Are you wondering which technology can best help your child? The range of choices can be confusing. Should you choose a reader pen? What about text-to-speech software? Here is our guide to help you.
When you consider a piece of technology, ask yourself:
- Does it suit my budget? The latest technology is the most expensive. Can you purchase something similar second-hand?
- Does it meet my child’s particular needs? Every child has different strengths and areas of struggle. Refer to your child’s individual assessment.
- Is it practical? Anything heavy, unwieldy or tricky to use just isn’t right for a child. Make sure the technology is intuitive without difficult instructions to follow. It needs to make your child’s day-to-day life more comfortable.
Computer screen adjustments
Many dyslexics find it difficult to read text on a glaring, white computer screen. You can make different adjustments to help your child:
- change the colours of both the text and the background
- alter the font size or use ‘zoom’ to increase letter size
- choose a font that’s easiest for your child to read.
For help in making adjustments see, My Computer My Way.
Text-to-speech software frees your child from reading, enabling them to focus on the meaning of the text. When choosing text-to-speech software:
- pick a program with a human voice - research has found that a real-sounding voice helps reading comprehension
- ensure the computer highlights the words as it reads them aloud as this helps focus and comprehension.
If you already have a tablet or an e-reader, check whether your device has text-to-speech software and whether it’s appropriate for your child. See Best text to speech software 2019.
Your child can use a reader pen to scan a word or a sentence, and the pen reads the text to them. Using a reader pen enables your child to be independent in English, history, maths and science – any subject! It means that your child’s dyslexia will not result in them falling behind in any subject.
The best thing about a reading pen is that it can be dropped into a small bag and taken anywhere. Reader pens come with earphones so they can be used without disturbing others. The pen can be used on almost any printed font which is a big advantage over text-to-speech computer software. The C-Pen Reader is a popular choice.
There is continued controversy about whether or not tinted glasses help dyslexics to read. Current research-based evidence argues that dyslexia isn’t a visual disorder but a learning disorder.
However, Visual Stress (or ‘Meares-Irlen syndrome’) has been found to be more common in dyslexics.
To find out whether your child suffers from Visual Stress book an appointment with your optician who can then recommend the best treatment.
For more about Visual Stress see Kite Opticians’ website.
Speech recognition software
Speech recognition systems require children to speak very clearly. Avoid frustration by making sure you have tested the software yourself before you give it to your child. Research has shown that children with dyslexia who use speech recognition software make richer word choices, write more creatively than they would have done, and complete their work more often. Remember: success breeds success!
The Dyslexia Association recommend Dragon NaturallySpeaking – a speech recognition software suitable for dyslexics who are able verbal communicators or who have physical difficulties using a computer keyboard. If you have an Apple mobile device the association recommend Siri which is a built-in virtual assistant with speech-to-text function.
Children can use virtual assistants to ask, ‘How do you spell…?’ Examples of programs include Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.
Of course, word-processing and predictive text programs correct spelling and grammar (although they are not infallible!).
As well as problems with reading and writing dyslexics can struggle with short-term memory, concentration and information processing. Mind-mapping software helps them to organize their thoughts organically. It can help them to plan and organize projects, revision notes, ideas – everything and anything.
The British Dyslexia Association website guides you through the mind-mapping technology available.
There is so much amazing assistive technology out there. We hope we’ve provided a starting point to help you make the best choices, so your child can become a confident, motivated learner!