2015 Youth Achievement Award

Is the iPad A Good Investment for Your Child with LD?

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By Shelley Lacey-Castelot

The Apple iPad is changing the world of technology, including the world of assistive technology (AT). With its intuitive interface, 10-hour battery life, instant access to apps, small platform, and big cool factor, this readily available, relatively inexpensive little machine is becoming as ubiquitous in special ed classrooms as it is everywhere else.

And why not? There are iPad programs that teach, compensate for weaknesses, bypass deficits, and provide hours of just plain fun.

There’s An App For That

Is spelling or writing a problem? Not when you have apps that create text from dictation, include word prediction, read the word you are trying to spell, coach sentence creation and composition, combine sound notes with text notes, or graphically organize a writing draft.

Is reading difficult? Not with apps that read the text to you, provide the meaning and/or pictures of words, allow you to highlight notes in the text, and offer instant access to books.

Does math put you over the top? There are apps to help you practice math facts, graph problems, and make math visual.

Is learning English and grammar tough? Download language-learning tools, grammar tools, and instructional apps….

In so many ways, the iPad levels the playing field for students with learning disabilities, and in ways that students find acceptable. For the student who can’t seem to find a power outlet, wait for the laptop to boot up, or thinks technology is intrusive, the iPad can bring great success and comfort.

PC Versus iPad

The iPad is highly portable, has a small footprint, is powerful, and facilitates many daily tasks. If I must, I boot up my laptop or my desktop; when I do, it is because I need the more powerful apps that only a full PC can run. For instance, when I need to dictate a report, I need the full select-and-say and correction capabilities of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional. But when I need only to dictate a brief email or a few sentences, or even when work is pressing but I don’t have my laptop with me, I use my iPad with Dragon Dictation (free).

As the iPad continues to evolve, there are likely to be new and better apps with more features that students with LD will find helpful. In the meantime, there are many wonderful apps for the iPad that students with learning disabilities are already using to accommodate their needs.

But parents, beware. The iPad may not be a one-size-fits-all answer. Students may need different solutions for different settings and tasks; one might need an iPad app in one setting and a full computer software program in another. There is a lot to be said for having multiple tools on one’s tool belt for the varied educational day of a student.

Request An AT Evaluation

Before you rush out to get your child an iPad, it is critically important to remember that technology works best when it’s matched to a student’s needs. The evaluation process to determine what AT a student with LD needs involves reviewing records, interviewing student, family and school staff, determining deficits and strengths, trying various ATs (and collecting data while doing so), until an appropriate match is found.

View the author’s list of the most helpful iPad apps at ipad-apps-for-kids-with-ld.

Shelley Lacey-Castelot, ATACP, M.S. is the Director of Literacy Solutions in Oxford, CT, and an expert in the evaluation and use of assistive technology for students with learning disabilities and attention disorders. She is also a member of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities’ Professional Advisory Board.