Dyslexia and Google Docs

With the increase in the number of schools and colleges using Google Docs web-based application, it becomes critical to ask the following question: What is the impact of this shift on pupils and students with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia?

The question could be further narrowed: What impact does this move from the use of MS-Word have on the ability of a dyslexic student to read/write/edit/dictate text documents?

 

For making basic editing tasks and creating good looking rich-text documents, Google Docs has a very simple and clear interface. There are many good fonts, including Serif family fonts, and font color as well as background color could be easily adapted. When a user enables Screen Reader in Accessibility Preferences of the user’s Google Account Preferences, several screenshot readers (e.g. ChromeVox) are available. Screenshot Readers are available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc., but these browser-dependent addins provide different sets of features and qualities.

Another accessibility related option is, however available, the use of a generic Screenshot Reader working with any application on screen. For example, Ghotit Screenshot Reader is a valuable example coming as a part of the Ghotit Real Writer & Reader 5 software.

 

Texts should preferably be formatted and adapted to each student’s individual needs. Documents should take a visually comfortable size, fonts and colors. It could be much easier to comprehend a text if a Read Aloud option is also available. All these reading facilitators are absent when the document is provided in a read-only format, without editing privileges, or when a student is hesitant about making changes to an original document. Ghotit Reader solves this problem by importing the selected text into its own window where student can change the fonts, adapt the foreground and background colors and read it aloud with dual highlighting.

 

For students without learning disabilities, writing in Google Docs is a smooth experience. However, since many students with dyslexia and dysgraphia are slow typists and need Word-Prediction, using Google Docs AS IS could be a frustrating experience. Google Docs does not offer a Word-Prediction option (while an Autocomplete option is available in MS-Word). There are several addins for browsers working with Google Docs and adding a well needed word-prediction option. The addins work properly with Chrome, but do not exist or could come with compatibility issues for Safari, Firefox or Microsoft browsers. Ghotit’s Word Prediction is specifically designed for those with dyslexia and dysgraphia and predicts text with instant correction by doing that universally outside of browsers and not depending on them.

 

A great feature of Google Docs is Voice Typing. Student can dictate a text of a reasonable quality and format it by Voice Typing Commands. (This feature is only available in Chrome browser). Normally, microphones of smartphones and tablets are appropriate for dictation, whereas laptops and desktops require a purchase of an external high-quality dictation microphone. Dictation comes nowadays also as a platform feature of Mac (Siri), iOS, Windows and Android. Thus, there is a choice between these two good dictation options, Google Docs Voice Typing or platform-specific dictation, and there is no need to spend money on extra dictation software packages.

 

Text created by Word-Prediction or Dictation is supposed to be free of misspelled words, but it still comes with confused words, homophone, grammar and punctuation errors. When students write directly to a Google Docs document, misspellings are inevitable. Google Docs is doing a great job of flagging misspelled words as well as some confused words and grammar errors with a level of text correction being good enough for a non-dyslexic user. This service is far from sufficiency, though, for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia, and this is where Ghotit Real Writer & Reader comes to deliver the solution for the students by solving most complex cases.

 

In conclusion: Overall, Google Docs is a welcomed step forward towards simplicity in creating text documents and through its embedded assistive technology. When equipped with an appropriate and individually tailor-made additional assistive technology, Google Docs could make a positive impact on success of pupils and students with dyslexia and dysgraphia in educational systems.

Reading Problems

There are most probably millions of reading problems and zillions of causes for these problems, and I cannot claim I am an expert in any of them.

Still, no one can assist people with their reading problems without letting them at least starting with a classification of their problem.

There are at least three types of reading problems

  1. General reading problem
  2. Problem in focusing on a sentence or a word
  3. Problem in reading text in the context of an image

Experts in assistive technology specialize in offering technological solution for all three types of problems and most of my time as an assistive technologist is dedicated for developing and offering answers to these problems.

How can these three types of problems be mitigated by assistive technology?

The first, and more common issue, can be approached by text to speech technology, adding our hearing sense to the reading experience. Joining forces, adding hearing to sight, increases comprehension significantly.

The second obstacle is an attention issue, subnormal ability to focus attention on a specific detail, a word or a sentence, in the context of paragraph or a page. The double coloring reader method can be applied to sooth this problem. By marking a sentence with a discernable color and simultaneously mark words in row with another color, the energy needed for reading decreases significantly and reading follows smoother.

Comprehending test inside an image raises formidable difficulties to most dyslexics. Quite frequently images are multi-color constructs. Their creators invest more effort in esthetics than in easing understanding.   We all encountered captchas, these annoying images commonly used to confirm you, the surfer are a human being, not a robot. Many times I hoped for the showing up of a technological savior, freeing me from the confusing image. Screenshot reader method is exactly this technological savior for the learning disable. It is an extracting tool, putting the confusing colors and forms aside, and leaving us exactly where we want, reading the text.

Dyslexia, Writing Assistive Technology and Text-to-Speech

People with dyslexia usually have a hard time in both reading and writing. Letters and words get jumbled up in their minds during both reading and writing processes. Reading abilities may be affected by how tired the dyslexic reader is, or how much concentration is needed to comprehend the reading of a certain page.

Writing is usually a stressful process for a person with dyslexia. The person with dyslexia is aware of his problematic writing and knows that he must be on full alert in order to minimize his spelling mistakes. He must dedicate his full concentration to the writing process.

Writing Assistive Technologies focus on providing advanced spell checking algorithms for dyslexics. These are specially tuned algorithms that take into account that dyslexics usually spell really badly and that many times even when giving their full attention can not determine what is the correct spelling.

Integrating Text-to-Speech (TTS) to Writing Assistive Technologies can dramatically improve the writing experience of a dyslexic. There are two main benefits:

  • The first benefit is using Text-to-Speech as the dyslexic’s writing gatekeeper. Sometimes, a person with dyslexia just can not figure out himself the correct spelling of a word, even after proof-reading what he had just written. However, if the text can be read out loud to him, then usually by his understanding of what is being read, and by the pronunciation of the words that he is hearing he can confidently determine if what he had written is correct.
  • The other benefit is that the integrated Text-to-Speech feature enables a person with dyslexia to focus better on his writing. As mentioned above, reading for a dyslexic may also be a stressful event requiring his full attention. If the reading “effort” can be reduced then the person with dyslexia can be more “mentally free” to focus on his writing. The Writing Assistive Technology should have Text-to-Speech integrated at all levels of the product, enabling the user to decide, what he wants to be read out loud: the suspicious word, the meaning of the word (if provided), the full or part of the sentence he just corrected.

Ghotit Writing Assistive Technology solution has a fully integrated Text-to-Speech functionality. Today, whenever I write, I wear my headphones, and have the Text-to-Speech feature assist me in my writing.

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Dyslexia and Marriage

I celebrated this week my 10th wedding anniversary. My wife recently submitted an article titled “Dyslexia and Marriage”, summarizing her 10-year ride of being married to a dyslexic (meaning me). In the article, my wife narrates our 10-year relationship that starts with the initial understanding of what is dyslexia, continues with understanding the implications of living with a person with dyslexia, and ends with the dreams and hopes wished for our children.
I would like to share with you this article. It is in the initial process of being distributed and can be found at: Dyslexia and Marriage.

I will let Mr. Frank Sinatra be my voice about  “Love and Marriage”.

Dyslexia, Charlie Brown and Dilbert

For many years I have been a big fan of both Charlie Brown and Dilbert. That of course is not surprising. Charlie Brown and Dilbert are two extremely popular comics’ heroes. However, when I read somewhere that both the creators of Charlie Brown (creator Charles M. Schulz) and Dilbert (creator Scott Adams) where dyslexic I started wondering if perhaps there was a connection. Perhaps it was not accidental that the two characters that I adored, their creators where dyslexic, exactly like me.

Charlie Brown is presented as a boy that nothing ever goes right for him. But Charlie Brown refuses to give up and possesses an endless amount of determination and hope. I love Charlie Brown’s motto “NEVER EVER GIVE UP”. As you can see, I have adopted the picture with this motto as the graphical icon of this blog…

Dilbert on the other had is a grownup working in a work environment where employees’ skills and efforts are not rewarded and where the most ineffective and least-competent workers are the ones that are promoted to management positions.

When I started thinking about it I realized that as a person with dyslexia it is quite easy for me to identify with these two characters.

As a child, my struggle with learning, reading and writing was a continuous one. I have many negative memories from school and remember it mainly as a place that promoted my insecurities due to my learning differences. However, these experiences drove me to “NEVER EVER GIVE UP”, no matter the difficulties, insecurities and failures. And in this point I truly relate with good old Charlie…

When I grew up and joined the workforce, I felt sometimes that I was working in a Dilbert-like workplace. This too may be related to my dyslexia. Being a dyslexic, my written communications and presentations where not as well “packaged” as those of my co-workers. Sometimes I felt that I was being judged not by my actual contribution, but rather by this external “package” that I carried.

Well here’s to you Charlie Brown – thanks for providing me with multiple scenes where even though your luck seemed to be running out – you never lost your good-heartiness and hope…

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjFE9uy3N38&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

And here’s to you Dilbert – thanks for demonstrating in a comical, cynical light the ridiculous aspects a workplace may have…

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f35bQPAYhIE&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

Dyslexia: Different Ability, Not Disability

This is a short follow up to my previous blog “What if over 50% of the Population had Dyslexia?

People with dyslexia simply have different abilities, not disabilities. What may seem as a simple word game may have profound affects on a dyslexic’s  self value and confidence. In addition, it may frame the mind set of the overall educational systems and workplaces.

I recently viewed a very cool video exactly on this topic, and really want to share it with you. It is titled “Special Deeds for Special Needs”. So here it is, enjoy:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndlqh38bZmU&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

What if the Majority of the Population had Dyslexia?

I recently came across two interesting data points that made me start thinking: “What if the Majority of the Population had Dyslexia?”

The first was an interesting blog titled “Using “Correct Language” And “People First” by Ira David Socol “ that described how commonly known word categorizations often demean the objects of these categorizations. For example, learning disabled, assumes that the people in this category are disabled. If you look up the definition of the word “disabled” in the Webster dictionary you get the following definition:

Disabled: “incapacitated by illness or injury; also : physically or mentally impaired in a way that substantially limits activity especially in relation to employment or education”.

The second data point that came my way was actually a tweet from a twitter called dughall that simply stated “Dyslexia is not so much about learning ‘difficulties’, but about learning ‘differences’.”

As a ‘heavy’ dyslexic, these two data points triggered a thread of thought. For years I have been told that I had a learning disability called dyslexia. The “regular” school system targets “normal” students. The teaching methods, the facilities are all designed for these “normal” students. The system was not designed for people with dyslexia. If you have dyslexia then you need to get special tutoring, purchase assistive technology, request for special testing conditions etc.

Two facts are well known about dyslexics:

1)      Dyslexia has NOTHING to do with intelligence. Some of humanity’s top contributors are known to have been dyslexic. (You can see the cool video “The Power Of Dyslexia about Famous Dyslexics”)

2)      Dyslexic’s reading and writing processing is performed differently then the “normal” population

It is estimated that 5% to 17% of the population has dyslexia. But what if the majority of the population had dyslexia? What if the majority of the population processed their reading and writing just as dyslexics do?

Then what… Well then… Probably the schools would include in their “regular” Reading and Writing teachings programs that are tuned for dyslexics… Probably leading Word Processing vendors such as Microsoft and Apple would include in their core product what is known today as “Writing and Reading Assistive” technologies… Probably English would have naturally evolved to a language with a higher letter and sound correspondence rate, with less English irregularities (see “Ghoti”) and more simplified English spelling …

My Conclusion:

People with Dyslexia simply have learning differences then the rest of the population…It is only because the “system” is designed today for “normal” people that dyslexics have learning difficulties… and it is only because of how the “normal” people categorize dyslexics that they (we) are called “learning disabled”

Dyslexia and Regular Spell Checkers

Every time I use a regular spell checker it hits me that the people who designed these spell checkers did not have in mind people like me, people who suffer from dyslexia and have really bad spelling. When I use a regular spell checker I receive a word which is underlined in red and I am faced with one of the following problems:

  1. My intended word is not in the suggestions list. This is because my spelling was too far away from the correct spelling (meaning I spell REALLY badly), and the spellchecker simply could not pick up on my intended word.
  2. My intended word is in the suggestions list, but since I am such a bad speller, I have no idea how to select the correct word from the list.

Misused words, words that are spelled correctly but are not the words I intended to write, are also a major issue. I encounter misused words either by entering the misused word originally or selecting a misused (wrong) word from the spell checker’s word suggestion list. I then send these sentences with the misused words out to the world without even knowing what nonsense I have just written. For example, many times I have invited business colleagues for a “Mating” instead of a “Meeting”… I tried all available spellchecking and writing assistance technologies, but none seemed to work for me. After discussing the regular spell checkers limitations with many dyslexics, we began to think and design a spell checker specifically targeting the dyslexic community. Such a spell checker would include the following key capabilities:

  • A spellchecker that can pick up on really bad spelling, and offer the correct suggestions
  • A context spellchecker, that can understand the context of what I am writing, in order to avoid situations where I write a correctly spelled word but it is a  completely different word then the one I intended (misused word)
  • A spellchecker that offers for each suggested word its meaning so that I can easily select the intended word
  • A spellchecker that can read out loud to me what I wrote, to make sure that what I wrote is really what I intended to write.

Ghotit context-spellchecker incorporates all the capabilities listed above. If you are suffering from dyslexia, you should know that Ghotit, unlike regular spellcheckers, was designed specifically to meet your (our) unique spell checking needs.

My Dyslexia and Phonological Processing

First of all I will begin with a short explanation what is Phonological Processing and how it is related to dyslexics.

Phonological processing is the ability to see or hear a word, break it down to discrete sounds, and then associate each sound with letter/s that make up the word. The reason Phonological Processing is related to dyslexics, is because there is a wide consensus that dyslexia stems from a deficit in phonological processing. Good phonological processing seems to be key for strong reading and writing abilities, therefore our weak phonological processing abilities make us poor readers and writers…

So, now what I would like to relay to you is how my phonological processing is performed. It is not that I completely can not break up a word to sounds. But usually, I am able to perform it only to the first and last sounds of the word. So for example the word “unfortunately”, I can translate the sound of the beginning of the word to “un” and also the sound of the end of the word to “ly” but I just can not perform the same processing to all the middle sounds. And then I just have to try and from my visual memory try and remember the picture of the missing letters. But my “visual” memory catalogue isn’t that great so I end up spelling the word “unfortunately” something like “unforchently“.

I can not say also that I am consistent with my spelling errors. Since as I said many times I can not complete the spelling of the word from either the sound processing or from my visual memory, so I simply guess. And at different times I may “guess” different results to the spelling of the same words… so here my lack of consistency comes to play… Here is my try to write again the word “unfortunately”: “unforvently” and again, “unfocantly”.
So as you see I tried 3 times to spell the word “unfortunately” and got 3 different results, none of which regular spellcheckers could offer the correct spelling…

Spelling errors examples

Anyway, this is a blog about my personal phonological processing. If you are dyslexic, it would be interesting to hear how do you perform your “phonological processing”?

A Dyslexic Blogger

If someone would review my writing history, he would see that my average sentence length is about three to five words. It is not that I do not have intelligent thoughts to communicate, but simply that my genetic combination determined me to be a dyslexic. Dyslexia is a condition you have for life. I was diagnosed quite early in my life as a dyslexic, which is quite rare for a guy my age (42), since back then dyslexia was not as well known as it is today. My parents invested a lot of effort and time so that I could read & write. I can even say that I had a very unique reading skill that no one else possessed – I was the ONLY one that could read and understand my own writing. That’s because I am such a terrible speller.

Thank god for word processors and spell checkers. With lots of effort, caution and patience I finally had the tools to produce sentences that can be read by others… But still, these word processors were not able to pick up on a lot of my mistakes. That’s when I started limiting my writing vocabulary and producing very short sentences, usually using the words that I know I spell correctly. It was quite aggravating. My fingers were tingling with thoughts that I really wanted or needed to write down, but in order not to send out misspelled writing, I communicated my thoughts with the bare minimum number of words. I personally termed this “bare necessity writing”.

So how come you now finding me blogging away. Well, for years I had in my mind the perfect writing assistive solution that if available, will dramatically improve my writing capabilities. It took awhile, but FINALLY it is available. Together with a team of dedicated friends, family members and help from the dyslexia community, I finally turned my dream into a reality. Ghotit is the solution that is finally enabling me to write LOONNNGGGG sentences and to blog away…

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