Tag: Education

Assistive Technology for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?

How many types are there?Boy leaning on a stack of books

What are challenges people with ADHD may have?

What can families and teachers do to help a child with ADHD?

In ADHD, children have a hard time making and keeping friends. They also may not do well in school. Some children with ADHD have low self-esteem. ADHD affects millions of kids around the world. Adults have it too. Treatment can help people with ADHD feel better. But, it does not cure ADHD. Treatment is either medicine, behavioral interventions, or both. It happens more in boys than in girls.

There are three main types of ADHD (according to the Mayo Clinic).

  1. Hyperactive (Over-active). This happens more in boys.
  • Talking too much.
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn.
  • Difficulty staying seated in the classroom.
  1. This happens more in girls.
  • Short attention span.
  • Difficulty staying on task.
  • Making careless mistakes.
  • Difficulty staying focused.
  • Appearing not to listen, even when spoken to directly.
  • Difficulty with organizing tasks.
  • Easily distracted.
  1. (both overactive and inattentive). This is the most common type in the United States.

Other challenges in children with ADHD

  1. Learning disabilities.
  2. Understanding difficulty.
  3. More car accidents and injuries.
  4. More poisoning and choking.

 What can teachers do to help CHILDREN with ADHD?

 Teachers can help children with ADHD to stay focused by putting them in a quiet space. By doing this, there are fewer noises and other distractions.  Also, white noise helps kids concentrate and pay better attention while learning.

Other helpful ways to help kids focus is to use a timer. There are different kinds, such as kitchen timers and dual timers. They help kids with ADHD manage time wisely. They help improve concentration. Some people prefer kitchen timers or timer apps. Many therapists think a timer app works for only a short time before a kid with ADHD tunes it out. (See Timer Visual Productivity / Android version.)

Routines and rules in the classroom can make a big difference.

Audiobooks, talking books and text to speech (TTS) will enable kids with ADHD to listen carefully to text. TTS helps kids with ADHD understand what they are reading. It also helps them recognize words.teacher helping student

Children and adults with ADHD can use a smart-pen, such as LIVESCRIBE, to take notes in class and record the classroom. After school, people with ADHD can read notes they took and listen to a recording at the same time. (See the YouTube video, “5 Students Share smartpen Lecture Techniques”.)

Other useful resources for people with ADHD:

Explore Simple Math, Basic Math, and more!

Three Components of Successful Programs for Children With ADHD.

Life after School

I can remember when I was about to finish high school. It was an exciting and scary time. road sign reads change aheadMany people asked, “What will you do next?” Ask this question to someone with a range of challenges, and I bet you get the same answers. Answers like going to college, getting a job, or getting into a trade, to name a few. The planning that goes into making these answers happen can be much different though. Many factors play into the success of the person. Factors such as support services needed, access, funding, advocacy, etc.

What is Transition Planning?

The above planning process is known as “Transition”.  It is planning and development of a person’s future. During the time of transition, we predict what kind of support the person will need. We think about where the person will live. We look into what kind of job the person could have. What services are out there to address the person’s needs? What supports does the person qualify for, and is there funding? I can tell you in many cases the supports decrease as the person moves to adult services. This makes it even more difficult to plan for a quality life. In my job, I hear from families often that feel they were not prepared. They did not know enough about their options to be able to help make the best transition decisions for their loved one. I get a lot of “why wasn’t I told about this support option?” “That’s not how that service was explained to me.” “I wish I knew about this sooner.”

What are the gaps?

At age 22 or at time of graduation, a school is no longer responsible for a student. The student is now an “adult”. During the time leading up to “adulthood,” the school system plays a big role in getting the student ready for life after school. How do you know what to prepare the student for without knowing what life will look like after school? Will he/she go to college? Live in a group home or in the community? Will he/she go right to work? What are the support options in adult services? Will people qualify for the type of supports needed to achieve their goals? The transition process does address these questions. Still, “usual” support service models are not a one size fits all. Sadly, trying to be creative in your planning is not always possible for many reasons.

One other major gap is the relationship between the school system and the adult service system. Those working with families to explore adult service options may not be well-enough informed. Let us also not forget all the services that may go away for the student in “adulthood”. Where is the link between children and adult services? When finally meeting transition coordinators, they are also working with too many other families. Through no fault of their own, they have extremely high caseloads. Therefore, the amount of time spent on planning your child’s adult life is hardly enough. It is as if you are given a menu of services and you’re told to pick one. Well, what if none of these menu items meet my child’s vision? Without a doubt, a stronger team approach is crucial.

Transition Tips

What are some tips to plan for transition? In my opinion, it’s key to start early. Reach out to Family Support Centers. Look into provider agencies. Ask questions about the services they offer. Visit them in person. Learn about the “Self Directed Service” option. Know what “Self Determination” means. Do not take “No” for an answer. For more information, check out the resources listed below.


AAC Implementation in Mainstream Environments

It is estimated that there are nearly 165,000 students receiving special education services in the state of Massachusetts (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2012), with approximately 9,854 being essentially nonverbal, and in need of some form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC; Hall, 2013). Many of these individuals are supported in mainstream and inclusive educational settings. However, there are “many obstacles that can hinder a successful inclusion experience…[and] attitudinal barriers can be some of the most challenging and are often rooted in a general education teacher’s lack of confidence in his/her instructional skills when presented with students who have disabilities” (Kramlick, 2012, p. 106).

For students with complex communication needs requiring AAC, it is essential that he has access to his device throughout his school day. In addition it is critical that the student is encouraged to, and supported in his use of his device for a range of academically related, as well as social activities. Successful inclusion of an individual using AAC within a general education environment is contingent upon consistent collaboration among multiple team members (Kent-Walsh, 2003; Kramlich, 2012); and although it may be overwhelming to think of how to adapt the general education curriculum to support individuals using AAC, there are a number strategies that can be implemented.

a student uses his AAC device hooked up to a standard laptop
Figure 1: Third grade general education student uses his AAC device hooked up to a standard laptop to complete the MCAS

AAC implementation is a team effort. General education teachers should be supported by related service personnel from multiple disciplines depending on the nature of the student’s needs. Each team member’s goals (although specific to their specialty) should support and reinforce what is being done in class. For example, the AAC consultant can help ensure that necessary vocabulary is programmed into the AAC system, the student can locate the vocabulary, or knows how to use word prediction to type the relevant words. The speech pathologist can support learning new vocabulary, or embedding target vocabulary in complete sentences. The occupational therapist can work on writing or typing target words, or cutting out pictures of specific vocabulary. The physical therapist could work on having the student reach, range or ambulate to place pictures of target words in different locations, simultaneously supporting generalization of vocabulary learning while addressing gross motor goals.

a student using his AAC system
Figure 2: The same third grade student participates in a group reading activity in his general education classroom using his AAC system

In addition to this shared, collaborative teaming, there are simple strategies that can be used within the classroom. For starters, make sure all team members (including a student’s 1:1 support) are trained in the student’s device and that they receive regular consultation from an AAC specialist or other professional well versed in the student’s device. Offer a class training or discussion about the student’s device to help demystify it, and to show classmates that AAC is just another form of communication and how impressive it is that the student can use an AAC system as well as he does. Let the student using AAC lead a discussion, read a page of a book, or tell peers what is next on the schedule. Using AAC takes time so slow down the pace of a morning meeting or group activity to let the student comment on the weather, tell a joke, share an answer, label a color, or tell a friend it is her turn. Connect the student’s device to a computer so he can type letters, words, and phrases in a word processing document. Have the student use his device to do math problems or count. Most devices have phonics pages, so help the student explore different letter sounds, rhymes, or word endings. Most importantly, always have the AAC system available and use it with the student. The more the device is accepted and modeled as an effective communication tool, the more the student will use it. It is our attitude and willingness to involve AAC that will help ensure successful AAC implementation within general education environments.


Hall, N. (2013). An Investigation of the Efficacy of Direct and Indirect AAC Service Provision via Telepractice. Open Access Dissertations. Paper 743.

Kent-Walsh, J. E. & Light, J. (2003). General education teachers’ experiences with inclusion of students who use augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19(2), 104-124).

Kramlich, C. (2012).Perspectives from general education teachers, students and their parents: Including students with robust communication devices in general education classrooms. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 21, 105-114.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2012). Selected Populations (2011-12).