How to Review and Select a Writing Assistant Solution for Children and Adults with Dyslexia.

What are the criteria for selecting a writing assistant technology for those with dyslexia?
What should be the review process?
Which features/capabilities are the most important?

How do I review and grade different writing assistant packages?

Dr. Robert Iakobashvili,  Ghotit CTO: I have been asked this question numerous times. Here is the list of my recommendations for reviewing writing assistant solutions and finding the solution that fits you best.

1. Choose your own text samples.
Test the dyslexia software with your own text samples. The solution needs to assist your writing, so collect samples of typical text written by you or your targeted user group, and test these text samples.

2. Use text samples from multiple sources.
It is recommended to use numerous samples from diversified sources written on different subjects. Using a large enough and diversified corpus takes more time, but it has a real value in understanding what each solution can deliver to you or your institution.

3. Don’t use any published text samples in your reviewing.
Why? Many software companies collect published samples. These companies then optimize their algorithms to make sure that the published text samples produce good scores. You don’t want to be fooled by such targeted optimizations.

4. Make sure the solution is self-learning.
Don’t you want a solution that with time will understand you better? Make sure that the solution supports intelligent algorithms that learn your writing and offer improved suggestions the more you use the solution.

5. Make sure the vendor provides additional value compared to MS-Office, Pages, Windows, Mac or iOS platform tools.
For most people (those without dyslexia), the standard Windows, Mac or iOS spell checker and word-prediction are good enough. Why spend money on a writing assistant solution if you already have a good one? Take your text samples and compare the results between the Windows spell checker and the selected writing assistant. Write your phrases with word-prediction and see if you get the right predictions faster with less typing using a software tested than using the standard tools and if it’s easier to comprehend and select the right prediction.
See also if there are specific features offered by the writing assistant software vendor (word-banks, topics, dictionary with definitions, read-out-loud, etc.) that provide you even additional value.

6. The more users are testing the solution, the better.
If you are reviewing a software for an organization or a group of users, try to engage in the evaluation process as many potential users as possible. The different users should be asked to provide their inputs in different areas: correctness of the algorithms, user experience, features, etc.

7. Be precise in defining the reviewing goals and criteria of success.
The success criteria can include:

– Correctness of the suggested words upon text correction
– Improved grammar and punctuation
– Increased speed in typing due to an effective word-prediction technology
– Ability of prediction to cope with spelling/typing errors
– Feature completeness – e.g. integrated dictionary, read-out-loud.

8. Make sure that the solution inter-operates with your targeted environments.
Does your customer base use Windows? Macs? iPhones? Android devices?
Make sure, the solution supports all of the different devices that you need.

9. Confirm that the vendor is a credible supplier.
Many basic spell checking algorithms are published and can be easily programmed. Verify that the vendor is a credible vendor with a real business that offers support when needed.

10. Make sure that your vendor is dedicated to the dyslexic community
There are many writing solutions out there. Some of them are generic spell checkers that are positioned as solutions for the people with dyslexia. But children and adults with dyslexia require more sophisticated writing adaptive solutions. Make sure that your vendor is familiar with the specific challenges that those with dyslexia face reading and writing text, and that the company is dedicated to the learning disabilities market.

Development of Adaptive Solutions for People with Dyslexia is a Real Challenge!

This blog is the first one in the two blogs series: the first explaining the difficulties facing a spell checker designed for the people with dyslexia and the second blog discussing developing of a word prediction writing system for those people.

Generally speaking, developing a spell checker is a relatively simple task. All you need to do is to figure out whether a word is in dictionary and if not to suggest valid words with similar spelling. This problem sounds simple, and it is indeed simple if the following conditions are met:
The correct word you are looking for has the same number of letters as the misspelled word, or the user made only one spelling mistake. 
Thus, all you need to do is to find words that have one letter difference from the word the user misspelled (edit distance is equal to 1) and present them in a way easy for the user to choose from. That could be accomplished, for example, by sorting the suggested words by their frequencies of language usage.

Unfortunately, the above pattern, equal size words and a single error, does not fit the needs of dyslexics (samples of “dyslexic” writing) since in many cases people with dyslexia misspell a word with non-equal length word, and in most cases their spelling is a phonetic spelling with multiple errors.

The challenging task is to correct a misspelled word when you don’t know neither the number of letters in the real word nor the number of errors. It is clear, however, that in order to cope with this more complex task, spelling software shall simulate human way of thinking.

To correct a badly spelled text, we read the entire text, comprehend it, mark the words that are spelled incorrectly, and suggest corrections based on the entire text context and the grammar rules. This is a very complicated path to follow for just a piece of software!

Try Ghotit and see how it works!

So you are dyslexic. A slow reader and an Out-of-the-Box Thinker.

So you are dyslexic. A slow reader and an Out-of-the-Box Thinker.
(Slogan taken from Yale University)

I know the feeling. I am too one of those guys.
I was diagnosed as a Dyslexic as a young child
I struggled in school – probably would not have graduated without the support of my parents.
I struggled in college – usually by sitting in class and listening to the lectures without writing any notes. (I did marry the girl next to me who wrote the notes).
I had difficulties maintaining a 9-to-5 job – that is why I started Ghotit, my own business with a great partner called Robert, to provide dyslexics just like me with an awesome assistive writing solution…
I am still a slow reader- though I love and slowly read any non-fiction book I can get my hands on… And I like to think of myself as an Out-of-the-Box Thinker…
So are you dyslexic and an out-of-the-box thinker and slow-reader?

How should spelling be taught?

From dyslexiahelp.umich.edu

Phonological awareness affects learning to spell

Given that many dyslexics have difficulty hearing the individual sounds in our language—a skill that underlies spelling—many dyslexics have difficulty learning to spell.

The English orthography is derived from many other languages: Greek, Latin, and French to name a few. As a result, many English sounds are spelled more than one way. This makes learning to spell in English more difficult than in other alphabetic orthographies where one sound is represented by only one letter.

Yet, English spelling is rule-governed. It is estimated by some that 90% of English spellings are predictable based on spelling rules and patterns. Yes, there are exceptions to those rules, but there are rules and patterns to teach spelling.

That said, teaching spelling can be challenging. It is helpful to become familiar with morphological structures, roots, affixes, prefixes, and suffixes.

Take a look at this Wikipedia page for a great look at the complex nature of English orthography.

he first step is an assessment of spelling to determine where the breakdown is — at the syllable level, the phonemic level, or the orthorgraphis level. After establishing baseline and goals, a good next step when teaching spelling rules and combinations is to heighten your client’s awareness of his or her spelling strengths and weaknesses. Explain that through teaching he or she will gain a better insight into spelling rules, combinations, and exceptions.

Spelling instruction follows a logical progression that starts with phonemic awareness. If the error analysis demonstrates intact phonological awareness skills, skip right to teaching letter and letter combinations that represent the sounds in our language. In the English language, 44 sounds (phonemes) are represented by 26 letters (graphemes) or letter combinations. It is important to teach your client that when we spell we manipulate the word (i.e. take it apart) into its individual sounds or morphological units and then encode or transform those sounds or units into the letter or letters representing each sound or unit. There is a lot to think about when teaching spelling: syllable structure, spelling rules, homophones, silent letters, suffixes and prefixes, to name a few.

The following is a list of guidelines for teaching spelling:

  • As with all therapy or teaching, sessions need to be structured, sequential, and have a logical progression from one target to the next. Lessons should be cumulative, ensuring that new information is introduced only when previously taught material has been fully absorbed.
  • In the first or early treatment sessions, make sure the client has a secure understanding of sound-symbol correspondence and letter name knowledge. You may need to begin with phonological awareness tasks – taking words apart at the syllable and sound level.
  • Dividing words into syllables can help students identify spelling patterns at the morphological level.
  • Limit the introduction of new information to reduce confusion.
  • An awareness of morphology should be incorporated into the teaching of spelling from the earliest stages.
  • Teaching should encompass the integration of
    • spoken and written language
    • word, sentence, and text-level learning
    • reading and writing skills.
  • Do not teach too many spelling patterns within a lesson. For example, you might decide to contrast –tion versus –sion in a lesson. This will require acute attention to the verbal production of “shun” (-tion) as in “production” versus “zhun” (-sion) as in “lesion.” And then, what do you do with “expansion” and “seizure?”

A bit about the exceptions to the rules—A person with dyslexia can be at a disadvantage, particularly when learning the exceptions, not only because of the phonological deficit that underlies the disability, but because of a lack of access to the printed word. One way we learn exceptions to spellings is by being exposed to these words when reading. Given that reading is difficult, the dyslexic will have less exposure to words through the printed form. And, they’ll have less exposure to sophisticated vocabulary.

Therefore, it behooves us to expose the dyslexic to as much sophisticated written text as possible. Text-to-speech programs are an excellent way for the dyslexic to follow along and have the text read out loud. When using books on tape, the individual should always read along with the text. This will give more exposure to spelling patterns, particularly important for learning those exceptions to the rule.

Additionally, seeing the word in print also helps one use Spellcheck. For some dyslexics with more severe spelling problems, the goal may be to become proficient enough that Spellcheck will pick up their errors. But, they still need to know which word from the choices is the one they want. Exposure to the word in print will facilitate this skill.

As noted above, we need to take a systematic approach to teaching spelling.

Although learning to spell (and teaching spelling) may be challenging, it helps to keep in mind that just as with any task (e.g., becoming a football player or learning an instrument), becoming proficient takes hard work and practice. With a systematic approach, the rules, patterns, and anomalies of English spelling can be learned. Success starts here!

Dyslexia Friendly Schools

“If a child does not learn in the way in which we teach then we must teach him in the way in which he learns. Let dyslexia be looked at from a different angle, not as a learning disability but a different learning ability.”  (Pollack, J.,Waller)

Dyslexia friendly schools are schools that recognize a specific learning difficulty as a learning difference. These schools make an effort to include and support dyslexic students. These schools recognize that a dyslexic student learns in a different manner, and places an effort in empowering the child to deal with his writing difficulties. In non-friendly dyslexia schools, dyslexic children are seen as having something “wrong” that requires special treatment.

A dyslexia friendly school invests in educating their staff regarding on how to identify a dyslexic child’s specific learning challenges, and how to empower such a child with a learning environment supportive of his learning capabilities. The staff is guided to demonstrate sensitivity to the emotional state and self-esteem of the dyslexic student. For example, if a dyslexic child demonstrates confidence in his oral capabilities, the teacher is guided to provide the dyslexic child opportunities to regularly demonstrate this strength. If a dyslexic child begins to fall behind, then the teacher is guided to recommend special tutoring to minimize the learning gap.

A dyslexia friendly school also invests in building a close channel of communication with the child’s parents, actively communicating to them the progress and difficulties encountered by the child. The staff guides the parents regarding how to receive additional support and help.

In a dyslexia friendly school, teachers are guided to adopt a set of practices that if observed on a regular basis will alleviate the day-to-day struggle of the dyslexia child. These include:

  • Always write things on the board early, as dyslexic are slower in copying assignments to their notebooks. This problem becomes more severe if the student is under stress.
  • Make sure the student was successful in copying all his assignments to his notebook.
  • Don’t force the student to read out loud, unless you are sure that he wants to.
  • Place the student near the front and next to a good sitting student “neighbor”, so that distractions are reduced to a minimum.
  • Allow and encourage dyslexic students to use computers, so that their can correct their writing with advanced writing assistive programs (such as Ghotit)
  • Make sure that the dyslexic student understands what his is reading. Constant discussion of the meaning of the text is important, and should be performed regularly.
  • If required give the dyslexic child additional exam time, as dyslexic children tend to read and write more slowly than their peers.
  • … And most importantly, never laugh at the mistakes of a dyslexic child, or allow other students to do so. On the contrary, make an effort to praise their efforts and successes.

Comments with additional recommendations for a dyslexic friendly school would be appreciated …

10 Reasons why it is Difficult for Person with Dyslexia to Spell Correctly

1)  It is difficult for a person with dyslexia to break words into phonemes/discrete sounds.

2)  The more phonemes/discrete sounds a word possesses, the bigger the challenge of deconstructing a word correctly to its phonemes.

3)  It is more difficult for a person with dyslexia to deconstruct the “middle” phonemes of a word, rather than the first and last phonemes.

4)  It is difficult for a person with dyslexia to associate sounds to letters that make up the sound.

5)  People with dyslexia tend to reverse letters in words (e.g. “on” instead of “no”).

6)  People with dyslexia tend to confuse letters that are visually similar (e.g. “bad” instead of “dad”).

7) People with dyslexia tend to confuse letters that sound similar. (e.g. “sity” instead of “city”).

8 ) People with dyslexia do not have strong visual memory for spelling. For example they will not be able to distinguish from memory the correct spelling of the word of “meet” versus the word “meat”.

9) People with dyslexia have difficulty to gain meaning from text.

10) Regular spell checkers are not “optimized” to understand and correct the spelling of a dyslexic.

7 Tips for Living Successfully with Dyslexia

I have read articles about people who were able to beat dyslexia. I cheer these people…

I, though diagnosed relatively early in my live, and having both my parents and myself invest a lot of time, effort and money in treating my dyslexia, was never able to beat my dyslexia. Rather, I learned to live with my Dyslexia.

Here are my seven tips of how you can live successfully with your dyslexia:

1)      Practice, practice & practice reading – till you can enjoy reading a good book, or read up on all required work materials. For some, audio reading solutions can help in improving their reading capabilities.

2)      Gain your writing independence – find the right writing assistive solutions. Solutions like Ghotit, enable even heavy dyslexics to independently produce correctly spelled text.

3)      Keep up to date of new technologies/inventions – the technological world is leapfrogging. Today having computer access is quite easy, and the internet provides a direct route to knowledge of all new findings and developments for dyslexics. Keep up to date of these changes/developments as you may one day find that these new innovations may dramatically change the quality of your life.

4)      Know when is the right time to “divulge” your dyslexia – Dyslexia is not a disease, but there are quite a few misconceptions that people have about dyslexia. Raising an “I Have Dyslexia Flag” it not always in your best interest. Fine-tune your detection capabilities to determine when is the best time to share with others your “dyslexic” condition.

5)      Re-gain your social confidence– many times dyslexics attending regular educational institutes lose their social confidence during their school years. Schools usually grade students based on the weaker aspects of a dyslexic – his reading and writing abilities. To succeed in life, you must regain your social confidence…

6)      Learn your strengths – People with dyslexia are not the worlds’ most accomplished readers and writers. In a world focused on the written word, dyslexics have a major disadvantage.  However, dyslexics usually boast of high intelligence and “big-picture” / strategic thinking. Learn your strengths, as these must be leveraged in your real-life struggles to compete with those common non-dyslexics :-).

7)      Never ever ever give up – You must always believe in your abilities and to quote the famous Charlie Brown – simply “Never ever ever give up”. The world is full of people who have lost because they simply gave up. But we the dyslexics, who have been struggling more or less from elementary school, are trained for the struggle. We have been trained for disappointments and the ability to overcome these disappointments. We are the ones who shall teach the others to “Never Ever Ever Give Up”.

 

Try Ghotit online

 

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How The Brain of a Person with Dyslexia Works Differently

I recently came across a short video that provides a simple description of how the brain of a person with dyslexia works differently. I was impressed with the simplicity of the explanation. Here is a short recap.

3 Key Areas of the in the left side of the Brain that work simultaneously:

1) Phoneme Recognizer: Area used to sounding words out loud in our brain and breaking down words to similar sounds, known as phonemes (Example: the sound of the letter “T”).

2) Word Analyzer: Area used for analyzing words even more, analyzing together word syllables and phonemes (Example: the sound of “Ti” and “ger”)

3) Word Detector: Area responsible for detecting word forms, allowing to instantly recognize words without having to sound them out

People with Dyslexia, have problem to get access to both the Word Analyzer and the Word Detector. This may cause them to compensate and rely more heavily on sounding out words. Dyslexics may compensate by using the right side of the brain that takes visual cues from story pictures  to decipher words.

For the full blown 1:46 min long video, view the following “Decoding Dyslexia” video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKekE10b82s&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0]

Here is a link to a previous Ghotit Blog My Dyslexia and Phonological Processing

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Albert Einstein Interviewed about Dyslexia

The following is an interview performed by Ofer Chermesh, the founder of Ghotit, the leading writing assistive technology for dyslexics, and Mr. Albert Einstein, the man synonymous with the word GENIUS, and a world famous dyslexic. All of Mr. Albert Einstein texts are exact quotes.

Ofer: Thank you Mr. Albert Einstein for joining this interview. And thank you also very much for being a dyslexic genius. One of the major misconceptions that people have is that people with dyslexia have a lower intelligence. That is ridiculous of course…

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”.

Ofer: Your son Hans Einstein has be quoted as saying that your “ teachers reported that . . . you were mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams”. How do you describe your experiences at school and with your teachers?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know. Whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing”.

Ofer: Any insights for dyslexics who are struggling with their studies at school?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school”. “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Ofer: You know, Ghotit, the company I have founded offers a unique spelling and grammar checker. It offers a solution that I as a heavy dyslexic have been dreaming about my whole life. What guidance can you provide for Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Ofer: Developing an intelligent spell checker that offers word suggestions based on the context of the sentence has taken a longer time then expected?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”!

Ofer: So what do you see in the future of Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”

Ofer: Any business recommendations for Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”

Ofer: Any final words?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”.

 

Understanding how dyslexic write

A Dyslexic Spell Checker – Holic

A few days ago I went to sort out some open bureaucracy issue. After an hour of presenting my case to the clerk, the clerk handed me a form and I was asked to write on the spot my request. Suddenly I felt sweat all over me – I had just encountered my worse fear – I must write a letter without any spell checker assistance.

I started writing the letter, and after a few minutes I looked at the paper and saw that my worst nightmare had come true. The paper looked graphically like it had suffered a tsunami… the lines were so crooked … the size of the letters uneven… the paper full of words that I had absolutely no idea if I had spelled correctly, but being familiar with my spelling track record, assumed were spelled completely wrong… The language too was really plain and dull as I tried to express myself in words which I had some confidence that I could spell right…

When I reread what I wrote, I felt that the overall presentation of my case was really poor, and that I would not get very far with such a written request… I quietly approached the clerk, and told him that I had to run and that I would return with the written request soon… Of course I was running off to my computer with my word processor and friendly spell checker…

I am not used to writing any more with a pen and paper. I believe that is true for many of us who perform most of their writing using a computer. As a heavy dyslexic, I have struggled my whole life with very poor spelling. My spelling is so poor, that I even found conventional spell checker not providing the assistance I required. I finally went and developed (with assistance of course) a spell checker optimized for people like me, for people with dyslexia. And today following this paper-writing exercise, I must admit that I have become a true Spell Checker – Holic – I just cannot write anymore without a friendly SpellChecker at my side…

Disabled – maybe… but the disability appears only in very rare occasions, and when I have my friendly spellchecker at my side I can write my case as well as anyone else…

Try the Ghotit SpellChecker at: www.ghotit.com

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