100 Useful Tools for Special Needs Students & Educators

With all of the new trends and tools in education technology, there’s no reason for special needs students and their teachers and parents to be left behind. This list of 100 useful tools can help anyone with a learning disability like ADHD, dyslexia or test anxiety, as well as students with visual or hearing impairments, use the Internet and other technology systems to help them with reading, math, organization, social skills, and more.

Evaluation Tools

Teachers, school psychologists and doctors will help you test your child for a learning disability, but in the meantime, you can use these guides and tools to check symptoms and learn more about the testing process.

  1. Learning Disability Screening Quiz: About.com’s quiz is mostly for testing elementary school kids.
  2. Assessing Your Child’s Learning Difficulty/Learning Disability: This guide helps you assess symptoms of ADD, ADHD, dyslexia and ASD.
  3. Inclusion of Students with Special Needs: Standards and Assessment: This guide has lots of tools and resources for understanding the assessment process and certain symptoms.
  4. Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligence: This quiz helps students find out their preferred learning style.
  5. Early Identification: LK OnLine’s Early Identification page features resources, videos, recommended books and a FAQ section to help parents and teachers identify LD signs early.
  6. Rating Scales and Checklists: Learn about this form of assessment for ADD and ADHD.
  7. Top 8 Tips to Recognize Early Signs of Learning Disabilities: Ann Logsdon’s guide points out 8 signs and lots of sub-symptoms when evaluating special needs kids.
  8. Late Blooming or Language Problem?: This guide from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association helps parents identify speech and communication conditions early on.
  9. Dyslexia Screening Test: Parents and teachers can use this screening to test a child for dyslexia.
  10. All About Autism Symptoms Video: This video from the National Autism Association outlines the principal symptoms of autism.

Reading and Writing

From innovative dictionaries to lesson plans for dyslexic students to grammar and spellcheck help, these reading and writing tools are must-haves for special needs students.

  1. Multisensory Phonics: Learn about and purchase this system of phonics and literacy tools for children with dyslexia, Aspergers, austism and other learning differences.
  2. CleverKeys: This free software program immediately connects to dictionaries, thesauruses and Reference.com through word processors and web browsers.
  3. RFB&D: Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic has tools, lesson plans and guides for reading-challenged students.
  4. CAST: Access classic literature in a flexible online format plus free tutoring tools and other add-ons to help those who face reading challenges.
  5. Co-Writer: This tool isn’t free, but its writing, spelling and grammar-help features help students as they go.
  6. Bookshare: This "books without barriers" project provides books and periodicals to readers with sight or reading disabilities. It includes over 50,000 digital books and textbooks.
  7. LibriVox: Find free audiobooks in mp3 or ogg file format.
  8. Articulate Spelling 1.22: A cute cartoon character helps kids spell and sound out words.
  9. Textic Talklets 1.90: Websites become more interactive with this unique approach to text-to-speech technology. Audio clips can even be saved to mp3s and to iPods.
  10. WordLogic: This tool helps dyslexic students use a keyboard, develop their writing style and more.
  11. PixWriter v3.0: Young learners will associate words with pictures to help them with sentence construction and reading comprehension.
  12. Text-Reader: Tools in this kit include a free Drill dictionary and text reader.
  13. Aurora: Aurora features a talking spellchecker, phonetic word completion tool, homonym help, and word prediction tool are great for dyslexic students.
  14. Ghotit: Ghotit’s writing assistant has a context spellchecker, word dictionary, and text-to-speech tool.
  15. AnswerTips: Double click a word to get an information bubble with that word’s definition with AnswerTips.

Math Tools

Get help with math problems by working with these interactive, engaging tools.

  1. Webmath: With just a few clicks, students can get answers and step-by-step study help for math problems.
  2. Internet Lessons in Mathematics: The University of Washington has developed this helpful interactive math site for learning geometry and more.
  3. Visually Impaired Calculator: This big-print calculator is web-based and easy to use.
  4. Math Card Games for Special Education Learners: Here you’ll find math card games and activities that help special education learners practice their skills.
  5. Math Made Easy: Math Made Easy features tools and lessons for students who struggle with math.
  6. Math Games: These interactive math games use tangrams, spatial learning techniques, and more to provide a multisensory and interactive environment.
  7. TouchMath: TouchMath uses multisensory, interactive systems to help young students learn math.
  8. MathTrax: NASA’s graphing and mathematics learning tool accommodates blind and low vision users, too.
  9. Education World Math Center: Find creative learning techniques and lessons like math raps, the Mathnasium and other tools for alternative math education.

Communication and Social

Not all of these tools are specifically intended for special needs students, but they can be very useful for teens and older students who need help with organization, mind mapping, meeting new people and working on their social skills.

  1. Emacspeak: This speech interface for blind and low vision users supports web messaging.
  2. Amiglia: Help students make connections and learn about their family history with this site, which includes albums, a family Facebook, calendars, games and more.
  3. Google latitude: Teens with learning and social disorders may want to use this tool, which allows friends and family to track the teen’s location through their phone.
  4. GoodReads: This online book club can help students stay on top of their reading and learn how to discuss and analyze books.
  5. LivingSocial: This social cataloging site can help special needs students work on organization skills while meeting new people, branching out of their comfort zone, and exploring their own interests.
  6. 43Things: Help your student feel better and more focused about setting goals by introducing them to this site.

Organization

These tools are great for students who have trouble remembering, focusing and staying on task.

  1. ListPool: Students can easily create to-do lists that they can share with tutors, teachers and parents here.
  2. Todoist: Todoist is another straightforward task manager that works along with an online calendar.
  3. MyStickies: Students can immediately jot down ideas on websites using MyStickies.
  4. Notefish: Notefish is a web tool that lets you manage projects while you research online. Special needs kids will like being able to drag and drop images, color pages and annotate notes right from their browser without having to wait until later.
  5. Diigo: Diigo is another tool that lets students highlight, bookmark, add sticky notes to and basically customize websites so that they’re easier to read, manage and share.
  6. Nutshell: Students can work off their to-do list as they work online with Nutshell.
  7. Remember the Milk: Help students stay focused on homework assignments and everyday chores with this to-do list, which can send you reminders via IM, text or e-mail.
  8. MyProgress.com: Students will like this easy goal tracker that allows them to see how much progress they’ve made.
  9. ChoreBuster: Teachers and parents of special needs kids can depend on this chore organizer to keep their home or classroom on track.

Study Skills and Test Prep

These study tools and concept mapping tools can help your special needs students more organized, focused and driven.

  1. Mindomo: A mind mapping system like this clearly lays out concepts and facts for visual learners.
  2. FreeMind: This free and open source mind mapping tool can work as a customizable study guide or study scheduler.
  3. Comapping: Comapping is an organization and study tool that helps students take better notes, understand concepts visually, collaborate with other students and teachers, and become more engaged in the learning process.
  4. iWriter: This system helps you incorporate text and audio so that your study system is more interactive and completely customized.
  5. bubbl.us: This is a colorful site that allows users to create brainstorming maps and then print or share them with parents and teachers.
  6. HomeworkSpot: Kids and teens can find lots of study, reference and exam help in all subjects on the HomeworkSpot.
  7. MAPMYself: This organic mind mapping tool follows each person’s unique train of thought.
  8. Discovery Education: Discovery’s education site has free tools, videos, guides and other multimedia resources for interactive learning.
  9. Vision Learning: Teachers will find graphs and other interactive learning tools for studying mid-ocean ridges, cells, atoms, and more.
  10. Multiple Choice and True/False Test-Taking Tips: Students with test anxiety or other learning disorders can use this guide to master multiple choice and T/F tests.

Visual and Hearing Impairment

These tools can help visual and hearing impaired students work online and more.

  1. Thunder: Thunder helps visually impaired and blind web users navigate the Internet.
  2. TextAloud: This system translates into all kinds of languages and dialects, including US and UK English, LA Spanish, and more.
  3. Pics4Learning.com: This image library for teachers and students can help hearing impaired students as well as students with other learning disabilities.
  4. Another Lens: Hover your mouse over a selected area to view a magnified version.
  5. ReadPlease: This text-to-speech software works on Windows computers.
  6. e-Captioning: Research closed captioning and subtitling tools here.
  7. BrainPOP: This colorful, dynamic learning site has all kinds of resources for engaging learners without using sound.
  8. NonVisual Desktop Access: NVDA is a free, open source screen reader that uses text-to-speech and Braille.
  9. iZoom: With iZoom, visually impaired students can magnify their computer screens.
  10. BIGGY: Features included in this toolkit include bigger fonts, cursors and more for your word processor.

Web Surfing

By using these tools, special needs students, including blind and low vision students, can access all that the Internet has to offer.

  1. Web Design: These toolkits help teachers and anyone else set up websites that accommodate special needs visitors.
  2. WebbIE: This program helps blind and visually impaired individuals access the web.
  3. Web Talkster: This free talking web browser makes it easier for the visually impaired to use the Internet.
  4. SpringerLink: HTML structure is accessed through audio technology with SpringerLink.
  5. BrailleSurf: This Internet browser for blind and low vision users operates a speech synthesizer.
  6. Communicate: Webwide: This program makes the Internet more accessible and includes symbol and full speech support.
  7. LowBrowse: Lighthouse International’s tool is an add-on to Firefox that features image enlargement, speech capability and page customization.
  8. EIA: The Enhancing Internet Access system works with a specialized web browser for special education and rehabilitation environments.
  9. ZAC Browser: This browser is the first web browser just for autistic children.
  10. Homer: Homer is a simple but effective web browser for the blind.

Just for Teachers

These special needs educator resources and tools help with lesson plan design, classroom design, and more.

  1. FASD Toolbox for Teachers: Teachers working with kids with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can use this special needs handbook to learn how to teach study skills, problem solving, math and social skills.
  2. Classroom Management: This toolkit can help teachers work with special needs kids more effectively.
  3. StudyDog: Special ed teachers of Pre-K, kindergarten and 1st grade students will find lesson plans for interactive reading assignments here.
  4. Special Education: New special ed teachers learn how to use bulletin boards, set up their classrooms and prepare for their unique students.
  5. Resources for Early Childhood Special Education: Preschool Zone: Preschool teachers with special education students in their classes can turn to this toolkit for lesson plans and more.
  6. Education Ideas and Resource: Special Needs Special Kids has put together these tools and guides for teaching young kids basic skills.
  7. Outside the Box! Especially for Teachers: Special needs and special education teachers can use the glossaries, articles, curriculum ideas, assessment tools and more on this site.
  8. AT Basics: Learn how to set up your keyboard, computer and classroom for hearing and visually impaired students.
  9. SERGE: Check out the Special Education Resources for General Educators site for a FAQ page, tools, and support.
  10. teAchnology: The Online Teacher Resource has a special education page for teachers of students with behavior problems, physical disabilities and more.
  11. National Association of Special Education Teachers: NASET’s website offers all kinds of resources, references and tools for special education teachers.

Games and Activities

Help special needs students learn by playing games, using virtual reality systems and beyond.

  1. Do2Learn: Special needs kids and their parents will find songs, games and other activities to help them learn how to use the phone, stay safe on the bus, and more.
  2. Google Earth: Google Earth is a fun, interactive web tool for studying the Earth, maps and more.
  3. Parent Pals Special Education Games: This collection of games includes four levels of activities and over 200 different games.
  4. Virtual Reality Special Needs Software: These video games and virtual reality games teach life skills and more to special needs students.

Physical Disabilities

Wheelchair-bound students and students with other physical disabilities will find lots of great learning tools here.

  1. Ultra Hal Assistant: This digital assistant helps special needs students stay organized.
  2. Tips for Working with Students in Wheelchairs: This guide for teachers offers tips for classroom design and more.
  3. No-Keys Virtual Keyboard: This virtual keyboard can use various pointing devices to type.
  4. ShortKeys: This text replacement program offers helpful shortcuts for students with limited movements.
  5. Camera Mouse: This free program lets students move their heads to control their mouse pointers.
  6. Click-N-Type: Click-N-Type is another virtual keyboard that’s free.
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