Ep. 13: Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities with Avlyn Kotton

Jan 19, 2021 | 0 comments

Assistive technology has come a long way in the last thirty years. In the past, there was a stigma surrounding assistive technology that fortunately isn’t seen often today. With technology more accessible and a multitude of tools at our fingertips, students with all kinds of different needs are able to get the assistance they need to succeed.

But what is assistive technology? Today’s guest is Avlyn Kotton and in this episode, she not only describes what assistive technology is, but also gives many examples and links to great resources. As an educational therapist during the COVID-19 pandemic, Avlyn transitioned her clients to online learning with strategies and offers academic and emotional support to families trying to navigate the process of educating their children from home, while many parents need to continue to work. 

These strategies could be a game-changer for a lot of students and just the key they need to succeed.

Show Notes:

[4:09] – Assistive technology is any kind of tool to help a child to compensate for any type of learning deficit a child might have. Avlyn explains that it could be as simple as a pencil grip or as advanced as a software program.

[5:06] – As technology has progressed and has become more accessible to students, it has become easier to teach students to use assistive technology. There is less of a stigma of using them because it is common practice.

[6:21] – During the COVID-19 pandemic, Avlyn was already familiar with many programs and online platforms.

[7:41] – Avlyn describes how listening to an audiobook alongside the physical book with colored highlighters has helped many students with reading comprehension.

[9:18] – Audiobooks are also great for students who want a different modality to read.

[10:17] – Assistive technology is an equalizer. It gives students an opportunity to learn with the help that they need. Avlyn describes what this means and gives real-life examples.

[11:29] – It is also important that parents and teachers are shown how to use assistive technology to best implement them in the classroom.

[11:51] – Avlyn highly recommends Notability and Quizlet. She shares what these programs are great for.

[13:34] – Avlyn often suggests that some students are given the accommodation to use a calculator. This also relieves anxiety.

[15:28] – For writing, there are dictation programs. Microsoft Word also has this feature now.

[16:01] – When children talk, they tend to have better vocabulary and details than when they write. Dictation tools are great, but students will also need assistance with editing.

[17:11] – Avlyn describes how she uses 4 devices at a time to work with students and what this looks like during the time of remote learning.

[18:19] – There are many online learning platforms that offer a lot of different ways to interact through technology, including SeeSaw and Google Classroom.

[19:33] – Even for kids who are gifted and really competent learners, it is very difficult to navigate through online learning due to the need for executive functioning skills that are developed enough for their age.

[21:29] – Without the structure of school, it is a challenge for many students to transition between activities and lessons.

[22:26] – The biggest problem Avlyn is seeing is the higher levels of anxiety in students she works with. She shares her thoughts on why this is.

[23:31] – Avlyn describes another helpful site called Learning Ally which gives students with learning disabilities access to digital and audio textbooks.

[24:49] – In addition to assistive technology, students need to develop learning strategies. This is what Avlyn does as an educational therapist. 

[26:44] – The role of an educational therapist is to help with learning, but also as a support for parents.

[27:36] – Avlyn shares an inspiring story from a student applying for college.

[29:36] – Often there are times where parents of children with learning difficulties find that they had the same learning problems as children but didn’t have the tools to help.

[32:27] – The tools and professionals we have now are gifts for students to be able to reach their full potential.

[33:51] – One of the most important things is to work together as a team for the child – the parent, the educational therapist, the teacher, the school, etc.


About Our Guest:

Avlyn has thirty years’ experience working with both public and private school students from Kindergarten to High School who have learning differences including Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Executive Functioning Deficits, and other learning differences. Avlyn has been an active member of the Association of Educational Therapists and has presented at national conferences on the identification of learning disabilities and assistive technology skills. Areas of focus also include Test Preparation and Study Skills as well as School Placement. Collaborating as part of a multi-disciplinary team with classroom teachers, learning specialists, support professionals and parents helps to ensure that the needs of a student are being addressed and necessary accommodations can be implemented. 


Connect with Avlyn Kotton:

Links and Resources: