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/).

10 Million Children have Difficulties Learning to Read.

Good readers are phonemically aware, understand the alphabetic principle, apply these skills in a rapid and fluent manner, possess strong vocabularies and syntactical and grammatical skills, and relate reading to their own experiences.

Difficulties in any of these areas can impede reading development. Further, learning to read begins far before children enter formal schooling. Children who have stimulating literacy experiences from birth onward have an edge in vocabulary development, understanding the goals of reading, and developing an awareness of print and literacy concepts.

 

Signs of reading and writing disabilities

  • Making frequent mistakes when reading
  • Guessing
  • Struggling with reading words
  • Reading very slowly
  • Reading and training has little effect
  • Reading monotonically and technically
  • Continuing to read words re-appearing in the text as if one has not read the word before
  • The development goes very slowly or stagnates
  • Difficulties understanding words, sentences, content and relationships in the text.

When reading unfamiliar texts signs become particularly apparent

  • Struggling with writing single words
  • Making many mistakes in writing
  • Writing slowly
  • Writing unclear
  • Writings briefly
  • Difficulties with starting to write
  • Not knowing what to write
  • Not being able to find words
  • Combining letters in one sentence the wrong way
  • Difficulties in predisposing, structuring and presenting the material
  • Difficulties in writing in a way that enables the reader to understand messages and connections within the text with ease.

Dyslexia Friendly Classroom

When parents of a dyslexic child ask that their son’s or daughter’s school will become dyslexia friendly, a common response is that turning an educational institution to a dyslexia friendly school is very expensive.

My answer to their wish is straightforward, instead, ask your teacher to make his or her study-room a dyslexia friendly classroom, and in order to do so you mainly need awareness.

1. When you print or send an e-mail use dyslexia friendly font such as Arial, Verdana, Tahoma
2. Use colored paper for your printouts instead of white paper.
3. Make sure that pupils with dyslexia can see your face when you speak in classroom.
4. Give pupils with dyslexia time to get organized before starting the lesson.
5. Don’t make a student with dyslexia read out loud before he is ready

Dyslexic Kids and Mobile Messaging

We are communicating with each other using text with messaging more now than we ever have before. Not long ago the main means of communication was speaking to one another but today text messaging has come to the fore.

Who doesn’t use today mobile messaging- Facebook messaging, iMessage, Whatsapp, Skype etc. to communicate? We all do and our kids much more than we.

Here are some mobile messaging statistics regarding kids:

– 75% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 have a cell phone.

– Kids between the ages of 13 and 17 send an average of 3364 text messages per month.

– Half of teenagers send 50 text messages or more every day. One third send 100 or more texts a day.

Mobile texting usually adopts a very informal language. Keyboard errors resulting in spelling mistakes, the wish to be concise (type less) even at the expense of correct English and grammar – is very common in mobile texting.

So when our dyslexic kids write text messaging with errors should we encourage them to stop and review their text before sending the message? My answer is that it depends …

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.

 

How to Review Dyslexia Writing Software?

What are the criteria for selecting dyslexia writing software or app 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 apps/software packages?

Dr. Robert Iakobashvili,  Ghotit CTO: I have been asked this question numerous times. Here is the list of my recommendations for reviewing writing dyslexia software or apps 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 dyslexia software if you already have a good one? Take your text samples and compare the results between the Windows spell checker and the selected dyslexia app/software. 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 apps for dyslexics 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.

This article doesn’t cover reviewing of complex all-in-one dyslexia solutions, like our recent Ghotit Real Writer & Reader 6, containing several types of assistance:

– Writing Assistance with Quick-Spell Word Prediction;
– Reading Assistance by Text-to-Speech Reader with dual highlighting, Integrated Talking Dictionary and Screenshot Reader;
– Text Correction including misspelled words, confused words/homophones, grammar and punctuation.

You can find links to the known independent reviewing of Ghotit software here: Ghotit Software Review. Note, that the views presented and recommendations are those of the reviewers and do not necessarily reflect Ghotit-recommended Best Practices.

Development of Dyslexia Adaptive Solutions 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, dyslexia 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!

Difficult Times for Dyslexic Kids and Teenagers.

The summer vacation is almost over, and millions of kids and teenagers are about to return to school. As a dyslexic child, I remember these days to be very difficult.

The end of the summer break was a time when, on the one hand I could still smell Summer’s activities when my dyslexia and dysgraphia did not affect me, and on the other hand the clock was ticking in my head with alarming sound, saying, so and so days to school, so and so days back to facing my writing and reading limitations, or even more so, facing a new class and unfamiliar teachers.

I hope this short blog will help parents of kids and teenagers with dyslexia understand why this is a hard time for their dyslectic kid.

Starting a New School Could Be an Opportunity for a Student with Dyslexia.

The summer vacation is almost over, and millions of kids and teenagers will start a new school after their summer activities.

It can be very hard for a kid with dyslexia or dysgraphia to start a new school since he is leaving his comfort zone where he is already familiar with the teachers and classmates.

I believe a student with dyslexia could see a change of school as an opportunity.

In order to make the most, the child and his parents need to sit down and perform a strings and weakness table. You can do it since you already have experience coping with dyslexia and dysgraphia.

The result of the strings and weakness table needs to be an action plan for the first month in school.

The action plan may include all aspects of being a student, for example:

• Social – Making new friends in school.
• Learning – what I need to do in order to succeed in class
• Technology – which assistive technology I need in order to cope with my dyslexia or dysgraphia