Assistive Technology

Parents Education Network in San Francisco sponsored a talk on Assistive Technology in early October, 2010.  The speaker, Jan Tuber, is a staff member at Parents Helping Parents, a non profit organization based in San Jose, CA.  Ms. Tuber had an enormous amount of information to share.

 Assistive technology refers to a device, (any item, piece of equipment, product system) used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.  Ms. Tuber underscored the changing behavior of this broad field. New and updated products appear on the market unexpectedly. Keeping abreast is a challenge.

 General comments Ms. Tuber made for parents and teachers: 

  • Don’t buy a product until you have sampled it by training on it.  Many people get excited about the potential of the product but lose interest fast if they have not committed to the training.
  • Many developers offer their product for a testing period – often thirty days.  Take that offer and test the value of the product to your situation.
  • Have a clear sense of the learning disability challenge to be served. Take the time to understand the student’s barriers to learning eg: does the student have memory or note taking or graphic challenges?   Then, match the learning style and needs with the tools.
  • Teachers:  be sure to order assistive technology tools when books are being ordered for the year.

 Ms. Tuber had many websites listed in her handout that address different learning styles.  Some are listed below. She suggested a good way to start exploring assistive technology is with Low Tech Supplies.

 Low Tech Supplies: 

Filters, Lottie Kits, Reading Rulers, Franklin products, pencil grips, AT notebook, raised line paper, handwriting guides, highlighter tape, margin maker.  The following websites are valuable for research and potential purchase.

Audio Support

  •   (Recording for the blind and dyslexic). You can download their material to your computer.
  • Victor Reader Stream
  • iPod/MP3
  • Audio/TTS: Classmate Reader
  •   This company has monthly subscriptions for materials that can be downloaded.
  • Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. 

Graphic Classics

  • Shakespeare Comic Books:

              Edited original text in one color, and modern English text translation in another. Fully illustrated comic style presentation.

  • Classical Comics:
  • Original Text, or Quick Text versions
  • Full color graphics
  • No Fear Shakespeare:,
  • Simply Shakespeare: Barron’s Educational series, Inc

 Tools for Comprehension:

  • Intel Reader:     
  • Click,Speak:      
  • WordTalk:          (Win)
  • Readplease 2003: FREE or professional version (Win),
  • Natural Reader: FREE or professional version, (Win)
  • GhostReader (Mac):
  • TexEdit Plus (Mac):
  • (shareware) 

Tools for Comprehension:  Comprehensive Text-to-Speech Programs: 

  • WYNN: WYNN Reader, WYNN Wizard text-to-speech reader.
  • Kurzweil 3000: Text-to-Speech reader
  • Read & Write Gold: Text-to-Speech reader
  • Read: OutLoud:

Tools for Writing:  Word Prediction/Spelling

  • Word Q:          
  • Co:Writer:       
  • WriteOnline:  
  • “Sounds like”-Spell, Write!
  • SpellCatcher: (Win/Mac)
  • Ginger Software:
  • Breme Write Right:
  • Franklin Spellers:

Note: Onion Mountain has pens which don’t click.  However, some students need the click to keep them focused.

Tools for Writing: Talking and Portable Word Processors

  • Talking Word Processor
  • Write:OutLoud               
  • WordTalk, Free               
  • The Writer Fusion         
  • Embedded in programs such as WYNN, Kurzweil, RWGold

 Note:  This approach works best if the student has aural challenges rather than written.

However, they need cognitive ability to see errors. It takes patience to get this technology working as the student has to learn commands as well as being willing to take the time to set the voice recognition component. 

Tools for Writing

  • Inspiration & Kidspiration: 
  •  Report Writer Interactive ( and Write it Live):  www.ftcpublishing 
  • Paragraph Punch/Essay Punch:

              Other programs address grammar, comprehension & vocabulary

 Finally, a comment about Parents Helping Parents.  Their signature Assistive Technology service, Techsploration, provides more details on Assistive Technology as well as an opportunity to experience the tools “hands on” through a guided session in their iTECH demonstration lab. To contact Ms. Tuber in San Jose call (408) 727-5775 or