I’ve always tried to live by the motto “When you know better do better”. In my parenting and my teaching this motto has held true to help me improve in all aspects of life. Being a dyslexic learner mom to a dyslexic student and teacher, I know that up to 25 percent of our students have dyslexia. I am hopeful to see the ways that technology can be used to better our students' learning. I will be highlighting many of the same ways technology can help students with learning differences but, with a spin to help our specific neurodivergent learners.
Who are Neurodivergent Learners?
Neurodivergent learners can include anyone who is ADHD, on the Autistic Spectrum, specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia. Students with these learning differences often need support and scaffolding from their teachers and parents to help them. The support can come in a variety of ways. From having to use distance learning over the last 3 school years we’ve learned so many more ways to help students of all learning abilities. It’s such a gift of inclusivity to provide these many ways and include as many students as possible in learning together.
The biggest subject matter of all, reading is both a joy and can be one of the biggest struggles for our neurodivergent students. Reading is a foundational skill for students to build their knowledge upon. Knowing how to read greatly influences the trajectory of a student's life. To help with a neurodivergent learner’s reading there are three major ways that an educator and or parent can help them integrate technology.
· Text to Speech - Allowing students to use the text to speech device gives them the opportunity to focus on pure content. This is a wonderful application that allows students to focus on the content being presented rather than decoding the text. This gives students the opportunity a break from decoding and take in the information being presented.
· Appearance of Text - Oftentimes neurodivergent learners have difficulty with specific text fonts. Giving the students the ability to change or manipulate the text can help them clear up a page that appears disorganized to them, saving them from spending time working through the text and instead allowing them to focus on the meaning.
· Scan Text with Optical Character Recognition - Using this specific technology is more for our older students. Students can use a smartphone or a tablet with a scan text optical character recognition application to help them read and interpret different types of text. Using an OCR is a really cool and innovative way that allows students to use technology to help them work beyond the distractibility of text layout, font size or type and any decoding problems that could be a hindrance.
My hope is that from researching the following resources that teachers, parents and students become more aware of the amazing resources available to help students become confident and able to share their thoughts and ideas. In sharing the amazing resources I hope that companies and creators continue to look for ways to help learners of all types of thinking become successful.
Jessica Stallings MA Ed. is a veteran teacher and tech writer. She is a National Board Certified Educator who values teaching the whole child and enjoys working with learners of all ages. Her favorite thing as an educator is to watch how technology motivates all different types of learners of varying ability levels. She hopes to empower learners and families to use technology to help connect them to and learn more about the beautiful world we live in. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she loves to spend time on the North Carolina Coast with her family and dog, Fletcher.