Children with dyslexia are often very good at creating imaginative stories. They do, however have difficulties in transferring their ideas to paper. Functional writing can also be an issue when memory, sequencing, and organisational skills, all of which can be problematic for pupils with dyslexia, are of paramount importance. The process of writing can be laboured, requiring considerable effort, and the product is often immature, untidy and illegible. Spelling may be erratic and even bizarre. Sentence structure and use of vocabulary is often simplistic at best and the piece of work usually resembles that of a much younger child.
The school curriculum places great emphasis on writing for learning and assessment. Children with dyslexia can be significantly disadvantaged. It has been well documented that technology can assist pupils with dyslexia particularly in extended pieces of writing, enabling them to produce work of a higher quality at a faster pace. ICT can support pupils with dyslexia in various ways. Texts can be made available in an electronic form either by obtaining a source electronic version or by scanning it in to the computer. The appearance of the document can then be altered to suit individual needs - for example by changing font, size or colours. Children with reading difficulties can use 'text-to-speech' programs to have the computer read out the text. Electronic study tools such as thesaurus, dictionary, highlighters, bookmarks, text and voice notes can be used to manage and organise information sources. These techniques can all help children to access learning materials independently, using their optimum preferred learning styles.
Policy Document quotes
Supporting Children's Learning Code of Practice states:
"The [Additional Support for Learning] Act requires that the education authority must make adequate and efficient provision for such additional support as is required by each child or young person with additional support needs."
The Scottish Executive Guidance on Preparing Accessibility Strategies 2002 describes the planning duties that need to be carried out by local authorities, independent and grant-aided schools in Scotland to meet legal requirements introduced by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) and Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The Guidance notes that:
"Consideration should be given to whether class work or homework could be given in alternative forms and, also, consider how any homework, or other work pupils do in alternative forms, can best be marked/commented on by school staff."
"Responsible bodies should ensure that any information that is important to enable pupils to learn or to be able to participate in school activities can be provided in an alternative form if the pupil may have difficulty reading information provided in standard written form."
"...responsible bodies should make certain that contracts for any future supply of computers or upgrade of existing stock ensure that the computers (and associated furniture) are accessible or can easily be modified to be accessible to pupils with disabilities. They should also ensure that teaching staff are aware and can receive specialist advice on the use of accessible software and websites..."
Using the technology
The following technology is mentioned in the clips below:
AlphaSmart: a word-processing computer with a small screen. It is not a Windows PC computer. Unfortunately the terms 'AlphaSmart' and 'laptop' [which usually does refer to a PC] are often used synonymously. Clearly a laptop PC has very many more functions than an AlphaSmart and is therefore considerably more expensive and complex to use.
Most of the pupils in this paper discuss the use of AlphaSmarts, however, this particular piece of technology has recently been discontinued and will be replaced by Neos, a more sophisticated product.
Co:Writer and Penfriend are 'word prediction' software programs which offer lists of words as the writer types. The pupil clicks on the word to have it inserted into the text. Word prediction can help some pupils produce more accurate work, especially when writing about topics that requires longer words or more complex vocabulary. Both programs are available from Learning and Teaching Scotland at a considerable discount from the standard education price.
Some children with dyslexia who are supported well with an AlphaSmart demonstrate good skills in literacy in S1. Listen to Jamie: