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HSLDA Homeschooling a Struggling Learner

March 13, 2013

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Low-Tech and Low-Cost Assistive Technology You Can Make at Home

By Sharon Ritenour
Guest Writer

Does your child need a little something extra to help him learn and understand the material you are presenting? Are you looking for some easy, low-cost ideas for things to make learning easier for your child? You might be looking for some low-tech assistive technology ideas.

About the Author

Sharon Ritenour has a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Shenandoah University and a master’s degree in special education and a graduate certificate in assistive technology from George Mason University. She taught students with multiple and severe disabilities in a public school setting for seven years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband live in Virginia with two beautiful children and are looking forward to homeschooling them when they are school-aged.

What is Assistive Technology?

According to ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association), assistive technology is, “any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (ATIA, 2014). What does this mean for us?

Basically, for education, assistive technology can be anything that helps a child learn. The goal of assistive technology is to help someone be as independent as possible. For in-depth information about assistive technology, read more at ATIA’s website or try this blog article geared towards parents.

There are many things you can do at home using low-tech assistive technology to help your child learn. The following are some ideas I used in my classroom to help my students.

Dycem for Nonslip

When things slide around on desks or tables, it can be really frustrating. A little piece of Dycem underneath can really help keep items stable. Dycem is a high quality nonslip material that is reusable, too! It can be purchased online. Dycem is a little pricey, so another alternative is non-adhesive shelf paper that is not smooth on the top to facilitate gripping.

Three-ring Binder as Slant Board with Binder Clips

Some students might benefit from a slant board for writing or reading. You can purchase pre-made fiberglass slant boards with attached clips, but an easy alternative is to buy a three-ring binder and some binder clips. The larger the binder, the more slant there will be. If your child benefits from more slant, make sure to get a binder made of sturdy material. To keep papers from slipping, use binder clips.

Binder clips come in fun designs, too, so you can personalize for your child! To keep the binder from sliding around, see the above information on nonslip ideas.

Three-ring Binder for Flash Cards or Communication

Three-ring binders can also be used for flash cards or communication books by filling them with baseball card holder sheets. There are typically nine slots in a sheet, so you can have nine items on a page or you can just use the four corners to keep the items visually separate. If you don’t want to be limited to the size of a baseball card, you can use manila binder dividers. Just put Velcro on the back of the items and the matching Velcro on the manila binder divider. This will allow you to create a full sheet, two choices, three choices, etc.

Velcro with Three-ring Binder for Object Manipulation

If you place a strip of Velcro across the cover of a three-ring binder and use the matching Velcro on the bottom of objects, you can use objects to facilitate instruction. I have used this method to illustrate math problems for students who make choices using objects so they can grab what they want and hand it to me, to add manipulatives to songs like “Three Frogs on a Log,” etc.

A word about Velcro: I recommend using the rough side on the binder and the soft side on the objects or pictures/photos so that the child is touching the soft side more.

Page Fluffers

If your child has trouble turning pages, a great way to allow her to be more independent is to add page fluffers. For younger children, foam stickers stuck to the top corner of the page is a great way to add separation between pages. If they need something to hold onto to turn the page, you can attach something like a popsicle stick. For older children, you can buy adhesive page tabs. This site lists some alternatives that I have not tried, like hot glue dots on boardbooks and pom-poms on paperclips for a removable option.

Large Grips

If your child would benefit from something larger to hold when using utensils or pencils, a great way to make a grip is to use the foam part of old hair rollers. I have also seen a pencil pushed through a tennis ball for a grip. Another option is to wrap the item in Dycem or yarn to make a larger gripping area.

Some of these ideas may have inspired your own thoughts on how to make learning easier for your child. If you want more ideas, here are some great websites for low-tech assistive technology items you can make at home:

Enjoy the process!

Sharon

References:

Assistive Technology Industry Association. (2014). What is assistive technology? How is it funded? Retrieved January 19, 2014 from http://www.atia.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3859

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