We know that our teens will need skills like basic reading, arithmetic, and writing to succeed in life. However, most parents have experienced nights full of tears and school-related anxieties, simply because the amount of homework was overwhelming or a child struggled with comprehending the material. These challenges are not uncommon and can take a toll on both parents and their teens.

These are the times when parents and students can benefit from the myriad of technological resources currently available. Technology resources can build on a child’s skills and abilities to improve functioning in school, home, work, or other social situations. With the prevalence of tablets and apps, the world is literally at our kids’ fingertips. Before beginning your search though, it can be beneficial to talk with your teen about what they feel is needed (or missing) from their learning routine. Here are a four simple guiding questions that may be helpful to to ask yourself and your child to get this conversation going:

  • Does my child have specific challenges or needs?
  • What are my child’s strengths?
  • What areas academically does my child struggle in?
  • Does my child have an interest in using technology as a learning resource?

By working with your child to identify their strengths and areas of possible growth, you can help them learn strategies for managing their learning style in a productive way. It is important to reassure your teen during this conversation that ‘traditional’ instructional techniques don’t always work for everyone, and that it is ok to get a bit creative! If it seems like your teen is interested in seeking out assistive technology after having this conversation, your next step may be to begin your search as a family.

Sorting through the large number of assistive technologies or resources available today can be overwhelming for any parent or child. We have provided a few ideas below to get you and your teen started!

Take advantage of audiobooks and mp3 files to hear text for assignments or enjoyment on computers, tablets, and even Smartphones. A wide variety of books are available to download from your local library or for purchase at online sites like Amazon. The ability to listen to required reading materials might reduce the stress of reading and make the assignment more manageable for everyone.

Seek out graphic organizers and programs to outline information. There are a variety of programs available to help students structure their thoughts without juggling notecards, multiple sources, or overwhelming amounts of information. Inspiration and Mindomo are two great resources that provide multiple options for visual learners. Students can make connections and increase their understanding of new concepts using fun techniques like mind maps, outlines and graphs.

Find Optical Character Recognition technology or downloadable apps. You can scan worksheets, notes, or assignments to be read aloud or used by the student on a tablet, computer, or other device. Consider taking advantage of the PDF Scanner: Document + OCR app or using Google Docs for assignments. Utilizing these resources can provide students an alternative to the traditional paper and pencil approach.

Embrace speech-recognition software or programs. This allows a child to talk into the device and turns his or her words into writing on the screen. This is beneficial when a child’s oral skills are stronger than their writing skills. One program favored by many is the Dragon Naturally Speaking software.

Many children struggle with arithmetic and problem solving. Consider using software or apps that allow users to organize and solve math problems on a computer or tablet. An app such as, Khan Academy allows students to revisit the material they are learning in the classroom through short tutorial videos followed by practice questions with immediate feedback. This site is also great for additional learning material on topics such as science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more.

Most parents agree our job can be very demanding at times, but it is important to help our sons and daughters learn to adapt and make the best of what life throws at us. In our desire to make our households run smoothly though, we may find ourselves relying heavily on these assistive resources. Unfortunately, if we rely too heavily on technology, our children might not develop the skills needed to live a productive life to the best of their abilities.

Therefore, it is crucial we encourage our children to seek out various learning opportunities so that they experience the thrill of overcoming personal barriers firsthand. After all, our ultimate goal is to actually work ourselves out of a job.

What are some resources you use to help your child?

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Article by Hilary Smith

hilary smithBorn and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.