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Leveling the Academic Playing Field: Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Differences

Posted April 22, 2024 in Articles

Leveling the Academic Playing Field: Assistive Technology for  Students with Learning Differences

Imagine a student struggling to decipher a page of text, their frustration mounting with each misread word. Or another student full of ideas but frustrated by the laborious process of putting pen to paper. These are just two examples of the challenges faced by students with learning differences like dyslexia or dysgraphia. Thankfully, assistive technology offers a toolbox of solutions.

What Is Assistive Technology?

At its core, assistive technology is any device, piece of equipment, system, or software that helps students with learning differences bridge the gap between their abilities and their potential. It empowers them by providing alternative pathways to access information, process concepts, and demonstrate their understanding.

Empowerment Through Technology

While assistive technology does not cure or erase learning differences, it provides a supportive framework that allows students to capitalize on their strengths.

For instance, a student with dyslexia who struggles with reading fluency can leverage text-to-speech software, which transforms written text into spoken language. This allows students to grasp information independently and at their own pace. Similarly, speech-to-text software empowers students with dysgraphia by converting spoken words into written text, freeing them from the frustration of handwriting struggles and enabling them to focus on expressing their ideas.

By the time a student graduates from Lawrence School, they will have been exposed to dozens of assistive technology tools to support reading, writing, math, organization, and attention tasks. The ultimate goal of exposing students to assistive technology is to get each student to learn what tools help them most effectively, and to practice using these tools in their classes.

Examples of Assistive Technology in Action

The world of assistive technology is vast and constantly changing. Here are some examples of assistive technology tools that transform the learning experience.

  • Text-to-Speech Software: Reads aloud digital text, making textbooks, articles, and assignments accessible to students with reading difficulties.
  • Speech-to-Text Software: Translates spoken words into written text, aiding students with writing challenges.
  • Graphic Organizers: Visual frameworks that help students organize information and brainstorm ideas, which is particularly beneficial for students with visual learning styles.
  • Mind Mapping Software: Creates visual representations of ideas and connections, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Audiobooks: Provide access to the world of literature for students who struggle with reading fluency.
  • Focus Tools: Apps and timers that help students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) manage distractions and stay on task.

Weaving Technology Into the Learning Journey

At Lawrence School, we believe that all students deserve the opportunity to excel. That’s why technology isn’t simply an add-on; it’s an integral part of our K-12 curriculum. We weave assistive technology seamlessly into every grade level, empowering our students with learning differences to become active participants in their own education.

Throughout their journey at Lawrence, students build a robust toolbox of assistive technology tools. This isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we focus on equipping students with the knowledge and skills to select the right tool for any given task. By introducing students to text-to-speech and audiobooks in the Lower School and adding more complex assistive technology tools like word prediction, speech-to-text, and mind mapping in the Upper School, our students learn to leverage technology to their advantage.

The impact of this approach goes far beyond academics. By mastering assistive technology tools, students develop a sense of independence and confidence. No longer are they limited by traditional methods. They can tackle assignments, express their ideas, and participate in discussions on a level playing field. This fosters a sense of ownership over their learning, a crucial ingredient for long-term academic success.

To learn more about how Lawrence helps students with learning differences bridge gaps in their academic skills and capitalize on their strengths, schedule a visit. Registration is now open for our spring and summer Open Houses, along with virtual information sessions.

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