but it is useful. This site has virtual objects like number lines and blocks that can help you to see maths problems in different ways. The library is broken down by grade and by topic. For instance, if you  pick grades 3–5 and numbers, you’ll find objects like a virtual abacus, pie charts and Venn diagrams. You need to bear in mind that American school grades are not the same as UK school years.

  • Useful websites

    BBC My Web My Way BBC My Web My Way is a great resource for those who want to make their web browsing more accessible.

    Dystalk - free technologyDystalk have put together a very comprehensive list of FREE technology available which are particularly helpful for those with dyslexia or other learning difficulties.