Special Education iPad Apps for Reading and Writing

Recently I had the distinct privilege of working with Julie Freed, Grant Wood’s Assistive Technology guru, to present a number of iPad apps that can be used to help improve the reading and/or writing skills of students in special education. Interested? Here are some of the apps we talked about, along with the reasons why we picked them.

Reading Apps

1. Prizmo ($9.99) – This innovative app includes powerful OCR software that will scan printed text, turn it into editable digital text, and read it aloud for you. In the classroom this can be great for printed tests, worksheets, and even textbooks that might otherwise need a classroom assistant to read them aloud for a student with reading difficulties.

prizmo app screenshot

2. Pocket (Free) – This might not be the first app you think of when think of special education iPad apps, but it has a lot of potential for the way that it simplifies the layout of web based articles and makes  them easier to read. Annoying ads, distracting sidebars, and pop-up ads are gone when viewed in the Pocket reader app and you can also save and organize articles for future use. Readbility is another great app for this.

3. WritePad ($4.99) – It’s a favorite of OTs, and may be just what you are looking for if you need an innovative notetaking app. WritePad uses handwriting recognition software to convert your handwritten notes and turns them into digital text. The more you use it, the more it learns your handwriting style and the better it becomes at converting your handwriting.

4. PDF Expert 5 ($9.99) – Readdle make amazing apps for the iPad, and PDF Expert is no exception. While you could use it to annotate over digital worksheets, a better use of the app might be as a test taking aid, because PDF Expert allows you to add audio annotations. This means a teacher could record questions on a test for a student with reading difficulties to playback on headphones. Alternatively, students with handwriting or motor difficulties could record their answer to test questions right on the PDF, and then email it to a teacher. iAnnotate is a similar app with many of the same features.

pdf expert screenshot

5. Rewordify.com (Free) –  It’s not an app, it’s a website, but it’s a great tool for teachers to use in the classroom with students. Rewordify reduces text complexity by replacing difficult or obscure vocabulary with more common and easy to understand words. You can copy and paste any text into the Rewordify text generator, or simply add the URL to a website. Best of all, it works on ALL devices. Check it out!

Writing Apps

1. Tools 4 Students ($0.99) – If you want to help students organize their ideas for an extended piece of writing, there are few better apps than Tools 4 Students and Tools 4 Students 2. These apps are packed full of graphic organizers that can be used for just that purpose and they have a variety of different types that include Venn diagrams, main idea, compare and contrast, sequencing charts and more. Each diagram can be used again and again so it is great value for money.

2. Co:Writer ($19.99) – It’s not a cheap app, but for what it does there are few better. Co:Writer is built on a powerful word prediction engine that predicts what words students are typing before they are finished typing the word. It anticipates the most common misspellings of popular words and even has a variety of topic dictionaries that will suggest words that are specifically related to the topic a student is writing about. It includes text to speech so that students can hear their writing read aloud.

cowriter screenshot

3. Clicker Sentences ($28.99) – Built with elementary students in mind, Clicker Sentences is a great way for early writers to build sentences. As well as a traditional keyboard, students have access to a word bank of topic words that they can tap on to add to their sentences. Pictures can also be added as prompts to help students when they try to read back what they created. Teachers can create their own sentence sets or download ready made packs for free through the app.

4. Notability ($4.99) – Notability is a staple app on many classroom iPads, and rightly so. It is a fantastic note-taking app that lets you add notes with freehand writing or with typed text. You can also record audio and add those to your notes. In a recent update, Notability included the option to sync your handwritten and text notes to your recorded audio. This means that if students did not understand why they wrote what they did at a given point in a lecture, they could tap on the audio recording and hear what the teacher said at the exact point that they took that note. Genius!

5. Abilipad ($19.99) – Abilipad has lots of great features for students who need writing supports. It has a customizable keyboard layout, text to speech, and advanced word prediction abilities. Teachers can create their own literacy activities or download ready-made activities from the Abilipad library. You can set font sizes, colors and background colors as well as search through a vast library of images to use alongside your typed text. It takes some time to learn and explore all the possibilities it offers, but it is a great app for many students to take advantage of.

For more ideas on how iPads can be used in special education classrooms, please read: iPad Accessibility Options for Special Education Classrooms.

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