Dyslexia and Technology

I wish my readers a very prosperous 2008. Since I am never sure if anyone is reading this column, I would love to hear your views and interests. Please feel free to email me at celeste@inclusivesolutions.co.za

Dyslexia is an ability to see a thing from many points of view, all at once. The primary problem for dyslexics is that they can process so much information that it gets garbled, distorted or frozen. There is so much input that, if not filtered, what begins as a special, insightful talent, is reduced to a tragic mass of confusion and disability.

Wordblind

Someone coined the phrase “wordblind” and since that makes perfect sense to the non-initiated like me I have decided to find solutions that would ensure success for someone who is “wordblind”. This obviously is not a fix but rather an assistive tool.

Here are a few symptoms of Dyslexia:

  • Delay in learning how to tie shoe laces.
  • Highly intuitive and insightful.
  • Vivid imagination, Creative, strong graphic skill.
  • Seem intelligent but read slowly.
  • Difficulty remembering words, learning new words especially under stress.
  • Difficulty sequencing days of week, months of year.
  • Develops negative, emotional behaviour due to academic performance.
  • Outstanding building of toy blocks, colouring or drawing.
  • Left/Right confusions.
  • Mixes the order of letters/ numbers.
  • Messy room, desk, locker or note book.
  • Transposes names of people or places.
  • Hesitant in speech.
  • Low self-esteem due to past frustrations.

Two software products are available in South Africa; ClaroRead, which we will deal with in this article, Penfriend in the next issue. ClaroRead is great for people who are visually impaired and for individuals who are “wordblind”.

ClaroRead PLUS offers text to speech features, word Integration, colour, font & spacing, homophones, dictionary, word prediction and more.

ClaroRead speaks back text as it is typed, allowing students to check and proof-read their work quickly and easily. Text can be spoken at any point by highlighting sections of text and clicking on Play - great for proofreading.

It’s compatible with Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer.

A choice of one male and two female human-sounding voices speak typed text naturally and clearly. Spoken words can be tracked on screen using a custom colour selection.

The programme can be set to echo back words and phrases dictated into any text processor or email application using the Dragon Naturally Speaking software.

The spoken text files can be saved on the computer as audio files to be listened to at any time on computer or audio player, ideal for revision or listening on the move. A Text to Speech Pronunciation Dictionary is available to modify the way words are pronounced if needed.

Works in Microsoft Word

ClaroRead provides a single tool bar used in Microsoft Word that combines a homophone and tricky word dictionary, font options and spacing commands, a thesaurus, spell checker button and a save to audio function. ClaroRead makes it simple to space out text, both in Word and on web pages.

Homophones are words that are pronounced alike even if they differ in spelling or meaning, such as "pair" and "pear". ClaroRead marks in colour all the homophones and confusable words in a document. ClaroRead provides a single Check Button for use in Microsoft Word that combines a homophone dictionary, thesaurus, reference dictionary and spellchecker, making the checking of your text and documents easier and more comprehensive.

The Check Boxes are fully speech enabled, so hovering the mouse over the words will make them speak. There are over 1000 picture icons to help with word meanings.

Powerful optical character recognition (OCR) technology makes any paper document or PDF file accessible. Textbooks, photocopies and handouts are easily converted into Word documents. The text can then be edited or spoken out by ClaroRead.

ClaroRead has word prediction which uses a base dictionary of the most frequently used words in the English language. The dictionary learns as you type, and rejects words that don't pass the automatic spell-check.

The Prediction List will automatically appear by your cursor during typing, or you can place the Prediction window anywhere on the screen.

Talking calculator

ClaroRead adds a voice to the Windows Calculator. Enter the sum with the numeric keyboard and the figures will be echoed back to you. ClaroRead PLUS includes ScreenRuler that works as a reading bar and magnifies lines of text on the screen.

New ClaroRead Premium includes a special portable ClaroRead USB memory stick. It runs directly from the memory stick on any PC.ClaroRead runs on Windows Vista, XP and 2000 operating systems. A sound card is required, along with at least 512 megabytes of RAM and 250 megabytes of hard disk space. A scanner supporting TWAIN or WIA drivers is required for Scan2Text optical character recognition.

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