If you have a child who is diagnosed with autism, ADHD, visual impairment, speech impairment, or who just has general developmental delays, you’re in good company. Unfortunately these sorts of conditions in children are quite common, not that that makes them much easier to deal with. Thankfully, assistive technology for learning disabilities is abundant, and is specifically designed to help make your life and the life of your child a whole lot easier. We’ll help you through the minefield that’s out there and review some of the best products for you here.
What is Assistive Technology in Education?
Assistive Technology (AT) includes any sort of product that makes life easier for someone with a disability. It enables someone to do something that they may not otherwise be able to do. When specifically determining what is assistive technology in education, it’s about finding toys and equipment that will help a child learn and assist in their education. Children learn best through play, and consequently a lot of assistive technology for learning disabilities has been created in the form of toys.
Who Can Benefit From Assistive Technology For Learning Disabilities?
Assistive technology is highly recommended for people with just about any type of disability. It can help children with more common cognitive issues like dyslexia and other learning disabilities, as well as those with a physical impairment such as a cleft palate and Down syndrome. It’s also designed to benefit children with less common afflictions such as Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, apraxia, hydrocephaly, amblyopia…and the list goes on.
In helping children, assistive technology also provides huge benefits to parents, teachers and anyone else caring for these children. If you have kids with learning disability symptoms, whatever format they take, you may find that at least one of the products below can significantly help you in raising your child. We’ll cover off three key areas of learning disabilities, along with recommended products that can help with each one. All products can be found at Learning Resources.
Auditory and Speech Impairments
Looking after children who have speech delays can be very challenging for both child and parent. From a child’s perspective, like anyone else they just want to be understood, and may not understand themselves why this isn’t happening. And for the parent, not being able to understand your child and seeing them struggle and get annoyed by that – without being able to do much about it – is a painful experience!
There are assistive technology tools specially created for children who have difficulties in expressing and/or processing spoken language. These tools can be used in any types of settings, including class lecture, playground area, and many other places.
Recommended Product: Talk Blocks Set of 5
The idea is to get someone to pre-record common phrases into the blocks that your child will feel and understand, but will be otherwise unable to communicate. It could be simple things such as “I’m hungry”, “I’m cold” or “I want to do that again”. It’s best if the person pre-recording the phrases is similar to the child the blocks are for, ie a young girl’s voice is best to help another young girl, boys for boys etc.
You then put a picture (if applicable) or word (if the child can read) on each block, and when your child wants to communicate the message on that block they just press the button. It’s fun, simple and effective.
Fine Motor Skills
Many children have difficulty manipulating their hands, fingers and wrists to do things like hold and manipulate a writing instrument, brush teeth, get dressed, read, and just to pick up small objects. Developing fine motor skills is definitely a key skill for life, and the more you can help your child with this aspect of their physical abilities the better.
Some of the best assistive technology for learning disabilities has to be in the form of toys for helping with fine motor skills, and many toys include this benefit along with many others. With so many great products to choose from, we couldn’t just choose one product to tell you about! Here are our three top recommendations (in no particular order):
Recommended Product #1: Gears! Gears! Gears! Super Set
This multi-award winning set is designed for kids aged from 3 years and up, and is the perfect toy to help children strengthen the muscles in their fingers and hands in a fun and educational way. You can easily teach your children about colors and shapes, and help them match, sort and identify different pieces. Children can build to their heart’s content, only limited by their imaginations. There’s no right or wrong, only a whole lot of satisfaction and accomplishment upon building new creations.
If you want to encourage mental skills such as problem solving and perseverance, the Super Set will certainly do the job. It comes in a giant tub with 150 pieces that makes for easy storage (very popular with grandparents especially), and it’s the sort of toy that kids of all ages keep coming back to. The older the child, the more complex structures they can build.
Recommended Product #2: Snap-n-Learn Number Bugs
This is a simple toy suited to younger kids from 2 years, once again with bright colored parts that can be pulled apart and put together. The bugs have numbers on them with the corresponding number of dots, so these are a great tool to teach kids their numbers and colors along with assisting with their fine motor skills.
Recommended Product #3: Mental Blox Game
It’s clear to see why this award-winning game is a best seller. Suitable for kids from 5 years (kindergarten) and up, it provides much amusement for children with plenty of activities to do. The bright multi-colored shapes can be built up based on imagination, or using cards and completing the set challenges. Children use their fine motor skills to balance the pieces on top of each other. They can play with these blocks on their own or with friends.
We love the versatility of this game. Kids from 5 to 13 can enjoy it on different levels, as the challenges on the activity cards (40 in total) get more difficult as they go. It can also be used as a memory game, to look at the pattern on the activity card, then remove the card and see if you can remember how to recreate the design.
One of the reasons many children find it difficult to complete tasks is because of a lack of organizational skills. Acquiring these skills enables children to work efficiently on their own as well as with a partner or team. It helps them know what to do next and how to structure their time to achieve their goal.
Improving organizational skills leads to increased self-esteem through problem solving and the ability to make decisions. Children with ADHD in particular often find it difficult to organize themselves and their time.
There are plenty of toys and games that can help children learn organization skills. Here are just two that we recommend.
Recommended Product #1: Super Sorting Pie
Yet another award-winning product, this is great for children aged 3 years or more. Aside from being lots of fun to play with, it serves several very useful purposes. The products provided (7 fruits in 5 different colors) can be sorted by type or color. In addition to enhancing organizational skills, children can learn their numbers, counting, basic maths (addition and subtraction), colors, shapes and fruits.
There are tweezers included which are great for improving fine motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination. Best of all, kids love both using their imaginations and following the activity guide included.
Recommended Product #2: Magnetic Tabletop Pocket Chart
One of the great things about this product is that it’s helpful for children with a wide range of disabilities including autism, dyslexia, down syndrome, brain injury, speech and hearing impairments, ADD and ADHD. There are magnetic tiles, letters and numbers, which can be used to help a child express themselves, or to help you as their parent (or teacher) to communicate with them. The letters are clear and easy to see. Once again this is a mult-purpose product that you can use to focus on letters, letter sounds, colors, shapes and numbers.
The chart is strong and sturdy and easy to store. And like most products from Learning Resources, it’s backed by a 12-month guarantee.
There are many other fantastic assistive technology toys offered by Learning Resources. This company carries a wide range of assistive technology for learning disabilities, catering for children with all sorts of challenges – from autism to ADHD to physical impairments. The toys on the site are sorted by special needs within the autism spectrum, different learning styles, and skill development. You can also find them sorted by appropriate age groups, educational topics, brands, and products on sale. And of course you can read real customer reviews on each product before buying anything.
It can be tricky enough at times raising children with a clean bill of health. When you have children with special needs it’s a whole new ball game. Thank goodness for Learning Resources, firstly for understanding exactly what is assistive technology in education, and secondly for providing products that cater perfectly to our children’s needs.