Generally speaking, Assistive Technology is any tool that supports individuals’ ability to learn, communicate and participate in day-to-day life. I know – that’s really broad! Instead of all AT, this blog series is going to focus on Assistive Technology tools that teachers can use to support their students in reading, such as audiobooks.
A few years ago, I was the case manager for a 6th grader named Alonzo (that’s not his real name). Alonzo was a pretty typical 6th grader in many ways; he was hard working, kind, and he had average verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills. However, Alonzo’s major area of weakness was his inability to decode words above a 1st or 2nd grade level. As a result, Alonzo’s only literacy class for the majority of that year was a decoding and early literacy-focused class that gave him limited exposure to 6th grade content and skills. The decoding skills that he was steadily building were important, but I felt that those skills alone were insufficient.
At the time, I wondered how Alonzo would do in more general education classes if he could have texts read aloud to him. This could be helpful, but I also figured that it would also be really restrictive if I had to read every single piece of grade-level text to him. This led me to realize that I needed to do much more research on Assistive Technology. What if a computer, or tablet, or cell phone could read texts aloud to him? How would this change his ability to function and participate in class?
After conducting some research, I discovered that there are several amazing (but underutilized) resources that provide text-to-speech support for students for little or no money:
- Read & Write for Google
As a 7th grader last school year, Alonzo rejoined my Inclusion Literacy and Humanities classes and he was quite successful using these tools. He was able to access all shared fiction and non-fiction texts with audio support. He was also able to listen to roughly 15-20 independent reading books on his independent level. These supports have become staples in our classroom and they are tools that students with and without disabilities use, both inside of the classroom and at home.
Generally speaking, I fully believe that Assistive Technology is a tremendous tool, but it is not the solution for every struggling student. In this series of posts, it is my goal to explain which types of students are the best candidates for AT, analyze and break down the different advantages and disadvantages of the tools that I listed above, and explain some of the finer details about how to write these supports into a student’s IEP.