Working with children, parents,
teachers, schools, therapists, and physicians to ensure children succeed
Autism Technology for Autism
Due to the growing awareness of and funding for services for children with Autism, there are a range of programs that have been developed,
or that are being developed to help these children succeed.
Teachtown is a software package that is aimed at teacher children with Autism from 2 - 7 years old a range of skills. The company states
that they have over 800 on screen and off screen lessons that are designed to teach skills in the following areas: Language Development, Adaptive
Skills, Social Emotional, Cognitive Skills, Language Arts, and Mathematics. The program also purports to have a number of ways to track
I have not reviewed this program, and am not endorsing it, in anyway. In fact I have concerns about sitting any 2 year old in front of
a computer to teach them skills. However, I am posting it on my webpage, for parents and schools who may be searching for an intervention
for students with Autism.
Videojub provides 1000's of how to videos on a number of topics. I have not watched all of the videos and have the sense that some of
these would not be appropriate for many of my patients. However some of the videos, for example on reading body language, or how to know if
a man, and how to know if a women is flirting with you can be very helpful for a number of my patients with autism and related disorders
that cause social issues.
Funding of Assistive Technology to make work a reality
Children with Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) have the right to have assistive technology programs and services provided to
them as part of the IEP. However the devices or services are provided as part of the child's educational program, and typically are
owned by the school system, so that when the child leaves school the devices do not go with them into the adult world. Additionally some
children need Assistive Technology devices of services in the home setting in addition to the school setting. The article "Funding Of Assistive
Technology To Make Work A Reality: Funding for Work-Related Assistive Technology Through Special Education Programs, State Vocational
Rehabilitation Agencies, Medicaid, Medicare and SSI's Plan for Achieving Self Support" provides a very thorough overview of funding options.
The article uses as an example a 17 year old junior in high school with Cerebral Palsy who is planning on going to Cornell University and
needs a variety of Assistive Technology resources in school, in her home, and to address her transportation needs.
A recent study in the January/February 2010 issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that the implementation of Assistive
Technology by a team of occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and educators has a significant impact on helping students
with disabilities achieve their academic goals. The study showed that assistive technology appears to make a greater contribution toward
accomplishing goals set on a child's Individualized Education Plan than other possible interventions, including "related services," tutoring,
changes to the curriculum, and student maturation.
Assistive Technology Reviews
Assistive Technology Tools
Assistive Technology Tools for Communication
There are a number of communication devices available for students with handicapping conditions. Over time, I will
add more to this page.
Dynavox and Vmax
Dynavox V and Vmax are portable augmentative communication devices
that are programmable. They can be ideal for individuals who struggle with oral speech.
The Livescribe Smartpen Now this is pretty cool device! The Livescribe
smartpen allows students to adults to take notes during lectures, meetings, classes, etc. The user writes their notes using the smart pen
and special notebooks (available for purchase). The pen then syncs with the computer. At this point the notes appear on the screen as written.
The pen has also recorded all of the lesson or meeting. The user can then listen to the meeting/class and the notes appear on the screen synced
with the audio, or they can click on a note and the associated audio will play. This allows the user to only listen to the parts of the class
or meeting they needed to listen to. So instead of listening through 30 minutes of audio they can click on the word mitosis for example and
hear what the teacher said about it. As additional pages of notes are written, they are added to the computer. Depending on the students writing,
the notes are also searchable. There are currently two versions of the smartpen available.
There are 2 GB, 4 GB, and 8 GB versions of the pen. There are also a variety of related products that go along with the pen. Including
extra notebooks. The pen keeps track of which notebook and which page the notes are written in.
Livescribe is a pen based audio recording system that allows users to record what is being said in a classroom, lecture hall, or
meeting as they write. The result is searchable. The user can then selectively listen to the material later to study or review their
Bookshare.org provides parents, children, teachers, and schools free accessible audio books and
associated assistive technology tools to help engage children and adults with print disabilities access to books and other materials.
As the world’s largest online library of accessible books for people with print disabilities, Bookshare provides qualified students
access to a wide range of reading material outside of school. With Bookshare’s accessible books and assistive technology, students who
once struggled with reading can now read and study independently! This is a great resource and unlike the library downloadable book
feature, provides both print and audio formats of the books the individual is reading.
There are three upcoming presentations on Bookshare.
Humanware Classmate Reader
Humanware Classmate Reader is a portable reading machine that runs Daisy software. As such it is able to play books downloaded
through Bookshare.org. The device offers a number of features that can be very useful for individuals with reading disorders.
The Intell Reader
The Intel Reader is a
new assistive technology device that transfers text to speech. The difference between this device and others is that it allows the user to
take a picture of printed material (book, newspaper, report, etc..) and have the material read to the user.
Internet Archive - More than doubling the number of books available to print
disabled people of all ages, the Internet Archive is a new service that brings free access to more than 1 million books — from classic 19th
century fiction and current novels to technical guides and research materials. The materials on the archive are available in the Daisy Reader
Format which is a specially designed format to support those who are blind, dyslexic or are otherwise visually impaired. The books are
accessible through a downloadable software program but also can be transferred to portable devices like the Humanware Classmate Reader. An
individual with a print disability can access to all of the materials in the library after being qualified by the National Library Service
for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) as in individual with a disability.
Learning Ally was formerly Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. Founded in 1948 as Recording for the Blind, Learning Ally serves more
than 300,000 K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness,
visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Learning Ally’s collection of more than 80,000 digitally recorded textbooks and
literature titles – downloadable and accessible on mainstream as well as specialized assistive technology devices – is the largest of its
kind in the world. More than 6,000 volunteers across the U.S. help to record and process the educational materials, which students rely on
to achieve academic and professional success. Learning Ally, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is funded by grants, state and local education programs,
and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations.
Learning Ally provides books in at least three formats: Classic Audio: A human reads the book with no text; Voice Text Human: A human reads
the book and the reader can follow along with the printed text which is provided; Voice Text Synthetic: The Computer reads the book and the
reader can follow along with the printed text which is provided. Not every book is available in every format.
The Monroe County Library has a collection of free downloadable
audio books. The books are initially downloaded directly to your computer and from there they can be sent directly to an MP3 player or
to an an IPod, or an IPhone. Follow the Downloadable books
link to go directly to the site. This is a great resource to get a spouse or a child to listen to a book they may not normally read.
Many school required reading books are available on this page as a downloadable audio book.
New York Public Library Downloadable Books
Anyone in NY State can apply for a New York Public Library Card. The reason to do so, is that the NYPL is a fantastic source from audible
books for kids and adults. The Library has Tumblebooks, E-books and audible books from Overdrive, Bookflix, Tumblebooks and much more.
National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)
National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)is a national clearinghouse
for accessible textbooks. While textbooks can not be directly downloaded from this site. The site provides information on national and
statewide resources to access accessible textbooks from.
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) Through
a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS administers a free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible
borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail. An individual with a print disability can access the materials on the NLS after being
qualified by the NLS as in individual with a disability.
Educators, program leaders and librarians who work with in-need youth in libraries, schools, shelters, clinics, out-of-school time programs, military family programs, early childhood programs, and other capacities can access Open eBooks by registering with First Book.
Play away Audio books are stand alone audio books. All the reader needs are
headphones to plug into the reader. These are being used in libraries and school libraries. These can be very helpful from struggling
readers as they simplify the process of listening to audio books.
Another tool for helping struggling readers access text is the Quicktionary Reading Pen. A student rolls the pen tip over an unknown word.
The pen then reads the word orally. The student can then have the pen read the definition of the word or spell the word. This is useful for
students who have difficulty with specific words on a page, but is not useful for having a whole page read to the student. The pen comes
with an ear bud, so that no-one needs to hear the word being word.
Quizlet: An example of web-based Assistive Technology
There area a number of web-based resources that can help teachers, parents, and students teach and learn. It is often very useful to combined these resources.
Quizlet is a web based program that allows the easy creation of flash cards. One of the useful features of Quizlet is the ability to import data. This allows anyone to take data from Microsoft word or other sources and easily make flashcards. In this case flash cards to help study for the NY State Global Studies II exam.
For students in NY State that have to take a Regents exam, there is a great web resource called Regentsprep.org. This is a very useful resource with a wealth of material to study from. One of the resources for the NY State Global Exam is a list of vocabulary students should learn. This list when exported to Word is 70 pages long.
Assistive Technology Tools for Time Management
Assistive Technology Tools for Writing and Spelling
This section is by Sari Ockner, OTR/L. Follow Sari on Facebook at Kidz Occupational Therapy or on Twitter at Sari_KidzOT for on-going information to support children in school, at home, and in the community. For further information visit : www.KidzOccupationalTherapy.com
Handwriting is a complex skill that can be very difficult for children with sensory processing challenges. Consequently, these children tend to avoid writing because
it can be quite frustrating for them. There are different types of writing tools that offer sensory solutions for these children to help make
writing an easier task. Here are some tools that may be helpful in exploring ways to best suit your children's writing and sensory needs.
Children with proprioception problems often have difficulty modulating the pressure they use on items. If a child presses too hard when writing
their hands fatigue quicker, mistakes are harder to clear away when erasing, and they are more apt to rip the paper (very frustrating!). Mechanical
pencils can aid to teach modulation of pressure, as the lead will break if too much pressure is applied. Each time the lead breaks it will give
the child feedback and the desired result is to help them monitor the pressure they are using.
While some children with proprioception difficulties press too hard, others press too light when writing making their strokes very hard to decipher. A
weighted pencil can help to make their pencil steadier and give them the extra weight they need to press more firmly resulting in darker
strokes. There are pencil weight kits that you can purchase or you can easily
make one from using rubber washers and rod shaped coupling nuts found in a hardware store for a few dollars.
Children with low muscle tone generally have poor fine motor strength and have difficulties sustaining their grasp on a pencil, which impacts
their written production. Vibration is a sensory technique that can be used to â€œwake upâ€ or stimulate muscles and allow for more
efficient muscle use. The vibration pencil also seems to entice children with sensory seeking behaviors, as it gives them sensory feedback
to their fingers and helps to keep them focused on the task. Based on my experience, the vibration pencil, more specifically
the Ark Z-Vibe*, has been so useful in motivating so many children
to write. I often recommend using for homework, as the slight buzz can be distracting to classmates. On the flip side, the constant light
hum (like white noise) can be somewhat soothing to the writer. I have noted that children with tactile sensitivity have said
it tickles their fingers and they do not prefer to use it.
Tactile Writing Tools
Tactile seekers love textures. The three options below can help offer sensory feedback to satiate tactile needs during writing tasks by
giving them textures right there on their own pencil.
Gel Squish Grips
Musgrave Pencil Fidgets
Faber-Castell GRIP Writing Pencils
Some children seek intense oral input. These are the children that chew on the collars or sleeves of their shirts, suck on their fingers, or bite
off the eraser tips of their pencils. The mouth is a powerful organizing center, just think of how a baby soothes himself by sucking on a
pacifier. The actions of chewing, biting, and sucking are excellent ways to help increase focus and concentration and often decrease anxiety.
Chew Stixx Pencil Toppers
CHEW STIXX Pencil Toppers (BPA and Phathalate free) fit right on the top
of the pencil and are an excellent sensory strategy to use in the classroom.
Considerations: Using writing tools that give sensory feedback can be very beneficial to a child with sensory needs. It is, however,
important to remember that physically holding a pencil properly with a comfortable, efficient grasp is fundamental to developing good handwriting
The Fusion is perfect for students working in a classroom or home setting.
Unlike a computer it does not have a screen standing up blocking the view of the student or teacher. The Fusion also has a number of key
features not available on other portable keyboards. These include word Text to Speech and Word Predication software. The word predication
software offers the student on screen choices as they start to type a word. This can help with spelling and speed up the writing process.
The Text to Speech feature reads back what the student has written to allow the student to hear any spelling or grammatical mistakes they
have made in their written work.
A guide for Assistive Technology Tools for Writing
A useful guide to Assistive Technology Tools to help with writing.
Neighborhood Legal Services is a statewide clearinghouse for resources needed to advocate for AT. This includes, for example: winning Medicaid
hearing decisions awarding funding for AT, court decisions from NY and other states awarding funding for AT; the briefs and written
arguments sumitted in hearings and litigation; and a range of medical and technical resources, including published articles, research
findings, etc., to support an appeal.
Assistive Technology Training Online Project (ATTO)
This site provides an overview of common Assistive Technology Classroom Tools. The site includes information on AT grants, AT tutorials, and AT resources. The
site generally features easy to use resources from classroom use.
Expertise - Home remodeling for People with Disabilities
Expertise.com has created a comprehensive guide for people living with disabilities that aims to help make the federal grants available to seniors, veterans, and people with cognitive and physical disabilities much easier to understand and take advantage of, particularly for remodeling homes for accessibility.
Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA)
Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA)is a multidisciplinary engineering and design research
center dedicated to enhancing the health, activity and participation of people with functional limitations through the application of
assistive and universally designed technologies in real world environments, products and devices.
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a component of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of
Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), is the main federal agency that supports applied research, training and development
to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
Speech Apps to Smart Pens: Tech Aids Students With Learning Disabilities
Rebecca Ungarino, from NBC News reviews some common Assistive Technology tools. As she reports "ew gadgets and mobile apps introduced in the past few years are making reading, writing and math more accessible to students with learning disabilities."
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the agency's first ever working paper addressing accessibility and technology issues
in conjunction with the National Broadband Plan. The paper considers the numerous barriers to broadband usage faced by people with disabilities,
including inaccessible hardware, software, services, and web content and expensive specialized assistive technologies. According the press release,
“Only 42 percent of people with disabilities have high-speed Internet services at home -- and an astounding 39 percent of all non-adopters have
a disability,” said Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. “This is not acceptable, and we are implementing an
ambitious accessibility agenda to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind.”