Latest Assistive Technology: Top 5 products in June 2016

Scanning Pens

It can sometimes be difficult to keep up to date with the latest assistive technology products for disabled people. This is why we have created a handy update on the blog at the beginning of each month to give you the latest news. In this month’s update, I look at the top 5 latest assistive technology products you should look out for in June 2016.


Top 5 latest assistive technology products

Many of you have been enquiring about the Exam Reader scanning pen in the past month – we’re not surprised as it really is a great tool for dyslexic students. Like the C-Pen Reader scanning pens, the Exam Reader allows the student to scan over printed text from the exam paper and hear the text read aloud. It features a natural sounding text-to-speech voice and uses impressive optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read aloud printed text.

The latest assistive technology C-Pen scanning pen being used on an exam paper

The digital highlighter has been approved by The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) for use in exams. It comes complete with a headphone jack so other students are not disturbed during the exam. You can find out more about using assistive technology in exams by following this link to the Joint Council for Qualifications Examination Instructions.

Brain in Hand is a cloud-based solution and app which supports autistic children and adults to cope with day-to-day situations. The assistive technology app works on a subscription basis (please contact us for more information and pricing) and provides personalised support for people with autism. The key features include instant access to coping strategies, a diary to help structure time and plans to remember difficult tasks.

Brain in Hand also has a traffic light monitoring system which tracks anxiety levels. If an autistic person taps the red traffic light they will be able to request support from The National Autistic Society. This helps reduce stress and helps to increase confidence in everyday situations.

The Livescribe pens have always been a great tool for dyslexic students. The latest addition to the range is the Livescribe 3 Smartpen which is compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices. The pen works in conjunction with the Livescribe+ app and instantly syncs everything you write on paper directly to your mobile device via Bluetooth. Using the app, your notes become more useful and can be organised, tagged, searched and converted to text. From there you can do almost anything with your notes, for example, simply tap on the text and you can copy this into an email or message.

Typing tutors helps dyslexic children and adults to type quickly and accurately. Nessy Fingers Touch Typing incorporates 9 fun games to practice typing skills. It is the only typing tutor software which introduces keys alphabetically. In five short lessons, you will learn the alphabet.  Each game uses the National Curriculum word lists to practice with and allows the user to win trophies as a reward for accurate typing.

A dyslexic user typing with the latest assistive technology on their computer

Changing paper colour or using reading overlays for dyslexia can be a great reading aid. Irlen® Overlays are backed by over 30 years of research and are 9” x 12” coloured acetate overlays. The overlays are placed over printed materials to help reading and each sheet has a glare and non-glare side for increasing comfort.

The overlays are available in 10 colours and each colour has been carefully determined by Irlen® research. On, we sell 10 Irlen® Coloured Overlays at a sale price of just £19.99 (RRP: £29.99) which allows you to try out all colours and see which colour makes reading more comfortable for you.


Please comment below to let us know what latest assistive technology you are excited about this month.

Reading Harry Potter used to study brain

177389984Fiction reading can have a significant impact on the brain.

According to new research, reading fiction books such as Harry Potter can point to how the brain processes language, grammar and meaning.

Computer scientists and neurologists from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Queen’s University in Belfast and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore set out to gain a clearer understanding of the role of the different brain regions that are activated in response to reading.

Led by CMU’s Machine Learning Department, the researchers conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans on the brains of eight people who were each reading chapter nine of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – which detailed Harry’s first flying lesson.

The brain scans were then analysed by each cubic millimetre in order to detect each four-word segment in the chapter, from which the first ever integrated computational model of reading was created.

Using this model, the researchers compared the fMRI activity of the participants’ brains to various passages from the book, so that they could determine which sections were being read. This produced 74 per cent accuracy in tracking brain activity while reading.

Leila Wehbe, a PhD student at CMU, said: “It turns out that movement of the characters – such as when they are flying their brooms – is associated with activation in the same brain region that we use to perceive other people’s motion.

“Similarly, the characters in the story are associated with activation in the same brain region we use to process other people’s intentions.”

The research, entitled Simultaneously Uncovering the Patterns of Brain Regions Involved in Different Story Reading Sub-processes, has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Such in-depth brain maps serve as a gateway to understanding and diagnosing learning difficulties like dyslexia – whereby the affected individual struggles with reading and comprehension.

In the meantime, computer-based assistive technologies such as the Nessy Learning Programme can help to boost the literacy skills of children with dyslexia, enabling them to gain confidence and setting them in good stead for the future.

(Credit image: Thinkstock/Andreas Rodriguez)