Assistive and Adaptive Technology in Special Education

Author: Paige Stoner

What is Assistive and Adaptive Technology?

Assistive and Adaptive Technology are different tools that allow students with disabilities to access the curriculum and/or become verbal (non-speaking) students. Assistive and Adaptive Technology can include Big Macks, Voice In a Box, and Talk Pads. These have pictures attached to them and when a student presses the button it speaks for the student. For students whom are already verbal, there are things such as AlphaSmarts and Text-to-Speech softwares. There are also a few Speech-to-Text softwares as well. An AlphaSmart is similar to a laptop, however, it can only show 6 lines at a time and is mainly used as a Word Processor only.

Devices as simple as a computer and/or laptop can be considered an Assistive Technology device within the classroom. These are known as "high-tech" devices. High-tech devices as typically electronic devices. Low-tech devices, such as the Big Macks, are battery operated and have on/off switches.

What is Text-to-Speech Software?

Most Text-to-Speech Software is "primarily designed to 'read-aloud' typed text" (Rughooputh, 2008). According to Sha (2010), what is heard in most text-to-speech softwares is the program stringing "pre-recorded human utterance stitched together by the TTS engine"

Benefits of Text-to-Speech Software in Special Education

For students in Special Education, text-to-speech software often helps them be able to read and write on the computer allowing significant jumps in academics. One way this can be done is that "software can be programmed to highlight words or lines during reading" (Fasting & Halaas Lyster, 2005). Fasting and Halaas Lyster (2005) also state that the alphabetic-phonological coding process is also strengthened due to the words being highlighted with the simultaneous reading of the word aloud.

Resources for Text-to-Speech

Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology and Learning Disabilities
Browse Aloud
Ability Hub
Ability Hub- Text-to-Speech


Behrmann, M. (5/1/1998). Assistive Technology for Young Children in Special Education: It Makes a Difference.

Fasting, R.B. & Halass Lyster, S.-A. (2005). The effects of computer technology in assisting the development of literacy in young struggling readers and spellers. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 20,1, 21- 40. doi: 10.1080/0885625042000319061

Rughooputh, S.D.D.V. & Santally, M.I. (2009). Integrating text-to-speech into pedagogically sound teaching and learning scenarios. Educational Technology Research and Development 57, 131- 145. doi: 10.1007/s11423-008-9101-x

Sha, G. (2010). Using TTS voices to develop audio materials for listening comprehension: A digital approach. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(4), 632- 641. doi: 10.111l/j.1467-8535.2009.01025.x