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Educational Software

Stores and catalogs are full of educational computer games, but often they don't work well for children with special needs. Kids with language and learning problems may not be able to follow complicated storylines, or figure out what to do on screens cluttered with options. They may need reinforcement in more basic or more specialized skills than general-interest software can provide. For educational software that addresses your child's special needs, give one of these offerings a try.

Read, Write and Type
Fun, easy-to-follow program helps children learn to read and type with a strong phonics approach, then allows them to apply those skills with activities that involve writing. Try this when you have time for your child to do a lesson or two each day -- maybe over the summer -- as the program builds to different levels and "awards."

Similar to the more expensive, profesionally administered Fast ForWord program, Earobics uses research on auditory processing to help children hear the difference between phonemes and apply that ability to reading. The games are fast and fun, and the program is available in various levels from pre-K through adult.

Kidspiration and Inspiration
Kidspiration, for grades K-5, and Inspiration, for older students, provide dynamic graphic organizers to help students develop their thoughts and write with ease. The younger version uses mostly pictures, and in both cases the information organized on the screen is automatically translated into written words on a page. The Web site offers a free download you can play with before buying.

Ultimate Writing
An easy, uncluttered word processing and drawing program. Writing prompts are offered, but if those are too difficult for your child, he or she will still have fun writing stories or letters or lists, and adding "stickers" and scribbles to illustrated backgrounds.

A+ Math
A Web game rather than software, this is the simplest of math activities, perfectly suited to kids who need drilling in basic skills without a lot of flash. Just specify the skill to target and the size of the numbers involved, and the program will put one problem after another on the screen. Kids type in an answer and push a button to see if they were right.

Mind Reading
Photos of facial expressions are the basic material for these games, which help kids recognize emotions. Designed for children and adults on the autism spectrum, it can also be useful for kids with language problems who may have trouble understanding how facial expressions can shade the meaning of words and be an important part of communication.

The speech, language and learning disabilities catalog offers a number of software games for children with autism and PDD, to help with such concepts as associations, categories and yes/no questions.

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