“Reading is the most important work of childhood and yet as many as one in five children struggle to learn to read, with consequences extending beyond childhood into adult life.” Sally Shaywitz, MD, Overcoming Dyslexia
Your child is falling behind in school. The problems seem to be in the area of reading and language. Getting a diagnosis wasn’t easy, but you finally have a name for the problem: dyslexia. What’s next?
Dyslexia treatment has two parts: 1) direct intervention and 2) the use of what are called assistive technologies – tools that help those with reading disabilities and other language disorders. In this article, we’ll introduce some of these tools.
When a child can’t read or has difficulty reading, the child can’t make sense of words on the page or on the screen. The letters are there, but they don’t group together in a way that makes sense. Naturally, this is frustrating. Problems with vocabulary, spelling, writing, and comprehension increase. Before long, the child is unable to keep up with school work – something that only gets worse over time.
The primary goal of assistive technologies is to move the child around the barrier – not being able to read or process language – and give the child access to the printed grade-level material he or she needs to keep up in school, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Text-to-speech systems translate printed words into spoken words. Hearing the spoken word while reading the same text seems to help most people’s comprehension. There are human-voice systems, and there are computer-generated, or synthetic, speech systems. These systems offer access to a wide range of texts for readers of all ages and skill levels.
Children with dyslexia often have problems with writing as well as reading. Speech-to-text software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, allows children to turn their own spoken words into written text. This can help with school work as well as with other written communication, including letters, e-mail, and creative writing.
While those with dyslexia tend to be much better at thinking in pictures than in words, they may have problems with working memory, following directions, or recalling sequences in the right order. Organizational software is technology that helps with memory. Programs such as Evernote, and Google Calendar can help dyslexic children remember and get organized in ways that rely more on visual cues – colors, patterns, symbols, images – than on the written word.
Of course, assistive technologies don’t teach reading or spelling. For that, the child needs structured literacy therapy with a licensed clinician. Assistive technologies do not take the place of direct intervention, but, with a clinician’s guidance, they allow children with dyslexia and other language-learning disorders to keep up with their curriculum. Assistive technologies are not “crutches” that prevent the child from developing better reading and spelling; they improve the child’s independent use of reading and spelling and supplement direct intervention. Your child’s clinician is the person best qualified to recommend the assistive technologies that are right for your child’s unique abilities.
If you have questions about dyslexia, assistive technologies, or learning tools that can help children with language-learning disorders, give us a call at 1-919-747-4557 or e-mail email@example.com.
Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.