Giving Thanks for Apps that Assist

A colleague of mine recently asked me to share my top ten favorite apps for “Special Education in the Inclusive Classroom”, which is actually something that I am asked to do quite often. Unfortunately, that list does not exist. In the realm of using technology as assistive technology for individuals with special needs, it is extremely important that it be about the individual. What are the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and specific needs? What environment is he/she working in? What task does he/she need to accomplish? And then finally, is there an appropriate technology tool/app to meet these needs?

Over the last few years of working with iPods touches, iPhones and iPads, I have found an extraordinary amount of apps in the App Store that are excellent assistive technology apps for a variety of students with disabilities. But I have also discovered that many of those apps are wonderful for students without disabilities as well. While I certainly can not offer a list of my top ten “favorite” Special Education apps, I can definitely share a few apps that I have found tremendously useful for a variety of students. These are ten apps that I am truly thankful to have available for ALL of my students!

  1. Dragon Dictation: This app is a voice-to-text application that allows students to easily speak and almost instantly see the text. Dragon Dictation allows you to dictate text that can be sent as an email, SMS message, or pasted into any other application on the device. You can even use it to update your Twitter and Facebook accounts!
  2. AudioNote: This note taking app lets students record notes (handwritten or typed) that syncs with audio. Each note corresponds directly to what was being said at the time the note was taken. When students play back the audio, text and drawings are highlighted to help them remember the context in which they were taken. Students can also choose to just record while they are listening, and then go back and take notes later.
  3. Read2Go: This reading app allows students to browse, search, download, and read books from and DAISY books from other sources. Read2Go has synchronized word-by-word highlighting and text-to-speech, which allows students to see and hear text at the same time. While this app is best used with individuals who have a account, anyone can download books in the open domain.
  4. Typ-O HD: Typ-O is a typing app with a word prediction engine and an advanced spelling error model that makes use of text-to-speech. Not only does the app predict words, students can listen to the word before it is selected. Students can also have words and sentences read back to them before emailing or SMS messaging them. Typ-O also suggests words for the most common spelling mistakes using flexible spelling.
  5. PhatPad:  This note taking app allows students to write, type, and draw all kinds of notes and ideas before sharing them via email, WiFi sync, Dropbox, or presentation mode. PhatPad uses handwriting recognition engine to convert handwritten notes to text, and scribble objects into nicely formed shapes. It is a great app for note taking and brainstorming!
  6. iBooks: Apple’s free e-reader is a great tool for teaching and learning. Students can download books, search text, highlight in multiple colors, takes notes, and discover more about what they are reading through Google or Wikipedia. iBooks will also help them organize PDFs by collections.
  7. MathBoard: Students can use this app to improve math fluency and practice problems about addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squares, cubes, and square roots. Quizzes are generated randomly, and teachers can control the number range, the problem set-up, answering options, select multiple types of operations, and whether the student is timed or not. It records data and can even generate a quiz from just the wrong answers.
  8. iMindMap HD: This mind map app gives students the opportunity to visually spread out and organize their thoughts using color coded options. The Speed Mind Map option allows them to quickly capture their thoughts and ideas. Students can use this app to take notes, brainstorm writing, plan and  organize ideas, and even present with this tool.
  9. An easy to use app that allows to students to look up definitions on the go. Students can also use the built-in thesaurus from The app includes phonetic and audio pronunciation, example sentences, and has a voice-to-text search. Students can even learn new words by shaking their device to get a randomly selected word!
  10. Side by Side: This Internet browser app lets students view multiple windows at the same time, and includes offline reading and note taking options. Students can browse webpages, take screenshots, add bookmarks, extract pictures, download files, and record notes. They can even share and sync files through Dropbox, email, and other selected apps.

EdCeptional #22 – EdCeptional ROCKS ATIA!

Tonight’s show is all about things we saw and heard at the Assistive Technology Industry Association conference that took place in Schaumburg, IL last week.  We are sharing an audio cast of the full 1 hour session Deb and I led called – Everyone deserves and EdCeptional Education.  If you are interested in the notes from this session you can find them at

Show Host: Tricia Lazarro (@tlazzaro11)

Show contributors:

Patrick Black (@teachntech00)

Deb Truskey (@debtruskey)

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The complete show notes are now on the EdCeptional Wiki.

EdCeptional Show #19: What’s on the Horizon?

This episode of the EdCeptional show starts off with each crew member sharing a great blog that they had read recently.  They then jump right into a discussion about the Horizon Report 2011 K12 Edition and what implications it might have for special education.  LeapFrog’s LeapPad, the kid-friendly tablet, was the other hot topic this week.


Show Host: Anne Truger

Show contributors:  Patrick Black, Jeremy Brown & Deb Truskey
The complete show notes are now on the EdCeptional Wiki.


What’s the scoop? Check out Jeremy’s new on “Technology in Special Education”!


scoopit logoDo you want to know what the latest “scoop” is on a certain topic?  That’s the purpose of!  This tool is currently in BETA, which means you will need to request an invite in order to create your own “scoops”.

Once you receive an invitation, you will be  able to create topics that you would like to curate.  Curating a topic is relatively easy.  First, you will be asked to provide a title, description, keywords, and icon (optional). will then crawl the web and suggest content to your topic based on the keywords you provided.  You will then be presented with a feed of suggested sources & content, which you then choose either to “Remove Source”, “Discard”, or “”.   You are also able to add additional sources, such as RSS feeds, Twitter users or lists, custom Twitter searches, custom Google searches, Facebook pages, & others by clicking on the Manage Sources button and clicking on the “Advanced Options” tab.  Another way to add content to your topic is using the bookmarklet.

Here is a short video about on YouTube

Are you interested in the latest news related to accessibility, assistive technology, AAC, & other topics related to the use of technology in special education?  Then you should check out my new on “Technology in Special Education“! This is a news feed that I will be regularly curating.

Jeremy's Technology in Special Education

EdCeptional Show #16: Surfing the SLP Wave with Speech Techie

Tonight, we are Surfing the SLP Wave with Speech Techie, Sean Sweeney. Sean is a speech and language pathologist and instructional tech specialist and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie. We are very excited to have Sean with us tonight!
To start our show, we each share what inspires us as professionals in the field of special education.   During News Watch, we discuss how assistive technology (especially AAC and the iPad) has emerged in the mainstream media, introduce a study about iPads in higher education, share our thoughts on whether or not tablets are ready for the classroom, and get an update from Anne on what she learned at DENSI (wiki /twitter) and ISTE 2011 conferences.  Did you know UDL is NOT a known topic?  For Blog Watch, we learn about Sean’s blog Speech Techie and share a recent post on PediaStaff by Megan Bratti.  On the Radar for this week was low-tech or homemade AT solutions, Google+ field testing accessibility for ASL users, activation of Assistive Touch in iOS 5 Beta, Jeremy’s list of Android apps for Special Education (Autism), and a series of instructional videos for AT.

Show Host: Anne Truger

Show Guest:  Sean Sweeney

Show contributors:  Patrick Black, Jeremy Brown, & Deb Truskey

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The complete show notes are now on the EdCeptional Wiki.

Call us on our comment line!
If you’d like to leave some feedback you can call us on our very own EdReach Comment line: That’s: (443) 93REACH.

EdCeptional Show #14: Down Under with Ricky Buchanan

Two weeks ago, we had the privilege of having a very special guest, Ricky Buchanan, all the way from Australia!  Ricky is the author and editor of the blog/website ATMac: Empowering Disabled Apple Users. Welcome Ricky!


ROLL CALL – What is your favorite access tool?

Ricky Buchanan:  the free/built in access things, because anybody can use them
Jeremy Brown: gestures & multi-touch
Deb Truskey: Voice Over & Screen Magnification
Patrick Black:  switch access via usb or wi-fi (Attainment Switch app)



  • Recent & Upcoming Conferences:


If you would like to continue the conversations, you can find our special guest, Ricky Buchanan at @ATMac on Twitter and the crew at  Jeremy Brown at @techieteacher on Twitter or iTeach Special Education – iOS Devices in Special Education on Facebook, Deb Truskey at @debtruskey and@SLPDeb on Twitter, and Patrick Black at @teachntech00 on Twitter. If you have suggestions, comments or queries  about the show you can reach the whole Edceptional crew by emailing

EdCeptional Show #11: All About Assistive Technology in Alton, IL!

Greetings everyone!  A huge shout out to all of you veterans out there…Thanks for everything you do to make our country an amazing and safe place to live! Tonight we are joined with a smaller Edceptional crew than normal and one amazing special guest, assistive technology specialist Mr. Brian Dowd. Brian is an AT specialist with Alton School District in Alton, Illinois. His district’s top initiatives are the roll out of iPads and the use of Read and Write Gold for co-teaching in mainstream classrooms.

For this week’s roll call, each panel member shared one instance where they have witnessed AT make a difference in a student’s life by either enabling him/her to be more independent or to demonstrate new knowledge.

1.  Brain Dowd – During my first AT assessment, I witnessed a student use a light touch switch to operate a fan and a radio.

2. Jeremy Brown – My first year of teaching I had a student start using a high-tech AAC device (Vantage).  It took him a few weeks to the learn the basic navigation. One afternoon my class was having snack and I had brought in cupcakes for another student’s birthday. Well, this student independently used his Vantage to communicate “I want more like muffin.” Cupcake was not part of the vocabulary programmed into the device, so he found something similar to communicate his request!  After he enjoyed his second cupcake, this student and I then went on to have a short conversation about why we were having the special treat and how the cupcakes were so yummy.  Furthermore, I received several emails from this student’s mother about how they he was using the Vantage at home to make requests, have simple conversations, and even say his prayers each night.

3. Your host, Anne Truger:  Mac laptop for her son, who has Aspergers.




INTERVIEW: Mr. Brian Dowd, Assistive Technology Specialist

  • Background about Brian & Alton School District
  • AT initiatives:







  • Recent & Upcoming Conferences:


Don’t forget, you can find all of tonight’s links at the EdCeptional Diigo Group.


You can e-mail the EdCeptional crew or follow us all at:

Jeremy Brown – @techieteacher or iTeach Special Education: iOS Devices in Special Education group on Facebook

Anne Truger – @atruger

EdCeptional Show #7: Geeking out with Barbara Fernandes!

Today we welcome Barbara Fernandes also known as GeekSLP. Barbara is a wealth of information and has many accolades to her name. Here are just a few.

  • Speech Language Therapist
  • Creator of Smarty Ears apps (Over 20)
  • Speaks 3 languages (Spanish, English and Portuguese)
  • Originally from Brazil
  • HUGE online presence as GeekSLP
  • Travels the globe presenting on how to use technology during speech therapy sessions
We welcome Barbara to the show! Everyone was asked to share a low to mid tech tool that they have used recently.
  • Barbara: The concept of “low-tech” has been the only concept I have known for the longest time. Being from Brazil, we did not have access to all this technology I have today. Devices in Portuguese were, and still are unheard of; which requires people to be very creative when trying to give someone a form of communication. Given that, I am still a fan of using ANY low tech solution.
  • Patrick Black: daily visual schedules, communication boards for books to aide comprehension
  • Jeremy Brown: visual supports – activity schedules, Time Timers, token boards, etc.  Highlighting and Elkonin boxes for writing.
  • Deb Truskey: I enjoy using short video clips (YouTube stuff) with my students. It helps set the visual for them and I am able to work in vocabulary, sequencing, inferences and many other skills. I also like to get free educational videos & materials from : Video Placement Worldwide.
  • Anne Truger: Post-it notes or electronic stickies to help students to remember what they need to do next.
  1. FCC established a program to enable low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to access 21st Century communications services such as the Internet.
  2. Section 255 represents the most significant governmental action for people with disabilities since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”). It is one of the key provisions of the Act promoting the goal of universal access and seeks to increase the accessibility of telecommunications services and equipment to the 54 million Americans with disabilities.
  3. In Section 255, Congress set forth a broad but practical mandate: telecommunications service providers and equipment manufacturers must make their services and equipment accessible to people with disabilities, to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so.
  4. CG Docket No. 10-145 – In the Matter of Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-Blind, or Have Low Vision
  5. FCC background material is available at
  6. Comments are due by May 23rd.
BlogWatch: – This is Barbara’s blog. We spent about 20 minutes exploring all of its goodies and discussing Barbara’s favorite tools.

On the Radar:
Special Considerations:
  • #spedchat – Want to discuss the future of SpEd with Michelle Ree & Dr. Nyankori? Join us at #SpEdChat, Monday May 9, 8pm EST
  • #slpchat – Next one is Saturday, May 14th 7:00 PM EST


  • Introductory level webcast on “AAC and Young Children” (20 minutes) by Drager, Light, and McNaughton may be useful for introducing AAC to Early Childhood Education staff.
  • MATN webinar on UDL (recording)
  • Recent & Upcoming Conferences:
  • CEC (#CEC11)
  • EdCamp Chicago – May 21 (FREE but only about 15 spots left!)
  • Proposals for ATIA and CTG due in 1 week – May 6 and May 5 ~ EdCeptional is submitting a proposal for a panel discussion!!


That will do it for this week’s EdCeptional Podcast. Please feel free to email us at with any comments or suggestions of ways we can continue to improve our growing podcast.

EdCeptional Show #6: Match the Tool! with Chris Bugaj


This week the EdCeptional Crew welcomed our special guest, Chris Bugaj (@ATTipscast).  Chris is an Assistive Technology Trainer with Loudon County Pulic Schools in Virginia –  He is also host of the popular assistive technology podcast, A.T. TIPSCAST, This podcast spotlights different tools and strategies in the form of “A.T.Tips” that can be used to help students who might be struggling in school.  He is the co-author of The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools: Building or Improving Your District’s AT Teamavailable for purchase through ISTE – , and make sure you check this book’s Facebook Page.  Finally, Chris is the Co-Author (and sometime narrator) of many stories for children of all ages that are featured in the podcast Nightlight stories.


To start off we all shared a piece of assistive technology software, and how we use it:
  • Patrick Black:  Classroom Suite – using it as a interactive calendar activity
  • Deb Truskey: Dragon Dictation/Dragon Naturally Speaking – which allows you to do voice to text. You can use it as a story starter for kids who have a difficult time getting their thoughts on paper.
  • Chris Bugaj: (Spell with Flickr) – Helps students visualize words by remembering the picture of each letter.
  • Jeremy Brown: Clicker 5 – sentences to describe photos using the forced order feature.  Which allows students to create sentences about a photo in an errorless way.





  • iChat  supports audio and video conferencing, and thanks to its high-quality video and fast frame rate, it’s ideal for those who communicate using sign language. You can clearly see both hand and finger gestures in detail, so you can communicate from afar with the same range of emotions available to you when you’re in the same room. You can also use iChat to place and receive video relay and text relay calls, using a service called HOVRS (Hands-On Video Relay Service) can connect you to others using AIM and even those using videophones. Just add “hovrsIM” as a buddy, then type “hello” (or “hola”) in a message. HOVRS places the call and provides a Video Interpreter (VI) or Call Assistant (CA) to facilitate a conversation between parties through speech, sign language, and text messaging.  For more information, visit Mac Accessibility.
  • lingro – coolest online dictionary known to man!  Type in a URL and this tool will make all the words on that site clickable so that you can easily get definitions.
  • TraitR from for social-emotional goals –
    • Students can make different expressions using an onscreen character generator (like most avatar generators)
  • goalbook  – – online IEP tool that’s currently in development.  They have shared a demo video and are seeking feedback.


  • Chris and Beth Poss are presenting on Web 2.0 Tools in Second Life for the PATINS Project – Register here.