Explore technology that supports students with LDs

From basic accessibility settings to robust apps and extensions, the list of tools that support students with learning disabilities is extensive and growing.

“It’s amazing the amount of technology that students have in their hands,” said Sharon Plante, a special education teacher and technology director for Eagle Hill Southport (Conn.) School, an independent school serving students with language-based LDs.

Plante uses technology to differentiate for large groups of students with diverse learning needs and as assistive technology for those students who require AT on an individual basis. She shared these tools during an Aug. 23 webinar hosted by the Center on Technology and Disability.

Before looking for external tools, ensure staff know how to use the accessibility settings that are already built into their school’s devices. “If you look at what’s there, there’s lot’s you can accomplished just using the basics,” Plante said.

Then, review this list of tools for students with LDs such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Area of support


Notable features

Text-to-speech for paper worksheets and texts

Claro ScanPen, C-Pen Reader, C-Pen Exam Reader

For students who need
immediate access to the words on a piece of paper, consider using the app
Claro ScanPen, Plante said. “You take a screenshot of a piece of paper,
it creates a quick image, you swipe over the text, and it reads it back to
the student,” she said.

Another option is the
C-Pen, a standalone device that takes a picture of the text and reads it
aloud as the student moves the pen across the printed page, Plante said. An
exam model is also available, she said.

Reading accommodations with embedded supports

Texthelp’s Read&Write for
Google Chrome
Snapverter, Don Johnston Inc.’s

Students can use Read&Write
to pull information from the internet into a Google Doc, Plante said. They
can then use embedded supports such as text-to-speech, picture dictionaries,
and word prediction. “They’ve built in

where students can record themselves reading and you can keep track of those
fluency goals,” Plante said.

Snapverter is an add-on to Read&Write
that staff can use to automatically convert a document into an accessible
format for a student, Plante said. “This has been a game-changer for me
with students using a laptop,” she said.

Snap&Read also
provides a range of literacy supports, Plante said. Students can use it on an
iPad with an app or in Google Chrome. One special feature in Snap&Read is
text leveling, which replaces advanced words in a reading passage with
synonyms at a lower Lexile level.

Decoding practice

Lexia Learning, Sound Literacy, Classkick

Lexia is a great tool
for differentiating literacy instruction for both elementary and secondary
levels, Plante said. A rapid assessment tool also allows staff to gather
feedback on student progress for future programming.

Sound Literacy is an app with digital letter
tiles that students can move to practice forming words, Plante said. It’s a
digital version of a magnetic letter board.

Classkick wasn’t
designed specifically for decoding, but Plante said she uses the white board
app to create multimodal lessons for her students. “There are tools
within Classkick for students to record their voices, for teachers to record
themselves, and to add text,” she said. A teacher can also see a live picture
of students’ screens as they complete an assignment, Plante said.

Nonfiction text differentiated by reading

Newsela, Front Row

Newsela is a website
where students can read current news adjusted to various Lexile levels, Plante

Front Row is a
similar tool, but it also includes an assessment tool that identifies the
student’s current reading level, Plante said. A teacher can also set a
reading level so a student cannot change it.

Reading comprehension supports

Actively Learn, Reading Comprehension Booster, ReadWorks,

With Actively Learn,
a teacher can rent a book and embed questions directly into the text, Plante
said. Students may provide feedback in the text and see other students’

Reading Comprehension
Booster is a “cute” app for younger students, Plante said. “It
allows students to show what they know in the app,” she said.

Grammar practice, grammar checkers

Practice: NoRedInk


Grammar checkers: Grammarly,

NoRedInk includes
adaptive grammar lessons. Students answer questions about their interests,
and the program creates grammar exercises based on those topics, Plante said.
“It’s a nice way to engage students beyond the traditional
worksheet,” she said. The program also provides color-coded heat maps of
students’ skills for teachers to review.

Grammarly is a
web-based grammar checker, Plante said, and Gingerly is a similar grammar checker
that works in an iOS environment. “Giving students independence is so
key,” Plante said. “With these, they can correct their work on
their own.”

Spelling and typing practice

Touch-type Read and Spell,
Word Wizard for Kids,
Simplex Spelling, Vocabulary Spelling City, Classkick

Touch-type Read and
Spell is a subscription-based program where students can practice typing
while also working on reading and spelling, Plante said. Students can see and
hear words spelled on the screen, she said.

Word Wizard is a “talking” iOS app
that provides sound feedback as students spell words, and Simplex Spelling is
a series of iOS apps for spelling that follow a structured literacy program, Plante

Vocabulary Spelling
City is an engaging way for students to practice spelling, Plante said.
“There are some fun activities beyond the traditional spelling
activities for students, but also with the accessible features students need
for reading,” she said.

Mind mapping, writing prompts

Inspiration, Mindmeister, Popplet, Padlet,
Write About This, Write About, Storybird, Story Starters

A student can use
Inspiration, a mind-mapping program on an iPad for brainstorming and then
convert those ideas directly into a written outline, Plante said. “They
don’t have to recreate the outline from the map, which takes an extra step
out of the process,” she said.

Mindmeister is a web-based mind-mapping
program, which can convert a mind map into an outline in Google Docs, while Popplet
is a mind-mapping program that’s great for younger students, Plante said.

Technology can also
help inspire reluctant writers and encourage these students to write more, Plante
said. For instance, Storybird lets students create their own stories around
free illustrations and artwork. “If you check out the artwork, it would
inspire anyone to write,” she said.

Jennifer Herseim covers Section 504, education technology, and Common Core issues related to special education for LRP Publications.

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