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Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities can make learning to read really hard. Whether you are wondering if your child has a learning disability or looking for ways to help, these questions will help you support a struggling reader.

Click below for answers to the following learning disabilities questions:

Question 1: What is LD?
Question 2: Can you recommend summer camps especially for kids with special needs?
Question 3: What is dyslexia?
Question 4: What is the difference between a person with LD and a slow learner?
Question 5: What are some strategies I can use to foster my child's working memory?
Question 6: I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed.What should I do?
Question 7: I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?
Question 8: I feel as though my child's skills are regressing. What should I do?
Question 9: My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?
Question 10: What should I do if my child has an IEP but is not making any progress?
Question 11: How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?
Question 12: Where can I find information about services for people with learning disabilities outside the United States?
Question 13: How can I get my child with LD motivated to read more?
Question 14: How can I find a professional who can diagnose a student's learning disability?
Question 15: How common are language-based learning disabilities?
Question 16: My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?
Question 17: My daughter has a learning disability. What strategies can I use to help her through the writing process?
Question 18: What should I do for my child who has an IEP but still has trouble with handwriting, taking notes, and writing at an appropriate speed?
Question 19: How can I help older students improve with reading comprehension?
Question 20: What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?
Question 21: How do I teach advocacy skills to children with LD?
Question 22: How do I find a tutor for my child with dyslexia?
Question 23: My child has a learning disorder and ADHD. I have heard commercials for tutoring centers. Can you give a recommendation as to which is best?
Question 24: How can I prevent my child with LD from developing low self-esteem?
Question 25: Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?
Question 26: If my husband is dyslexic, is there a possibility that my children will be dyslexic too?
Question 27: I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?
Question 28: I found a product online that claims to cure dyslexia. Is it bogus?
Question 29: My child is struggling in school. As a result, she has very low self-esteem. How can I help to build up her confidence?
Question 30: I have a number of students with severe disabilities in my classroom that are performing at a level far below their classmates. Should they be in my class? How can I help them?
Question 31: My school is getting iPads to work with our students in special education next year. We've had one to "play with" and have used many of the educational applications that our computer center downloaded for us. Are there other specific apps out there that y
Question 32: I recently bought a book that uses an audio pen to read the pages. You point the pen at the text in the book and can hear it read aloud. I'm wondering what kind of technology is involved here and if more of these books are available? Is there special soft
Question 33: Do you think that the Amazon Kindle e-Reader would help a child with visual processing issues? My son is in fourth grade and needs large print books. I'm having difficulty finding grade level appropriate books with larger fonts. Could Kindle be a good sol
Question 34: We scan materials for students to use on Kurzweil 3000 at school. Could you recommend an efficient way to scan and email a textbook page home to a student with dyslexia? He has Natural Reader on his home computer, but he does not have Kurzweil.
Question 35: When I'm reading, it is helpful for me to both see and hear the word. Where can I find software that can read text to me when I'm online? I need something that can read websites and other text aloud to me.
Question 36: Some of our students read very slowly. We are wondering about providing recorded books. We would like to give them access to print as they learn to read. Can you tell us where we can get recorded books? Any advice on how to make the textbooks and other st
Question 37: My son is going into 11th grade. He has a learning disability with a very "hands on" learning style. However, he cannot write to save his life, take notes, etc. What computer programs do you recommend? What laptops would you recommend?
Question 38: I work in a public library and want to be sure that our resources are accessible to all our patrons, including those with disabilities. What resources should we make available and where can we find additional information about making libraries accessible

Question:

What is LD?

Answer:

The following articles provide you with some basic information about learning disabilities:

These articles and others are available on our sister site, LD OnLine, which provides resources for parents and educators of children with LD. You can browse content in the LD Topics section.


Question:

Can you recommend summer camps especially for kids with special needs?

Answer:

As a non-profit organization, we cannot recommend specific camps. We can, however, direct you to articles with the information you need. It is important to be a careful consumer when looking for a program for a child with special needs. If possible, visit the site and talk with previous clients first.

Here are some articles you may be interested in:

Additional resources found on LD OnLine include:

Here are a few other resources:


Question:

What is dyslexia?

Answer:

Dyslexia is a language-based disability derived from differences in brain structure and brain function. Common areas of difficulty include reading, writing, and spelling, information processing, short-term memory, planning, and organization.

Although dyslexia presents itself somewhat differently in each person, some salient characteristics can be determined through evaluation. The following articles can help you learn more:

For more information, browse our dyslexia resources or contact the International Dyslexia Association.


Question:

What is the difference between a person with LD and a slow learner?

Answer:

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), students with learning disabilities have “disorders in one or more basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.”

However, it is often difficult to distinguish between slow learners and people with LD based only on observed behaviors. A student with LD has deficits in one or two areas while performing at or above the average in other areas. The child's potential or overall intelligence is greater than his/her poor achievement would predict. This is called the ability-achievement discrepancy. Some children even fall under both the gifted and LD categories, and are thus referred to as twice-exceptional

A diagnosis of a learning disability can only be given by trained professionals such as clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, and educational diagnosticians. Below are several articles that help give parents and teachers a better idea of what goes into making such a diagnosis and outline common LD signs and possible teaching strategies.

The last reference raises serious questions about whether an ability-achievement discrepancy is a valid definition of reading disability. Well-replicated research has demonstrated that a core deficit for children and adults with reading disabilities is phonemic awareness (the ability to understand sounds and sound patterns in language).

Also check these sections of our site for general information about LD and effective teaching strategies:


Question:

What are some strategies I can use to foster my child's working memory?

Answer:

There are several activities you can do to improve a child's working memory. Researchers have found that using mnemonic devices can help students improve their memory skills. Below are some suggested resources:

Other articles suggest games to play that will encourage your child to use practice recall skills by actively remembering daily occurrences.

Lastly, it may be beneficial to find a support group in your area to see what works for others. There are several publications, organizations, and support groups that exist to help individuals, teachers, and families to understand and cope with learning disabilities – see LD OnLine's resource list to get started.


Question:

I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed.What should I do?

Answer:

If it is hard to verbalize your concerns, bring your child's work samples with you to the school to show what is hard to articulate. A full psycho-educational assessment should provide you with more complete answers.

Before going elsewhere, you might want to find out exactly what services the school system could offer you – and when. If the time-frame or suggestions for providing needed services are unacceptable to you, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles will give you an idea of what to expect from the testing process:

There are several national organizations that can help you through this process and provide referrals to local professionals. You can contact the International Dyslexia Association or the Learning Disabilities Association. LD Online has a Yellow Pages service, Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate psychologists, educational diagnosticians, consultants, therapists, tutors, and advocates in your area. Browse their comprehensive directory of parent training and information centers for more resources, or to find educational consultants and advocates to help you through the process locally.

You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state, or look in your local phone book for “educational testing” or “psycho-educational testing” for someone close to you.

Be a good consumer in this process. Ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specialization before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose is a good match for your child.


Question:

I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?

Answer:

It is important to address reading problems early so you can begin getting your child the appropriate help. You can use our Target the Problem activity to get a general idea of your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. More comprehensive information can be found on the article page.

The following articles describe specific characteristics common to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. You may find it helpful to read these articles to determine whether you see similar characteristics in your child:

If, after reading these articles, you still suspect your child is showing signs of having a learning disability, it is within your rights as a parent to request a free educational evaluation through your public school. Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. The following articles describe the steps involved in the evaluation process, including your rights as a parent:

After this process is complete, you can use the information from the evaluation to help you make a decision about the next step in your child's educational path.


Question:

I feel as though my child's skills are regressing. What should I do?

Answer:

It is alarming to feel that your child is no longer making progress and may even be losing skills, but it will benefit him if you recognize this early and intervene.

Speak with his teachers about your concerns and share any samples of his work that reflect these concerns. Together, you can decide which step should be taken next. If you and his teachers feel that the level and amount of services and accommodations your child is receiving need to be revisited, then an IEP meeting should be convened.

You may also consider asking that the concerns you have about your child’s academic progress be discussed at the school's next local screening meeting. At this meeting, you and the other members of the local screening committee will decide if further evaluation for your child is warranted.

At both meetings, it is important to discuss the possible reasons for your child's current struggles to help determine the next course of action. For example, perhaps your child was able to compensate for his disability before, but now that he is getting older and the schoolwork is getting more challenging, his ability to compensate is being strained and the achievement gap between your child and his peers is widening. His apparent regression may also be signs of stress from knowing that he is falling further behind. It is imperative that the emotional component of your child's educational experience be addressed.

The following articles illustrate how to make the most of these meetings and include information about your rights as a parent throughout the special education process:

You and your child's teachers should be able to work together to develop an educational program that will meet his needs and help him reach his academic potential.


Question:

My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?

Answer:

Because your child is bright yet still struggles with reading, it can be challenging to offer the right support. You can refer to the following articles to see the characteristics that some children with learning disabilities exhibit:

If you recognize your child's reading struggles in these articles, voice these specific concerns to professionals at his school and request that your child receive an educational evaluation. This evaluation is free and within your legal rights as a parent to request. This article will give you an overview of the evaluation process:

The article below has suggestions on how to be your child's most effective and informed advocate for his educational needs:

Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how he best learns. This should guide you in supporting your child academically and emotionally in the years to come.

Because your child is bright, he may currently be able to compensate for his learning difficulties. But as he gets older and the reading material in school gets more challenging, it may become increasingly difficult to compensate, and he may fall further behind as a result. But the earlier the cause of his reading weaknesses is determined and addressed, the better chance your child has of truly reaching his academic potential.


Question:

What should I do if my child has an IEP but is not making any progress?

Answer:

Because you feel that your child is not making progress, it is important to request an IEP meeting as soon as possible. At this meeting, there should be a detailed discussion about the type of assistance your child is receiving and for how long each day. You should also ask her teachers if your child is making progress toward meeting her IEP goals and objectives. Request documentation, such as your child's work samples and assessments, to support their claim.

You and the rest of the IEP team may need to rewrite your child's IEP in order to ensure that she is receiving the type and amount of services, accommodations, and modifications she requires to reach her academic potential. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you to the meeting to offer moral support, to be a second set of ears to keep up with all of the information shared during the meeting, and to help keep you focused on what you want to achieve during the meeting. The following articles may give you some other ideas of how you can make the most of this meeting:

Your child's IEP is a legal document that her school must follow. If you do not feel that her IEP is being met or that you and the school can agree on an IEP for your child, then there are steps you can take. The next article outlines what can happen if there is disagreement about the IEP:

You can also contact the Parent Advocacy Resource Center in your state or find other local support centers . They may be able to provide you with information, suggestions, and guidance specific to your child's needs.

Additionally, you can find information about your child’s rights in this guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), which is the current federal standard for special education. Also of interest may be the National for Learning Disabilities’ Parent Guide.

Parents can be the strongest and most knowledgeable advocates for their children, so trust your instincts and don't give up until your child receives access to education that meets his or her needs!


Question:

How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?

Answer:

Reading Rockets has a wealth of information about teaching children to read. Here are some articles that provide basic knowledge on this topic:

Reading Rockets offers strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn to read. Its resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in working with struggling readers who need some additional help developing these reading and comprehension skills. Our sister site, Colorín Colorado, which is designed for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners, also has excellent information for anyone interested in early reading instruction. You can also try TeachingLD, a site for Special Education teachers.


Question:

Where can I find information about services for people with learning disabilities outside the United States?

Answer:

There are several organizations with world-wide membership that may be able to assist you.


Learning Disabilities Worldwide: LDW is an international organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with learning disabilities. They strive to increase awareness and understanding through multilingual media productions and publications that serve populations across cultures and nations. Their educational enrichment programs are designed to serve individuals with LD, their families, and the professionals in their lives. They publish the largest peer reviewed journal, “Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal”, among others, and present the annual “World Congress on Learning Disabilities.” Select your home country with the site’s “Find Your Country” tool to view articles in your language.

International Dyslexia Association: The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a nonprofit, scientific, and educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of the learning disability dyslexia. IDA focuses its resources in four major areas: information and referral services, research, advocacy and direct services to professionals in the field of learning disabilities.

If you are in the UK, you can find answers to special education law questions on the SEN Legal website, or learn more about your child's rights here. The British Dyslexia Association may also be able to offer further guidance.


Question:

How can I get my child with LD motivated to read more?

Answer:

Any reading struggles that your child is experiencing may help explain why she chooses not to read. From a child’s perspective, it is less painful to give up than it is to try and fail. These articles may help you and your child work through some of these issues of motivation:


Question:

How can I find a professional who can diagnose a student's learning disability?

Answer:

First, find out from a school administrator exactly what services the school system can offer and when they could provide them. Express your concerns and find out the procedures involved in going through a screening process for your child. If the timeframe or suggestions are unacceptable, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles might be helpful to you:

There are several national organizations that can help families through this process and give local professional referrals. They might also have information about financial assistance for testing. You might want to contact:

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate professionals in your area. You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state for more options.

In addition, you can look in your local phone book for “educational testing” or “psycho-educational testing” for someone in your area. LD OnLine also has a Yellow Pages service that might be helpful. Search by state for organizations, or find a parent advocacy group near you.

Be sure to ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specializations before choosing a provider.A full psycho-educational assessment provides information about the way a student learns and how to best meet that student's needs.


Question:

How common are language-based learning disabilities?

Answer:

According to the International Dyslexia Association, about 13-14% of the students in the United States qualify for special education. Roughly half of these students have a learning disability, or LD. Of those with LD, 85% experience primary deficits in reading and language. Overall, between 15-20% of the general population display symptoms of dyslexia, the most common language-based learning disability.

Fortunately, there is plenty of information on how to address the needs of these children. Strategies and resources to help children with learning disabilities are available on Reading Rockets and our sister site, LD OnLine.


Question:

My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?

Answer:

Although we don't review specific reading programs, the following articles outline the elements that all effective reading instruction contains. From these articles, you can see how your child’s reading program compares:

This next article also lists characteristics of effective reading programs for students with learning disabilities and includes information and worksheets to help determine the quality of a specific reading program:

Also, we recommend a report from the American Federation of Teachers called Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs.

Have a meeting with your child's teachers so that you can share your concerns. Any reading remediation that she receives should be individualized to her specific needs, because no pre-packaged programs are able to address every child’s areas of weakness, strengths, and the instructional methods with which they learn best. You and your child's teachers should work together to ensure that her specific needs are being met. This may require an IEP meeting to develop a new IEP with more skill-specific educational goals and objectives. If you are concerned that the school is not interpreting your child’s IEP correctly, here are some steps to take.

You may also be interested to know about Learning Ally and WordTalk, two programs designed for students with LD, ADHD, or visual impairments. Providing accommodations in the form of read aloud or dictation software can lessen some of the burden experienced by struggling readers.


Question:

My daughter has a learning disability. What strategies can I use to help her through the writing process?

Answer:

The following articles from LD OnLine have information about writing and learning disabilities:

Graphic organizers allow writers to collect their thoughts on paper or screen before starting the writing process. Using these organizers can reduce some of the stress and uncertainty involved in the writing process by providing a core structure that serves as a guideline.

Similarly, assistive technology can be a tremendously useful aid for students with LD. These articles have more information:

Consult with your daughter's teachers and ask for suggestions. They may have classroom strategies that you can adapt for use at home.


Question:

What should I do for my child who has an IEP but still has trouble with handwriting, taking notes, and writing at an appropriate speed?

Answer:

The following articles describe some typical characteristics of students who struggle with the physical act of writing:

If you see some of your child’s struggles described in these articles, you may want to call an IEP meeting to share your concerns. At this time, you and the other members of the IEP team can discuss whether the goals, objectives, accommodations, modifications, and types and level of services your child is receiving are meeting his needs in the area of writing. This would also be a good time to discuss whether your child’s writing challenges are most likely related to the disability label under which he has an IEP or if further evaluation is warranted to get a clearer picture of why writing is such a struggle for him.

Regardless of the cause of your child’s writing difficulties, he may experience greater success, confidence, stamina, and productivity by using a computer, software that aids in the writing process, and other relevant assistive technology. You and the rest of the IEP team should discuss the possibility of incorporating keyboarding skills and technological tools in your child’s IEP as goals, objectives, and accommodations in his everyday academic experience.

The sooner your child’s writing challenges can be systematically addressed, the more likely he will be to reach his true potential in writing.


Question:

How can I help older students improve with reading comprehension?

Answer:

There are a number of approaches to helping students organize their thinking and get the most out of textbooks. Some of the strategies, such as the SQ4R process, are useful in upper elementary, middle, high school, and college levels.

You may find the following articles of interest:

Also, having the students complete simple text summary activities can help you get a better idea of which aspects of comprehension they find difficult. Our sister site, Adlit, has several summary sheets available, as well as an excellent library of comprehension articles.

Finally, the Learning Strategies Database at Muskingum College’s Center for Advancement of Learning (CAL) has a very useful website. It has an extremely comprehensive listing of reading comprehension strategies applicable to both secondary and postsecondary instruction.


Question:

What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are many reading programs available to help struggling readers. Reading programs should address the individual needs of each child. Effective programs target the learning areas needing attention, and also present information in a way that is the most beneficial to the child’s learning preference.

There is no perfect method for teaching reading, and no one method works for everyone. However, there are several research-based programs that can help struggling readers. The following articles highlight some of these programs:

On Reading Rockets, there are several articles that address reading programs and their benefits for young children:


Question:

How do I teach advocacy skills to children with LD?

Answer:

It is critically important to help children understand themselves and develop healthy self-esteem. Some of the information below is written for adults, so be sure to modify it to make it age-appropriate for children.

There are also excellent books available for children. The LD OnLine Kids section features a large selection of good books to help children handle learning and attention issues. For example, you’ll find Survival Guide for Kids with LD by Fisher and Cummings and The Creeps in Room 112 by Bennett, as well as books for much younger students. You can also find excellent articles written by children.


Question:

How do I find a tutor for my child with dyslexia?

Answer:

There are several national organizations that may be able help you through this process and give local professional referrals. For instance, you can contact the International Dyslexia Association, or the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA). In addition, you may wish to contact your local school district to learn of any free tutoring services offered, or a local university that may have a list of teachers who also tutor.

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate tutors and other professionals in your area. You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state for more options.

Also, LD OnLine’s Yellow Pages service and LD Resources section have a great deal of helpful information. Search by state for organizations, or find a parent advocacy group near you.

Lastly, you may be interested in Eye to Eye, a national LD/ADHD movement that pairs students with LD and caring, knowledgeable mentors with similar experiences. The mentorship program provides a fun and safe environment for children to realize their potential as learners.

You may also want to ask the teachers and guidance counselor at your child’s school for suggestions for a tutor, since they will be familiar with his/her specific strengths and weaknesses. Local schools often know of great tutors located in the school’s neighborhood.

Remember to ask potential tutors about their experiences and what they specialize in before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose will be a good match for your child.


Question:

My child has a learning disorder and ADHD. I have heard commercials for tutoring centers. Can you give a recommendation as to which is best?

Answer:

We do not endorse any specific programs, products, or professionals. We do offer a listing of professionals and organizations that provide services to children with learning disabilities:

Also, the following agencies might be able to help you through this process:

Ask potential tutors and consultants about their experiences and what they specialize in before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose will be a good match for you and has experience working with children with issues similar to your child’s areas of need.


Question:

How can I prevent my child with LD from developing low self-esteem?

Answer:

Self-esteem is dramatically impacted by academic struggles. Children’s sense of self-worth is tied to how successful and accepted they feel at school. It is important to nurture your child’s perception of herself as a learner. The following articles address issues of self-esteem:

The support and encouragement you provide your child will give her tremendous comfort. Assure her that she is not alone in her academic struggles – that many other children have difficulty learning in school, and that you are there to support her.


Question:

Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?

Answer:

Even though the English language is complex, dyslexic children CAN learn phonics! They need the support of a sequential, multisensory, structured reading program, and solid reading support at home (including reading together, playing games that isolate sounds or build words, etc.).

The Reading Rockets website focuses entirely on reading and how to help kids who struggle. See, for example, the section on strategies to help kids who struggle. Also check out this page for parents, which gives you tips on what you can do at home.

And here is a link to LD Online's collection of articles on dyslexia.


Question:

If my husband is dyslexic, is there a possibility that my children will be dyslexic too?

Answer:

Dyslexia is a hereditary condition, so if you have a history of dyslexia in your family, it's a good idea to get information now so that you can catch early warning signs in your own children. However, children today do not have to struggle as much with their dyslexia as the generations before them. We have a greater understanding of what it means to be dyslexic and we know which educational interventions are most effective in helping these children learn to read.

The Reading Rockets website is all about reading. Here are some articles on dyslexia that will help you identify signs and find help, so that even if your children are born with dyslexia, they will grow up to be readers!

Also, it is helpful to keep in mind the many overlooked strengths of people with dyslexia. Current research is focused on understanding how to interpret and foster these strengths. You can find out more in this article from the International Dyslexia Association.


Question:

I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are a few universities around the United States which offer graduate specializations in learning disabilities. Although there are not many which offer this as an option now, there likely will be in the future.

Each state has its own criteria for granting teaching credentials to those who wish to work with learning disabled students. The recent passage of the federal law known as "No Child Left Behind" has raised standards for teachers in all fields. Because of this, you should contact your state Department of Education and get a list of their requirements before you begin looking for an appropriate program.

Once you know what courses you must take in order to get the teaching license and endorsement you want, you can start looking for a college that meets your requirements.

The following sites may help you find the right school for your professional needs.


Question:

I found a product online that claims to cure dyslexia. Is it bogus?

Answer:

Dyslexia is a neurological difference in the way language is processed by the brain. It is not a disease that can be cured or a habit that can be broken, but there are effective educational strategies that can be used to help people with dyslexia become successful readers. These strategies take time and effort. There is not a magic, quick or easy solution. Any product or program claiming to "cure" it is misleading.

For more information on dyslexia, check out the following links:


Question:

My child is struggling in school. As a result, she has very low self-esteem. How can I help to build up her confidence?

Answer:

It is common for struggling children to have feelings of low self-esteem. These feelings often accompany learning disabilities, but can also affect people who are not learning disabled. It may be a good idea to see a psychologist who could address these feelings that make learning, and even living, difficult.

LD OnLine has an entire section devoted to self-esteem issues with LD students. The following link provides information about ways to build self-esteem.


Question:

I have a number of students with severe disabilities in my classroom that are performing at a level far below their classmates. Should they be in my class? How can I help them?

Answer:

Students with varying disabilities, representing a wide range of age levels, can be taught very successfully when grouped together, provided the teacher has significant training and assistance. This practice is called inclusion. Since each child's IEP governs his or her schooling, such students need individualized programs but can easily be grouped with others for many lessons. More and more, teachers are expected to meet each child's unique needs regardless of their educational "labels" of special, gifted or general.

Check to see what academic goals exist for each student. Some may need to be with non-handicapped students in order to develop social skills, with limited expectations for academic achievement. Meet with the special educators to determine how you can support these children. Usually, some degree of differentiated instruction (DI) is required.

LD OnLine has sections devoted to Inclusion and Differentiating Instruction. Reading Rockets also has information on Differentiated Instruction:

Also check the following sources:


Question:

My school is getting iPads to work with our students in special education next year. We've had one to "play with" and have used many of the educational applications that our computer center downloaded for us. Are there other specific apps out there that y

Answer:

As more and more schools look towards integrating the iPad and iTouch into their classrooms, the range of educational applications available is growing. For specific apps that may be helpful for students with disabilities, you may want to check out iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps for Special Education, an extensive list compiled by assistive technology specialists and helpfully broken down by category (communication, math, writing, music, art, etc.). For another view of how the iPad might be beneficial for students with disabilities, The iPad: a Near-Miracle for My Son with Autism chronicles one mother's use of assistive technology and educational apps with her autistic son; she has some great suggestions and videos of her son using different apps.

For older children, apps like The Elements are exciting examples of what is possible with the iPad, as students can explore the Periodic Table in an interactive, media-rich and engaging way. Penultimate is a popular note-taking app that students may enjoy; students may also do well with fun games that teach math skills, such as Alien Equation. Apps for astronomy, Star Walk and Solar Walk would also be good choices for older students. BrainPop has just released a free app that delivers a new featured movie every day, teaching students about a wide variety of topics.

There are so many educational apps available, with new ones coming out every day, that it can be hard to keep track of them all. You may want to check out reviews of educational apps from other teachers to help you find those that are worth checking out for your students. I Education Apps Review has a collection of reviews from teachers that can help get you started.


Question:

I recently bought a book that uses an audio pen to read the pages. You point the pen at the text in the book and can hear it read aloud. I'm wondering what kind of technology is involved here and if more of these books are available? Is there special soft

Answer:

The answer to that question depends a bit on what type of reading pen system you are using, as different companies use different technology. Products such as LeapFrog Tag and VTech's Bugsby Reading System use specially-designed books with their reading pens. In order to access more titles, you will need to purchase their books, most of which are targeted towards younger or early readers.

The benefit of books like these is that the text is typically read by a human voice, rather than a computerized voice. Children can also click on different icons within the text to get more information or sound effects while reading. The disadvantage to such products is that they can only be used with a limited number of titles and so may not be a good solution for a student with disabilities who needs to access a wider array of books.

You may also look at the different types of reading pen/scanners available — many of these tools you use like a highlighter, running over printed text and getting instant speech feedback. While most of these pens are not appropriate for reading an entire book, they can serve as a valuable support for difficult words, definitions, and pronunciation.


Question:

Do you think that the Amazon Kindle e-Reader would help a child with visual processing issues? My son is in fourth grade and needs large print books. I'm having difficulty finding grade level appropriate books with larger fonts. Could Kindle be a good sol

Answer:

Amazon's Kindle is a wireless reading device that does allow the user to adjust font size, so it might be appropriate for your son. The Kindle offers variable font size, with the largest font appearing to be about the size of a typical large print book.

The Kindle is also rather expensive, so you may want to do a little research first. If your son needs something larger than a typical large print book, the Kindle's largest font may not be what he needs. Another good place to do some research and ask questions is the Kindle discussion board on Amazon's website. Here you can ask other users about their experiences, talk to other parents who may use the Kindle with their child, or even arrange to see a Kindle in your city so you can try it before you buy. Find other reading hardware and software options in the article, Reading Software: Finding the Right Program.

If your child has a diagnosed print disability, he is eligible to receive texts in alternate formats through his special education program. Discuss this option with the school. Learn more in these articles for parents: Accessible Textbooks: A Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities and Making the Written Word Easier for Readers with Print Disabilities.


Question:

We scan materials for students to use on Kurzweil 3000 at school. Could you recommend an efficient way to scan and email a textbook page home to a student with dyslexia? He has Natural Reader on his home computer, but he does not have Kurzweil.

Answer:

There are several options that might be appropriate for this student or for others in a similar situation. Some scanners come with software enabling the user to scan directly into a PDF document; however, it is more likely that you will have to purchase either Adobe Acrobat or third-party software that will allow you to convert scanned documents into PDF.

Converting the scanned image would enable you to maintain the original layout of the document and still work with Natural Reader since it is capable of reading PDFs as well as MS Word documents. Having the capability to convert documents to PDF could also be beneficial for other students, as the newer versions of Adobe Reader have improved read out loud capabilities. This could be helpful for students who don't have access to a screen reader at home. You could convert any text to a PDF and students could hear it read aloud using the free Reader program.

If purchasing additional software is not a feasible option, you may also try searching for a digital version of the text online. Learning Ally has audio versions of many textbooks, and websites such as BookShare and Project Gutenberg have electronic books freely available for download (BookShare provides books free for users with documented print disabilities).


Question:

When I'm reading, it is helpful for me to both see and hear the word. Where can I find software that can read text to me when I'm online? I need something that can read websites and other text aloud to me.

Answer:

If you are regularly downloading articles or documents to read that are in PDF, you can use the built in screen reader in Adobe Acrobat Reader called Read Out Loud to hear any text in the document read aloud.

If you need assistance with reading MS Word documents, or to have the text of your writing read back to you for editing purposes, one good option might be WordTalk, a free program text-to-speech program for Microsoft Word. You can also use the built-in screen reader/text-to-speech features on your computer.

Both Microsoft and Apple have simple text-to-speech programs built into their operating systems. Microsoft's Narrator is relatively limited in features, and is intended for users with visual impairments. However, some of the features may be helpful for you. Apple's VoiceOver has similar capabilities and can assist users with reading typed text, windows, menus and controls.

If you are mostly concerned with being able to hear text on websites read aloud, you might consider ROKTalk. ROKTalk is a web-based application that allows you to hear any web text read out loud. Because it is web-based, you don't have to install software, which may be useful if you are using different computers (at the library, in the classroom, etc.). ROKTalk is free for a few websites (Google, Wikipedia, the BBC) and charges a monthly fee for unlimited access to any website. Browser-based apps such as Google Chrome's text-to-speech tool, SpeakIt! and Read&Write for Google Docs are also effective tools for online reading. Similarly, Natural Reader has free text-to-speech programs with limited functionality that may be sufficient for your needs. Several options are available from a basic copy for free download, to a more full-featured version for purchase.

If these free tools don't provide you with the level of functionality you need, you can also try searching the TechMatrix to find other text-to-speech products and compare features by selecting the Subject Area of Reading and the Learning Support of Access to multiple formats of text, notation, and symbols.


Question:

Some of our students read very slowly. We are wondering about providing recorded books. We would like to give them access to print as they learn to read. Can you tell us where we can get recorded books? Any advice on how to make the textbooks and other st

Answer:

Fortunately, there are now a number of fairly inexpensive ways to provide struggling readers with access to printed materials by providing text digitally, see An Educator's Guide to Making Textbooks Accessible and Usable for Students with Learning Disabilities. Once you have digital text, you have many options.

Many publishers now offer their textbooks on CD and teachers can easily scan print materials into their computer to create digital versions of texts. One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to provide students with recorded text is use text-to-speech features built into your computer's operating system to read digitized text. These simple programs can read text files aloud for students and are freely available with all Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Although they lack more sophisticated control options and choices for speaking voices, they may be an appropriate solution for helping students read short pieces of text.

Another free option for helping students access text is to download books from a website such as Project Gutenberg or LibriVox. The books available from these sites are in the public domain, so you will not be able to find newer books here. However, they are freely available to all and may be a good solution for providing electronic versions of popular classics (Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, etc.). Files are usually available in HTML, PDF or Text format, which can then be read aloud using any text-to-speech program. The Adobe Reader has a built in Read Out Loud feature which allows the user to have any part of a PDF file read aloud. You could also use this feature with any hard copy text that you scan and save as a PDF.

A third option is to obtain audio books from Learning Ally. Membership is required in order to access audio books and a special player or software is necessary to play the books. Another site, Bookshare, provides digital talking books for students of any age with disabilities. Students with qualifying print disabilities can now access the entire Bookshare collection free of charge. Additionally, audio books can be ordered from websites such as Amazon, Audible, or Barnes & Noble. However, this option will likely be more expensive than the cost of a Learning Ally membership.

The most flexible option (and also the most expensive) would be to purchase software capable of converting text files into audio files. A quick internet search will reveal several downloadable programs for running text to audio conversions. However, for a school purchase, it might make sense to investigate programs that can be used for a variety of reading and writing tasks such as Kurzweil 3000, Proloquo, TextAloud and WYNN. With these tools, you can convert any text file to a sound file; students can then listen to text using an MP3 player, their computer or CD player. Using a scanner, you can easily scan any print material and create recorded text for your students for any book, textbook, handout, or article you use in your teaching.


Question:

My son is going into 11th grade. He has a learning disability with a very "hands on" learning style. However, he cannot write to save his life, take notes, etc. What computer programs do you recommend? What laptops would you recommend?

Answer:

An expanding array of technological devices provides new options for minimizing the writing difficulties experienced by students with learning disabilities. Programs and devices, such as talking word processors, word prediction programs, child-friendly voice recognition, and portable note-taking devices may assist your son with his writing.

Tech Tools for Students with Learning Disabilities: Infusion into Inclusive Classrooms will provide you with detailed information on each of these options.

Using Assistive Technology to Support Writing is another valuable resource that can assist you in selecting the best technologies to meet the needs of your son and may be worth sharing with his teachers to ensure that he has the support he needs in the classroom.

In October, check out the Tech Matrix, which will launch a new free online resource on writing products, reviewed for accessibility and instructional features. Related research on the use of technology for students with special needs will also be included with this tool to inform your decision on the best programs to provide support to meet your son's needs.


Question:

I work in a public library and want to be sure that our resources are accessible to all our patrons, including those with disabilities. What resources should we make available and where can we find additional information about making libraries accessible

Answer:

Many public libraries have grappled with the same issues, so looking at how other librarians have worked to make their libraries accessible is a good start. Many libraries provide their patrons with online resource lists (on accessible websites), in addition to offering a wide variety of accessibility options within the library building. It may be helpful to get in touch with other librarians, either online or in person to ask how they met their patrons' accessibility needs. The American Library Association has a number of excellent resources available to assist librarians in thinking about and respecting the needs of their patrons with disabilities. The ALA also has several options for connecting with other librarians, from online forums to an island in Second Life.

Some accessibility options for your patrons may include providing helpful links on your library website, pointing users to both local and national disability groups. Within the library, it is important to make sure that media is accessible — books on tape, audio books, captioned videos, descriptive videos, magnifiers and large print books can all help ensure that a variety of media is accessible to many of your patrons. Many librarians also provide patrons with assistive software and hardware where needed. This may include reading and writing software, software capable of reading text aloud (text-to-speech), software that can enlarge text on the screen or Braille embossers for blind patrons. Check out the Montgomery County Public Library website for a good example of the types of tools you might offer. For further ideas, check out the ALA's disability-specific Tip Sheets on Learning Disabilities, Children with Disabilities, Autism & Spectrum Disorders, and many others.

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." — Garrison Keillor