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Daniel writes: “Your advice about touch typing for all children with learning disabilities is not appropriate.”

 
“Whether touch typing is useful or not for a specific student with a specific disability depends on the nature of the disability. Other assistive technology, such as voice input, may be much more useful in some cases, such as severe dyslexia, where touch typing will not help because of a severe spelling problem. In my daughter's case, this made the difference between being a successful honor college student who writes fluently on complex topics and being relegated to high school "learning center" classes.” 

Wrightslaw Answers
 
You make valid points. Allow us to clarify our position on technology. We agree that every child with a disability cannot learn to touch type - some children have disabilities that affect coordination and fine motor control – they may need to use different kinds of technology. But most kids with disabilities can learn to touch type - and we believe it’s important for these kids to master this skill.
Here is Pete’s commentary about “Assistive Technology” from our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law
COMMENT: Assistive Technology (A.T.) Increases Independence
“Technology allows people with disabilities to be more independent. Children who cannot write are using dictation software to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Smart machines read text to visually impaired children. Children who cannot speak are using computerized speaking machines. Congress intends disabled children to use technology devices and services to increase, maintain, and improve their ability to function independently in school and out of school.” (WRIGHTSLAW, page 25) 
We had several objectives in writing "Seven Steps to Effective Parent Advocacy." 

First, we wanted to encourage parents and professionals to think about intelligent, creative uses of technology  - this is one key to providing a better education for kids with disabilities. Second, we wanted to help parents understand that THEY can help their children learn important skills - they don't have to rely on the school to teach everything. Helping a child learn to touch type is a good example of this. 
 

In your letter, you mention voice technology. As you see from Pete’s commentary, we agree that voice recognition technology can be very useful. Like your daughter, one of our clients is severely dyslexic - the remediation he had was too little, too late. And he has spelling problems too. This young man is now in college and uses voice dictation software for his assignments.
I don't know if you are aware of Pete's history. When he was seven, he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, dysgraphia, "minimal brain damage" (an earlier term for ADHD), and other problems. The school people informed his parents that he was ‘borderline mentally retarded’ so his parents should lower their expectations - he was not college material. 

Pete's mother didn't accept their advice but conducted an investigation into treatments for dyslexia and dysgraphia. As a result, Pete had intensive Orton-Gillingham remediation every day for two years and also attended a residential summer program. 
 

NOTE: Pete wrote an article, “Three Generations at the Supreme Court,” that was published in “Perspectives.” You can read his article at:  http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/orton.html

 
Because Pete had intensive, appropriate, early remediation, problems due to poor reading were not a problem by fourth or fifth grade. But he did have problems with written language – his spelling was okay but he had trouble putting his thoughts into words and writing them down.
 
These problems decreased after he learned to touch type. Because he types 60+ words a minute, he can type nearly as fast as he thinks.
 
When Pete's sons turned 11, they had to learn to touch type. When each child could type 30 wpm with a few errors, they could stop. (This was before Windows software so they used books and a DOS program.) Because the program was boring, they buckled down and finished it in a few weeks. Learning how to touch type helped both boys in school.

Legal Definitions of “Assistive Technology”

The term “Assistive technology” includes "devices" and "services." 
 

20 U.S.C. Section 1401 – Definitions 
(1) Assistive technology device – The term ‘assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. (WRIGHTSLAW, page 24) 

(2) Assistive technology service – The term ‘assistive technology service’ means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an Assistive technology device. Such term includes – (list of services follows) 

 
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY: INFORMATION & RESOURCES 

 * LD ONLINE *
 
To learn more about Assistive technology, visit the “In Depth Section” of LD Online: 

Here are three articles about Assistive technology (AT) from LD Online: 
 
1. “Tools for Living with Learning Disabilities” (published by the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities) provides a good overview of tools that help people work around their disabilities. Tools can be simple or complex. Simple tools include highlighters, tape recorders, and calculators. Complex (or high tech) tools include voice recognition software, talking calculators, and software to help users spell words correctly.http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/technology/ccld_assistive_technology.html

2. “Considering Your Child’s Need for Assistive Technology” includes these topics: 
* Legal requirements about Assistive technology, 

* How to use technology for students with different disabilities, 

* How to include technology in the child’s IEP, 

* How to prepare for IEP meetings, 

* Assistive technology evaluation guide, 

* Issues related to statewide assessments, 

* How to use technology at home 
 

 3. “Technology: Some Common Questions Answered” (by John Copenhaven in “Counterpoint,” a newsletter published by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education) 

This article, originally written for special education administrators, is a series of “frequently asked questions and answers” about technology. In a dispute about the school district’s obligation to provide technology services and /or devices, parents and advocates may be able to use information from this article to support their position. You can get a copy of this article at: 
 


 * LD RESOURCES * 
 
LD Resources is an excellent source of information about technology and “low tech” and “high tech” tools. The LD Resources site is the brainchild of Richard Wanderman, a popular speaker at conferences around the country. Visit the LD Resources site – you may want to subscribe to the LD Reader, his free online newsletter. 
http://www.ldresources.com
 

NEWS - A. T. CONFERENCE IN COLORADO

Achieving New Heights with Assistive Technology Conference 
November 9 - 11, 2000 
Denver Holiday Inn, Southeast 
Aurora, Colorado 
Colorado Assistive Technology Project 
303-864-5100 

http://www.uchsc.edu/catp

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