Special Needs Search Engine
by Diane S. Kendall
When you have a child with learning differences it can be a real trick finding appropriate learning materials. In my experiences with my dyslexic son in a mainstream situation, I've often found that finding alternatives or "better fits" than what is being used by "everyone in the class" is often left up to me. Teachers were willing to accept things that I found, but I had to seek out the options as they were overwhelmed or didn't really understand my child's needs.
Whether you are a parent in that kind of situation or a teacher trying to cope with kids with a variety of different learning styles in the classroom, you may find the new Tool Factory's Special Ed Product Finder a helpmate in the search. Designed in conjunction with some of the top specialists in special needs in the United Kingdom, they've created a database of the Tool Factory's product line and instituted a search engine to ferret out not only the Tool Factory products that fit your needs, but also the percentage score of how accurately the product will fit your requests.
Using this free service at http://www.toolfactory.com/products/sped_search_form, you'll find a checklist of the most common learning difficulties and disabilities. Simply cross match your needs with what subject you are interested in, or what skills you are interested in developing. Once your check boxes are complete, simply hit "search" and in seconds you will be provided with a list of products that match your search criteria. It also provides an easy-to-read spreadsheet that details which aspects of your criteria the product specifically addresses. Paul Nuttal, Director of SEMERC, the leading special needs institution in the UK says, "At last an easy to use product finder, it's ideal for both specialists and non-specialist educators, as well as parents. It quickly identifies suitable solutions for specific disabilities".
For teachers, this Web site is ideal for Individualized Education Programs (IEP's). From the results page of your search you can choose to refine the search, or simply click on the name of the product in order to find more detailed information about each product. Laura Cryer, an experienced specialist teacher, trainer, and publisher of 30 years describes the Special Education Product Finder as "...a clear and simple way to finding the best solution for an individual's particular learning needs".While this search engine just covers Tool Factory products, it is another tool in finding "better fit" solutions for kids with learning differences. Maybe someday there will be an engine that will cover products across the board, but in the meantime, these simple helpmates can make finding products a bit easier.
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