How can students with learning disabilities benefit from computer use?

DO-IT Factsheet #69
http://www.washington.edu/doit/Conf/articles?69

Educational software where the computer provides multisensory experiences, interaction, positive reinforcement, individualized instruction, and repetition can be useful in skill building. Some students with learning disabilities who have difficulty processing written information can also benefit from completing writing assignments, tutorial lessons, and drill-and-practice work with the aid of computers. For example, a standard word processor can be a valuable tool for individuals with Dysgraphia, an inability to produce handwriting reliably.

Input

Quiet work areas and ear protectors may make computer input easier for individuals with learning disabilities who are hypersensitive to background noise.

Software that aids in efficient and accurate input can also assist. Some people can compensate for high rates of input errors by using spelling checkers, thesauruses, and grammar checkers. In addition, word prediction programs (software that predicts whole words from fragments) have been used successfully by students with learning disabilities. Similarly, macro software that expands abbreviations can reduce the need to memorize keyboard commands and can ease the entry of commonly used text.

Output

Some individuals with learning disabilities find adaptive devices designed for those with visual impairments useful. In particular, large-print displays, alternative colors on the computer screen, and voice output can compensate for some reading problems. People who have difficulty interpreting visual material can improve comprehension and the ability to identify and correct errors when words are spoken or printed in large fonts.

[A computer speaker used for speech output.] Select the image to the right to view a captioned video clip, in Real Player format, of an individual whose reading is enhanced by speech output from the computer.

Documentation

Some individuals with learning disabilities find it difficult to read. Computer documentation provided in electronic forms can be used with enlarged-character and voice synthesis devices to make it accessible to those with reading difficulties.

For more information consult Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer Technology, Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities, and Technology and Universal Design.