Three Helpful Apps for Transition Students, from an Assistive Technology Specialist

Wendy Burkhardt has high expectations for her students. “It’s important to believe that a student is capable. When we start with that expectation, that they can do a certain task even if it’s challenging, that gives us the space to look for the tool that will enable them to do it,” she said. Fortunately, finding the right tools for students to achieve their goals is her specialty.


Meet the Assistive Technologies (AT) Department

Burkhardt is one of five Assistive Technology Specialists at the High Desert ESD. Together they cover schools across Central Oregon, including Harney, Lake, Jefferson, Crook, and Deschutes Counties. They work with students with disabilities, from birth until they graduate or reach age 21. Their job is to provide access to any equipment or technology that assists students with skills for work or independent living. Many transition students have known their AT Specialists for years, and rely on them to be sure their equipment and technology keeps pace with them as they grow up.

AT specialists begin by observing students in different environments. Those might include in school, at home, or out shopping. They watch for problems and barriers that could be resolved with the right adaptive tool. Some tools are online apps, especially for older students, but other tools are as simple as a pencil grip that makes writing easier. Many adaptive tools require a creative approach, and often the specialist will build and customize equipment, like slant boards or special seating. “Sometimes, it just takes a simple change to help a student overcome a challenge,” said Burkhardt.

Once the specialists identify the right tool, they make sure that the students’ team of helpers know how to use it. This means collaborating with teachers and training families and caretakers. As Burkhardt explained, if a student can’t find help quickly with a new technology, they’re more likely to stop using it. Young adults using new social media apps also need to learn what is appropriate to share online, and the AT specialists work in that area, too.


There’s an app for that!

The AT department updates their list of useful resources on the HDESD website, including phone and tablet applications. Here are three of their favorite apps for transition students. Like all the online tools they recommend, these can be used on Apple or android phones.

  • Choice Works, a picture-based learning tool used to record every step in a schedule. It can help with multi-step tasks, recipes, hygiene routines, or home tasks like laundry. Users can load videos instead of photos, if that is more helpful as a reminder.
  • Good Budget, a virtual planner for tracking expenses and savings. This app helps students make the most of their paychecks and stay on track for bigger goals! This free app puts money into virtual envelopes that are labeled for essentials like groceries, or treats like eating out.
  • Voice Dream Reader is a text-to-speech application that can read content out loud, from online books, documents, or web pages. Users can follow along on the text, as the app highlights the words as they are spoken. It also can convert written text into speech, where words and sentences are spoken out loud as the user types.

Want more information about assistive technology services? Contact the AT Department through the HDESD website, or call the High Desert ESD at 541.689.5736

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Brad Flickinger