Gadgets pave the way for learning

Technology can be the great equalizer for children and adults with disabilities. Often referred to as assistive technology, these programs can help with learning, classroom activities or homework assignments. The following resources, programs and gadgets may help your son maximize his learning potential.


Talking calculators, which vocalize each number, symbol or operation when the calculator button is pressed, are popular gadgets that can help struggling math students. Listening to the numbers as they are being pressed into the calculator can help students avoid errors and reinforces the process through an auditory message. Talking calculators are available at many online retail outlets. The TalkCalc app is designed for iPhone and iPad and great for young children.


Students who struggle with reading and comprehension may benefit from audio books. is an Amazon company that offers books, radio shows, magazines and speeches as downloads for computer, iPods and mobile phones. offers accessible titles that can be enhanced by assistive tools, like text-to-speech, or you can order a book in embossed Braille.


Students who struggle with writing organization and mechanics might benefit from Dragon Dictate. This speech recognition solution allows students to speak their thoughts and commands, and the program will write it down. Software by goQ, called wordQ+speakQ, is a tool that combines word prediction technology, spoken feedback and speech recognition for learners with writing challenges.

Note taking

The Pulse smartpen by livescribe records everything a student reads and writes. Students can replay a teacher lecture with the tap of the pen. The SoundNote app allows you to record the class lecture and make scribbles on your iPad at the same time. Evernote is also great for recording class notes and is available for Mac and Windows.


Students can improve organization with OneNote by Microsoft. This digital notebook allows students to store notes, project items and homework in one place on the computer and easily access it for presentations, projects and studying. Simple apps for keeping track of homework assignments include myHomework and iHomework for the iPhone.

While technologies can provide some solutions to learning challenges, they are most effective when combined with classroom accommodations and an independent education plan. For more resources and guidance, visit LD OnLine, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

Sharon Miller Cindrich’s Plugged-in Parent column runs monthly in Chicago Parent.

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