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Today, like never before in our history, technology is a huge benefit to neurodivergent and disabled individuals. From tablets to smartphones, from apps to voice activated technology, there is no shortage of tools to assist a learner in their daily and academic activities. As helpful as it can be, technology has some drawbacks for neurodivergent and disabled children.
Why technology may be a challenge for neurodivergent and disabled children
- Some children need support in understanding the functionality of technology.
- Some children may become fixated with technology, making separating the child from technology a challenge.
- Children requiring fine motor support may have difficulty with manipulating technology.
A word about my experience with technology
While I consider myself to be pretty tech-savvy, I’m not an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) therapist, nor do I claim to be. Consult with the child’s therapists about the best technology for the child. The tips I share below are some of the takeaways I’ve learned both by being in the classroom and by being a mother to a disabled child.
Suggestions for using technology with a neurodivergent or disabled child
- Consult an AAC specialist or an SLP. Talk about the goals for communication for the child with specialists. If the ultimate goal is to get a child to carry around a handheld device to communicate with the rest of the world, ask the child’s therapists where you can begin to get them there successfully.
- Consider two tablets. If you find that the child is tempted to go to other apps, consider using a second tablet for communication only.
- Educate yourself. In the resources below, I list a few places to begin.
- Television as technology. Although television now seems like a dinosaur, there is definitely a positive in terms of using it for learning purposes. I limit TV usage to about 1 to 1 ½ hours per day with my son. If TV keeps him calm, I might as well make it a learning experience. My son loves Signing Time – and even “asks” for the one he wants when I give him the choice between two. While he enjoys ½ hour of Signing Time, I rush to get a 30-minute meal ready in the kitchen. Win-win.
Inov8 – A local-to-Quebec consulting business that offers services to families and schools “to integrate highly effective assistive technology tools into their lives.”
Moms with Apps – Website with tons of information for making choices about apps.
HelpKidzLearn – Website and shop for apps for kids. Some are free and can be used with a switch.
Proloquo2go – A communication app that “enables people to talk using symbols or typed text in a natural-sounding voice that suits their age and character.”
Apps for Literacy, Writing, and Language
Scene Speak – App where you can create your own ebook, add your own voice, and comprehension questions. Good for kids who cannot read to themselves.
Read&Write for Google Chrome – Writing made easier by TextHelp. Make documents, web pages, and common file types in Google Drive more accessible.
Epic! – Explore 40,000 books, audiobooks, and learning videos
Apps for Fine Motor Skill-building
Pic Collage – FREE app. Helps with fine motor practice as you have to cut out images with a finger, then paste. You can add words to make it a language-based activity as well.
Ready to Print – App that acts like a worksheet to help kids learn to write/ print. It was developed by an OT for kids with fine motor difficulties.
App for Social Stories
Pictello – App that helps you create visual stories and talking books. Great for social stories.
Signing Time – Rachel Coleman has created an empire of educational signing videos teaching the basics of ASL.
Accessories for Technology
iPad Mounting System – Great for kids who like to toss items on the floor. Can be clamped to a chair, table, or adaptive equipment. US-based.
Mounting Systems (Canada) – Bridges Canada has various mounting systems for Canadian clients.
BigTalk Accessories – Many uses for these items for kids who are non-speaking. Can record your own voice, a song, a phrase.
iPad Wireless Switch – Interacts wirelessly with iPad. For kids who cannot use a mouse but can tap to get input.
What questions/concerns do you have about technology?