A guest post by Stephanie Caceres, AT Specialist and Special Education Teacher, Maryland
I’m a Special Education Teacher in Worcester County, Maryland, and I’m always on the lookout for new tools that will benefit students with learning disabilities.
Recently, I had an 8th grader who is intelligent and quite verbal, and now attends the Alternative Education Program at our school due to failing grades and behavior issues. This young man was frequently suspended for acting out in class. Why? Because he couldn’t keep up with his reading assignments; since he couldn’t talk about a book, he made trouble for teachers and his classmates.
I believe this situation happens more frequently than we want to admit in our schools. This student seemed out of reach, but accessible technology changed the way he saw himself learn. We introduced him to accessible books using the Read:OutLoud text reader and today he just finished his 4th book. He is proud of his accomplishment and his attitude is more upbeat. He is earning trust back from his teachers and wants to return to general education. Technology and ebooks helped him to better comprehend reading content and demonstrate his true learning potential.
Today, a growing number of students, like this teenager with learning disabilities, qualify and use Bookshare. They keep pace in regular education classes through access to digital books and textbooks. They use assistive technology tools daily like Read:OutLoud and Kurzweil to hear text read aloud. The multi-modal reading experience supports auditory learners. These accommodations support learning challenges and help students fit in. Students feel independent and everyone gets more of the teacher’s time.
I firmly believe that students walk through our school doors wanting to do well, but some lack the confidence, good learning strategies and assistive technologies to support their learning styles. In my experience, students who have difficulty reading usually lack self esteem and become frustrated. This leads them to act out in class and to downward spiral in alternative education programs or worse, to drop out of school.
Using accessible books and technology tools can help students regain confidence in their abilities. Bookshare has given many of my students a renewed sense of learning independence that helps them stay in school and see a brighter future ahead.