As homeschooling moms, we sometimes overlook the simple solutions when trying to find the perfect curriculum, tutor, or program to help our struggling child academically succeed. The fix is not always complex or expensive. Sometimes, simple low tech solutions can achieve high end results that will surprise you.

          When considering assistive technology, we generally think of devices, equipment, and objects that give people with disabilities the ability to accomplish the same tasks as their peers. We expect that the technology will  minimize their struggles. This assistance can come in the form of high tech and low tech. High tech refers to expensive things such as computers, ipads, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Low tech may be objects or tools that usually don’t need electricity or the internet. Most often they are free, inexpensive, or even homemade. Students with learning disabilities can benefit greatly from simple innovations that help to level the playing field in academics, thus minimizing frustration and failure.
         Teaching my first son to write was such a challenge because he was both left handed and dyslexic! After having him practice his letters and numbers in a variety of textures (sand, pudding, rice trays), we gradually moved to paper and pencil. This was so difficult for him so I incorporated a homemade slant board to lend arm support, while adding rubber pencil grips and lined paper with raised dots. The board and grips gave him more hand control, and the special paper guided his writing so it was easier to stay on the correct line. Fat pencils, triangular pencils, colored pencils, and pencil braces may also be helpful. Of course, trial and error is often the best way to find the tools that will benefit your kids the most. Students may also find it useful to use weighted pencils, created by attaching a heavy object with rubber bands. This can facilitate a more steady writing flow.
         There are many choices for low tech assistance in mathematics too. If a student is dealing with a learning disability in math, he or she will need as much kinesthetic and visual support as possible, along with extensive repetition to grasp and retain each new principle. An abacus, timeline, or number chart will help with increasing speed in learning basic math processes such as addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. Linking Cubes, Colored Counters, Base Ten blocks, Pattern Blocks, Clocks and Geoboards are strong supports for teaching many mathematical concepts and can be very effective in demonstrating lessons. Obviously, a calculator is an indispensable low tech solution for students who may never be able to master memorization of math facts.
         When teaching students with reading disabilities or struggling readers, there is nothing more wonderful than talk-to-text and audio books. However, though not evidenced based, colored overlays, colored rulers, and highlighters seemed to extend attention span, help students keep their place in reading, and strengthen comprehension skills when using color in all three forms. Sarah, one of my former college students, testified to our class of the success she had experienced in learning to read and comprehend as a child. Her reading tutor recommended these low tech tools and she used them throughout her academic career, including in college. When Sarah would attend my lectures, she always had an array of highlighters lying in front of her along with her pens and colored pencils. Her notes were more eclectic than most of her classmates. As a future teacher, Sarah was sold on the effectiveness of low tech solutions.
         I encourage you to be sensitive to the special learning needs of your child and get creative in finding solutions to facilitate their academic success. The following links will help you get started in your research for ideas., Autism Adventures, Reading Rockets

Dr. Trudy Abel, the Special Needs Program Director for the Homeschool C.A.R.E. Foundation and consultant to the HLA Special Needs Counselors, provides information and resources on specific disabilities and learning disorders on the HLA and HCF websites.