IEP Assistive Technology Tools to Empower Students with Disabilities

Article
Sep. 14, 2022Updated Oct. 5, 2022

Assistive technology is a broad term that encompasses all kinds of technology and everyday devices. AT might be needed to help a student with writing, reading, academic tasks, executive functioning, adaptive skills, modified classwork, visual schedules, and more. AT can be used for making visual accommodations, highlighting text, teaching/accessing vocabulary words and spelling, summarizing text, reading text aloud, translating speech to text, and so much more.

And despite the word “technology,” not all AT is high-tech. High-tech AT includes devices or equipment with digital or electronic components such as augmentative communication devices, power wheelchairs, or a software application that generates text to speech and word prediction. Low-tech AT includes tools such as timers, graphic organizers, and pencil grips.

There are literally hundreds of AT apps, and because the number of AT tools has grown tremendously in recent years, your school district might not be fully up to date on all the available technology. Your child will need an AT assessment so that an AT specialist can work out which will best support them.

Note: we have included the price of each app below, but be aware that your district should purchase whatever tool they decide is best for your child.

AT for learning or cognitive disabilities, speech communication, and visual/auditory comprehension

Reading comprehension browser extensions

  • Google Dictionary — Just by double-clicking any word or phrase, you can view its definition in a small pop-up bubble. Words are automatically translated to your language of choice, and you can store words to practice them later. Note that the pop-up bubble will not work in tabs that were open prior to installation. After installing this extension, either reload your open tabs or restart Chrome. (FREE)

  • Ginger — This spelling and grammar checker helps improve written English communication and includes a contextual grammar and spell checker, synonyms, translations, and a dictionary. It also provides suggestions for rephrasing text so you can convey messages with more clarity. There’s even an option to save your text for later use, and it syncs across all platforms. (FREE)

  • Lucidchart — For visual learners, this Google Chrome app allows users to organize their thoughts using graphics. The diagramming tool includes hundreds of templates and examples, such as flowcharts, Venn diagrams, graphic organizers, mind maps, organizational charts, and more. (FREE)

  • Newsela — This Google Chrome app adapts news articles to your child’s reading level while empowering them to apply reading comprehension strategies like highlighting and annotating digital text. Articles are published at five different reading levels with built-in assessments to engage students K–12. (FREE with registration)

  • SMMRY summarizes any online article using the SMMRY website. It reduces the text to only the most important sentences. This tool works with any text, including PDFs. Paste the link to the article or upload a file and SMMRY will give you an easy-to-understand synopsis. (FREE)

Browser extensions to support better focus

  • Auto Highlight is a Google Chrome Extension that automatically highlights the important information in articles, similar to an article summarizer. (FREE)

  • Simple Blocker boosts productivity and readability by blocking websites (such as Facebook or Reddit) and subdomains (like news.google.com) so users can focus on the task at hand without being distracted. This extension also has a sleep timer, which allows you to block websites for a set amount of time. (FREE)

  • Move It — This great extension informs users when it’s time to take a break and get active. After setting a time interval, a random “brain break” and physical exercise will pop up at the designated time. This can also help both students and adults monitor their time spent on the computer. (FREE)

  • Google Keep Chrome Extension helps you store quotes, websites, and images that you find and want to save for later. They can be synced across all the platforms you use, including iOS and Android. You can also add notes and labels to keep things organized. (FREE)

  • MagicScroll Web Reader — This unique scrolling system transforms web pages into a book-like interface, making it easier to read without distractions. Once you install the extension, click on the small book icon at the top of your toolbar; clicking this after navigating to any web page will transform the page and eliminate the need for scrolling. (FREE)

  • MindMeister is a digital graphic organizer that uses visual mind maps, diagrams, and pictures. (FREE for up to three projects)

Tools for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing

  • FM systems — wireless devices that directly transmit sounds to a hearing aid — communicate clearly with students who have hearing loss, even in a noisy classroom. FM systems can be used to support kids with autism and language-processing issues as well.

  • For video technology in the classroom, apps such as Flipgrid offer closed-caption features. (FREE)

Tools for students with sensory needs

A flexible classroom design can create an atmosphere of inclusion for all students. Flexible furniture and tools such as standing desks, wobble stools, exercise balls, yoga ball chairs, seat cushions, and sensory vests&utm_term=4575961257327130&utm_content=All%20(D)#301=28) can help with sensory processing and attention issues.

Find more tools in our articles Accommodations for IEPs and 504s and our parent-sourced Best-Of List of Adaptive Tools and Supplies!

Assistive technology for math

  • Photomath allows students to scan the math problem with their phone, and it offers a step by step explanation about how to complete the assignment. (FREE; $9.99/month for Photomath Plus)

  • ModMath is an iPad app that helps kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia do math. (FREE; $4.99 for pro version)

  • Equatio moves math into digital instruction and helps students hear their math read aloud to them. It helps students to visualize and explore a written equation. (Free trial/$150 per year for a single license; teachers have free access.)

  • The Math Learning Center has 10 stand-alone Chrome and iOS apps for math manipulatives. The apps include fractions, math clock, number lines, and more. (FREE)

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Contents


Overview

AT for learning or cognitive disabilities, speech communication, and visual/auditory comprehension

Reading comprehension browser extensions

Browser extensions to support better focus

Navigation extensions for students with fine motor challenges

Tools for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing

Tools for students with sensory needs

Assistive technology for math

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