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!

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?

Google HR Boss Says 58% Of Resumes Get Trashed Because Of One Spelling Mistake.

Google HR boss Laszlo Bock likes to cite a startling figure: 58% of resumes have typos.

“Typos are deadly because employers interpret them as a lack of detail-orientation, as a failure to care about quality,” he says.

For Google — a company that sees 50,000 resumes a week — the typo is one of five resume mistakes that will immediately land yours in the “no” pile.

 

Yet the mistake doesn’t stem from laziness, Bock says, but obsessiveness.

“People who tweak their resumes the most carefully can be especially vulnerable to this kind of error,” he says, “because they often result from going back again and again to fine tune your resume just one last time.”

According to cognitive science, our vulnerability to typos comes thanks to the way our brains store information.

University of Sheffield psychologist Tom Stafford explained how it happens to Wired:

“When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” [Stafford] said.

As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas).

“We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases,” said Stafford. “Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”

This shortcutting is part of a cognitive process called generalization, one of your mind’s tricks for sorting through data.

When you set out to drive to your buddy’s house but end up pulling into your parking lot at work, you’ve experienced generalization firsthand — rather than actually evaluating the path you’re taking, you cruise along on autopilot since the drive to work feel familiar and easy. And since it feels familiar and easy, your brain thinks it’s also right path, even if you end up pulling up to the wrong parking spot.

It’s the same case with editing text, even if a text as crucial to your career as your résumé. You’re intimately familiar with every corner of your résumé — given that you keep going back to perfect it. But that familiarity is in fact your enemy when it comes to proofreading.

To vanquish this enemy, we’re going to need some de-familiarization.

“Once you’ve learned something in a particular way,” Stafford says, “it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form.”

Thus you have Bock’s recommendation.

“Read your résumé from bottom to top,” the HR boss says, since “reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation.”

Alternatively, you could make the text blurry — it increases reading comprehension for the same de-familiarizing reasons.

 

This blog was copied from Business Insider

 

 

Web Accessibility Drives a Better Experience for People with Dyslexia

Guest blog by Mark Miller

The Narrow Straw

I talk to a lot of people who are discovering accessibility for the first time. Usually, it’s some poor person who’s had the WCAG 2.0 guidelines dropped in their lap with cryptic instructions from their boss like, “I think we need to do this to our website.” About ten minutes later my phone rings and I hear, “I don’t know anything about these guidelines but I think I need your help.” That is usually followed by, “it’s so blind people can use our website, right?” It’s at these moments that I struggle with the “narrow straw” through which accessibility is sometimes viewed, but it is an opportunity to broaden their view.  Accessibility helps all people and most acutely those with all types of disabilities.

My experience with Ghotit Real Writer, an assistive technology for people with dyslexia and dysgraphia, has led me to think a lot about how accessible websites help people with dyslexia and other cognitive disabilities. In November the W3C WAI, who publishes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), announced that The Cognitive Accessibility Task Force is open to participants, reinforcing the W3C’s current focus on cognitive disabilities. I would like to widen our view of website accessibility by looking at a few ways the guidelines help individuals with dyslexia.

Challenges and Guidelines

The basic challenges of dyslexia are centered on reading but can include overall language skills and verbal comprehension. Because the specific challenges of dyslexia vary, so do the tools and methods people with dyslexia use to overcome the challenges.

One of the tools people with dyslexia will use to help them better read and comprehend writing is similar to that used by a person who is blind or has low vision. That’s right, two completely different disabilities, same technology. We’re talking about technology that will read the content aloud or manipulate it into other forms like large print. Many of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines deal directly with this.

  1. Principle 1: Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Guideline 1.1 – This guideline requires the provision of “text alternative for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.”

While having content read aloud may help many people with dyslexia, others may benefit from a different approach like larger text or simpler language. They may also benefit from many of the guidelines that fall under Principle 3 of WCAG 2.0.

  1. Principle 3: Understandable states, “Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.”
  • Guideline 3.1 Readable, requires making “text content readable and understandable,” an obvious benefit to someone who struggles linguistically.
  • Guideline 3.2 Predictable, requires making “Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways,” which is less direct and obvious to Dyslexia but equally important to consider as unpredictable operation is a close kin to poorly structured content and underscores a challenge presented by dyslexia that is not directly related to reading.

Moreover, the W3C has published a Summary of existing research and guidelines in their gap analysis, which outlines further guidelines that should be considered for dyslexia.

The Other Side of the Coin

While there are many more WCAG 2.0 guidelines that help people with dyslexia and other cognitive disabilities, the few we’ve looked at clearly demonstrate the benefits of an accessible website to a person with dyslexia. A product like Ghotit Real Writer provides an unprecedented advantage to a person with Dyslexia, allowing them to participate in things many of us take for granted, like simply sending an email, without fear of embarrassment or with the overhead of relying on someone else to help. But creating content is only one side of the coin. Accessibility is the other side of the coin as it allows that same person to consume the rich content on the web with equal success as someone without a disability. That is something that will not just provide a better experience but allow that individual to be more productive in all their endeavors.

Taking Action

How do you know if your website is accessible? How do you make it accessible if it’s not? Partnering with an expert accessibility consultant is essential if you need to insure you meet the guidelines and have a fully accessible site. In addition, there are some accessibility tools that can help you, although I have to warn you that tools are not a complete answer.  They are helpful, especially in the hands of someone with extensive accessibility knowledge, but they do not find the majority of accessibility issues.

The process for evaluating and fixing a site that is not accessible looks like this:

  1. Assess – You will need a good accessibility audit to show you the violations to WCAG 2.0 and other accessibility guidelines
  2. Remediate – Once you have the audit it’s time for your developers to go to work fixing the issues. Ask your accessibility consultant about services they may offer to help your developers with the remediation:
    1. Accessibility training
    2. Help desk support
    3. Interim quality assurance audits
    4. Compatibility testing to ensure the product works with assistive technology (the tools that people with disability use to interact with your website)
  3. Integrate – Now that you’ve gone through the work of creating a website that is accessible you’ll want to keep it that way and make sure future projects are accessible from the start. You will want to look at the following for your organization:
    1.  Corporate accessibility policies development
    2. Develop best practices and checklists to integrate accessibility throughout the development process
    3. Accessibility certification
    4. On-going accessibility monitoring

When you have an accessible website you can be proud knowing that your efforts don’t just help people with one kind of disability but help all people including those with any number of disabilities.

Author Profile

Mark Miller is the accounts and marketing director for Interactive Accessibility, internationally-recognized experts who provide accessibility services for WCAG 2.0 compliance. He can be reached at 603-580-9110 or [email protected].

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 …

Ten Reasons Why It Is Difficult for a Person with Dyslexia to Spell Correctly

Spelling with dyslexia is not an easy play:

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.

For a solution, look at Ghotit Real Writer and Reader specifically designed for those with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

Albert Einstein Interviewed about Dyslexia

The following is an interview performed by Ofer Chermesh, the founder of Ghotit, the leading writing and reading assistive technology for dyslexics, and Mr. Albert Einstein that suffers from learning disability like many other famous people, the man synonymous with the word GENIUS and the world’s most 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”.

* Nobody really knows if Einstein was indeed dyslexic.

Since we published this blog, we have learned about its popularity. I wonder why so many dyslexics look with admiration at Einstein?

I believe that the following solution would have been appealing to Mr. Albert  Einstein.

 

Understanding how dyslexics write

 

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 reading and writing independence – find the right reading and writing assistive solutions. Solutions like Ghotit, enable even heavy dyslexics to independently produce correctly written text as well as read any 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”.

I will be happy to hear  ideas for “How to Overcome Dyslexia”

Least and not least don’t feel sorry for yourself and smile – it really helps

A new insight I received form my daughter try again and again to convince the person you are working/studding to look at things differently.

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.

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

And for a relieve, look at Ghotit Real Writer and Reader designed for those with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.