Learning Challenges

Assistive Technology for ADHD Challenges at School

Children with ADHD may struggle in school due to poor handwriting, math challenges, and/or inattention. Assistive technology tools and software aim to level the playing field by capitalizing on kids’ strengths, while working around their challenges.

A young girl with ADHD using assistive technology on her computer at school
Student with ADHD wearing headphones and working on laptop at school

You’ve spent hours working with your child, who has ADHD, on math at home. His teacher has done the same at school. You’ve even hired a tutor to help him improve his sagging grades. The result? He’s still doing poorly, and you get on each other’s nerves more than ever.

It may be time to change the program — to use software and other assistive technology (AT) to help your child with ADHD excel in school. Studies show that AT can improve certain skill deficits and increase self-reliance. Children who struggle in school are often overly dependent on parents, siblings, friends, and teachers for help with assignments. Assistive technology can help students with ADHD achieve success by working independently.

Here are some gadgets and software that have turned around the grades of many struggling students.

NOTE: Product names, models, prices, and specifications were current as of print. Please leave a comment below if you are aware of more accurate and up-to-date information.

These tools help students with ADHD who struggle with computing, aligning, and copying math problems on paper.

Electronic math worksheet software enables students to organize and work through problems on a computer screen. Numbers that appear onscreen can be read aloud by a speech synthesizer.
Products to consider: MathPad and MathPad Plus (cambiumlearning.com) and MathTalk (mathtalk.com).

Talking calculators have a built-in speech synthesizer that reads aloud each number, symbol, or operation key a student presses, as well as the answer. The aural feedback lets a student with ADHD know whether he pressed the right keys and verifies the answer before he transfers it to paper.
Products to consider: Independent Living Aids (independentliving.com), MaxiAids (maxiaids.com), and AbleData (abledata.com) make a range of pocket-size and desktop talking calculators — some with an alarm to keep students moving along.

If your child struggles with reading, the tools below may improve reading comprehension and fluency.

Audio books and reading software. Recorded books allow users to listen to text, and they are available in a variety of formats: audio-cassette, CD, and MP3 download. Special playback units allow users to search and bookmark pages and chapters.
Products and services to consider: Audible.com and bookshare.org allow students to listen to books on the computer or to download and burn on CDs. Kurzweil 3000 (kurzweiledu.com ) improves reading speed and comprehension by enabling a student to convert print to electronic text. This program includes both visual and auditory feedback to help a student with ADHD understand and retain what he is reading.

Optical character recognition (OCR) programs allow a student to scan printed material into a computer or handheld unit. The scanned text is then read aloud by a speech synthesis/screen reading system. OCR is available in stand-alone units, as software, and as portable, pocket-sized devices that display words on an easy-to-read screen. Scanning pens are perfect for library research and other reading that doesn’t involve a computer. This device scans text as it’s dragged along the page. The pen displays the words on an easy-to-read screen, speaks them aloud, and provides definitions.
Products to consider: WYNN Literacy Software Solution (freedomscientific.com), Quicktionary 2 Scanning Translator and Readingpen Basic Edition (both available at wizcomtech.com).

Speech synthesizers/screen reader systems can display and read aloud text on a computer screen, including text that has been typed by a student, scanned in from printed pages (books, letters), or material from the Internet.
Products to consider: Aspire Reader 4.0 (axistive.com), ClassMate Reader (humanware.com), and Read&Write Gold (texthelp.com).

Portable word processors are lightweight devices that look like a computer keyboard with a screen. They can be helpful to children with ADHD who have trouble with handwriting. These battery-powered machines can be brought to school for note-taking and writing assignments. At home, files can be transferred to a PC or Mac. Some portable word processors come pre-loaded with word prediction and text-to-speech software.
Products to consider: AlphaSmart Writer Learning Neo (renlearn.com) and Fusion (writerlearning.com).

Speech-recognition programs allow a student to read aloud into a microphone and see his words appear on a computer screen. The software is especially helpful for students whose oral language skills are superior to their writing skills.
Products to consider: Dragon NaturallySpeaking (nuance.com), Simply Speaking (simplyspeakinginc.com), and ViaVoice (nuance.com).

Word-prediction software “predicts” the word the user intends to type, expanding his vocabulary and improving written expression. These programs can assist students with ADHD in producing grammatically correct and topic-specific sentences and paragraphs on a word processor.
Products to consider: Co:Writer (donjohnston.com), EZ Keys (words-plus.com), and WordQ (wordq.com).

The authors of this piece are GreatSchools.net staff. This piece is reprinted with permission from greatschools.net.

NOTE: Product names, models, prices, and specifications were current as of print. Please leave a comment below if you are aware of more accurate and up-to-date information.