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The Lows and Highs of Assistive Technology


By Tracy Criswell

Many parents hear the word assistive technology and automatically think that it will be expensive. This is not the case though. According to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. There are two types of assistive technology: low tech assistive technology and high tech assistive technology. For this article, I will be focusing mostly on low tech assistive technology, but will briefly address high tech assistive technology.


Low Tech Assistive Technology Explained
Low tech assistive technology, according to Tools for Life, are devices or equipment that do not require much training, less expensive, and does not have complex features. For many homeschooling families, low tech assistive technology is an inexpensive item that can be used to help educate their children with a variety of needs. I have personally used low tech assistive technology with my three youngest children with ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety. In reality, you may be already using a different type of low tech assistive technology without knowing it.


Examples of Low Tech Assistive Technology
You might be wondering, what are some examples of low tech assistive technology. Things as simple as using a dry erase board and marker for the student to write their answers to a math problem or an exercise ball to bounce on while reading or completing other homeschool tasks to help your child focus are both considered examples of low tech assistive technology. The great thing about low tech assistive technology is that the item does not cost a lot of money. As a homeschooling mother of four, every penny counts.

Here are more examples of low tech assistive technology that can be used while homeschooling your child:

  • Large font worksheets
  • Audiobooks
  • Use of a binder as a slant board (to elevate the paper so it is at a better level for the child to see)
  • Rubber stamps with letters and/or child’s first and last name and inkpad (to use for spelling, etc.)
  • Refrigerator magnetic letters to use for spelling words
  • Stress balls for children with anxiety and/or needing sensory input
  • Sandpaper to place under writing paper to receive sensory input while writing (and also very helpful for children that place too much pressure on their pencils while writing)
  • Pencil grips
  • Raised lined paper or highlighted paper
  • Graphic organizers,
  • Reading guide highlighter strips
  • Highlighter tape to assist with note taking
  • Colored transparencies to use for reading
  • Sentence strips (you can make your own or purchase them)
  • Grid paper for math (assists children with making sure their numbers are in neat rows while doing math)
  • Kitchen timer
  • A visual schedule
  • Velcro that can be used for folder activities or visual schedules
There are many more examples of low tech assistive technology items, but these are items that I have used either with my own children or students that I have tutored.


High Tech Assistive Technology
In addition to low tech assistive technology devices, there is high tech assistive technology. High tech assistive technology devices, according to Tools for Life, are the most complex devices or equipment, that have digital or electronic components that will possibly require training and effort to learn how to use them as well as cost the most money. This type of assistive technology is normally used to help with communication, mobility (getting from place to place), reading, safety, etc.

The following are some examples of high tech assistive technology:

  • Electronic augmentative communication devices (technology that is used for children that are nonverbal to communicate with others)
  • Hearing aids
  • Electric wheelchair
  • Computer
  • Various computer programs (text to speech, voice recognition, word prediction, etc.)
  • Electronic home alarms (provide a different way to let those with hearing or visual impairments know when there is a fire, someone at the front door, someone calling)
  • iPad


More About Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can be very helpful when we homeschool children with special needs. Low tech assistive technology is very affordable and can be used in a variety of ways. This is a huge plus when it comes to homeschooling. It is also important to note that there are ways to obtain high tech assistive technology.

In some states, if your child is a dual-enrolled homeschool student with special needs, the school can provide the high tech assistive technology. Other options to obtain this type of assistive technology is to check with your insurance, check with Medicare (if your child is on Medicare), contact the assistive technology manufacturer, etc. It is wonderful as a homeschooling parent of a child with special needs to have so many options. Every day, it seems, there are new forms of assistive technology being used and developed. 



Also, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Assistive Technology and Ed Tech Pinterest boards to discover more ways you can implement both low and high tech assistive technology in your homeschool.



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