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Assistive Technologist Prepares Students for Post-Secondary Learning Through Reading Independence

Categories: Assistive Technology, Awards, Curriculum & Access, Education & Teaching, Educators, Learning Ally “How-To Use”, Reading Strategies for K-12, Student Centric Learning, Teacher Best Practices

Learning independence…that is what Caroline Radlinger, an Occupational Therapist for the Medford Area School District in Wisconsin, wants for all students. She uses her extensive training in assistive technology to prepare students with learning challenges for post-secondary schooling and success in their lives and careers. This is why Ms. Radlinger is a recipient of Learning Ally’s 2022 Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Education Award; an award that recognizes exemplary educators improving literacy for all learners. 

Head shot of Caroline RadlingerTechnology has changed the learning landscape,” said Ms. Radlinger. Early in her career, she understood the benefits that assistive technologies can bring to all kinds of learners. Her district now provides annual staff development and an intensive range of learning support for students with dyslexia at the universal, targeted, and intensive levels. Resources include Wilson Reading and Learning Ally audiobooks to ensure all students are able to close achievement gaps evidenced by their reading scores on statewide and local assessments. 

Benefits of Assistive Technology - Audiobooks

Ms. Radlinger initiated the first Core Assistive Technology team to train students, staff, and families how to choose and use AT tools. She manages a variety of the education technology processes in her district that connect students with iPads, Learning Ally, Communication Boards, and Visual Communications.

“Human-read audiobooks unlock learning potential, and encourages reading independence for more students than we can imagine,” said Ms. Radlinger. Her district provides access to Learning Ally’s audiobook library containing well over 80,000 audiobooks giving students the ability to read what their classmates read, including required curriculum, and to read at home or on the go. 

Through her knowledge and support, she has helped students of all ages (3-21) glean a clear understanding of their own learning style. “Equitable access to reading materials is another assurance we are doing all we can to level the learning field,” she said. “Students love the natural narration of humans who emphasize intonation, prosody, and comprehension. They make information come to life and reading on grade-level possible.” 

As a parent of children with dyslexia, Ms. Radlinger strives to educate students and families to a deeper understanding of how learning disabilities affect the brain’s cognitive processes. She knows all too well the frustration students feel when they cannot decode words fast enough to comprehend what they are reading. Instead of giving them only low level books to read, she empowers them with tools like Boardmaker, Learning Ally, and Sensory Regulation to replace their fears. “I want them to worry less, and learn more,” she says. On the district’s website, she also creates seminars and tutorials with links to social stories and visuals to inform parents, and reinforce students’ skills and learning confidence.    

Ongoing Professional Learning is Key

Ms. Radlinger’s passion for learning independence, and her steadfast quest for ongoing professional development at the local and state level has enabled her to unlock the learning potential for far more students through ways which would not have been possible without her efforts. Students under her tutelage are now academically successful in high school English classes. They access Learning Ally audiobooks to help them read with deep comprehension. They maintain reading fluency. They read grade-level books, and meet classroom learning expectations. 

She often encourages young people to become teachers, which she says is a rewarding profession. “To be a teacher or specialist in service to children is one of the greatest gifts you can give to our community and our nation.”

On behalf of the Learning Ally organization, we congratulate Caroline Radlinger and all 2022 winners for their exemplary service to improve literacy for all learners. 

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