When North Liberty mom Amanda Yoder saw that both her son and daughter were having trouble focusing in school and at home, she knew it was time to explore support options.
“I noticed when [my daughter] was younger that some of her struggles didn’t seem to be ‘something she would grow out of’ as I was told by numerous educators,” she says. “When I first received the official diagnosis that my daughter had been gifted with moderate dyslexia, I took to the internet as most moms do.”
It was this search that brought her to the Iowa Reading Research Center website and introduced her to assistive technology as a support option. Assistive technology includes devices, apps, and browser extensions purposefully chosen to help children with reading disabilities complete academic and everyday tasks. Some examples of assistive technology include audiobooks, predictive text, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software, and display controls that remove advertisements and other visual distractions from online texts.
Through the Iowa Reading Research Center website, caregivers can schedule assistive technology consultations tailored to their family’s needs. These appointments can be virtual or in-person on the University of Iowa campus – and either way, they’re free for Iowa residents! During the consultation, an assistive technology coordinator will give an interactive demonstration of devices and apps that can help with reading and writing tasks. After the appointment, caregivers have the opportunity to check out available assistive technology devices for a short period of time so they can explore with their child whether it will be the right fit.
After using these resources, Yoder says, “Our experience with the consultation was easy going and very informative.” She goes on to describe what she found to be the most beneficial aspects of a consultation: printed informational hand-outs to take home, step-by-step instructions personalized to the children’s needs, and the opportunity for hands-on practice both during the consultation and while checking out an assistive technology device to try at home.
“[Whether] or not kids [have] a ‘diagnosis,’ these tools could be extremely beneficial as each child learns and adapts differently,” Yoder says regarding the accessibility of the Iowa Reading Research Center’s assistive technology program and its benefits for children with dyslexia.
While this is a glimpse into only one family’s experience, Yoder’s expressed desire to support her children’s reading and writing development is shared by many caregivers. An assistive technology consultation with the Iowa Reading Research Center can help caregivers sort through the many available resources, making it an excellent first step towards providing children with the tools they need to participate fully in their literacy learning. At the Iowa Reading Research Center, our mission is to support literacy development in all children, and our assistive technology program has helped students across the state of Iowa and beyond.
When asked to give advice to caregivers considering making an appointment for a consultation, Yoder says, “Absolutely do it! You can never have too much knowledge or too many tools in your toolbox. You won’t regret it.”
Want to see what your own child can accomplish with the right reading and writing tools? Check out the Iowa Reading Research Center website for more information on supporting your child’s literacy skills and request a free assistive technology consultation appointment today.
About the Sponsor
The Iowa Reading Research Center strives to improve the literacy skills of all pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students through research with children, professional learning for educators, technical assistance for school districts, and family resources that help caregivers take an active role in their children’s literacy skill development. We assist families affected by a reading disability through personalized assistive technology consultations and access to eLearning materials. The IRRC is part of the University of Iowa College of Education, and it operates in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education. For more information, go to irrc.education.uiowa.edu or contact us at [email protected].
About the Writer
Sydney Smithgall is a third-year student from Illinois studying English at the University of Iowa. When not working as a student writer for the Iowa Reading Research Center, they can be found engaging with the Iowa City community through their work with various campus literary magazines and the university’s writing center.