Computers and Learning Disabilities

Although addressing students with learning disabilities is probably not a high priority on how education should be improved in developing nations, it is something that should be taken into consideration. In an environment where learning is already arguably more challenging than what we grew up with, those students with extra barriers may never stand a chance. Platforms such as the XO laptop may give those students a boost to catch up with their peers. There are many different types of LDs, some of which may not be helped with a computer without added tools or instruction. However, here are some ways in which laptops could help close the gap as outlined by the University of Washington.[1]

Word Processors: There are certain built-in features within a word processor that may assist someone with Dyslexia. This includes spelling and grammar check as well as font size and color changes. These help the learner focus on the writing itself and not get bogged down on mechanics. Additionally, those with organization problems may rearrange text or those with poor handwriting may more easily express themselves.

Reading systems: Some students may absorb information more effectively if they may listen to it instead of read.

Word Prediction: These programs act like your iPhones auto correct and try to provide the typist a list of options based on what they have typed so far.

Not all of these tools come standard with a laptop, but one of the most valuable tools, the word processor, is a common program that can be downloaded with relative ease compared to things like phonetic spelling software.  However, as this article says “assistive and adaptive technology does not “cure” a specific learning disability. These tools compensate rather than remedy, allowing a person with an LD to demonstrate their intelligence and knowledge.” Meaning that without further attention their LD will continue to hinder them, however this is just one way that a program like OLPC may stand out compared to other educational programs.


[1] “Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities.”     University of Washington. UW Information Technology, 2010. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. link to article 

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About hmfraser

Student of Environmental Studies and International Development View all posts by hmfraser

3 responses to “Computers and Learning Disabilities

  • etherspace

    In development, I believe that it is important not to forget that disparity and poverty exists within developed countries. While the same conditions that exist in much of Sub-Saharan Africa per-say do not exist here in the United States, I don’t think and student in our class would contest the fact that there is disparity right here in our own city of New Orleans. In some ways perhaps programs like OLPC have a greater chance of success in the developed world. This could be due both to the preexisting familiarity with technology and infrastructure already in place with technology. In terms of the theory of self-actualization, when basic needs are met, a person is prepared to achieve their full potential. In terms of development, this means closing the gap between the rich and poor through education and ICT4D.

  • laurenholtzman

    I could not agree more with the last comment in terms of the disparity and inequity in the United States and specifically in New Orleans. I think initiatives like OLPC are extremely important to consider when focusing on domestic issues. Many people in the United States fund international initiatives and development projects, but tend to forget about their fellow citizens living in poverty. While funding projects abroad is important, it’s also just as important to realize the inequity in our own nation.

    I work at Joseph Clark Prep High School where most students do not have access to a computer/lap top or internet for that matter outside of school. Many students don’t even have cell phones. These are realities that we forget about. It’s one thing to not have a cell phone or laptop when no one else around you has one either, but it’s a whole other story when most people in your country do have these technologies and you do not. One student I work with does not even have an alarm clock. As privileged students, we don’t have to worry about these issues and we don’t even think or know about them for that matter. We focus so much on international development that we forget about the development of the city we live in and which many of us claim to be our own!

    International development is important, but we cannot be ignorant of our own nation’s development and the digital divide the “bottom of the pyramid” faces.

  • hmfraser

    Although I believe that both comments are very valid and interesting points I am not sure what they have to do with my blog post. Unless they were in reference to to statement “In an environment where learning is already arguably more challenging than what we grew up with” By this I meant the people in our class and not the entire United States.

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