Assistive learning apps and technology are terrific tools for helping students with ADHD manage their academic tasks. (I adore assistive technology and use it frequently.) With so many options available, how can you tell the difference between useful assistive technology and products that are a waste of time and/or money?
Voice Dream Reader
(voicedream.com; iOS; $14.99)
Voice Dream will read text from any source — from Microsoft Word and PDF files to webpages. Users can listen to text in one of 36 available voices, and it’s easy to pause, rewind, or fast-forward. Voice and reading speed can be adjusted easily while reading text. Voice Dream makes it simple to navigate text and start reading anywhere, and users can highlight and make notes in the app as they listen.
(mindnode.com; Mac, $19.99; iOS, $9.99)
Organizing a jumble of ideas to write a book review or essay is a daunting task. Mind mapping is a good way to understand how thoughts fit together to make a coherent essay. MindNode is an excellent tool for this kind of pre-writing. Many students with learning difficulties find that visual mind maps work better than outlines. Writers begin by placing their initial idea in the center, then add ideas, color-code them, and draw connecting lines. It’s easy to convert maps to Microsoft Word documents or image files, to share with parents and teachers for feedback.
(spellbetterapp.com; iOS; free)
Students with learning difficulties often find writing frustrating, so poor spellers are bound to love SpellBetter as a word processor. Word prediction and auto-completion features allow writers to focus on recording their ideas instead of on spelling. SpellBetter can untangle the most mangled spelling, and its text-to-speech function makes it easy to listen to the suggested words in the word bank or proofread one’s writing. SpellBetter’s spell checker considers both phonetics and context, and it exports finished pieces to other formats (PDF, e-mail) for sharing.
(timetimer.com; iOS, $2.99; Android, $0.99; timers and watches, $29.95-$79.95)
Time Timer is a lifesaver for those who lose track of time or get too wrapped up in what they’re doing. The format of the timer — a red field within the clock face gets smaller as the time passes — is simple enough for even young children to understand. Time Timer is wonderful for preventing arguments between parents and kids. When the limit is reached, there can be no real argument that a few more minutes of Minecraft are warranted. Older students and adults can use the timer to keep breaks from lasting twice as long as they should or to keep from spending 20 minutes composing an e-mail that should take five.
As you explore different assistive tools, keep in mind that they are not meant for fun and diversion; they are meant to be constructive and strategic.
These apps and gadgets are not games; they’re tools. They can help learners from preschool through college access the curriculum, understand material more easily, and organize ideas and schedules.
Do your students have any favorite assistive technology tools? Which tools do you use in your own life? Let us know in the comments!
- Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager