In the UK, approximately *75% of the population has access to a computer, if not at home, at school, college, library etc. Computers are absolutely vital for people with dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD’s), to at least help them to have a level playing field with the rest of the population.
*Ofcom Study Ipsos/Mori 2009
Can computers help with dyslexic students?
Computers are an important part of classroom teaching. Although no computer package can ever be a substitute for good teaching, the correct software packages can help and support the busy teacher. Many programs can be incorporated into a specialist-teaching scheme. They provide over learning, structured and systematic teaching, immediate reinforcement and feedback, and the additional motivation that students require to succeed.
The advantage of instant feedback and the possibility of echoing each letter name, each word, each sentence of any marked section of text, as well as reading through, helps the student with poor short-term memory and ensures an efficient transfer to long-term memory – making learning fun. Software packages can provide structured learning, continually developing skills and providing support for literacy and numeracy.
Computers, Laptops, ‘Tablets’ ‘iPhones’ or any other handheld Computer device
Laptops, ‘tablets’, or other handheld device are the most popular computers these days because of their size. They can range from just £225. Most computers in this range incorporate speakers and sound cards (i.e. multimedia) that make it ideal for specialist educational software, (although I have to say that the sound & graphic cards (that’s the bits inside the computers) are not the best ones in the world and it may be worth paying more, about £500, if you can afford it).
(Touch screen computers)
These computers look like any other monitor but they work by simply touching the screen with your hands. They are very useful in identifying and assessing children (of three years plus) for early signs of specific learning difficulties.
Keyboards – for nursery/Key Stage 1 children (or children with dyspraxia)
BigKeys is a starter keyboard and has a lower-case keyboard. It has been designed for nursery/Key Stage 1 children and it has a colourful and uncluttered layout in the traditional ‘qwerty’ style. All unnecessary keys are removed or hidden. The very large keys are colour coded – vowels are yellow, ‘r’ is red, ‘b’ is blue, etc – further aiding letter recognition. This beginner’s keyboard makes an excellent start before changing to the standard keyboard. It is very easy to use; no software needed – just plug in and go. An excellent choice for very young children. Further information from ‘KeyTools’.
The hands-free computer
Hands-free computers use neither screen, keyboard nor mouse. Hand movements control them in mid-air. The ‘virtual computer’ is used in some offices and operating theatres. Hand movements in mid-air are picked up by cameras coupled to pattern recognition software and used to control the computer in the same way as a mouse does. These systems cost more than conventional computers. However, there use for people with disabilities is infinite.
Please don’t take your old computer to the tip – Give them to a local charity
Anyone getting rid of your old computers please consider there are usually charities in your area that will pick them up from you and service them and give them to people who can’t afford one. Don’t worry, because they will give you a guarantee that your personal details will be deleted before the computer is given away. What a brilliant idea! It’s a ‘win, win’ situation! You get rid of your old ones and people make use of them – Really Green.
There are literally hundreds of computer software programmes available these days. However, a lot of them are not particularly suitable for students’ with dyslexia.
I would like to say that 100% of items on this site are suitable for student’s with dyslexia or other SpLD’s, however, occasionally something may slip through, if you notice this, please could you email me. Many thanks, Maria
Voice Recognition Software (VRS)
During the last few years, speech recognition software has come a very long way, for instance, ‘Dragon Naturally Preferred‘ is rated independently to be 99% accurate and is so easy to use, you’ll wish you changed years ago.
This software works by you ‘talking’ to your computer. As you talk, the words are written on the computer screen – and they are spelt correctly. This type of software helps to improve spelling because the student always sees the correctly spelled words. The computer types up exactly what you say. (The golden rule is to speak slowly when recording your own voice, stressing ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘and’, etc., but please do not speak like a robot, because when you start doing your essay’s etc., the machine will not recognise your voice.) Read more . . .
Word Prediction and Speech Synthesis
Word prediction and speech synthesis software ‘predicts’ what the student wants to say by ‘guessing’ what the word is from the first couple of letters. With some of these packages the computer will search the list for the appropriate word, i.e. type the letter ‘a’ and several of the common words are suggested such as a, an, and, another, etc. The user can normally listen to the words being spoken thus helping them decide which word is correct.
The ClaroRead Plus is a word prediction program which includes ScreenRuler (a strip-magnifying program), the new ClaroView screen tinting program and Scan2Text which uses the powerful OmniPage optical character recognition for turning paper and PDF files into editable, speaking Word documents. Further information available from REM.
This software is able to predict words before they are typed, saving time and effort. It can also speak its suggestions and read text from documents. A great help for those with dyslexia. It has been so successful it has been sold to all schools in Northern Ireland as well as all UK online centres in colleges and libraries (nearly 900 centres). You can get further information from REM.
Penfriend XP – Portable
As above but is portable. It’s ideal to take from classroom to classroom or office to home. You can get further information from REM.
Read and Write Gold (10)
Providing the ultimate support for dyslexic students and adults, this toolbar offers a variety of tools. Combinations of speech-feedback, phonetic spellchecker and dictionary and word predictions help overcome the problems of accessing and composing written material. It can correct words such as ‘there’, ‘they’re’, and ‘their’ where the sound of the word is correct but the context may be wrong. This product was short listed for the prestigious Education Resource Award 2010 in the category of Best Special Education Resource. You can get further information from iANSYST.
The Grammar Show (7 – 14)
This helps children learn and consolidate their understanding of grammar. Suitable for Key Stage 2 and 3. Areas covered: nouns, simple verbs and tenses, verb forms, adjectives and adverbs, pronouns and prepositions, sentences and standard English. Available from www.dyslexic.com
Information about Computers, Software, Educational Games The following is all tried and tested by various Dyslexia Associations across the Country, include:
TextHelp Read & Write, Mind Genius, Mind Manager, Inspiration, Clicker, Coloured Overlay Screener, Gamz, LADS, Mastering Memory, Nessy, Penfriend, QuickScan/StudyScan, Touch-Type Read & Spell, WordBar, Wordswork, Alphabet Track, Eye Track, Idiom Track, Phoeme Track, Spell Track, Word Track,etc. Plus the usual technical aids: Reading Pens, Handheld Spellers, Dana, Dictaphones etc.
Mind Mapping Software
‘Mind Mapping’ or ‘Concept Mapping’ (what a name!), Software, can help in many areas, including:
• Reading comprehension
• Note taking
• Critical thinking
• Higher order thinking
• Learning a foreign language
• Problem solving, particularly in maths
• Comprehension and retention of scientific material and concepts
• Retention and recall of information
Inspiration v9 (7 – adult)
An excellent visual learning tool. A great computer program that maps out ideas in a ‘nifty spider chart’. Helps students develop ideas while planning and structuring workflow. Available from iANSYST.
MindGenius 2005 (for 11 years +):
A flexible Mind Mapping program with an automatic brainstorming mode which enables the map to be viewed in a variety of layouts. Closely integrated to MS Office it allows text outlines and images of maps to be easily imported and exported to many common applications as well as time and project management tools through Outlook.
Mind Manager X6 Pro (for 11 years +):
A powerful and comprehensive mind mapping tool that encourages efficient and accurate management of ideas using visual cues. The multi-map view makes handling large amounts of information easier.
A lot of my colleagues believe that children/students should ‘touch-type’. I am not sure why they actually believe this to be essential. However, I do believe that all children / students should know their way around the keyboard but that is not the same thing as touch-typing. I am an extremely good at touch-typing, so I think I do know what I am talking about in this area, but my husband and one of my children can both use a computer brilliantly and they type at about 40 words per minute using three or four fingers. (Some typists only just about reach that speed.)
I also am not aware of any research which suggests that if student’s can touch type they are better at their work. They may get through long essays slightly quicker but I think that is a slightly different issue. I am sure they would get through their essays, quicker using Voice Recognition Software.
There are quite a few Touch-Typing packages available. Whilst I am sure they all work properly, many of them are less suited for the dyslexic student.
BBC Typing Package
The BBC Typing Package is free to download and is very easy to use. It takes you through all the different stages. (There is a lot of useful information on the BBC educational channel.
KAZ Typing Package
KAZ is a super touch typing package and is very cheap. You can down load it from the internet and children seem to love it because it has a giant floppy animal that keeps them amused whilst it takes them gradually through the different stages.
UltraKey 5 Packages
Age: 9 years+
Setting: School, home, business and university
Teacher’s settings: Extensive, including being able to add your own text into lessons and error analysis tools
Number of lessons: 15
Average length of lesson: 15 minutes
Number of games: none, only learning exercises.
Ultrakey 5 uses voice, 3D animation, video and virtual reality. This typing tutor is ideal for individuals, secondary schools and colleges where the huge range of options means that it can be personalised to any level of ability or individual’s requirements, including the font size, font style and challenge level. Colour-coded on-screen keyboard and life-like hands make learning to type easier while the built in text-to-speech function means that everything on screen can be read out if required.
Teachers can add their own content to lessons, tailoring them to individual student’s needs. The high quality graphics in Ultrakeys graphics provides a good representation of the finger-movements required for typing making it particularly useful for visual learners.
Keyboards for Nursery/Key Stage 1 children (or children with dyspraxia) Packages
BigKeys is a starter keyboard and has a lower-case keyboard. It has been designed for Nursery/Key Stage 1 children and it has a colourful and uncluttered layout in the traditional ‘qwerty’ style. All unnecessary keys are removed or hidden. The very large keys are colour coded – vowels are yellow, ‘r’ is red, ‘b’ is blue, etc. – further aiding letter recognition.
This beginner’s keyboard makes an excellent start before changing to the standard keyboard. It is very easy to use; no software needed – just plug in and go. An excellent choice for very young children. Further information from Key Tools.
A Dutch designer has come up with an innovative way to help people with dyslexia.
Christian Boer is developing a new typeface, called Dyslexie, which he hopes will make it easier for people suffering from the learning disability to read.
People suffering from dyslexia tend to mix up letters, especially ones that look similar, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’. Boer says font designers have compounded the problem by creating typefaces based on aesthetic appeal rather than readability.
The font Dyslexie combats this problem by making changes to easily rotated or inverted letters. For instance, letters are bolded on the underside, the ascender or descender of a letter is lengthened so the difference between the letter ‘h’ and the letter ‘n’, for example, is exaggerated.
If you think you may have Dyslexia, and you are a student in higher education (or intending to go) you may be able to claim ‘Disabled Students’ Allowance’ (DSA). You can use this to pay for specialist equipment or tuition.
Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA) is available for students in the UK, who are studying for a full-time course at university, (this may also apply to the Open University).
You will need to have a full educational psychologist report. If this shows positive for dyslexia / dyscalculia, a grant of approximately £5,000 is available and can be used to pay for specialist equipment and tuition (including study skills). This grant is not ‘means tested’.
The reason for these extra provisions is because dyslexic students often take much longer to complete their work. These extra allowances, give them a ‘level playing field’.
The psychologists we use are fully qualified and independent professionals with a great deal of experience of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Nonverbal Learning Difficulties (NLD) and other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs).
There is a lot more information in my book, ‘Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties – An Essential Guide’. Fantastic independent book reviews, available from: Need2Know.
How can computers help dyslexic / dysgraphic learners with Study Skills?
Computers can help people with learning difficulties in lots of different ways:
- Learning to use databases and spreadsheets may aid sequential thinking and problem solving skills.
- They can motivate people, especially children.
- There is immediate reinforcement.
- Students have the ability to make and self-correct mistakes in private.
- They provide essential over learning/reinforcement.
- Most computers can now be programmed to ‘speak to you’. This software could revolutionise foreign language learning.
- Programs with speech make learning truly multi-sensory.
- Students can listen – ideas developed orally can be tried out and changed easily.
- Response is immediate.
- Students work at own pace.
- Printouts and text on a screen are often easier to read than the student’s own writing.
- Reading and spelling are incorporated into nearly every program.
- The colours and brightness on computer screens can be adjusted.
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