Homeaccommodative technologyMemoir From the Mid-tech Years

In the LD community, sometimes there’s some debate about which is better: low tech or high tech tools.

I was of the generation where technology sort of exploded onto the scene. In elementary school, I had no real idea of what a computer was. We read off of paper and wrote with pens or pencils. My dyslexia was accommodated by sending me off to the special education room for part of the day, so I could get more individualized attention and extra time to do my work.

By the time middle school rolled around, schools were finally getting computers. They were big, boxy pieces of work and the programs were basic word processing. Educational games, like Oregon Trail, were pixilated and relied on menu screens.

I know, I know, those were the technological dark ages. I feel as old writing about it as I’m sure some of you feel reading about it.

I learned how to type as a part of a pioneering program in my school district. I can’t remember what it was called, but I did get my picture in one of the local papers with my typing teacher, while I was doing drills on the keyboard. For the record, they misspelled my name, but at least we looked good.

Ah, the double-bound pony-tail and baggy sweaters.

I remember feeling intimidated by the machine at first. It was a whole new skill set, and up until then, I didn’t feel as if I had much success in learning new skills. Over time, I grew to love spellcheck and the ease with which words came when I didn’t have to think about how to form every single letter or spell each word.

Still, the majority of my schoolwork was done the old fashioned way most of the time. Once computers became more accessible, teachers began expecting essays to be typed and printed on printers. Once I had that technology to fall back on, my dyslexia was easier to handle.

As I grew into adulthood and people my age began having kids of their own, technology grew in leaps and bounds. Now we have touch screens, like on Back to the Future and Star Trek, and pocket sized computers called smart phones.

There are more reading options now than ever before. Audiobooks are common, as are ebooks, and paper books are still widely available. While dyslexia still makes reading difficult from time to time, the more format choices are always helpful.

As great as it is, there are drawbacks to the technology. Recently, we’ve learned that tablets and e-readers emit a certain light frequency that interrupts with sleep patterns. It’s advised that you should put the screens away an hour before bedtime, so you can sleep. New devices are expensive, internet service can be pricey, as can data and cell plans. Devices need to be charged, programs often have bugs and security is a problem.

After much experimentation, I’ve also found that digital planners just don’t work as well for me as their paper counterparts.

I don’t know why, but it’s much easier for me to keep track of things I write down by hand and have it lain out in a way that I can actually touch it than it is for me to use things like Google calender. There are still some organizational apps I do use, though.

At the end of the day, I don’t think one option is better for everyone than the other. The greatest thing about technology is how it gives us more alternatives than we’ve ever had before. Nonverbal people can use programs to communicate now, where it was next to impossible before.

Dyslexics can finally express themselves in writing more easily and many can enjoy reading for the first time in their lives. People with dyscalculia don’t have to be bound by being unable to do calculations in their heads and those with dyspraxia can find more easily find belonging in groups that don’t concentrate on physical activity.

There’s a place for high tech accommodations, but there will also always be a place for low tech accommodations, as well.

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