Don Johnston is a company that was created to help students overcome reading and writing challenges using technology. They have several tools available to help emergent and struggling readers augment their learning, improve their literacy skills, and increase independence. Their suite of tools includes books, web readers, apps, AAC products & more. I want to focus on a few that are most useful for teachers in my district and should be valuable for any teacher of students with disabilities. I personally find their software options to be the most useful, but they offer accessible hardware and curriculum content as well.
Co:Writer is a word prediction and speech recognition software available for MacOS, Google Chrome, as an iOS app, and as an iOS keyboard. The word prediction is great as it can be set up with over 4 million topic dictionaries. For example, a student writing about geological rock formations or about Duane “The Rock” Johnson would find terms populated based on their topic without including references to the other. It’s a great way to support vocabulary and make worksheets accessible. It also provides a number of reports on student efforts that make data collection a breeze.
SNAP & READ UNIVERSAL
Snap&Read is a reading tool that is available offline, as Chrome add-on, and on iOS. Snap&Read Universal reads both accessible and inaccessible text aloud from websites, images, photographs, PDFs, web-based tests, and more. Snap&Read also adjusts complex text to be more readable. That means it uses dynamic text leveling can simplify the vocabulary in a text to the student’s grade level.
uPAR (Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading) is an automated reading assessment and learning tool. Students will begin with 8 passage choices at their independent reading level and complete regular comprehension quizzes. It allows for a number of reading accommodations including text readers, and passages read by a human reader. It is web-based, so it works on any internet connected device. Watch the webinar or contact their support center for more info.
Don Johnston doesn’t have an extensive line of accessible hardware like some other companies, but what they have covers a broad range of needs. Their Switch Interface Pro doesn’t require any specialized software and is compatible with Mac, Windows, & Chromebooks. It can be connected to five switches and supports 2-switch screen scanning to access more complex tasks. Function sets (what the switches control) can be changed easily with a button on the device. The Switch to Scan performs a similar function for iPads. It is more expensive since it also set up for Bluetooth integration.
First Author Writing Curriculum
Don Johnston offers the First Author Writing Curriculum that teaches students with complex physical and cognitive needs to begin authoring content.The kit includes 80 mini-lessons and is focused on daily writing that can function in conjunction with other writing programs like Handwriting Without Tears or as a standalone. It is directly aligned with assessments like Danielson’s Framework, DLM (Dynamic Learning Maps), STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness), and NCSC (National Center and State Collaborative).