Looking for a good gift for a child who has trouble taking notes, trouble writing neatly, trouble remembering to save files on the computer, trouble paying attention to homework when there are a zillion more fun things to do on the internet and IM? The answer may be an AlphaSmart. These handy keyboards with screens that encompass a couple of lines of type and memories that hold 100 pages worth are often used in schools, and it may be possible to get the school to provide your child with one as part of an IEP. But you can also go directly to the AlphaSmart site
and buy one -- the AlphaSmart Neo 2, priced at $169, is lots cheaper than a laptop and in the same general price range as a lot of handheld toys. The light and compact device -- more rugged and less of theft interest than an iPad or similar device -- slips easily into a backpack, automatically saves what you type, turns itself off if your child forgets, and runs for 700 hours on three AA batteries. Software additions are available for outlining, teaching, quizzing and word predicting, but the basic package is probably all your child will need to type paragraphs and papers. The files can be flowed from the AlphaSmart into your computer's word-processing program for extra formatting and polishing, or you can hook the AlphaSmart right up to a printer. It's an entirely nifty piece of technology.