Homeassistive technology10 Modern Examples of Assistive Technology

Last week, I did an entry about my personal favorite assistive tools. A lot of them were pretty low tech, but it did get me thinking about all the technology out there that does help people all over the neurodiverse world.

The only reason I didn’t include most of these is because they’ve either had little impact on me

That’s a shiny iPad.
By Tom Morris (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons

personally, or I don’t use them.

1. iPads/Tablets
These lightweight computers are a huge help for so many people. I don’t own one, as my laptop is all I need at the moment, but many families with members on the autism spectrum, LD kids and kids with SPD have benefited hugely from these devices.

With the right software, they’re extremely intuitive, and have helped many people to better communicate with those around them. Quite a few nonverbal people of all ages have been helped massively by the communication programs. However, struggling readers, those who need extra help with fine motor skills and people with various forms of SPD also use them.

2. Text to Speech Technology
These programs are wonderful for people with reading based disabilities and vision problems. There are actually quite a few programs out there, many of them free or low-cost.

3. Speech to Text Technology
I’d mentioned this in the entry linked above, but it should be included here, too. Speech to text problems are amazing tools for all kinds of people.

4. Smart Phones
I’m finally getting one of these, so it may get bumped up in my personal favorites in assistive technology. With every new generation that comes out, more apps and more impressive technology becomes available to the public.

From what I’ve read, they’ve proven to be a huge help in managing organizational tasks and helping with poor short term memory. Some of them also have text to speech technology, voice command and some have image reading capability.

5. Touch Screen Technology
This is in line with smart phones and the iPod/tablet listings, but it deserves its own place on the list because it’s hugely helpful in many other ways. By giving the user the ability to simply point at the selections they need, or move information around the screen with just a touch, this technology makes computer usage even easier than it was before.

This is helpful, because there are folks with coordination problems who have a hard time using things like a mouse. By taking another step out of learning how to interface with the computer, it makes it easier for struggling learners to put more brain power into learning.

6. Image Readers
This technology involves scanning or taking a picture of a document, interpreting what the writing is, and then reading it aloud to the user. This can take some of the frustration out of reading printed materials, and much like the text to speech programs, assist struggling readers.

Of course, I can see this technology failing more often than some of the others I’ve mentioned above. Handwriting can be very messy, and the quality of text may have an effect on how the program functions.

Our bank, for example, has recently implemented this technology into some of their ATMs. You feed the checks you’d like to deposit into a slot, the machine reads them and asks you to verify the amounts. Usually, it works pretty well, but this weekend, we tried depositing a check written in very tiny handwriting, and it wouldn’t even register. I can see something similar happening in other contexts, as well.

7. eBooks
eBooks are great, because they’re so customizable for the reader. Most ebook readers allow the user to at least change the size of the text, but I know some also allow you to set your color scheme, automatically look up word meanings and include a text to speech feature.

I can tell you from experience how much a larger font size and non-white background helps dyslexic symptoms. Of course, those features help many others, including those with poor vision, visual sensory problems and others.

A screenshot from my ebook reader, the free Kindle program. This is one of my favorite features. I already knew what “monsieur” meant, but if I didn’t, all I had to do was click on it for a definition.

8. Organizational Programs
Programs like Evernote are great for organizing dates, virtual files and ideas. I have tried Evernote before, and while it was very nice, it wasn’t for me, since I only use my laptop, though that may chance, once I get the hang of the new smart phone.

These types of programs seem to be ideal for folks with multiple devices, but they can be a huge help for people who struggle with organization, or must keep track of a lot of information at the same time. I can see how it could be valuable to parents of children in the neurodiverse community, especially when those kids also have medical issues requiring regular doctor’s appointments or medications.

Many of them are also free to download. Evernote was when I tried it a few years back, but I have no idea of if that’s changed.

9. Smart Pen
I only found out about this one recently. It’s a pen that allows you to record what people say, ideas, what you write and send it to Evernote for later access and ease of sharing. It looks like such a cool bit of technology, and is fantastic for students and professionals alike.

It seems like a wonderful memory and organizational aid. The original entry I’d linked to was written in 2012, so the prices have gone down, while the selection available has gone up. You can find more information on the Livescribe web page here.

There may also be other companies with similar technology out there, too.

10. Microphones/Receivers
This technology has been around for a while, but it’s become more popular in the classroom.

Children with Auditory Integration Disorder have a hard time tuning background noise out, which makes listening to the teacher difficult. This is something I struggled with throughout my school career. Sometimes even the rustling of paper was enough to distract me enough to miss half of what the teacher was saying.

I got put in the front of many classrooms. The theory was that the teacher would be able to keep a closer eye on me, and I could hear the lecture more easily. The first point worked out well, but the noise behind me was still distracting.

I’m sure that technique is still used in modern classrooms, but there are many school districts that have clip on microphones for the teacher to wear, and small receivers with speakers to amplify the teacher’s voice for students who need it. This helps them catch more of what the teacher says, while potentially drowning out the ambient noise of other students working (or whispering, as the case may be).

When you stop to think about it, the prevalence of helpful technology is mind boggling. It’s even more impressive when you consider this all came into being in such a short period of time. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

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