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 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). Ghotit’s Quick-Spell Word Prediction is specifically designed for those with dyslexia and dysgraphia and predicts text with instant correction by doing that in Ghotit’s Dyslexia Editor.
 

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, homophones, 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.
Ghotit Editor for Google Docs provides full writing, reading and text correction support for those with dyslexia/dysgraphia (for example, see writing with Word-Prediction a Google Doc as a part of the product presentation video at Ghotit Home Page).

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.

Mom – My Personal Spell Checker

When I started to learn to write (in the mid 70s) there were no personal computers and no available computer word processors. As a terrible dyslexic speller, I had only one spell checker available – my mother. She was my personal spell checker.

On the one hand her processing time was quite slow, as she had great difficulty understanding my handwriting and spelling; but on the other hand her correction accuracy was quite high, as she always knew the context of what I had written, and therefore could make very educated guesses to what I intended to write.

Once my mother finished correcting my text, the paper sheet was so full of crossed out words and corrections, that I always needed to copy the text to a clean sheet of paper… which usually meant copying the text with mistakes again and going through an additional iteration with my mother… and then being requested by my mother to read out loud what was written… the process was tedious and tiring, many  times resulting in one of us losing our patience.

Years passed by, and the personal computers overtook the world. By the end of the 80’s I owned my own personal computer, and was using the word processing software WordPerfect and its spell checker. When Microsoft Word 95 added its underlining spell checker, I adopted the Microsoft’s squiggly-red spelling errors markings.

But though Microsoft’s word spell checker processing was extremely faster than my mother… the correction accuracy was quite low… Microsoft often gave me wrong suggestions… or no suggestions at all, as it simply could not decipher my spelling… as Microsoft had no understanding to the context of what I was writing about.

Microsoft Word spell checker failed to provide me the value that Mom my personal spell checker provided.  That’s why years later I founded Ghotit – the only spell checker designed for dyslexia spelling.  And Ghotit has adopted some of the same spell checking characteristics displayed by Mom my personal spell checker:

  • Ghotit boasts of context-based algorithms, understanding the intended word from the context of the written text itself
  • Ghotit is patient – supporting correction re-iterations based on additional corrections and inputs provided by the user
  • Ghotit  can be asked to read out the text out loud

PS After so many years… I believe Mom my personal spell checker has finally met her match

A Great “Speaker on Dyslexia”

This is one of my favorite youtube videos about dyslexia.

Listening to Mr. Nelson Lauver’s story of how his life changed by being told that he had dyslexia makes you understand the importance of having kids diagnosed early with dyslexia. Kids who are diagnosed early are taught how to live with dyslexia both from an academic, and from a confidence building standpoint. If you have a child demonstrating hardships in either reading or writing, get your child diagnosed. This early diagnosis can be a critical factor in the well-being of your child.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFg3RX9ThtQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

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A Dyslexic Spell Checker – Holic

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

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

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

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

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

Try the Ghotit SpellChecker at: www.ghotit.com

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Teaching Disabilities of a Parent with Dyslexia

“If you don’t want your teacher to think you are an idiot, you better ask your mother to help you in this homework writing assignment”.

This is what I spurted out to my daughter who recently started 1st grade. My daughter asked for my assistance in one of her first writing homework assignments.  Just to clarify I am a heavy dyslexic and a terrible speller.  A second after I said this sentence I regretted it. My 6 year old daughter did not really catch the meaning of what I said, except of course to understand that to get homework assistance she better go to my wife.

The homework assignment of my daughter who has just started first grade was simple enough. She had to write a certain letter in a row of squares drawn on a sheet of paper.  My daughter asked me to see if she had written the letters properly inside each one of the squares. Sounds simple enough. But my “dyslexic eyes” couldn’t for the life of me figure out if the letter was written inside or outside the square. To my eyes, the letters just floated around on the paper…

When I started to think about it, it occurred to me that helping my daughter in language assignments was very problematic:

  1. Most of the homework assignments of kids in first grades are technical writing and spelling assignments – directly focusing on my main dyslexic spelling weaknesses
  2. I realized that since my daughter has no previous “spelling knowledge”, so if I teach her a wrong spelling of a word, she will automatically learn and adopt the misspelling

A few days later, we were driving in the car. My daughter had learned her first 8 alphabet letters, and my wife was saying out words that included only these letters and asking my daughter to spell them. I stayed quiet during this session, and was quite happy when my second daughter who is in kindergarten asked to also participate by asking her simple arithmetic questions. Thank God  I don’t have dyscalculia and could participate in this educational family game.

All of these minor incidents made me start thinking: Which role can I play in my daughters’ studies? Do I suffer not only from learning disabilities but also from teaching disabilities?

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Adult Dyslexics – Follow Technology Trends

I am an adult dyslexic in his early 40’s. Personal desktop computers made their household entrance during the 80’s, about the time I was in high-school. So from high school onwards, computers have accompanied my life. Younger adults in their 20’s and 30’s may have had computers introduced into their lives since elementary school.

There is no arguing the fact that computer technology has leaped forward in the past 30 years. Moore’s Law that predicted that computer power would double itself every 2 years or so has proven it correct since the early 1970s till this very day. Current Cloud Computing paradigms, enabling consumers to purchase computing and storage resources based on a utility consumption model (such as the consumption of electricity) from huge computer farms owned by the likes of Google and Amazon forebodes the next revolution in computing technology.

From the software side, dramatic advances are also continuously taking place. Open Source Code has enabled core infrastructure software components such as Operating Systems, Databases, Development Environments etc. to be widely available at low cost. Software trends such as the publishing of Application Programmer’s Interfaces (APIs) and developing Software Oriented Architecture (SOA) has made external software components suddenly interoperable and “meshed”-enabled with other software components.

So what does all this have to do with adult dyslexics and giving their writing another chance?

Well, I know many adult dyslexics that have struggled with their writing for years (myself included). They have worked with various built-in Word Processors’ spell-checkers. Usually at certain points in their education or careers they have even investigated and tried specialized dyslexia text correction solutions.

However, at a certain point, these adults have settled into a self-defined routine of working around their spelling and writing limitations. Their disappointments in finding a real working solution for their writing turn them off from continuing to seek a working solution. In a sense, they have given up hope in finding a truly effective solution.

But here is where the technological advances listed above come to play. The new technological innovations being introduced at a phenomenal pace bring with them new capabilities that may dramatically change the quality and effectiveness of assistive technologies, and writing assistive technologies in particular.

Ghotit develops innovative writing software for people with dyslexia. As a founder of Ghotit, I can confidently say that an offering like Ghotit could not have been delivered to the market 2 years earlier, without the dramatic technological leaps described above.

It is difficult to change ones’ habits, even more so for somebody that has tried so in the past and has been disappointed…

But the reward here is great…

The reward is acquiring the capabilities to dramatically improve ones’ communication skills and to convert ones’ poorly spelled writing to mainstream writing.

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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]