Susan Barton, founder of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, recommends five favorite technology tools for people with dyslexia. These tools allow students to work around their weak areas while they build up their strengths through tutoring or classroom accommodations. Barton explains that assistive technology is an overlooked solution. Ideally children with dyslexia would be able to get both classroom accommodations and one-on-one tutoring. If they do not have access to tutors, Barton says that using assistive technology with classroom accommodations will make it possible for bright kids to go all the way through a PhD program.
The Pulse SmartPen is a practical, affordable—and really cool—solution to taking notes. Inside the pen is a computer that records what they hear while they write notes. Students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities will find the Pulse SmartPen simple to use and effective for remembering exactly what was explained in class.
Watch short video clips of this amazing new tool here.
Children and adults with dyslexia can use Naturally Speaking to put their thoughts to paper. Naturally Speaking is voice recognition software that allows the user to talk into its microphone while the software types what they said into the computer—with correct spelling. It will then read out what it typed in. If they want to change anything, they can just grab the mouse and edit it as if they had typed it in on their own.
To learn more or purchase Naturally Speaking online, go here.
This handheld device runs on rechargeable batteries and contains a high-resolution camera. Students can take pictures of handouts, articles, or even textbook pages, which are instantly converted to text that they can see on the screen. They can also listen to the words being read to them—out loud or through earphones. A portable capture station assists with photographing large amounts of text, such as in a book or magazine.
Watch this video to see how easy the Intel Reader is to use.
For a more in-depth demo, go here.
For a list of dealers, and links to their websites, go here.
Type To Learn
Most children with dyslexia also have dysgraphia—a learning disability that affects handwriting. For them, handwriting is slow, tedious, and painful (from using too much pressure). It is also difficult to read their handwriting.
Typing will allow students to produce written work faster, and the results will be much easier to read. But it will take a dyslexic child longer to master typing than most children because it requires two weak areas: memorization and directionality. It is best to start teaching children how to type as soon as possible. If they practice typing 10 minutes a day during the summer, they can become a decent typist by September.
Susan Barton’s favorite typing program is called Type To Learn, published by Sunburst Software. After installing Type To Learn, ensure that it will not frustrate a child with dyslexia by changing its settings to Low Vocabulary, Large Font, 8 words per minute, and 70% accuracy.
When a student has gone through all the lessons once, change the settings to Medium Vocabulary, Medium Font, 20 or 25 words per minute, and 85% accuracy. That will make the lessons look entirely new.
Most students will be able to type at least 25 words per minute by the time they have gone through all the lessons a second time. At that point, a child with dyslexia should be allowed to type all school assignments.
To prevent a child from looking down at the keyboard, parents might also want to purchase a removable key-cap cover, which costs about $5.
Type to Learn runs on both a Mac and a PC and can be purchased at most computer stores or directly from Sunburst Software by going here.
Audio Books and Textbooks
Even if they cannot yet read at grade level, students with dyslexia can learn what is in a textbook by listening to an audio version.
Learning Ally (formerly Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic) has over 200,000 textbooks already recorded, many in their new digital CD format. Parents would need to order these textbooks at least six weeks before school starts. To learn how to get their audio textbooks, go here.
RFB&D Audio Textbooks now on iPhone and iPad
Learning Ally has also released a new application enabling its entire library of downloadable DAISY-formatted audiobooks and textbooks to be played on Apple iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
The new application, known as RFB&D Audio is available for $19.99 via the Apple iTune store.
For more details, go here.
Here are some other sources of books on audio:
Recorded Books rents current best sellers, classics, and leisure books recorded by professional actors.
Books on Tape also rents current best sellers and classics.
Check with your local librarian. Many classics are available through inter-library loan.
You can also download e-books. If you have screen-reading software, the computer can then read the book to your child.
For a list of sources of e-books, go here.
Kurzweil 3000: the Reading Machine
This combination of scanner and software does more than just read any book, magazine article, or set of notes to you. It is a fantastic study tool. It will read definitions of words or show you synonyms and antonyms. It allows the user to highlight text in four different colors as if they were highlighting a real textbook. They can also put post-it notes on a page and even extract a study guide.
Many colleges have Kurzweil 3000 “Reading Machines” available for students with learning disabilities to use at no cost. Innovative high schools and middle schools which own the Kurzweil 3000 Professional Version often hire someone to scan their textbooks during the summer. Those schools then give those scanned textbooks on CD to parents so that parents only have to purchase the much less expensive Learnstation software.
To learn more, or to request their free trial version, go here.
A similar product called WYNN is available from Arkenstone. To learn more, go here.