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What is assistive technology and how can it help with learning disabilities?

Assistive technology is there to help individuals with a range of disabilities. It could be cognitive problems or physical impairments, but this kind of technology is there to cater to their specific needs. In this article though, we are going to be focusing on assistive technology and its uses for people who have learning difficulties. This includes children, teens and adults alike, so nobody is left out.

For a lot of people, this type of technology is extremely useful. It allows them to use their strengths to work around the issues that they may encounter when learning. Thanks to this, these individuals tend to experience greater levels of success which is the ultimate goal.

Down below, we’re going to be focusing on learning what assistive technology is for learning disabilities, how it can help, and what is available so that you have a better all around understanding of this topic. So, keep reading down below if you would like to find out more.

Table of Contents

What is assistive technology for learning disabilities?

Assistive technology for learning difficulties is any piece of equipment, including devices that helps to bypass or compensate for an individual’s learning difficulties. Essentially, it is something that an individual can use to aid their learning, helping them to get around the fact that they have a disability that impairs their learning. It is essential that you understand that this type of technology is not a cure for learning difficulties, nor does it eliminate them. Instead, it focuses on helping the individual reach their potential through the use of their strengths, rather than having their challenges glaring back at them all the time.

An example of assistive technology for learning difficulties would be identifying a learner who has problems with their reading skills, however their listening skills are fantastic. This learner would benefit greatly from listening to audiobooks to learn. Or, if a learner faces challenges when it comes to their writing, but their speech is great, using a speech to text device could be extremely useful.

The great thing about this is that it can create a lot of independence for these learners. It’s true to say that those who struggle with learning tend to be overly dependent on other people around them to help get through the work. This isn’t going to aid them in learning for themselves, but assistive technology can. It allows these learners to depend on themselves, and get through the work largely on their own, without needing any assistance from others.

Who can assistive technology help?

The short and simple answer is that it can help most people who have a learning disability, and people beyond this. There are many types of learning disabilities and many signs that someone may have one. There are also different levels of learning disabilities which are important to recognize. Some learners have mild challenges and only need a small bit of help that doesn’t require this type of technology, where some do need the tech to give them that little extra boost. However, those who have a more moderate or severe learning impairment may need the extra help.

It, of course, depends on what the issue is to the best piece of technology to help. There are a range of pieces of assistive technology systems and devices that can help, and you will get to choose the best based on the needs of the individual.

What does assistive technology do?

Assistive technology does a lot of things for learners who have learning disabilities. Not only does it allow them to bypass their disability, it also gives them a sense of independence. They do not have to rely on someone else to do certain things for them because they are able to do it for themselves. This is a fantastic step forward for those who have been reliant on others around them for so long.

It can also give them some of their confidence back that they may have lost when they were diagnosed with a learning disability. Not being able to do something well that everyone else around you seems to be able to do without much difficulty at all can give these learners a huge knock to their confidence. Assistive technology gives the help that they need to regain their confidence. It allows them to be able to do the same things as everyone else, even if it is not in the same way.

What types of learning disabilities can assistive technology help?

Essentially, assistive technology can aid all types of learning disabilities, or at the very least, the majority of them. We’re about to look at some of the most common types of assistive technology for learners to give you a better understanding of it in a broken down way.

Organisation and memory aids

Assistive technology tools are able to help someone plan, organize and then keep track of the things that they need to do. This could be their schedule if they need to go places, things that they need to get done that day and so much more. Trying to remember everything can be a task and a half for lots of people, but if someone really struggles with this, then this technology can provide the help that they need to manage their life more effectively.

Speech and voice recognition

There are assistive learning tools that are able to help people who have trouble when it comes to processing and remembering spoken language. These tools can be used in various settings depending on where they are needed such as in a classroom.

Writing and spelling

The range of assistive technology tools that can assist with writing and spelling is wide. Depending on the needs of the individual, there are tools that can help students with proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. Further than this, there are tools that work with word usage and the organization of words.

Math and numbers

Assistive technology tools for math have been designed for people that struggle with things like computing, aligning and copying math problems onto paper. Video and audio support is available for these learners to use so that they can set up and work out basic math problems without all the hassle.


If an individual struggles with reading, there are a range of tools available to help. Each of the tools works a little different to cater to as many people as possible. All of the tools focus on presenting the text as speech though, as this way the learner can focus on comprehension rather than struggling to read the words as they are written.

It’s important to understand that there are low-tech, mid-tech and high-tech assistive technology tools available. Knowing the learner and what their specific needs are will help to work out what will best assist them going forward.

How to know what assistive technology is best for a learner

In order to know what assistive technology is going to be best for a specific learner, there are certain things that need to be looked at. For example, it’s important to understand the specific needs of that individual learner. What are their strengths and in what areas do they struggle? Understanding the problem areas is essential to determining which piece of assistive technology is going to be the best. For example, if the learner has issues with their reading, an audio player may help while they are reading. This encourages them to read, but also gives them what they need to support them.

It’s also important to think about the use of technology. This is going to include where they are going to use the technology, and how it is going to help. For example, if there is an adult that has just gotten a new job, they may need some assistance reading through information that they are given. Or, in a classroom setting, they may need an audio recorder to help them understand it later as they may not have taken notes.

What types of assistive technology are available?

There are a whole range of types of assistive technology available to help learners. We’re not going to go through every single one, but here are some examples of types that you may find useful.

Special programs

One of the options available are special programs that have been created by people who want to help. For example, Making Money Easy is one of the specialist providers that can offer learners who have mild/light learning disabilities the opportunity to make financial literacy easier. It’s an online course that is worth checking out.

Speech recognition programs

Working with a word processor, the user speaks into the microphones, and the word appears on the computer screen. This is an option for learners who have better ability with their spoken language, rather than their written skills.


There are a lot of students that struggle with writing. For example, it might be their spelling, grammar, punctuation or whatever else. They may struggle to be able to get it down on the page in a coherent manner, so there is software available that scans through the work and suggests possible errors. People with learning disabilities such as dyslexia tend to find this type of assistive technology extremely helpful.

Word prediction

Another one for those who struggle with their writing is word prediction. This piece of software is extremely clever and uses spelling, frequent use and syntax to predict the word that the learner is trying to type. This allows kids who struggle with this to get through their work with less typing, but also helps them by showing them the words.

Tape recorders

The best type of tape recorders that you can purchase for those with learning disabilities are variable-speed recorders. These allow a learner to record something that was said, and then play it back later at a different speed where needed. As such, the learner will be able to slow down or speed up what is being said to a pace that they can fully comprehend what is going on. This is all done without distorting the audio so nobody has to worry about it not being clear enough to listen to.

Talking calculators

A talking calculator is a piece of assistive technology that reads each number, operation or symbol out that the learner presses. It will also call out the answer to the problem, helping the learner to verify the answer before it is put down onto paper.

Electronic worksheets

Using electronic worksheets may help learners to understand things much easier. For example, if this is being used in math, then the learner will be able to align and work through the math problems on the screen. Those who find aligning the math problem on the page will specifically help find this helpful.

Alternative keyboards

There are programs that allow for special overlays to change the appearance and function of a keyboard. Sometimes this means adding graphics, other times it means grouping the keys with a color, it depends on the learner.

These are just some of the pieces of assistive technology available. There are so many more options out there created to suit the needs of individuals.

Key takeaways

The key takeaways of this article are as follows:

  • There is a wide range of assistive technology out there to aid learners in completing their tasks
  • Assistive technology can be used to bypass a challenging task for the learner, or to support their learning of that task

We hope that you have found this article helpful, and now have a better understanding of what assistive technology is and how it can help people with learning disabilities. The great thing about this kind of technology is that it benefits children, teens and adults alike, rather than only catering to a specific group. This can be extremely beneficial to those who have learning disabilities, giving them that little extra something to aid them in their future.

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