Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Many students with learning difficulties have difficulty attending to the sounds and oral language patterns within words. This ability is called phonological awareness. In the early years of schooling, students may show difficulties in:

  • Detecting and creating rhyming words
  • Breaking words into syllables
  • Identifying the phonemes (individual sounds) at the beginning and end of words
  • Isolating, deleting and substituting phonemes within words.

Frequently, older students with dyslexia also demonstrate difficulties in some of these more complex phonological processes (especially in accurate and efficient phoneme identification and manipulation).

The ability to work with syllables, and to blend and segment phonemes in words, is critical to the development of good reading and spelling skills. Students need to learn that the sounds they are making when they speak relate directly to the letters they use when reading and writing. Essentially, we blend to read and we segment to spell.

Phoneme blending requires listening to a sequence of separately spoken sounds and combining them to form a recognisable word, for example, the sounds /sh/ /o/ /p/ form the word shop. Phoneme segmentation requires breaking a word into its sounds by tapping out or counting the sounds, for example, “How many phonemes in block?” (four: /b/ /l/ /o/ /ck/).

Ghotit “Real Writer and Reader” V5 Review

Gerry Kennedy published the following review at  Spectronics blog.

Introduction

Ghotit “Real Writer and Reader” V5 is the latest version of this simple to use and master, yet very powerful literacy support tool. Separate versions for MS Windows and Apple Mac are available.

Ghotit Real Writer and Reader, now at Version 5, is a very comprehensive reading and writing assistance solution for users with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia, for those struggling with creating or reading text or for students with English as a second language (ESL). It caters to a diverse range of users from middle primary students through to teenagers and adults, as it is so easy to use.

This latest version does not require active connection to the Internet. Once installed and configured (which does require Internet access as a one-off event) it is a standalone program that can be run in a resizable or full window. Once configured to meet a user’s specific reading and writing needs, there are only four major onscreen “buttons” from which to choose. The clean, uncluttered interface will appeal to users who become confused and frustrated with messy or ‘busy’ toolbars.

It includes features such as:

  • No internet connection is required to run the program once it is installed
  • Context-sensitive and phonetic spell checker to correct words such as ‘notest’ to ‘noticed’
  • Quick-Spell Word-Prediction with instant correction for creative/phonetic writers

  • Speak as you type (instant speech feedback with human quality voices – if installed)
  • Screenshot Reader to read aloud any text on the screen (i.e. from photos, graphics, games etc)
  • Reading assistance with dual colour highlighting (both word and/or phrase colours)
  • Effective proofreader (text to speech that reads aloud any document with dual colour highlighting)
  • Advanced grammar and punctuation correction facilities
  • Integrated dictionary
  • Topics (Word-Banks) for Word-Prediction – (words can be added at any time)
  • Integration with all text editing applications
  • Standalone Dyslexia Text Editor
  • Open and import text and HTML files
  • Save as text or HTML or cut/copy and paste text into other applications or web pages
  • Export to file types including text, HTML, Doc, DocX, ODT, RTF (Rich Text Format) and PDF (Acrobat)
  • Cut and paste text from any other program or web site on the user’s computer or Notebook
  • Coloured background, font and highlight colour choices (ideal for users with Meares Irlen Syndrome)
  • Australian, New Zealand, US, UK, Canadian and South African dictionaries
  • Karen and Lee Australian voices can be used if installed (see further for free download for Mac)

Ghotit-5 is a powerful English spelling and grammar checker for users with dyslexia, dysgraphia and assists students and adults with other reading and writing difficulties. By using the software, it has been have proven to dramatically improve users’ writing and reading capabilities.

Text creation can prove difficult for many people, in education, in training and in the workplace. Even writing emails or posting up comments to social media sites can be embarrassing and off-putting.

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader assists struggling readers and writers so that they may improve their reading and writing skills. It will alleviate the tension and worry that may cause them to avoid or fail whilst handling text. Ghotit promotes confidence and caters to both students and adults alike. They are more likely to cope and thrive with their reading and writing work assignments at home, at school in training and in the work place. Reading and writing can be enjoyable instead of a challenge!

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader software provides good value for families as it caters to a wide audience, starting from students in primary school, in secondary or high school, and into higher education as well as for mum and dad to meet work and social needs. Employees who need to read and write as part of their work responsibilities can dramatically improve their working efficiencies. As it will operate with any other program or web browser, it will enhance skills in dealing with their own personal writing as well as dealing with third party text (i.e. from other sources such as online books, articles, Word files, PDFs, emails and social media and other writing and literacy programs).

It is a powerful tool for users with dyslexia or for struggling writers as it tackles many of the common problems that users encounter whilst writing. This includes difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, proofing and accessing documents and text in different formats. The interface strips out annoying or distracting photos, drawings, maps, and other graphics that may distract or confuse the writer.

 

Ghotit Real Writer and Reader 5

 

It includes patented technology that provides the most appropriate corrections for spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes by looking at the intended meaning of the piece of text. The software has matured since earlier versions, whereby it relied on the Internet to provide this outcome and intelligence. This latest version 5 is standalone and does not require access to the Internet. Everything is built-in and ready to go after the initial installation and configuration. In Preferences, users, educators, parents and tutors can adjust and change every aspect of the software so as to cater to individual needs. It has so many empowering benefits and options.

Universal Design for Learning principles are adhered to and therefore it accommodates practically everyone. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework designed to give all students equal access to learning. It underlies the Multiple Means of Representation, by providing ideas and strategies to use when delivering content to a variety of learners.

There are three overall principles associated with Universal Design for Learning:

  • Multiple Means of Representation
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  • Multiple Means of Engagement

No Internet Access is Required

Benefits may include:

  • No need for access to the Internet in any classroom, space or setting
  • No reliance on Internet access, speed, functionality or delivery
  • Ideal for remote users where Internet access is not available (or where services are limited)
  • Ideal for users working away from wireless access locations
  • Less cost
  • Minimal lag time and waiting for processing

Of course, users can operate Ghotit with any web browser of their choosing and cut and paste text from a web source and paste it into Ghotit’s window. They can then listen to text being spoken aloud in a voice of their choosing, and at a set rate (or pace).

Severe Spelling Error Correction

‘In the world of spell checking, the degree of how badly a word is misspelled is measured by the editing distance of the misspelled word, to the intended word. The trade-off is as follows: the longer the editing distance, the longer the list of candidate words that will be offered. Since ordinary spell checkers cannot properly grade the long list of alternatives, this long list is seen as adding “noise” to the spell-checking algorithm. Ordinary spell checkers are tuned for people with mild spelling and typing mistakes and therefore prefer to offer a relatively short editing distance, in order to minimise the list of candidate words.

Here context spell checking algorithms come to play. Once an effective context spell checking is introduced, a larger editing distance can be introduced, since the spell checker can leverage the context of the sentence to optimise the suggested word list and remove the unwanted, out-of-context words.

Ghotit has developed an innovative context spell-checker that is optimised for people with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other learning disabilities. Ghotit can leverage its context spelling engine to produce an internal long list of candidate words by defining a long editing distance, but then reduce this list and present to the user only the words that make sense in the context of the specific written sentence. High performance techniques were introduced in order to ensure that Ghotit’s context sensitive analysis does not affect user experience and does not introduce spell checking result delays.’

[Source: http://www.spectronics.com.au/product/ghotit-real-writer-reader-for-mac]

Preferences

In Preferences, users can determine the functions and features that they require or need in order to handle text. Preferences include Speech, English, Prediction, Learning, Topics and Advanced.

 

Ghotit Real Writer and Reader Speech Settings

 

In Speech, a system wide voice can be selected from a variety of Mac based or other commercial voices installed on the host’s computer. Note: Other free human quality Mac voices This is an external link can be downloaded and installed on a Mac computer at any time – at no cost. If you are a Mac user and rely on good quality speech feedback, click on the link provided (i.e. voices) and explore the many different voices on offer – including languages other than English for users’ own personal use. The English based voices (e.g. American, UK English etc) may be fun to explore.

Web link:

www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/how-to-install-and-use-high-quality-system-voices-in-os-x This is an external link.

The speaking rate will accommodate the user’s ability to listen to text being read aloud (as he or she types – i.e. speech feedback) or in reading text from within the Ghotit software window. Some users prefer a slower rate with other users working at a very fast rate. Everyone’s different! Dual highlight colours can be selected to assist in quickly and easily identifying new or unique words with both word and phrase highlighting colours. This is so important for people with Meares Irlen Syndrome.

English

In English, users can select from Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, South African, UK or US English.

The descriptions window can be displayed as a stand-alone window and can be muted if so desired (i.e. speech turned off).

In the Personal Dictionary, individual words can be added (errors or words that have been added by mistake by the user can be deleted). Words that are difficult to read or identify, are new or foreign to the user can be spoken aloud. This is very important as users may wish to add unique words relevant or pertinent to their area of study, training or workplace. They might also include difficult words or friend’s names or favourite locations such as cities, countries or street names.

They can be added or deleted at any time by a support staff member (for students with special learning needs) or by the users themselves. This is a very necessary and vital option as it provides for full customization of the software.

 

Personal Dictionary

 

Learning

In Learning, there is an option for a list of words to be imported from a text file (e.g. words required in rehearsing a script or play or selected text being studied, words from particular study areas, Proper nouns or names of places, people/characters, or locations). Users or support staff can assign these words to a topic and also create their own topic dictionaries. The words on each topic are displayed in a window and each one can be read aloud. Words can also be learnt from a Ghotit document.

This function saves a great deal of time in classrooms where multiple students require the same list of new or unique words that aren’t already included in the software. Topic dictionaries cater to all students, workplaces and professions and cater to individual as well as group needs.

 

Ghotit-5 Learning settings

 

The user or teacher, school support personnel, tutor, trainer can add topics at any time. Users can add and load new topics when and if required as well as unload them. The topics-in-use is displayed in the Topics dialogue box. This is where users create and manipulate topics. Users can have multiple topics active so that Ghotit accommodates their current study or writing/reading requirements. It is especially useful in high school or tertiary education at TAFE or University or in a workplace with very specific or unique word usage. It also caters to programmers – who are often dyslexic!

Prediction

 

Ghotit-5 Prediction settings

 

Prediction, or word prediction, can be run in a standalone window or next to the text being entered. Words can be spoken aloud before or after being entered into the document (or muted). Users can elect to have one to up to eight words displayed. Users can elect to have phonetic or creative spelling turned on or off. A space can be entered automatically after a word is selected by use of Function keys (F1 to F8) or by left clicking on it.

Predict Ahead is for more advanced users (usually) as it will promote words to the user in context with their writing. It can confuse younger users and students as it can often distract them. For others, it’s a blessing! It attempts to predict the next meaningful word (as per current mobile phones).

Ghotit 5 Word prediction pop  up window showing list of words

Word prediction is a complete rework from previous versions.

It is using Quick Spell algorithms, so as to ensure all predictions, particularly for users who attempt to write with the first misspelled letter(s), essentially based on phonetic reconstruction and context. Many struggling writers suffer from this inadequacy. If a user writes “Help me to andesa” with 3 errors (first ‘a‘ for ‘u‘, a missed ‘r“, with an extra ‘a‘) – he/she is provided with the correct word option “understand” as the most likely outcome and therefore the correct option.

Ghotit’s very intuitive and clever technology allows for writers using word-prediction to misspell some letters – then continue to try and add more letters and in most cases the correct or most relevant suggestion will be offered in the prediction dialogue box. This is powerful technology. Prediction technology is not new but having this quality of support is not the norm or standard in some other competing literacy support software. The developers have incorporated this intelligence after years of research and data gathering. Users will benefit greatly from this innovation.

Advanced

Ghotit-5 advanced settings

The Advanced dialogue box provides a number of additional custom tools.

Users can set a default font and style (e.g. Arial Narrow 24) so that every time the software is launched, the necessary or required font is ready.

This caters to younger users as well as to users who are vision impaired. The text background colour as well as spelling colours can be selected. Users can reset the program to a default layout if they prefer (particularly if a computer is being shared at school or in the home with other users).

An encrypted connection can be turned on or off.

On screen are two “buttons” – one for correction the other for having text spoken aloud. These can be assigned to one of the function keys (especially if the function keys conflict with other programs being used). Some users (particularly students who rely on the keyboard due to visual or physical needs) prefer to use keyboard short cuts rather than rely on mouse clicks. For users using eye gaze, they would prefer to access the onscreen buttons.

This is the beauty of adhering to best practice and incorporating Universal Design for Learning as the software caters to a diverse and wide range of users’ needs and requirements.

Access to the program can be via a conventional USB keyboard, Bluetooth models, mini keyboards, enlarged keyboards or programmable models (e.g. IntelliKeys was once very popular), onscreen virtual keyboards, mouse, trackball, joysticks and/or eye gaze technologies.

Ease of Use

 

Ghotit-5 main checking window

 

As an AT consultant and as a teacher, I enjoy using this software and recommend it highly as it is so user friendly. The interface (i.e. look and feel) is uncluttered.

The four major tools or “buttons” onscreen are available for quick reference, access and use.

Located top left of the program’s window is the Read Aloud option. It will voice or speak every sentence or phrase (with a different colour background if required) so that users can ‘track’ the text being spoken back to them, at a rate (i.e. speed) that they can predetermine and set or change at any time. Different voices can be selected for different genres or types of text. Some users prefer the more robotic synthetic voices whilst others prefer Karen or Lee (Australian voices) or other human quality voices that are more natural and have inflection and nuance.

Word Prediction can be turned on (enabled) or turned off with the button below the Read Aloud button. Both word and its meaning can be spoken aloud for poor readers or users unfamiliar with the English language. It can also help to build vocabulary strength and improve performance.

The Correct Text button is located top right hand corner. It is denoted with a Tick and ABC icon. When clicked or selected (by Function key, mouse click or eye gaze) it will analyse the text and edit it. Any word(s) that do not seem to be correct are underlined with a red colour. Grammar errors are underlined in blue. Users can then proceed to edit each word at their own pace and comfort. Once a word is clicked upon or selected, a dialogue box appears.

A list of the most likely words will appear each with a definition. Words can be selected according to need/preference/suitability or ignored. New words can be added to the dictionary as well. Words that are correctly spelled but incorrectly used (e.g. done for did) are underlined in blue. The grammar check and spell-check are generated and work together. Both functions are performed at the same time and do not require access to the Internet (as per previous versions of this software).

Approve and Apply Corrections button appears below the Correct Text button. It finalises the writing or text entry process and learns from the user’s style and use of spelling and grammar. There is also support for Split and merged words: Ghotit makes sure that users do not mistakenly split or merge words incorrectly.

The Toolbar

 

Ghotit-5 toolbar

 

From left to right, the onscreen toolbar includes New File, Open File (text or HTML), Save (text or HTML), Export File (to Doc, DocX, ODT, PDF or RTF), Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Descriptions. Most of these functions are standard in most text editing or word processing programs.

Descriptions is a powerful option. The user selects or mouse clicks on a word. A floating dialogue box appears with the selected word and a description in the chosen version of English (I chose Australian English for this software review). If a word is not properly selected a spoken dialogue box appears instructing the user as to how to perform this function.

In the second row in the Toolbar are functions normally used in text editing programs. They include standard text as well as bulleted text (3 options of graphic), Ordered List (Decimal, Alpha lower and upper case or Roman lower or upper case characters). All system fonts are available in the next drop down dialogue box, followed by size options ranging from 9 point to 288 in size (Note: 72 points equals one inch in height). This is followed by the font Colour, then Boldface and Italics. Text can be left aligned, centred, right aligned or full justification (i.e. text is distributed evenly from left to right).

Ghotit 5 providing word meaning

When parts of text (or the whole document is selected), the next function (an icon of books lying horizontally) will add launch the Learning dialogue box. Users can elect to add new words to relevant Topics. The next icon (of books standing up vertically) will launch the Topics dialogue box where a topic can be added or removed.

Select Area for Reading Aloud is wonderful. It will read any text from anywhere on the screen in any program or window and voice it. The text will be highlighted in a user selectable colour as well as added to the current Ghotit document. Screen-Shot Reader is mainly due for high-res screens like Retina on the more recent newer Macs or on high-resolution screens of modern Windows laptops and hybrids such as Surface Pro 4. On low-resolution screens, users need to increase the font size (i.e. for double type Ctrl-+ in browsers, so as to provide more pixels for the OCR to work. It provides an option to read text aloud from the screen and is very useful for reading text in images, or locked PDFs and other inaccessible documents. Some users enjoy action and adventure games but cannot read the instructions – as they are graphics’ based. Here is a great solution for increased independence.

Licences

Multiple options are available for either the Windows or Mac versions of Ghotit “Real Writer and Reader” V5. Single licences are available as well as single and site licences (up to 100 users) as well as site only licences (up to 100 users). Multi Site District licences cater to larger schools or institutes of further learning that have multiple campuses.


Editor’s Note: This software review of Ghotit “Real Writer and Reader” for Mac V5.0.1.7 was written and composed in May 2017, using a Mac desktop running Mac OS 10.8.5. It will operate on Mac OS 7 and up to the latest Mac OS V10 operating systems on Mac based desktop and portable computer solutions and models.

A separate version will operate on MS Windows based technologies including Notebooks, tablets, laptops and hybrids.

Further Note: The Ghotit Company generously provided a copy of Ghotit-5 software to the author for appraisal. For further information, refer to Spectronic’s or to the Ghotit’s website: http://www.ghotit.com This is an external link. For iPad and iPhone users, there is the Ghotit Dyslexia Keyboard. It is available from the App store. There is also a solution for Android phone users.

 

Ghotit V5 main window

 

Brief Summary

Ghotit V5 – or ‘I got it right’, has certainly got it completely right in this latest version. It has all of the functionality of a simple text editor, but with a twist (or many). It provides full support for users who normally struggle (and often despise) text creation or reading. Now they can communicate!

It is simple and elegant – yet it is fully compliant with all of the necessary tools to both spell and grammar check text as it is being typed or cut/copied from another document, web site or program. The latest additions and functionality have only improved an already excellent product. And now it doesn’t need to have access to the Internet to operate. I recommend it to users who struggle with text – it will change the way users work and consider reading, writing and proof reading – with increased confidence and enjoying success rather than experiencing failure.

About Gerry Kennedy:

Gerry Kennedy is an Independent Information and Inclusive Technology Consultant, working in private practice in Melbourne, Australia. He has specialised in the areas of special needs, rehabilitation and assistive technology support in education and employment for over 27 years. A teacher of 31 years, he currently works at East Burwood SDS school part time, as an ICT Teacher.

Gerry has had experience working in all states in Australia and Territories. He advises from Early Education and Pre-school through to secondary schools, having lectured to TAFE and University to under and post graduates. He frequently publishes articles and software reviews on numerous web sites and in journals and magazines.

Gerry promotes leading practice in the implementation and deployment of innovative ICT and Inclusive Technology in education and training. He consults, trains and advises parents, therapists, and other education and therapy related professionals as well as school personnel in how best to utilise and harness the features and functions of mainstream and specialised software as well as assistive device implementation.

Dyslexics Deserve Extra Exam Time – Part 2

A few years back, I wrote a blog No Ifs or Buts – Dyslexics Deserve Extra Exam Time claiming that there is no question about it – dyslexics deserve extra exam time.

As my kids grow, I hear many discussions regarding the fairness and the pros/cons of providing extra exam time.

My view is simple: if a kid needs the extra time to succeed than we as parents must do all we can to enable them this extra time. It is important for a child to grow with the feeling of success, and though grades are not everything they do provide our children a scale to judge their success.

Other parents may claim that this is not fair. That some parents/kids abuse this benefit. But as parents of dyslexic children, this is not our concern. We must make sure that our smart and talented kids will succeed despite their reading and writing difficulties.

 

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

We would like to commend the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity “You are not alone” message:

1 in 5 people have dyslexia. It crosses racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. You are part of a community of successful people who overcame dyslexia.

Dyslexia Declaration of Rights for Yale students:

1)    Accurate Diagnosis:  Students who have a suspected area of disability are entitled to an assessment, regardless of whether they are in a public, private, or charter school.

2)    Use the Word Dyslexia: Schools must use the word “dyslexia” so that proper diagnosis and evidence-based instruction and intervention can be applied.

3)    Evidence-based Instructions: All students deserve to have a written plan of action from the school, specifying the evidence-based intervention, frequency, and measurable objectives. This must be arrived at by a consensus between parents and teachers

4)    Accommodations: Accommodations must be provided to ensure that the students’ abilities, not their disabilities, are being assessed. Examples: extra time on tests, speech-to-text or text-to-speech technology, foreign language waiver or alternative.

5)    Dyslexia-Friendly Environment: A supportive environment that promotes educational and professional progress must be provided to enable dyslexic individuals to flourish to their full potential.
Ghotit commends Yale and wishes other educational institutions to adopt Yale’s level of commitment to dyslexic student body.

For more info on Yale Dyslexia & Creativity forum

Communication in a Mobile World for people with Dyslexia

A lot has changed in the way we communicate. We have become the always-on generation.

Smartphones and tablets have changed the way we do business. Smartphones and tablets allow employees to be more responsive and provide immediate service.

Smartphones and tablets are today part of any educational setting, starting from elementary school all the way to college.

Today, if you are a person with dyslexia or dysgraphia, it is not enough to have assistant technology installed on your Windows or Macintosh laptop. In todays’ always-on connected world, you will often need to answer an immediate email or post on a social media directly from your Android smartphone or tablet.

If you are one of those “always on” people, then you need a writing assistive technology that will be available for you from any of your devices.

Ghotit offers an “Always on” solution. The “Always on” solution enables you to utilize Ghotit advanced writing algorithms from either your Windows or Macintosh laptop or desktop and then enjoy these same capabilities from any of your Android devices.

Ghotit Assistive Technology

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader software includes advanced writing and reading assistive technologies tailor-made for people with dyslexia and dysgraphia:

• Context and phonetic spell checker
• Grammar and punctuation checker
• Proofreader
• Reader that can read out any document
• Word prediction, contextual & phonetic
• Integrated word dictionary US, UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African dictionaries

How Does Dyslexia Impact on the Writing Process?

Originally published by the University of Leicester

It is often commented that the characteristics of dyslexic students’ written work might equally be found in the work of a non-dyslexic student. The problems with composition that students with dyslexia experience may be accompanied by difficulty with spelling and handwriting. Students may try to choose words they can spell rather than those they want to use. Those with short-term memory problems may have difficulty transcribing a mentally composed sentence, thus much backtracking is required which disrupts the flow of thought. When this is coupled with reading difficulties, it is easy to see why written tasks are laborious. The techniques of editing and refining demand extra stamina and time, and need to be done in separate stages. To be effective, this requires good pre-planning and time management. Paradoxically these may be the very skills that students with dyslexia may find particularly challenging.

Those students who are familiar with their own problems and are used to academic study are often highly disciplined to the task and start work on assignments as soon as they receive them. Others will need some explicit help in pacing themselves and in the understanding of the separate stages of the writing process. It is also worth noting that many of the errors will not be picked up by a standard spell checker or, in some cases, by the student’s proof reading.

In any event, it is likely that the final outcome of the work presented may not reflect the time and effort that has gone into its preparation.

When giving feedbacks to students, it may be useful to bear the following points in mind:

  • students need to understand why they have gained or lost marks and if spelling, punctuation and grammar are considered an essential part of the brief, it is important to let them know this in advance;
  • prompt, legible and detailed feedback is especially helpful. Dyslexic students need encouragement on what they have achieved and explicit information about how they can improve their work;
  • feedback about exam performance is as important as feedback after coursework submission; it helps tutors and students to ascertain the reasons for possible low marks or failure. It is important for all students with a SpLD to realise the extent to which low marks are due to a lack of detailed knowledge or to an inability to reflect their knowledge adequately in writing;
  • it is helpful to identify the type (what kinds) of errors that have been made in the work, particularly if these can be pointed out in detail in a small section. Providing correct spellings of subject specific words is very useful;
  • in addition a common perception is that dyslexic students have fluency in oral language but difficulty with written language. However some dyslexic students also experience spoken language difficulties, such as word finding, hesitations, mispronunciations and incomplete sentences. This should be taken into account when assessing oral presentations.

Variations in processing difficulties and the effects of secondary factors, such as environment and self-esteem, contribute significantly to the individual profile. Many students may have developed excellent ‘compensation’ strategies.

Emphasis is usually given to problems with written work. However, writing is only one aspect of the range of difficulties reported by students. These can include some or all of the following:

  • listening and taking notes in a lecture; this is why many students are provided with digital recorders and microphones so that they can concentrate on listening and understanding rather than writing. In some cases students may also have a note-taker;
  • limitations in working memory, resulting in the need to go over texts many times to remember and understand them; this is one of the reasons why extra time is given in examinations;
  • handwriting which may be extremely slow, lacking automaticity, which contributes to spelling errors and/or word omissions;
  • pronunciation of polysyllabic and/or unfamiliar words;
  • slow speed of reading; word omissions, problems making sense of print without substantial re-reading; this is another reason why extra time may be given in exams;
  • difficulties in reading aloud;
  • tendency to misinterpret or miscopy complex written or spoken instructions;
  • word recall difficulties (spoken and written); often giving the appearance of immature language in relation to complexity of ideas;
  • estimating time, both in managing deadlines and for daily routines;
  • left/right confusion, leading to orientation difficulties, e.g. in the library;
  • fatigue as a result of the extra concentration and energy needed to meet both the literacy and non-literacy requirements of the HE environment;
  • difficulties with basic maths and statistics; this particularly affects students who encounter mathematical content within a non-mathematical discipline.

Dyslexia is the most common specific learning difficulty in HE but you may meet students who are dyspraxic, dyscalculic or who also have a pervasive developmental disorder such as Asperger syndrome or autism. Additionally, some students will have a combination of these difficulties and disabilities.

 

Ashton Kutcher & Dyslexia?

So you are probably asking, what, is Ashton Kutcher a dyslexic? Is he too a member of the long list of famous celebrities with dyslexia? (e.g. Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Turner, Cher etc.) … The answer is NO.
I recently viewed the speech that Ashton Kutcher gave in Teen Choice Awards of 2013:

So what does Ashton’s inspiring speech have to do with Dyslexia?
The speech promoted 3 main points, all 100% applicable for people with dyslexia:
– “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work” –this is true to the general population, but even more so to dyslexics. To succeed, dyslexics need to work extra hard to find their opportunities for success.
– “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous” – Dyslexics usually have an above average IQ. Use these smarts to succeed and become a sexy dyslexic.
– “ Everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own thing, you can build your own life that other people can live in.” – Dyslexics are usually creative. They won’t necessarily succeed in a 9-to-5 office job. But they can leverage their creativity to build their own unique business and life…
Thanks Ashton for a great speech

Simulating the feeling of being dyslexic

I recently wanted to communicate to a colleague of mine how it feels to be dyslexic. My colleague had very limited knowledge about dyslexia, and asked me what it felt to be dyslexic. This started me thinking:

What is the best way to simulate to a non-dyslexic the feeling of being dyslexic?

So this is what I came up with:

1)      Imagine that it takes you 10 X more time to write legible text?

2)      Imagine that even after investing 10 X more time to write, you are (rightfully) worried that your text includes basic spelling mistakes and misused words…

3)      Imagine that you cannot remember the correct spelling of the simplest and most basic words, and forever need to look up their correct spelling, time after time?

4)      Imagine that you have to write an important email, but will not send it out till you have a non-dyslexic review your text?

5)      Imagine that it takes you 5 X more time to read any book or article?

6)      Imagine that while reading, the letters keep moving around, playing tricks on you?

7)      Imagine that whenever a person reads your written text, he will most likely deduce that you have lower intelligence then your actual intelligence?

8)      Imagine that whenever you need to read out loud, you are sure that your reading will convey to your audience a lower perceived intelligence?

9)      Imagine that you are in a class or a lecture where you understand what is being said but you are not capable of taking any legible notes…

10)   Imagine that without an intelligent spell checker such as Ghotit, you simply do not have the confidence of writing independently?

If you have additional insights of how to convey to a non-dyslexic the feeling of being dyslexic- send a commend and I will add to the above list 🙂

Following user inputs, I am extending the list:

11) Imagine that you put puncuation in just because you know that it needs to go somewhere in the sentences but have no idea where to correctly place the punctuation marks?

12) Imagine that you can never really grasp the sounds and spelling of vowels (A, E, I, O, U) so you usually omit or misuse them?

13) Imagine that throughout your whole life you continue to misuse very basic words such as their, there and they’re OR four and for no matter how many times you tried to memorize these words’ correct meanings and spelling? And when you misspell these words you have no ability to correct this even though you take the time to  proofread your writing?

14) Imagine that you are not able to recite the alphabet from the middle, and always need to restart the alphabet starting from the letter A?

15) Imagine that you still have difficulty differentiating left from right, north from south or east or west, or the specific days of the weeks and months of the year, though you have tried to memorize these names and directions forever?

Additional inputs from readers?

 

If dyslexia is not a ‘deficit’, what is it?

I recently read an interesting article called “Neurodiversity and Dyslexia: Compensatory strategies, or different approaches?”  The article argued that the current educational system classifies people with dyslexia as people with deficits. As such, the educational system is focused in “remediating” / “fixing” these deficits.

However, if schools would adopt a new approach of recognizing that people with dyslexia simply learn differently and create programs for students to excel at how they learn best, then people with dyslexia would graduate school with a higher quality education, and with a much improved level of self-confidence.

So can this be realistically implemented?

The first step is to formalize how people with dyslexia think and learn differently. If this is understood, then educational programs can be created geared for people with dyslexia. For example, these programs can focus less on demonstrating short-memory skills and visual processing for details (e.g. demonstrated in good spelling) and more in promoting a holistic learning approach when teaching a given subject.  Such programs will allow a person with dyslexia to excel and demonstrate his strengths. Potentially, as formal recognition is given to these special analytical strengths, the dyslexic person will strengthen his relative learning and cognitive advantages.

Making the change of seeing dyslexia not as a ‘deficit’ but rather as a valuable and unique skill set is a huge leap. Society is so ingrained with the concept that dyslexia is a deficit that most dyslexics themselves live under this assumption.  Dramatic and enlightened shifts from these misconceptions are required to produce a real and long-lasting effect on the quality of education for a dyslexic.

 

Labeled as a Person with Dyslexia

I recently read an interesting article called “A rose is a rose is a flower” (http://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/article881892.ece). The article discusses the pros and cons of being labeled as a dyslexic.

The “pros” – in many cases the diagnosis of being dyslexic, provides the reasoning of why an intelligent adult or child is under-performing in school or in work. Suddenly behavior, that seemed inexplicable to an employer or parent not familiar with dyslexia, is explained. Not only that, once diagnosed correctly the appropriate instruction and assistive technology may be implemented to assist the person with dyslexia.

The “cons” – the dyslexia label brings the disability into focus, also at times when it is not necessary to highlight the disability. As quoted from the article “a person with a label has to be extremely mindful of ‘minor failings’ as all his behavior is perceived through the lens of his disability.” Giving people one-dimensional labels may result in disregarding personal differences and strengths. “While we readily accept that ‘normal’ kids can be quite different in terms of their personalities, preferences and proclivities, we tend to assume that all children with a particular clinical tag (e.g. dyslexia) are alike.”

Do the pros overcome cons in dyslexic labeling?

Well, in my opinion, it depends on the situation. In a supportive school environment, where the main objective is to improve the learning abilities of a dyslexic, it should be beneficial to be classified as dyslexic. In such an environment, the school, together with the support of the parents, will work out the best program and learning environment offered by the school to the dyslexic student.

However, in a work environment, where the main objective is to optimize the productivity of the employee, being classified as a dyslexic may be harmful. The main objective of a modern workplace is not to optimize the work environment of a dyslexic person, but rather to ensure that the person filing a given position is providing maximum value. In such environments, being categorized as dyslexic may not benefit the person with dyslexia; rather this categorization may result in unnecessary discrimination against the person with dyslexia.

Bottom line

I think that at the bottom line it is up to the dyslexic/ dyslexic parent to assess if it is advantageous or disadvantageous to be categorized as a dyslexic. If it is advantageous, then sure, let the word out, and try to maximize the benefits of being labeled with dyslexia. However, if it is not, and you feel that being categorized as dyslexic may be used against you, then withholding the fact that you are dyslexic should be the right way to go.

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