21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs

21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs

21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs

Technology can be a powerful tool to assist students with special needs or any sort of learning challenge. In particular the Chrome web browser allows users to install a wide variety of web extensions that provide tools that can help all learners, regardless of ability level.

In this blog post we will take a look at 21 Chrome web extensions that can assist students in five main categories:

  • Text to Speech
  • Readability
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Focus
  • Navigation

Some of the tools fit into more than one topic, but each is only listed once. Certainly this list does not cover all of the useful web extensions available for struggling learners, but it is a great place to begin. In addition to the list of extension, I have also linked in the video and help guide from a webinar I did a while back on “Google Tools for Special Needs”.

Text to Speech extensions

1) Read&Write for Google Chrome
Chrome web extension link
The “Swiss Army Knife” of extensions with tools including word prediction, dictionary, picture dictionary, text to speech, screenshot reader, speech maker, screen mask, translator, highlighters, voice note, and more. Works on webpages, PDFs, Google Docs, and Google Slides.
Note: There is a paid version with all the tools and a free version with a subset of the tools. Educators can get the paid version for a year at no cost by filling out the form at:http://rw.texthelp.com/drive/home/RegisterTeacher

2) SpeakIt!
Chrome web extension link
This text to speech tool will read aloud any selected text from a website, with the options to adjust the voice, speed, and volume.

3) Announcify
Chrome web extension link
This is another text to speech tool that not only reads a webpage, but also removes distracting elements from the site. The only drawback is the inability to select specific text to read, as the entire page is read aloud.

Readability extensions

4) Readability
Chrome web extension link
Make any website easier to read by removing ads, comments, and all other distractions, so just the core content remains. Users can also adjust the font size and color scheme of the new text.

5) OpenDyslexic
Chrome web extension link
Override all fonts on a webpage with the OpenDyslexic font, making the text more easily readable.

6) BeeLine Reader
Chrome web extension link
This tool creates a more readable version of a web page by removing all the ads, comments, and other extra distracting items, and then applies a color gradient to the page text guide your eye from one line to the next. (Limit of 5 articles per day for free version.)

7) ATbar
Chrome web extension link
Toolbar with features including color overlays for webpages, dictionary, text to speech, word prediction, and more.

8) MagicScroll Web Reader
Chrome web extension link
Turn web pages into a flippable e-book with easy clickable or keyboard control, as well as control over font size and page color as well.

9) Readline
Chrome web extension link
Although originally designed as a speed reading tool, you can slow the WPM rate down so students can use this to focus on one word at a time when reading to not lose their place.

10) Visor
Chrome web extension link
This screen overlay tool darkens out the page except for a horizontal band you can move up and down as you read, helping the student focus.

11) High Contrast
Chrome web extension link
This tool can make webpages easier to read by changing the colors to increase contrast, invert the colors, or switch to gray-scale.

12) Color Enhancer
Chrome web extension link
For people who are partially color-blind, this tool can help adjust and improve webpage colors.

Reading Comprehension extensions

13) Google Dictionary
Chrome web extension link
Don’t get stuck on an unknown word. Double-click on any word to get a pop-up definition, as well as spoken pronunciation for many words.

14) sentiSum:Smart Summarizer
Chrome web extension link
This extension takes an entire webpage and create a short summary in a few sentences to give the reader a quick overview of the content.

Focus extensions

15) Simple Blocker
Chrome web extension link
This tool helps students to stay focused on their work by blocking distracting websites. The user can choose the sites to block, how long to block them, and optional password protection.

16) uBlock Origin
Chrome web extension link
A simple but powerful ad-blocking extension to help remove distracting ads from websites, making pages less cluttered and easier to read.

17) Move It
Chrome web extension link
For students who need a break, this extension can be set to periodically have them stop working and do something physical for a moment.

Navigation extensions

18) Click-free Browsing
Chrome web extension link
For users who have a difficulty clicking a mouse, this extension adds on-screen navigation buttons the user can simply hover over to use.

19) Vimium
Chrome web extension link
Provides keyboard shortcuts for navigation and control for someone with difficulty using a mouse.

20) CrxMouse
Chrome web extension link
Use mouse gestures to navigate including forward, backward, scrolling, refreshing, switching tabs, and more. The user can even program their own custom mouse gestures to open programs and perform other tasks.

21) Caret Browsing
Chrome web extension link
This extension gives you a movable cursor in any web page, allowing you to move through the text with your arrows keys and select text with the keyboard.

Additional Resources

Video training webinar (1 hour)

Help Guide – “Google Tools for Special Needs” – Google Document link

What other Chrome web extensions have you found that can assist students with special needs and struggling learners? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1



A sneaky parent’s guide to getting your child to take their vitamins

A sneaky parent’s guide to getting your child to take their vitamins

by Caffeinated Autism Mom,Thursday January 20, 2011

For those of us parents that take the biomedical path in treating our kids with autism, we are often completely stymied as to how to get all of those expensive vitamins and supplements down the gullet of our ever-moving children. This is made even more complex if you have a child who is too young to understand how to swallow pills, or if you have kids like mine that lack the motor coordination to get their tongue to cooperate in the pill-swallowing process. Some day they’ll figure it out. I hope. Sooner than later. Please.

Since I’ve agonized over the vitamin dilemma, I am going to give you some free advice based on the successes I’ve had with this issue. But unlike most free advice, mine is actually good. Trust me.

Things to Consider

  1. Does your child eat anything you put in front of them, no matter the color/temperature/texture/taste?

Okay, so this is sort of a trick question to see if you’re paying attention. I imagine that your answer is a resounding “NO!” Most moms struggle with picky eaters at some point, and that includes moms of neurotypical kiddos. If your answer is no, then welcome to the club. Be prepared to change your game plan as often as necessary. We’re going with the flow here, or at least, we’re trying to make a good effort while our teeth are gritted behind a Stepford-like smile.

  1. Does your child have difficulty swallowing or do they have a strong gag reflex?

If your answer is yes to either part of this question, then teaching your child to swallow pills should probably wait until they are older or have learned to better overcome their motor/sensory issues. Feeding therapy might be a good idea to aid what you’re already doing at home. If you, like me, do not enjoy your child making the face and sound of a cat coughing up a hairball (rendering any vitamins in their mouth into a slobbery and unusable mess), then just wait to cross this bridge. But, don’t fret! There are things you can do to help your child take their vitamins. More on this in a moment.

  1. Can your child only palate certain textures?

If your child can only tolerate certain textures in their mouth, then giving them the wrong thing could cause a tantrum, hunger strike, flying food, or other ghastly calamity that us worn out parents don’t have time or energy to deal with. You might want to stick with what you already know. There’s actually a lot that can be done with different textures, so hooray for that! And yes, I know you’re still waiting. Patience is a virtue, people.

  1. Does your child respond to rules, a picture schedule, or rewards for positive behavior?

If your answer is yes, then we’ve got even more to work with here. Do not despair! We have options. Let’s check them out now, shall we?

Hiding the Goods

If you have a child with feeding-related motor or sensory issues, this is where your creativity comes into play. I used the hiding method for a long time. Each day I would create a concoction for my boys based upon what I knew they could handle at that time. To aid this process, I looked for as many supplements as possible in a capsule form. This way, I could open and empty the contents into my culinary creation du jour. If something wasn’t available as a capsule, I purchased the tablet form and then pulverized it in my mortar and pestle. OK. So now we have vitamin powder ready to use. What do we do with it?

Tried and True Vitamin Vehicles

Juice – I dusted off my juicer when my kids were diagnosed, and guess what I discovered? Juicing is an excellent way to not only provide wonderful nutrition to your kids, but vitamins can hide inside the delicious juice! This can depend on the solubility of the powdered vitamin and sometimes how well you mix it. Trial and error works best with this. Unfortunately, you might lose a few vitamins in the process of learning what will mix in well and what won’t. Start out with simple juices like apple or orange, and then you can move on to more complex things like kale and strawberry. Yes, you read that correctly. If you juice something “yucky” (you know, anything green), you will be amazed how adding a nice supply of rich berries can mask the flavor. I used to call my green juices funny names, like Silly Strawberry juice. “Yes honey, the juice is a funny color, but that’s what makes those strawberries so silly!” Get it? You can get really creative and do things like carrot, apple, beet, spinach, cucumber, and blueberry juice. As long as the fruit taste outshines the vegetable taste, you can call the juice the name of the strongest fruit flavor (like in this example, it would be crazy blueberry juice). You can also joke about the color. If color is an issue, try serving the juice in a covered cup with an opaque straw.

Smoothies – Along the same lines as juicing, smoothies are an excellent way to hide vitamins and introduce additional nutrition. The bonus with this method is that you can hide more without the child noticing. This was my preferred method for over a year. In times past, I would toss the following into a blender: frozen organic fruit, liquid cod liver oil, protein powder (I used yellow pea protein because my kids were allergic to everything else), their daily vitamin powder (from all of the capsules I emptied), and then I would add freshly-made juice, spring water, or coconut milk. The key here is to get the consistency correct so that it’s not too thick for them to drink, and that it’s not too thin where they can taste the grit of the various powders. Experiment! You’ll find something that your kid likes.

Mixing – On more difficult days, rather than making a smoothie I would mix the vitamin powder into things like applesauce or oatmeal. I’ve even gone so far as to mix the powder into sunbutter or jam before I added it to their sandwich. If the food can hide the powder, then it’s worth a shot. This is where your knowledge of what textures and tastes your child can tolerate can really help you in selecting the right food. I alternated this method with using smoothies for over a year, and it worked well.

Sprinkling/Baking – If none of the other methods work, try sprinkling the vitamin powder on top of a couple of pancakes and gently press the powder into the batter before you flip it on the griddle. Keep in mind, some vitamins are sensitive to heat, so this may not be an appropriate method for you. Baked treats also hide vitamin powder well. Try adding the powder to a couple of cookies or muffins that you designate in a batch as ones that need to be eaten first. Again, some vitamins will not tolerate the heat of this method and you also need to do this in perspective of what your child can handle with food textures, tastes, etc.


Many vitamins and supplements can be found in a chewable form, which is actually one of the simplest ways to get vitamins into children. Since the vitamin count has gone down for my boys, this is our current method of choice. It took me awhile to figure out what brands they liked the most, and there were a few big-time losers along the way. Right now our fish oil of choice is Minami Nutrition’s MoreEPA in strawberry flavor. We also useNature’s Plus Source of Life Animal Parade products for much of our remaining vitamin cocktail. These vitamins are free of common allergens like wheat, milk, soy and yeast and there are no artificial colors or preservatives. What I like the most about this brand is that the nutrients are derived from food, which the body recognizes and can use. Pardon me while I step on a soapbox… Traditional vitamins you find in most stores are synthetic, and the nutrients are created in a lab. The body isn’t able to utilize synthetics in the same way it can with naturally-derived vitamins, which means those vitamins are not being absorbed and there is little effect. You might as well throw those vitamins in the toilet, because that’s where they end up! So, I stick with food-based vitamins because I know I’m actually getting some bang for my buck. Alright, I’ve stepped off the soapbox… I buy all of our vitamins and supplements at a local vitamin/health store, and in the past I’ve purchased them online from vitamin retailers. There are many great brands out there that are bioavailable and formulated for kids. A popular brand among autism families is Kirkman Labs, although I have no personal experience with this brand. In my opinion, the cost and a child’s taste preferences can heavily influence what brand(s) you choose.


Sometimes there are significant issues with getting a kid to take vitamins, for many different reasons. When all else seems to fail, you might look into high-quality liquid vitamins. The only company that I know of that has a whole line of liquid vitamins is BrainChild Nutritionals. I have never used them myself, but know families who recommend them.

Supportive Structure and Rewards

Did my kids always cooperate with my sneaky attempts to give them their daily vitamin regimen? Heck no! This is where setting up a supportive structure and reward system rescued me. Most kids on the spectrum respond in some way to rules and boundaries. If not, then they might respond to a picture schedule or social story. If not any of those, then a reward system can often help. I actually used all of these systems in my home with great success. Want to learn more about this very topic? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but my fingers need a break from typing. Tune in tomorrow and learn how these techniques can help, not only with vitamins, but with other daily tasks and difficult behaviors. Remember, patience is a virtue! 😉

Is Organic Wheat Gluten-Free?

Though this post contains an article on wheat/gluten free products for people suffering from Celiac Disease, it is still relevant for people on the GFCF diet.

Is Organic Wheat Gluten-Free?

Question: I’ve heard organic wheat is gluten-free. Is that even possible?

Answer: No, it’s not possible. Organic wheat most definitely is not gluten-free. But it’s true there’s some confusion on this subject.

To understand why this confusion exists, it helps to know a little bit about wheat, how it’s grown, and how it has changed in recent years. It also helps to know the culture in which the current gluten-free diet trend has bloomed.

First, The Basics

As you may or may not already know, gluten is a type of protein molecule that forms within the kernels of grain plants. It’s found in three grains: wheat, barley andrye. People with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity need to avoid wheat (and, of course, the other gluten grains) because their bodies react to gluten.

But others are avoiding wheat because they believe the gluten-free diet is healthier … and those others also tend to skew organic.

That, I believe, is where the confusion between “organic” and “gluten-free” began — people began to equate organic with gluten-free.

Growing wheat organically (meaning without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) might be better for the environment, but it doesn’t change the structure of the gluten proteins that develop as part of the grain. Therefore, all wheat — including organic wheat — will contain gluten.

Okay, What About Ancient Wheat?

This may be where more confusion about this topic arose.

Ancient forms of wheat, such as Einkorn and Kamut, frequently are grown organically, and some people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity report that they can consume baked goods made with these forms of wheat without getting symptoms.

However, research shows that ancient wheat strains do in fact contain gluten — although the forms of gluten they contain may be less toxic than gluten from modern wheat to those with celiac and gluten sensitivity.

Learn more:

But Isn’t the Problem Really GMO Wheat?

Yes, some people do blame genetically modified (GMO) wheat (which by definition isn’t organic) for the increasing numbers of people who have a problem with gluten. But this just isn’t so … for the simple reason that GMO wheat isn’t in production anywhere.

There have been some major changes made to wheat crops over the last half-century or more. But those changes are the result of selective breeding of wheat strains by scientists in order to produce desirable characteristics — one of which happens to be very high gluten content, which commercial bakers want.

Learn more:

So the next time someone tries to tell you that organic wheat bread is safe on the gluten-free diet, you know they’re wrong, and you need to steer clear of that organic loaf.


5 Foods that makes Autism worse

5 Foods that makes Autism Worse

  • Casein protein in Milk – milk consumption in children should be stopped after the age of 5.
  • Gluten – All gluten.
  • Corn – corn is still a grain. Most corn in America is sprayed with pesticides. It also have the worse fatty profile and fugal grows triggers
  • Sugars – increases erratic brain firing
  • Artificial coloring and sweeteners

Interestingly, peanuts is not good for children on the Spectrum, but Almonds are.

Video from TACA – Talking about Curing Autism.