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  • Crazy English and Dyslexia

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    A collection of humorous poems pointing up how illogical English words and their spelling are.

    Here’s our collection of poems that point out how ridiculous English spelling is.

    Owed to a Spelling Chequer (there are different versions of this):

    Don’t use a Text to Speech program to read this. You won’t see the joke!

    FOUR YORE I’s ONLY

    I have a spelling chequer
    It came with my pea sea
    It plainly marques four my revue
    Miss steaks eye cannot sea

    When eye strike a quay to right a word
    I weight four it two say
    Weather eye am wrong oar write
    It shows me strait away

    As soon as a mist ache is maid
    It nose bee fore two late
    And eye can put the error rite
    Its rarely, rarely grate

    I’ve run this poem threw it
    I’m shore your pleased two no
    Its letter perfect in it’s weigh
    MY CHEQUER TOLLED ME SEW!

    (Sauce unknown).


    English is a crazy language…

    (forwarded to writing-dev-he mail list by Flo Ali).

    1. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple; English muffins were not invented in England or French fries in France.
    2. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
    3. Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
    4. If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
    5. In what language do people recite at a play, and play at a recital?
    6. Ship by truck, and send cargo by ship?
    7. Have noses that run and feet that smell?
    8. Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
    9. How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
    10. How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?
    11. When a house burns up, it burns down.
    12. You fill in a form by filling it out, and an alarm clock goes off by going on.
    13. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
    14. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.

    Why English is so hard to learn (not to mention teach):

    Sent to the BDA mail list by Jean Hutchins, circulating within the Simplified Spelling Society:

    We must polish the Polish furniture.
    He could lead if he would get the lead out.
    The farm was used to produce produce.
    The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
    The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
    This was a good time to present the present.
    A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
    When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
    I did not object to the object.
    The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
    The bandage was wound around the wound.
    There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
    They were too close to the door to close it.
    The buck does funny things when the does are present.
    They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
    To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
    The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
    After a number of injections my jaw got number.
    Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
    I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
    How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
    I read it once and will read it again.
    I learned much from this learned treatise.
    I was content to note the content of the message.
    The Blessed Virgin blessed her. Blessed her richly.
    It’s a bit wicked to over-trim a short-wicked candle.
    If he will absent himself we mark him absent.
    I incline toward bypassing the incline.


    Our Strange Lingo:

    When the English tongue we speak.
    Why is break not rhymed with freak?
    Will you tell me why it’s true
    We say sew but likewise few?
    And the maker of the verse,
    Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
    Beard is not the same as heard
    Cord is different from word.
    Cow is cow but low is low
    Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
    Think of hose, dose, and lose
    And think of goose and yet with choose
    Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
    Doll and roll or home and some.
    Since pay is rhymed with say
    Why not paid with said I pray?
    Think of blood, food and good.
    Mould is not pronounced like could.
    Wherefore done, but gone and lone -
    Is there any reason known?
    To sum up all, it seems to me
    Sound and letters don’t agree.

    Sent to senco-forum by Sheridan Sharp.


    The Chaos

    By Gerard Nolst Trenité

    This is a major work showing some 800 inconsistencies in English spelling. A full history of this poem and a slightly updated — and so copyright — version is on the Simplified Spelling Society’s website. It dates from the 1920s and was used to teach English. Jed Hartman has a discussion of its pronunciation and the differences in US English. We copied it from David Madore’s version where there is a full International Phonetic Alphabet transcription if you want to know how to pronounce it. If you can read this poem fluently, you have probably mastered reading English!

    Dearest creature in creation
    Studying English pronunciation,
    I will teach you in my verse
    Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

    I will keep you, Susy, busy,
    Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
    Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
    Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

    Pray, console your loving poet,
    Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
    Just compare heart, hear and heard,
    Dies and diet, lord and word.

    Sword and sward, retain and Britain
    (Mind the latter how it’s written).
    Made has not the sound of bade,
    Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.

    Now I surely will not plague you
    With such words as vague and ague,
    But be careful how you speak,
    Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,

    Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
    Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
    Woven, oven, how and low,
    Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

    Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
    Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
    Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
    Missiles, similes, reviles.

    Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
    Same, examining, but mining,
    Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
    Solar, mica, war and far.

    From ‘desire’: desirable – admirable from ‘admire’,
    Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
    Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
    Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

    One, anemone, Balmoral,
    Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
    Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
    Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

    Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
    Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
    This phonetic labyrinth
    Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

    Have you ever yet endeavoured
    To pronounce revered and severed,
    Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
    Peter, petrol and patrol?

    Billet does not end like ballet;
    Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
    Blood and flood are not like food,
    Nor is mould like should and would.

    Banquet is not nearly parquet,
    Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
    Discount, viscount, load and broad,
    Toward, to forward, to reward,

    Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
    Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
    Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
    Friend and fiend, alive and live.

    Is your R correct in higher?
    Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
    Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
    Buoyant, minute, but minute.

    Say abscission with precision,
    Now: position and transition;
    Would it tally with my rhyme
    If I mentioned paradigm?

    Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
    But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
    Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
    Rabies, but lullabies.

    Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
    Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
    You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
    In a linen envelope.

    Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
    Affidavit, David, davit.
    To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
    Does not sound like Czech but ache.

    Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
    Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
    We say hallowed, but allowed,
    People, leopard, towed but vowed.

    Mark the difference, moreover,
    Between mover, plover, Dover.
    Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
    Chalice, but police and lice,

    Camel, constable, unstable,
    Principle, disciple, label.
    Petal, penal, and canal,
    Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

    Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
    Rhyme with ’shirk it’ and ‘beyond it’,
    But it is not hard to tell
    Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

    Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
    Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
    Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
    Senator, spectator, mayor,

    Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
    Has the A of drachm and hammer.
    Pussy, hussy and possess,
    Desert, but desert, address.

    Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
    Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
    Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
    Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

    ‘Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker’,
    Quoth he, ‘than liqueur or liquor’,
    Making, it is sad but true,
    In bravado, much ado.

    Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
    Neither does devour with clangour.
    Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
    Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

    Arsenic, specific, scenic,
    Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
    Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
    Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

    Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
    Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
    Mind! Meandering but mean,
    Valentine and magazine.

    And I bet you, dear, a penny,
    You say mani-(fold) like many,
    Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
    Tier (one who ties), but tier.

    Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
    Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
    Prison, bison, treasure trove,
    Treason, hover, cover, cove,

    Perseverance, severance. Ribald
    Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
    Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
    Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

    Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
    And distinguish buffet, buffet;
    Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
    Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

    Say in sounds correct and sterling
    Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
    Evil, devil, mezzotint,
    Mind the Z! (A gentle hint.)

    Now you need not pay attention
    To such sounds as I don’t mention,
    Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
    Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

    Nor are proper names included,
    Though I often heard, as you did,
    Funny rhymes to unicorn,
    Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

    No, my maiden, coy and comely,
    I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
    No. Yet Froude compared with proud
    Is no better than McLeod.

    But mind trivial and vial,
    Tripod, menial, denial,
    Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
    Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

    Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
    May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
    But you’re not supposed to say
    Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

    Had this invalid invalid
    Worthless documents? How pallid,
    How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
    When for Portsmouth I had booked!

    Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
    Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
    Episodes, antipodes,
    Acquiesce, and obsequies.

    Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
    Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
    Rather say in accents pure:
    Nature, stature and mature.

    Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
    Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
    Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
    Wan, sedan and artisan.

    The TH will surely trouble you
    More than R, CH or W.
    Say then these phonetic gems:
    Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

    Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
    There are more but I forget ‘em &ndash:
    Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
    Lighten your anxiety.

    The archaic word albeit
    Does not rhyme with eight – you see it;
    With and forthwith, one has voice,
    One has not, you make your choice.

    Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;
    Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
    Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
    Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

    Hero, heron, query, very,
    Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
    Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
    Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

    Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
    Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
    Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
    Puisne, truism, use, to use?

    Though the difference seems little,
    We say actual, but victual,
    Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
    Put, nut, granite, and unite.

    Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
    Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
    Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
    Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

    Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
    Science, conscience, scientific;
    Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
    Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

    Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
    Next omit, which differs from it
    Bona fide, alibi
    Gyrate, dowry and awry.

    Sea, idea, guinea, area,
    Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
    Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
    Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

    Compare alien with Italian,
    Dandelion with battalion,
    Rally with ally; yea, ye,
    Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

    Say aver, but ever, fever,
    Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
    Never guess – it is not safe,
    We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

    Starry, granary, canary,
    Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
    Face, but preface, then grimace,
    Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

    Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
    Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
    Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
    Do not rhyme with here but heir.

    Mind the O of off and often
    Which may be pronounced as orphan,
    With the sound of saw and sauce;
    Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

    Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
    Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
    Respite, spite, consent, resent.
    Liable, but Parliament.

    Seven is right, but so is even,
    Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
    Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
    Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

    A of valour, vapid vapour,
    S of news (compare newspaper),
    G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
    I of antichrist and grist,

    Differ like diverse and divers,
    Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
    Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
    Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

    Pronunciation &ndash: think of Psyche!
    Is a paling, stout and spiky.
    Won’t it make you lose your wits
    Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?

    It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
    Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
    Islington, and Isle of Wight,
    Housewife, verdict and indict.

    Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
    Saying lather, bather, father?
    Finally, which rhymes with enough,
    Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough?

    Hiccough has the sound of sup.
    My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

    (Thanks to Rosemary Somers for bringing this to our attention).


    AN OWED TO THE SPELL CHEQUER

    (CANDIDATE FOR A PULLET SURPRISE)

    by Dr Jerrold H. Zar of Northern Illinois University

    (Reproduced from The Journal of Irreproducible Results. It is actually copyright, although to see the number of quoted occurrences on the internet, you would never expect it. The staff of the JIR moved to The Annals of Improbable Research whose web site is good for a scientific laugh and who organise the Ig Nobel awards.)

    I have a spelling checker,
    It came with my PC.
    It plane lee marks four my revue
    Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

    Eye ran this poem threw it,
    Your sure reel glad two no.
    Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
    My checker tolled me sew.

    A checker is a bless sing,
    It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
    It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
    And aides me when eye rime.

    Each frays come posed up on my screen
    Eye trussed too bee a joule.
    The checker pours o’er every word
    To cheque sum spelling rule.

    Bee fore a veiling checker’s
    Hour spelling mite decline,
    And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,
    We wood bee maid too wine.

    Butt now bee cause my spelling
    Is checked with such grate flare,
    Their are know fault’s with in my cite,
    Of nun eye am a wear.

    Now spelling does knot phase me,
    It does knot bring a tier.
    My pay purrs awl due glad den
    With wrapped word’s fare as hear.

    To rite with care is quite a feet
    Of witch won should bee proud,
    And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
    Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.

    Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
    Such soft wear four pea seas,
    And why eye brake in two averse
    Buy righting want too pleas.

    There are 25 mistakes in the title and the first two verses of this poem - but as they are all real words, the computer spell checker would not spot them. The complete poem has (by the author’s count) 225 words, 127 of which are wrong but would not be picked out by a spell checker.

  • Copyright and Dyslexia

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    UK copyright law, the rights of the visually-impaired, and the implications for people with dyslexia. The Right to Read Campaign.

     

    Many reading impaired people have difficulty reading normal black on white text with normal fluency, comfort and comprehension.

    After the introduction, this article reads like a blog, with the more recent updates at the top.

    From the dyslexia point of view there are two problems with UK copyright law:

    1. Since the passage of the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002, UK copyright law has contained an anomaly. The Act gave visually impaired people rights to have copyright texts converted so that they can read them as comfortably as possible, without needing to get permission from the publisher. Dyslexic people, however, although equally covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, were not included in the 2002 Act and so do not enjoy the same rights.This means that many dyslexic people waste a lot of time scanning text so that they can read it (using OCR and Text to Speech). And the organisations that create Talking Books and do other conversions for visually impaired people cannot serve those with other reading impairments and so have to discriminate against them.
    2. For visually impaired people, too, it is unnecessarily difficult and expensive to make these conversions. In most cases they must scan the text from the printed form. This is ridiculous because, in practically all cases today, the text was already in electronic form before it was printed. With proper tools and a little more care in the publication work flow process, this electronic text could be converted into a form suitable for reading-impaired people, at the press of a button. Publishers should be compelled to make an electronic version available to approved organisations, via a central electronic deposit.

    May 2010 - New Licence Introduced

    On 28th May 2010 the Copyright Licencing Agency launched a new ‘Print Disability Licence’. The licence will enable organisations to reproduce copyright work in a format suitable for people with print disabilities; accessible formats will include audiobooks, large print or braille. This will now mean that dyslexia will be included as one of the covered disabilities. More information can be found at the Copyright Licensing Agency web site

    August 2008

    Good news on copyright!

    The Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 created a legal anomaly. The Act gave visually impaired people rights to have copyright texts converted so that they can read them, without needing to get permission from the publisher. Dyslexic people, however, although equally covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (D.D.A.), were not included in the 2002 Act. So you could scan a book to make an electronic version for a blind person without permission, but not for a dyslexic one. People making alternative formats for dyslexic people were breaking the law.

    Since before the Act was passed, we have tried to get this discrimination removed and the law changed. After several false starts and disappointments, we started concentrating on the Copyright Licensing Agency (C.L.A.). The C.L.A. organises licences for librarians, schools, businesses etc – that is, most of the organisations that copy and make alternative accessible formats.

    The C.L.A. is now at last changing the wording in its licences, in a clause that has been renamed VISUALLY IMPAIRED AND DISABLED PERSONS. It refers to the Disability Discrimination Act (D.D.A) for a definition of disabled people. So dyslexic and other reading impaired students are now covered if they are covered by the D.D.A. Any reading impairment that isn’t easily correctable (e.g. by glasses) must be covered.

    This is all new, and has not yet been widely publicised. But it is good news and makes a change to the Act itself less urgent, though still ultimately necessary so that the law isn’t brought into disrepute by being seen to be unreasonable.

    Update March 2007

    The Gowers review was very disappointing from our point of view. It seemed to totally ignore practically all the inches thick electronic documents that it received from us and similar organisations, listed below. Did anybody read them? Why did we bother?

    However, there will be revisions to the Copyright Act arising from the Review and we are in discussions with the Patent Office, who are responsible for Copyright legislation, and who are appearing to be responsive.

    Most organisations which do copying and format shifting (libraries, colleges, organisations creating audio books for reading impaired people) do so under a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency. So we are also in discussions with the CLA with a view to changing the terms of the relevant CLA licences to be more inclusive. This could happen without any change in legislation.

    At least the following of the 100s of organisations contributing to or making submissions to Gowers Review included or majored on calls for action on the issue
    (all the submissions are visible on the Gowers site):

    • RNIB;
    • Share The Vision;
    • Disability Rights Commission;
    • Right to Read Alliance — combining:
      • Blind Centre for Northern Ireland;
      • British Dyslexia Association;
      • Calibre Audio Library;
      • Clearvision;
      • Confederation of Transcribed Information Services (COTIS);
      • Listening Books;
      • LOOK (The National Federation of Families with Visually Impaired Children);
      • National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People;
      • National Blind Children’s Society;
      • National Federation of the Blind;
      • National League of the Blind and Disabled;
      • The National Library for the Blind;
      • RNIB;
      • Scottish Braille Press;
      • Scottish National Federation for the Welfare of the Blind;
      • Share the Vision;
      • Talking Newspaper Association of the UK (TNAUK);
      • Torch Trust for the Blind;
      • United Kingdom Association of Braille Producers.
    • The Accessible Friends Network National Library for the Blind;
    • National Library of Scotland;
    • LACA: the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance;
    • Communication Aids for Language and Learning Centre (Edinburgh University);
    • Society of College National and University Libraries;
    • Organisations representing the needs of people with reading impairments including dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties:
      • British Dyslexia Association;
      • Dyslexia Action;
      • iansyst Ltd/dyslexic.com;
      • The National Association of Disability Officers; (now the National Association of Disability Professionals);
      • The Adult Dyslexia Organisation (ADO);
      • Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education (ADSHE);
      • The National Network of Assessment Centres (UK) (NNAC).

    Other organisations that have voiced concerns include:

    • CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals;
    • JISC Joint Information Systems Committee.

    Update April 2006

    The Gowers review is currently looking at the whole area of Intellectual Property policy for the government. iansyst, in conjunction with a number of other dyslexia and disability groups made a submission to the Gowers review about the copyright issue for dyslexic people. It refers to a similar one from the RNIB.

    Update March 2005

    Right to Read Campaign:

    We very much support the Right to Read Campaign, R2R, which aims to overcome these problems. R2R is a group of organisations concerned with reading impaired people, including the BDA, and led by RNIB.

    Visually Impaired and dyslexic people hand in the petition to number 10 Downing Street

    The first phase of the Right to Read Campaign was based around the Right to Read Charter, which was handed in to Downing Street at the end of February.

    Since then the Campaign has further embraced the needs of people with other reading disabilities apart from VI – ie it has become more “inclusive”. These organisations have said that they want to be inclusive and that the 2002 Act needs to be broadened:

    • The Right to Read Campaign steering group;
    • The Copyright Round Table – many of the same organisations, but with an interest specifically in copyright issues;
    • LACA, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance – of major librarians’ organisations, the British Library, RNIB and others – lobbies on copyright matters. It is reviewing the working of the Copyright Act for its constituents and has put inclusiveness at the top of its list of supported changes.

    Because the Campaign itself has limited resources – and these are provided disproportionately by RNIB – it has written to the Disability Rights Commission to suggest that the DRC should be the lead organisation in driving an update to the 2002 Act to cover other reading-impaired people.

    People who want the Right to Read with a poster.

    Meanwhile, as legislation takes time, the Campaign is also pursuing the voluntary approach. Most “approved organisations” who are converting materials to alternatives formats do so under a licence issued under the 2002 Act by the CLA which acts on behalf of authors and publishers. The nature of this licence is currently being reviewed. The approved organisations are negotiating to change the licence so that it allows appropriate format conversion for all reading impaired people.

    But in the meantime the Act has so far actually made matters worse for those reading-impaired people whom it excludes. Both Calibre and the RNIB’s own Talking Books service, for example, have apparently stopped supplying talking books to people who they supplied before. After the 2002 Act they no longer have to get permission for each book from the publisher, so the extra costs of doing so for a dyslexic person make it economically impossible to do so.

    The Right to Read Campaign is currently reviewing its objectives for the next period. It looks like it will add to the more global campaign goals some smaller, readily achievable objectives to remove specific technological and bureaucratic barriers.

    Meanwhile, Listening Books, and their education offshoot Sound Learning continue to supply dyslexic people.

    The MLA Council commissioned from Rightscom a feasibility study into the potential for publishers to provide their electronic files of books to agencies for people with visual disabilities. The report, (apparently no longer available - April 2007) made it clear that it would not be onerous for publishers routinely to send electronic versions (probably PDFs) of all their books to a repository as part of their normal workflow. From here they could be turned into the different accessible formats (Braille, audio, DAISY, large print) almost automatically, even using technology available today.

    Visual Stress/Meares-Irlen Syndrome

    A closer reading of the Act, plus new knowledge about visual stress, have convinced us that many dyslexic people – those who suffer from visual stress – are in fact visually impaired within the meaning of the 2002 Act, and so can benefit from it. This means that if you have been diagnosed by a behavioural optometrist, Irlen or similar or a coloured lens/coloured overlay practitioner, and prescribed tinted lenses or tinted overlays, we would consider that you can call yourself Visually Impaired within the meaning of the Act. For more information and the rationale behind this, see our Personal Accessible Text Converter’s Guide.

    What other options do dyslexic people legally have today?

    Let’s face it – although the law is unsatisfactory, it will probably not stop you scanning texts or having them scanned for you, if you need them.

    1. You can rely on the fair dealing provisions of copyright law.
    2. As a librarian you can rely on Library Privilege.
    3. You can get permission from the publisher.

    National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard:

    Several states – 26 at the last count – in the USA have legislation that obliges publishers of school text books to make a digital version available. There have been attempts – so far unsuccessful – to enact Federal legislation which would extend this obligation over all states. At the moment different states may have different requirements for their digital format. This obviously makes life difficult for publishers. Whilst waiting for the federal legislation a group of disability experts have been working on a standard for a format designed to be universal. The resulting NIMAS standard has been formally endorsed by the US Department of Education. The format is based closely on the DAISY format (Digital Accessible Information SYstem), which many suppliers of alternative formats are starting to use as a standard.

    The NIMAS report is well worth a skim, particularly the background section which gives a very good overview of the issues around digital accessible formats, including the copyright and intellectual property issues.

    We need our own NIMAS in the UK. The best solution may well be to adopt the NIMAS format ourselves, lock stock and barrel, so that we can have an international standard and international cooperation on alternative formats. Economies of scale are too important to allow jingoism to rear its head.

    We also need to wake up to the need for similar legislation to compel UK publishers of text books (not to mention any book) to provide a digital version for use by reading impaired people.

    Update May 2004

    In 2001 we made representations to the Copyright Directorate during the passage of the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Bill. The detailed arguments produced no results.

    Ian Litterick gave a paper to the Sixth BDA International Conference in March 2004 outlining the issues and suggesting solutions. You can download the following documents:

    • The PowerPoint presentation on Text Access and Copyright (168KB):
    • Ian’s personal MindGenius concept map on which the presentation was based. This contains links to the relevant legislation and documents (UK, USA, Ireland), and relevant extracts and comments in the notes window. You can download the map; it comes complete with its own viewer (1.4MB).
    • Finally the MS Word document file exported from MindGenius (111KB). This contains all the same information in a linear form and should be more accessible if you are blind.
  • What is Dyslexia?

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Just what is dyslexia? Here we give a brief overview of dyslexia as well more academic definitions using both UK and US terminologies.

    What is dyslexia?

    There are almost as many definitions of dyslexia as there are different dyslexia organisations. Different cultures and professions define it according to their perspective. In fact there is no right or wrong answer as there is no single accepted definition for dyslexia. Each individual with dyslexia will be affected differently but tend to have difficulties in some of the following areas:

    • Reading;
    • Writing;
    • Spelling;
    • Expressing thoughts;
    • Sequencing;
    • Differentiating left from right;
    • Orientation;
    • Short term memory;
    • Time management;
    • Organisation.

    But it important to remember that many children and adults with dyslexia have strengths and talents that can be used to compensate for these difficulties. The British Dyslexia Association list possible strengths as including:

    • Innovative thinkers;
    • Excellent trouble shooters;
    • Intuitive problem solving;
    • Creative in many different ways;
    • Lateral thinkers.

    Our website, dyslexic.com, features a wide range of technological solutions that use these strengths to help overcome the difficulties associated with dyslexia. We offer a range of articles to help you find out more about the software and hardware tools that are available, from introductory overviews to in-depth product reviews and comparisons. If you are new to this area then we suggest reading http://www.dyslexic.com/overview as an introduction to the most common solutions.

    Defining Dyslexia

    Dyslexia is mainly defined as a problem with literacy skills, i.e. reading, writing and spelling; although it is now widely accepted that dyslexia can affect a number of areas including memory, organisation and concentration.

    Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects reading and spelling. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties in processing word-sounds and by weaknesses in short-term verbal memory; its effects may be seen in spoken language as well as written language. The current evidence suggests that these difficulties arise from inefficiencies in language-processing areas in the left hemisphere of the brain which, in turn, appear to be linked to genetic differences.

    Dyslexia is life-long, but its effects can be minimised by targeted literacy intervention, technological support and adaptations to ways of working and learning. Dyslexia is not related to intelligence, race or social background. Dyslexia varies in severity and often occurs alongside other specific learning difficulties, such as Dyspraxia or Attention Deficit Disorder, resulting in variation in the degree and nature of individuals’ strengths and weaknesses.

    (Dyslexia Action, 2006)

    The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) have a short definition:

    • The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’.
    • Definition: Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which is neurobiological in origin and persists across the lifespan.
    • It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed and the automatic development of skills that are unexpected in relation to an individual’s other cognitive abilities.
    • These processing difficulties can undermine the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills, as well as musical notation, and have an effect on verbal communication, organisation and adaptation to change.
    • Their impact can be mitigated by correct teaching, strategy development and the use of information technology.

    These definitions state that dyslexia is not due to the individual’s ability to learn and develop these skills. It is to do with the way people process information and how that affects their ability to learn. This processing difficulty can be due to a number of reasons, but it is this which causes problems with acquiring literacy skills. Most dyslexic students have been identified to have one or more of the following deficiencies in the sub-skills that are required to acquire and use adequate literacy skills:

    A marked inefficiency in the working or short-term memory system

    This means that a dyslexic student may have problems with the amount of information that can be held and processed in the real-time, conscious memory.
     

    Inadequate phonological processing abilities causing problems with connecting the letter patterns with the associated sounds

    This is usually due to problems with the speed with which auditory information can be processed and with accessing the memory of audio sounds to relate them to the letter pattern.

    Difficulties with automaticity

    This can cause problems with getting things in the right order or sequencing and may also show itself as clumsiness caused by the brain sending the wrong signals to parts of the body in the wrong order.

    A range of problems connected with visual processing to do with the speed with which visual information can be processed and with accessing the memory of visual patterns

    Some people use the term “visual dyslexia” to mean what we call Visual Stress.

    So, dyslexia can be summarised as having problems with processing visual or auditory information; with holding that information in working memory and with kinaesthetic awareness, co-ordination and automaticity. These can affect academic progress across a variety of subjects.

    UK Terminology

    Because of these difficulties with specifically defining dyslexia, the term Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) is frequently used in the education community. SpLD refers to a difficulty that is specific to a particular area, or that affects a particular process (as distinct from a general learning difficulty, which affects the learning of many different skills). SpLD includes other learning related disabilities such as:

    • Dysphasia, speech and language delay and/or deficit.
    • Dyspraxia, motor and co-ordination difficulties.
    • Dyscalculia, difficulty with mathematical concepts, calculations and interpreting mathematical symbols.
    • Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD).
    • Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Tourette's Syndrome.

    US Terminology

    In the USA the term Learning Disability (LD) is used. LD is defined as:

    “a disorder that affects people’s ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways: as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read, write, or do math.”
    (National Institutes of Health, 1993)

    The general view of dyslexia in the US is that it mainly affects reading, and the terms Reading Disability and Dyslexia are used interchangeably. On this web site we take the UK view that dyslexia does not just affect reading and can have a wider impact throughout life.

    Assessment

    Clearly, for a definition to have use in the real world you not only need a certain measure of agreement on a definition, but you also need to agree how to diagnose it.  Attempts are being made to standardise diagnosis for different purposes. One such standard is the SpLD Working Group 2005/DfES Guidelines for diagnosing dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties to qualify for the UK Disabled Student's Allowance for Higher Education.

  • Typefaces for Dyslexia

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Dyslexia is a disability which is very sensitive to particular typefaces, both in print and on screen. We look at some of the typefaces we recommend to ensure that whatever materials you are creating, they are accessible to as broad an audience as possible.

     Many dyslexic people find that the readability of a piece of text varies greatly depending upon the font (type face or type style) used. This article looks at some fonts that are recommended and used by dyslexic people. There is more information on the reading difficulties faced by dyslexic people and those with Meares/Irlen syndrome on our Visual Stress page.


    General Rules

    Serif fonts, with their ‘ticks’ and ‘tails’ at the end of most strokes (as found in traditional print fonts such as Georgia or Times New Roman), tend to obscure the shapes of letters, so sans-serif fonts are generally preferred. Many dyslexic people also find it easier to read a font that looks similar to hand writing as they are familiar with this style, and some teachers prefer them. However these types of fonts can lead to confusion with some letter combinations, such as “oa” and “oo”; “rn” and “m”.

    The size of the ascenders and descenders of letters (the ‘stems’ on letters like p and b) is also important as many dyslexic readers rely on recalling the visual shape of a word due to poor phonological awareness. If ascenders and descenders are too short the shape of the word is more difficult to identify and can make reading slower and less accurate.

    Read Regular

    In 2003, Natascha Frensch, a graphic designer at the Royal College of Art, designed a font specifically for dyslexic readers, taking into account the issues discussed above. There are examples of Read Regular on her web site at www.readregular.com and the children’s publisher Chrysalis is now using it for two-thirds of the 150 children’s titles it brings out every year. In May 2012, Dutch educational publishers Zwijsen adopted the Read Regular typeface, where it is known as Zwijsen Dyslexiefont.

    Lexia Readable

    Has also been designed specifically for dyslexia. You can download it from www.k-type.com/ free for individual use. It has developed quite a bit over the last few months, although it still has some minor irregularities. It tries to avoid some possible dyslexic confusions (e.g. b-d) by using different shapes, and is broadly based on Comic Sans, see below. Please let us know what you think of it.

    Tiresias

    Has been designed for Visual Impairment. Originally produced for subtitles and signs, there is now a screen version Tiresias PC font. Tiresias is now free to download. It is good for legibility, but doesn’t address the issue of dyslexic confusions.

    Century Gothic

    A sans-serif font which maintains the basic design of Monotype 20th Century, but has been modified to ensure satisfactory output from modern digital systems. The design is influenced by the geometric style sans-serif faces which were popular during the 1920s and 1930s.

    Calibri

    Calibri is a modern sans-serif typeface with subtle roundings on stems and corners. Its proportions allow high impact in tightly set lines of big and small text alike. Calibri was included with Windows Vista and Office 2007 and is now the default typeface for Microsoft Office.

    Sassoon

    This font is often recommended for dyslexia, but was actually designed for early reading. Also, it is quite expensive and can be bought through Adrian Williams Design and elsewhere on the web. Letter shapes are similar to those that schools use to teach handwriting, and ascenders and descenders are exaggerated to emphasise word shapes.

    Myriad Pro

    Example of Myriad Pro

    A modern typeface designed by Adobe. We have begun to use Myriad Pro in our designed materials and in part on this dyslexic.com site. Myriad Pro has a clean sans-serif aesthetic making it suitable for people with dyslexia.

    Web fonts

    A number of fonts have been commissioned by Microsoft with the aim of making on-screen reading easier and are included in many of their packages. While some have a fault common in many modern fonts in that they have large bodies and short descenders and ascenders, which makes the letters harder to tell apart, they are very professionally worked, so they are as clear and clean as possible at all sizes and in all media. We use a mixture of Verdana and Arial on our web pages. [Note: all the font illustrations are screen shots of that font as rendered by Internet Explorer in Windows with no font resizing.]

    Example of Verdana font

    Trebuchet MS has short descenders but reasonably long ascenders, a small body size and generous line spacing. We find this font suits many readers.

    Example of Trebuchet font

    Other fonts

    Although there are thousands of fonts freely available on the web, most of them are fancy display fonts totally unsuited for blocks of text. We are therefore currently obliged to fall back on the fonts distributed with Windows and Mac OS for our style sheet.

    Our other two choices are Geneva for the Mac and Arial for older Windows systems.

    Example of Arial font

    Example of Geneva font for Mac

    Some dyslexic people find that Comic Sans is one of the more readable of the commonly-available Windows fonts, and we have used it on this web site in the past. Others find it too bold, too childish or too informal.

    Exampe of Comic Sans font

    For the iansyst website we have chosen to use the FS Me font. It was commissioned by Mencap and designed to aid legibility for those with learning disabilities.

    Example of the FS Me font
    For more information regarding typefaces for dyslexia, here is a great article from the British Dyslexia Association
  • Facts about Dyslexia

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Some facts and figures about dyslexia in the United Kingdom.

    Background

    Dyslexia first becomes obvious when we are in school, as education is largely achieved through the written word. There are some 10 million children in the UK school system. On average more than one child in each class — 400,000 in the UK — is severely dyslexic. 1 million – three in each class – experience some difficulties.

    In higher education, the DSA provides 16,000 new university students each year with the means to help them do their studies. This is about 2% of new students. The DSA is a government funded grant aimed at assisting students to pay for additional study costs directly attributable to their disability or specific learning difficulty.

    iansyst provides complete computer systems and training for students receiving the DSA, as well as hardware and software for schools and colleges.

    At Work

    There are some 1.2m severely dyslexic people in the workforce. The Disability Discrimination Act requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to adapt the workplace for disabled employees. Access to Work is a scheme administered through the government employment service to help organisations to achieve this. The AtW scheme provides advice, information and funding to disabled individuals and their employers. iansyst provides computer hardware, software and training through the AtW scheme.

    Assistive Technology

    Technology can help level the playing field between dyslexic people and their peers. Solutions range from software to teach reading, writing, maths and study skills, to programs and gadgets that help to sidestep dyslexic difficulties.

    Typical examples include using a computer to make text clearer and even to read it aloud; portable recorders, dictionaries and scanners for when you are on the move; and software that recognises your speech so that you can write without using the keyboard. Concept-mapping software can easily capture and organise a series of ideas.

     

  • How Technology changed the life of a Dyslexic Entrepreneur

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    John is a businessman and is dyslexic. He has two businesses and a third is in the pipeline. A chance discussion with a friend, who was a Disability Needs Assessor, led him to have an Access-to-Work assessment. This describes some of his inspiring story

    So John, my first question is simple: Has technology helped you at work?
    Yes, it has changed my working life. Without technology I would never have done my own quotes or invoices for my business.
    What difficulties did you experience prior to getting assistive technology?
    My partner had to do a lot of the written work for my business. I found it very difficult to read and my organisation was affected too. It was very depressing. My writing was the one thing in life that was holding me back.
    How was your self-esteem/confidence with regards to learning and taking on new challenges?
    Dyslexia is a hidden disability. There are people out there who don’t know they can get any help and they’re depressed, some are committing suicide. That was how I felt until I was 37 years old. I didn’t ask for any help because I didn’t think there was any out there. But that’s changed now, I’ve transformed my life.
    So what changes have occurred since receiving your assistive technology?
    I do all of my own quotes and invoices independently, plus use my electronic diary (PDA) to help me organise.When I get home and open my emails, instead of having to wait for my partner or son to come home to read it to me, I can open the software (Read & Write) and it can read it to me and I can reply, immediately (using Dragon Naturally Speaking), all on my own. It’s a great feeling.I can still remember how I felt when I sent my first email, I had tears running down my face. At 38 I sent my first email on my own, it was like being on Mount Everest, it was an amazing experience. I still haven’t got tired of that feeling even though I’ve had the software for a few years now. Others do it without thinking but my first email made me feel on top of the world.
    So has this provision of the technology made a real difference to you?
    Yes, without a doubt. Most people have the philosophy that they’ll never be given anything but I can now say that I have been given something, the computer and equipment. People don’t know it’s available.
    What’s your experience of the Access-to-Work assessment process?
    I was speaking to friend who was a dyslexia needs assessor, who said I could get help. I spoke to Access to Work and they did an assessment. Once the software and kit arrived I received training from iansyst. It has helped me achieve so much; it has transformed my life. There were a few struggles because of updates in the software; slight changes and things I’ve forgotten mean I don’t know quite how to use it. I did ask about getting more training but I haven’t heard back, so maybe I’m only using it to a fraction of what it can do.
    If you could name 3 things which are the most important regarding your experience what would they be?
    It has given me confidence in the office part of my business. I’m taking on new work. I’ve been on a course for work and I had to do an exam, I had help, but I got on with it and I wouldn’t have previously had the confidence. I’m telling myself I’m going to be a millionaire next year. Someone told me I’m the dyslexic entrepreneur.Without training I wouldn’t have used the technology given to me. It is one of the most important things going; money will be wasted on the equipment if you don’t get training on how to use it. It really made a difference.I achieve everyday now, I don’t have to fight. But there are more people who have depression with something like dyslexia, you label yourself, that’s the worse thing you can do. I was telling myself that until I was 37. Getting the software, along with the life coaches I have seen, I’ve taken away the label, and I’m better for it.
    And what does the future hold for you?
    Well I have my own signing business, plus a website for people recovering from debt. A new idea will start soon selling a shield to help cut down UV rays in the home. “When would now be a good time” that’s one of my business philosophies. It’s a passion of mine to show people what you can do. Just because you’ve got dyslexia you can have a job where you wear a suit. Dyslexic people put things off, you don’t get it done and you tell yourself you can’t do it, but you can.I’ve been doing talks to teachers and schools about my experiences of dyslexia. I use pictures to remind me about what I’m going to say because I’m a visual person. I’m surprised that only a handful of teachers have heard of the software. With technology you can feel as good as I do now. We just have a problem with reading and writing.

    John Tipping, Dyslexic Entrepreneur

  • Equality for dyslexia - a step further forward for the Right to Read Campaign

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Information on the Right to Read Campaign

    For many years Ian Litterick, Executive Chairman and founder of iansyst, has been an active member of the “Right to Read Campaign”. This was an alliance of people who wanted to break-down the discriminations against those people who were denied access to reading material. Up to three million children and adults in the UK are blind, partially sighted or have a reading disability, such as dyslexia and accessing alternative formatted books has either been unavailable or very expensive.

    Although the Copyright Licensing Act of 2002 gave people with sight problems and the organisations supporting them, the right to create copies of books and other material in formats which they can read without the need to ask permission from the copyright owner, this Act did not give people with dyslexia the same equality.

    The Right to Read Campaign wants “to ensure that print disabled people can readily buy and borrow their choice of books, magazines and newspapers, and access other sources of information, in their chosen reading format at the same time and price as print readers.”

    The latest news from the Copyright Licensing Agency brings this Campaign further forward to creating equality for all to access printed materials.

    “The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) today (28th May 2010) launches a new ‘Print Disability Licence’, This free licence allows organisations to reproduce copyright works in a format accessible to people with print disabilities, such as large print, braille or audiobooks, and circulate them to people with print disabilities in the community.” (Source)

    Mike Lewington, Vice Chair of the Alliance and Director of Calibre Audio Library, a producer of audio books, welcomes the new licence;
    “We are delighted that we can now give the same quality of service to people with print impairments and those with sight problems. When the 2002 copyright act came in, it created an uneven playing field because there were books in our library which we couldn’t lend to dyslexic members. It was difficult for us but far worse for them. Now at last all everyone is equal.”

  • Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Green Paper response

    Between 10 September to 15 October 2010 Children’s Minister Sarah Teather called on parents, charities, teachers and Local Authorites for their views to go towards the Government’s SEN Green Paper.

    The aims of the paper, to be published in the autumn, is to radically improve the Special Education Needs system.

    “Ministers are considering a range of options, including how to:

    • give parents a choice of educational settings that can meet their child’s needs
    • transform funding for children with SEN and disabilities and their families, making the system more transparent and cost-effective while maintaining a high quality of service
    • prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools and involve parents in any decisions about the future of special schools
    • support young people with SEN and disabilities post-16 to help them succeed after education
    • improve diagnosis and assessment to identify children with additional needs earlier.”

    (excerpt taken from ‘SEN and Disability Green Paper: Government Calls for Views’)

    iansyst have responded to the the Green Paper Consultation by drawing attention to the value of Assisitve Technology and Learning Technologies because they:

    • Help to compensate for and overcome difficulties in accessing the curriculum;
    • Encourage independence in children with disabilities; and so
    • Enable support staff to focus help where it is appropriate, rather than on routine needs;
    • Help to screen for disabilities and assess them at low cost in money and people;

    and in addition that:

    • the compensation “crutch” of technology also helps to improve the underlying skills (remediation), rather than cause dependency;
    • there is still a need for much more information about AT in teacher training and in CPD;
    • technology needs to follow the student through into the workplace, but there are still problems in disclosing, particularly for those with unseen disabilities such as dyslexia and mental health problems.

    You can read the full response: SEN Consultation Response 2010 (PDF)

  • Microphones for speech recognition

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    The quality of the microphone is important when recording for a speech recognition program. However, this does not always mean you need to go for the most expensive option – it all depends on the situation. This is a summary of the main options.

    Introduction

    When used in a quiet environment, many of the cheap microphones supplied with voice recognition software packages work well enough to demonstrate the potential of speech recognition. However, we recommend that you purchase a high quality microphone for greater durability and to obtain best results from your software.

    The best results for speech recognition are gained when the microphone is kept a consistent distance from your mouth. For this reason we recommend headset microphones for dictating to your PC. If you are using a portable dictation machine or a MiniDisc recorder you may want to use a stub microphone which we will deal with at the end of this article.

    Which Microphone Should I Use?

    We would recommend using the following;

    • A noise-cancelling microphone (which samples background noise and filters it out);

    as these are less likely to be affected by noises other than your voice, and consequently give better results.

    Each user will have different likes, dislikes and reasons for choosing one microphone in preference to another; a frequent factor in microphone choice is comfort. It is entirely dependent on the shape of your head which microphone you find most comfortable.

    Testing Methodology

    We test a wide variety of microphones on a range of different computer systems and with both the current market leaders in speech recognition software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and IBM Via Voice (please note that at the time of this update, July 2006, Via Voice is not compatible with Tiger 10.4.6, but will work on earlier Mac OS):

    • We try to keep our testing standardised to ensure that results are as accurate as possible.
    • For each system and each different microphone we do a general check of the microphone using the audio set up wizard, and then follow the basic enrolment procedure.
    • We then dictate a standardised text into the application’s word processor and also into Microsoft Word, and note the number of mistakes.
    • Then we correct the dictation, save the user files, repeat the process and note the results again.

    Results

    The following Headset Microphone gave good results during testing:

    Andrea Electronics (Active Noise Cancelling) NC-181VM USB

    The Andrea Electronics NC-181VM USB uses noise cancellation. It has a flexible microphone boom, and a comfortable earpiece with stainless steel adjustable headband which is suitable for those with a larger head.

    Stub Microphones

    These give better sound quality, and therefore better recognition, than built-in microphones in portable note-takers like the Dragon Mobile / Voice IT recorder and the Olympus DS 150. The Sony ECM-DS70P is a reasonably priced stereo microphone suited to lecture theatres. You will also need a microphone if you are using a MiniDisc recorder. You can use a headset microphone such as the Andrea, although you may find a stub microphone more convenient and more suited to the pocket nature of your recorder.

  • Typing Tutors

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    An overview of typing tutors that are particularly suitable for use with children and adults who have dyslexia.

    Anyone who regularly uses a computer understands the need to be able to type quickly and accurately. Computers are a great tool for both dyslexic adults and children and it is important to become familiar and confident with using the computer as quickly as possible. Researchers have also shown that learning to type early on, in the first few years of schooling, can benefit students’ reading, comprehension, vocabulary and spelling skills.

    A good typing tutor will enable the user to learn their way around the keyboard quickly without losing interest in using the computer. For dyslexics this is particularly important as the quicker they learn to type, the quicker they can fully appreciate the tools available to them through using a computer. But typing tutors by their nature are repetitive and time consuming with little to show for it at the outcome. Therefore it is important that any typing program is effective, fun to use and quick to progress through. We’ve tried to pick what we feel are the most fun and effective typing tutors. Here we’ll give a run down of why we’ve chosen them and who they are suitable for.

    What makes a typing tutor ‘dyslexic friendly’?

    It is important for any software aimed at dyslexics to use a multisensory approach. For typing tutors this means having both text and audio instructions, with a picture of the keyboard on screen at all times. If there are no audio options then it is useful to be able to use text-to-speech programs to read out the instructions. Other features we look out for in a dyslexia-friendly typing tutor are:

    • Use real words as much as possible. By their nature typing programs are repetitive and, particularly at the early stages, limit the number of letters that are typed. This means that many programs make users type nonsense words. This should be avoided with dyslexic users as it will, if anything, have a negative impact on their spelling. Some of the typing programs we sell make users type similar sounding words together. This reinforces spelling patterns and can have a positive effect.
    • Don’t overload the user by trying to teach them too many skills at once. There are three skills involved in touch typing - knowing the keyboard layout, typing accurately and being able to type quickly. Some programs try to get the user to develop all 3 skills at once, in a small period of time. Overloading the user with instructions and commands in this manner is not helpful to dyslexic users.
    • Interactive but short lessons keep the user interested. Many dyslexic children and adults find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time. Learning to type requires a lot of concentration so we try to point out how long users will need to stay focused for. If lessons are interactive and fun, they are likely the hold the attention of younger users for longer.
    • An uncluttered screen layout has a picture of the keyboard clearly visible at all times. If there are too many distractions on the screen, such as moving objects or buttons to press, users will find it difficult to concentrate on the task in hand. Having a keyboard visible on screen helps with learning to type. Many dyslexic children and adults will take longer to develop keyboarding skills because the number of skills they have to implement at once overloads their working memory so skills must be transferred to long term memory before they can be successfully used.

    The Software Packages

    No one typing program suits all dyslexic users. The most appropriate program depends on the individual user. The issues that need to be thought about include:

    • What is the age of the user? It is important to make sure that the interface, lessons and vocabulary used are appropriate to the age and ability of the user. It is also important to consider whether there are reward games in the programs. These are useful when working with children and teenagers but may just be a distraction to adult users.
    • Where is the program is going to be used? If the typing program is going to be used by children it is important to decide whether the program is going to be used at home or at school. If it is for use at school think about how much time is going to be available to use the program. If the typing program is going to be used for 10 minutes at the end of a session in the computer lab then the student must be able to get through one lesson in that time. If it is going to be used in an after-school club then time may not be such an issue. Many of the typing programs we sell here have been developed with schools in mind and enable teachers to track the progress of the student, limit what lessons or games they have access to and manage multiple users. While useful in a schools setting the functions can be distracting if the program is being used at home or by an adult.
    • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the individual user? It is important to consider the user’s thinking style and their cognitive strengths and weaknesses when looking at these packages. Consider whether the application will overtake the concentration, visual, auditory or memory skills of the user.

    In this section we will give a short summary of each program, including its positive and negative aspects. The links through the software package name take you to the individual product page which give more details including prices and minimum specifications. If you interested in typing tutors for adults then read below.

    Nessy Fingers

    Age: 7-14 years
    Setting: School or home
    Teacher’s settings: Yes
    Number of lessons: 5
    Average length of lesson: 3 - 10 minutes
    Number of games: 9

    Nessy Fingers has been developed from the popular Nessy Learning Programme and includes many features making it particularly suitable for dyslexic students. Nessy Fingers concentrates on teaching the layout of the keyboard via the alphabet in 5 short lessons. This unique approach allows rapid learning and keeps students motivated. Using the alphabet provides a logical and familiar learning structure and reinforces the alphabet sequence, while the carefully selected fonts and wide range of display options enable the program to be personalised to individual student’s needs.

    Once the lessons are completed, students can access 9 enjoyable and colourful games to practise their skills. The “Skillometer” and Hall of Fame tracks progress and awards prizes encouraging and motivating the students. Nessy Fingers contains 233 word lists, including those from the Nessy Learning Programme. Words become progressively harder to improve both spelling and basic punctuation. New word lists and sentences can be created while students can add their own music to get into the rhythm of typing as they play the games. Overall, Nessy Fingers provides a fun and motivating environment to develop typing skills while reinforcing spelling skills.

    EnglishType Junior

    Age: 7-14 years
    Setting: School or home
    Teacher’s settings: Yes. Choose the level of vocabulary used in the lessons, which lesson the student
    is on and monitor progress.
    Number of lessons: 8
    Average length of lesson: 15 minutes
    Number of games: 5

    EnglishType Junior uses a mixture of lessons and games to harness your brain’s ability to memorise movements without looking at the keyboard. Instructions are given in writing but also spoken. The material used in the lessons is tied to the National Curriculum with similar sounding words being used in each activity. Fun to use and easy to set-up, EnglishType Junior is suitable for both home and school and can be highly motivating for children.

    EnglishType Senior

    Age: 12-16 years
    Setting: School or home School or home
    Teacher’s settings: Yes. Choose the level of vocabulary used in the lessons, which lesson the student is on and monitor progress.
    Number of lessons: 12
    strong>Average length of lesson: 15 minutes
    Number of games: 3

    EnglishType Senior uses a mixture of lessons and games to harness your brain’s ability to memorise movements without looking at the keyboard. Instructions are given in writing but also spoken and colour is used to help learning. The material used in the lessons is based on 300 most commonly used words in adult vocabulary and includes quotations and proverbs. Different speed options make it excellent for mixed ability groups; challenging the brightest and providing extra help for those that need a slower pace of learning.

    TypeQuick for Students

    Age: 7-14 years
    Setting: School or home
    Teacher’s settings: Limited - can set goal typing speed.
    Number of lessons: 10. Eight teach the layout of the keyboard, one improves speed and one improves
    accuracy. This is followed by the “Royal Challenge” for improving speed and accuracy.
    Average length of lesson: 20-30 minutes

    Number of games: Challenges and activities throughout the lessons.

    TypeQuick is a typing program from Australia for children. Based around a character called Kewala it teaches typing while you and Kewala tour the Australian Outback. Lessons can be tailored to individual students with frequent reports and graphs on the student’s progress. There are 10 lessons taking you through all the keys then testing your speed and accuracy. The graphics and story-based activities in this program make it highly enjoyable for children. However each lesson takes between 20 and 30 minutes and if the program is stopped before a lesson is completed then the student’s progress will not be recorded. This can make it unsuitable for children who find it difficult to concentrate for this length of time.

    Typing Instructor Deluxe

    Age: 7 years +
    Setting: Home. Can be used in a school environment but limited control functions
    Teacher’s settings: None and no settings for making a user follow a particular lesson pattern.
    Number of lessons: 15 lesson plans
    Average length of lesson: 10 minutes
    Number of games: 10, plus over 300 articles for practicing typing skills.

    Typing Instructor Deluxe uses a combination of lessons and games to teach typing. It is suitable for all levels of typist with a skills test available to identify the best level to use. There is no structured route through this program so the user can chose which element they want to use - whether it is practice articles or games for improving skills or by going to a lesson for a particular key they have problems with. This makes it ideal for all the family whatever the level of typing skills they have. It is less suitable in a teaching environment as there is no way of directing the user to a certain level or activity. For adults is provides an excellent program for first improving and then returning to practise their typing skills through the games or practice articles.

    KAZ Typing Tutor

    Age: 7 years +
    Setting: Home. Can be used in a school environment but limited control functions
    Teacher’s settings: None and no settings for making a user follow a particular lesson pattern.
    Number of lessons: 5 steps to learning the keyboard, followed by an accuracy section and speed building section.
    Average length of lesson: 90 minutes to learn the layout of the keyboard (can be broken into 5 lessons of 20 minutes each), then followed by sections for improving accuracy and speed.
    Number of games: none

    KAZ typing tutor is a popular British keyboard-training product that uses a simple, three-step approach to learn touch-typing. In the first step KAZ quickly familiarises you with the keyboard using five clever phrases. After this the user progresses on to an accuracy stage where the user practices typing first on individual words, then sentences, then paragraphs. Finally there is a speed building section where the user’s speed and accuracy is tested using sentences appropriate to their reading level.

    Unlike other typing tutors KAZ only uses real words for teaching typing which makes it very dyslexic friendly. The instructions are available either as text on the screen or as speech but this must be chosen on installation. As the user can progress through the program quickly and jump from section to section, it is particularly good for users who already have some basic keyboarding skills. Although Kaz does not contain any games or challenges for practising typing skills, this is seen as a benefit to many adult users who find them a distraction from developing their skills.

  • Making your computer speak using text to speech

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Introduction

    With the right software a computer can turn text into a spoken voice. Known as text-to-speech (or sometimes TTS), this tool is one of the most valuable uses of a computer for users with dyslexia or other reading difficulties as it helps them access the written word independently and develop reading skills. Text from web pages, documents, email or other files can be read aloud using text to speech technology.

    What benefits can making your computer talk provide?

    Reading web pages, e-books and electronic documents

    Although the World Wide Web provides us all with a valuable and vast information resource, it can be daunting to those who find reading difficult. However, with a text-to-speech program many web pages can be read aloud, scan text documents, emails or even PDF files. This means that can you use your computer to read back text that you would otherwise struggle to comprehend and can also include pages of texts from books or worksheets that have been scanned in and turned into editable text documents using optical character recognition tools (OCR).

    Multi-sensory teaching environment

    Speech has always been an important aspect of software for teaching spelling, for example to reinforce ideas using both sight and hearing. Dyslexia experts often recommend using a multi-sensory approach to teaching. In other words, combining auditory and visual cues. Speech can add a new dimension to computer-based learning with speech output added to an on-screen representation of the word. Many of our software packages for developing spelling and reading skills use speech to enhance learning while AcceleRead AcceleWrite is a literacy teaching technique that has shown how text-to-speech can significantly improve reading and spelling.

    Proof-reading

    Synthesised voices are wonderful for checking your written work. It’s much easier to hear the mistakes than see them. As well as spelling mistakes, speech output also helps spot the right word in the wrong place, missing or duplicate words. Some applications highlight text as it is read aloud making it easier to identify where errors have occurred.

    How can you make a computer speak?

    There are two ways: pre-recorded (digitised) and generated (synthesised) speech. Pre-recorded speech sounds the most natural but takes up a lot of disk space and can only read out what has already been recorded, it can’t read out something that you have just written.

    Text-to-speech engines generate speech from text and are not limited by disk space. Both dyslexic and visually impaired people have found them to be a great leap forward in making text accessible. However, they use more robotic sounding voices and are not ideal for teaching pronunciation as they will sometimes get the pronunciation wrong; words like read (reed) and read (red) will usually cause problems. However, the latest high quality voices have been specifically developed to sound more natural and many programs now let you train the speech engine to pronounce individual words correctly.

    If you want to try text to speech to see if it useful for you then we recommend downloading and installing BrowseAloud . This is developed by the same company as Texthelp Read & Write and reads aloud certified web sites including ours and popular sites such as www.google.com and www.bbc.co.uk (these links will open in a new window).

    What text to speech software is available?

    Text to speech software ranges from basic screen readers where you must copy and paste text into the reader, to advanced packages for users needing additional support; menus and icons can also be read aloud. Some packages also combine text-to-speech with OCR software to convert printed text into speech in one go. Specialist programs can include other features to help with reading, spelling and word finding problems. Below is a table showing the differences between some of the most popular packages. Click on the product name to link through to the product page where you can find out more about the programs. Further explanation of the features can be found at the foot of the table.

     Feature    Write:Outloud SOLO Edition & Read:Outloud SOLO Edition Read & Write Standard & Gold  ClaroRead Standard & ClaroRead Plus    Kurzweil 3000 v10 (PC), v3 (Mac)
     Price for single user licence (ex VAT) £71(Write:Outloud); £195(Read:Outloud)  £71(Write:Outloud); £195(Read:Outloud)  £140 - £320  £119 - £159
     VAT relief available    Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes
     Operating system (full minimum specifications listed on the product pages)    PC or Mac.  Standard version PC only.Gold version for PC or Mac. PC or Mac  PC or Mac version.
     Does the program work with other applications or is it a free standing application? [i]   Free standing applications but works with other programs in the SOLO suite.  Works with numerous applications  Works with numerous applications Free standing. Also provides reading toolbar in Mozilla Firefox and Taskbar for accessing speech and proofing tools in word processing applications.
     Does it highlight text as it is read aloud? [ii]    Yes - all text in Write:Outloud and text files opened in Read:Outloud  Yes in MS Word & Internet Explorer  Yes in MS Word & Internet Explorer  Yes
     What are the highlighting options?   Highlights word by word or selected text. Choice of colours available.  Where possible highlights text within the document with sentence/paragraph coloured a different colour to the word being read aloud. Ten colour schemes to choose between.  Highlights word, sentence or paragraph being read aloud in MS Word. 48 foreground and 16 background colours to choose from.  
    Highlights word or background of reading unit (word, sentence, paragraph) in one colour and the word being read aloud in a different colour. Four schemes to choose between.
     Will it provide support for reading emails?    Read:Outloud will read aloud web pages so can be used with web-based emails.  Yes  Yes. Can read text when selected or when the mouse dwells over it. Will read out new emails with highlighting if MS Word used as the email editor in MS Outlook  Will read aloud web pages so can be used with web-based emails.
     Can it read back text as you type?    Yes in Write:Outloud  Yes  Yes  Yes
     Can it read out icons, menus or help files?    Yes within the application.  Yes. The screen reading function enables menus, icons and dialogue boxes to be read.  Yes, using the option to read text the mouse dwells over.  Menus and buttons within Kurzweil 3000 are read aloud.
    Can it read web pages?    Yes when web pages are opened Read:Outloud  Yes with highlighting within Internet Explorer.  Yes  Yes within Mozilla Firefox.
     Can it read aloud Dragon NS training scripts? [iii]      Yes, in screen reading mode  Plus version can also echo back text dictated into Dragon.  
     Can it read aloud PDF files      Gold version includes PDFAloud toolbar for reading aloud PDF files with highlighting (also available separately).  Plus version can convert a PDF file to a Word document to be read aloud.  OCR tool can open PDF files within Kurzweil to be read aloud.
     Does it include additional, high-quality, voices? [iv]    Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes
    What functions are available to customise the voice?    Alter speed and pitch  Alter speed, pitch and pause speed between words  Alter speed and turn on pause between words. Alter speed 
     Can you train it to correctly pronounce words?    Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes
     Spell checker [v]    Yes  Yes  Yes Yes 
     Check for homophones    Yes can verify homophones through the homophone tool while the dictionary provides alternative spellings  The “sounds like” tool checks homophones and similar sounding words. Can check the whole document.  Provides homophone checking tool within MS Word. Can highlight all homophones in a document.  It will highlight homophones in a document.
     Word prediction    Available separately through Co:Writer SOLO edition (£149)  Yes  Yes  Yes but no UK specific spellings.
     Dictionary with definitions    Yes  Yes    Yes
     Thesaurus      Yes  Provides synonyms within Word through the checking tool  Yes
     Convert speech output into an audio file [vi]      Gold version only. Save in MP3, WMA or WAV format  Yes saves a Word document in WAV format.  PC version only. Save in MP3 or WAV format
     ESL support (i.e. foreign languages)        Additional RealSpeak voices in other languages can be purchased  Yes (PC only)
     Study skills support (highlighting, notes, etc.)    Read:Outloud provides highlighting tool for making notes that can then be exported as an outline to Draft:Builder or Write:Outloud  Study skills highlighting within MS Word. Gold version only: Fact Finder tool support internet searches, Fact Folder for collecting information (PC only), Fact Mapper for visualising gathered information (PC only)    Comprehensive study skills tools including vocabulary lists, highlighting tools, sticky notes and bookmarks.
     Scan from printed page      Gold version only. One click scanning to PDF, Word or html  Plus version only. Scans into Word.  Yes
     Error Log      Yes, records usage and spelling errors    Yes, records usage and spelling errors
     Additional Tools    The SOLO suite, comprising of Write:Outloud, Read:Outloud, Draft:Builder and Co:Writer also provides teachers management tools, word banks and an application for outlining written work.  Talking calculator with audit trail (Scientific calculator in Gold).Word Wizard tool.Abbreviation and auto-correct tool.

    Unit conversion tool.

    Daisy format reader (Gold only).

    Pronunciation Tool (Gold only).

    Speech input (using Windows XP tool).

     Talking calculator.Change character, line and paragraph spacing in a Word document.Change font size, style and colour in a Word document.

    Plus version also includes Screenruler and Claroview for supporting users with visual stress.

     Test taking tool.Vocabulary bank tool.Can read DAISY format files.
    [i]
    There are two types of text-to-speech programs: toolbars that work within other applications and talking word processors. Toolbar applications, such as Read & Write, mean that the additional support tools are available in a variety of programs including Microsoft Office, emails and the web. Along with many other benefits this means that you don’t need to use a different program to your classmates or work colleagues, promoting inclusion and accessibility. Alternatively, a free standing word processor program may contain text-to-speech functions. These programs tend to be simpler to use, learn and set up making them more appropriate for the younger or less experienced computer user.

    [ii]
    Synchronised highlighting of text as it is read aloud is important for dyslexic users with poor auditory processing as the visual tool reinforces the reading process. It is also very useful when proof reading for identifying where an error has been made.

    [iii]
    Training speech recognition programs such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking can be difficult for poor readers as the training script has to read accurately. Some text-to-speech programs can be used to read aloud the scripts to help with the training process.

    [iv]
    The quality of computer voices has improved immensely of the past few years. There are now some voices which sound very human-like. However these are not provided in all applications and you may have to pay extra for additional voices.

    [v]
    For more details on spell checkers have a look at our spell checker comparison article comparing the functions and spell checking ability of both handheld and software-based spell checkers.

    [vi]
    By converting speech output into an audio file you can listen to text away from the computer on a digital music player or CD; great for revision or just reading away from the computer.


  • An introduction to Concept Mapping software

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Concept mapping, mind mapping, tree diagrams, organisation charts, spider diagrams are all terms used to describe graphical organisation methods.

    Concept mapping, mind mapping, tree diagrams, organisation charts, spider diagrams are all terms used to describe graphical organisation methods. These are used for storing, processing, organising and presenting information graphically and have been found to improve performance across the curriculum particular for those students with dyslexia. A number of software packages are available which help draw these diagrams and output them in various formats.

    What is concept mapping?

    What is concept mapping exactly? Why are these mapping techniques useful? Who uses them and why are they so popular?

    A concept map is a diagram where each node contains an idea, concept or question which are linked together by branches to show their relationship to each other. A concept map does not always have to take the form of a web they can be presented as a tree diagram or organisational chart, as an input or output tree or as a flow chart. Mind mapping is a distinct technique from concept mapping. Mind maps take a particular, prearranged web form. They were developed from psychological theories by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. Combining keywords, images and colour, this highly structured method of concept mapping has become popular with all ages for note taking, brainstorming and creative thinking. Other types of concept maps have been developed for particular uses: tree diagrams for structured hierarchical diagrams such as organisational charts, input and output trees for showing processes.

    Why are concept mapping techniques so useful?

    Concept and Mind mapping have been used in education for over 30 years for a variety of tasks including visualising a concept, note taking and revision. In fact a study by the Institute for the Advancement of Research in Education, which examined 29 scientifically-based studies on the use of such techniques in schools, found that they can lead to improved performance in many areas including:

    • Vocabulary
    • Writing
    • Reading comprehension
    • Note taking
    • Critical thinking
    • Higher order thinking
    • Learning a foreign language
    • Problem solving, particularly in maths
    • Comprehension and retention of scientific material and concepts
    • Retention and recall of information

    Outside education mind and concept mapping is used for time management, project planning, web site development and decision making as well as for many other tasks.

    If we look at the list above, we find that all the areas improved through the use of concept maps have also been identified as areas of difficulty for learners who have dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia. In addition:

    1. Concept mapping can also help with time management, planning and organisation - additional issues that may cause concerns for those with specific learning difficulties.
    2. Visual thinking is preferred by many people with dyslexia and seeing information graphically can increase both creativity and retention. Images can be used instead of words and features such as changing colours; re-sizing and spatial position can be used to convey information on topics, importance or actions to be taken.
    3. Structuring a linear piece of work can be made easy by enabling ideas and concepts easily rearranged in a map which concept mapping software can convert into a linear document or presentation without having to worry about sentence structure or grammar.
    4. Concept maps enable large amounts of information to be stored graphically making them a useful memory and revision tool. By using keywords on branches you can quickly get an overview of a subject. Images and colour can trigger ideas, categories or subjects. Add links pointing to files, references or web sites for further information.
    5. Presenting a concept or problem graphically can help many learners understand links and relationships making concept maps a great tool across the curriculum. As concepts and problems can be analysed without requiring good literacy skills they provide an inclusive learning tool for learners of all literacy abilities.
    6. Generating ideas and getting them down on paper can be difficult for those with Specific Learning difficulties. Concept maps facilitate this task: start with a problem or topic. Note ideas, concepts, keywords, processes or images relating to it. These form the “nodes” of the map. You then add further ideas, branches, to start building up the diagram. This can also introduce hierarchy into your map as some ideas will be a subset of others or can be grouped together. It quickly becomes a map.

    Why use software applications to create concept maps?

    Traditionally, concept maps were created on paper with coloured pens. However this method provides particular problems for dyslexic users poor spelling and handwriting can make a map difficult to read while organising the map to fit on to the limited size of the paper can also be difficult. Also, when a concept map is drawn on paper, once completed it can only be used as a reference. Ideas cannot be re-arranged or expanded on nor can the information be changed into a different format such as text version of a map or presentation slides.

    With a concept mapping computer program you are not limited to a certain size. Moreover you have access to additional tools such as images and pictures, spell checkers and text-to-speech which can help overcome difficulties and make the map much more usable and presentable. Most concept mapping applications also have import and export functions; information can be converted from a visual map (which the creator may prefer to work on) to a linear, text based format for communication to others. Alternatively teachers and support workers may prefer to create text-based outlines but have them automatically converted to a concept map which their students may prefer. For example, you could import a text file of notes, then expand and sort your notes to form the map. Add images and colour to help create a visual adaptation of your notes. Export the map outline back into a word processor to expand it into a full document or export it to a presentation program to create a slide show. You can even create a web site from your map by saving it as an HTML file. If you are planning a project or wanted a visual to-do list then you can import tasks from Outlook and then develop a project.

    Available software packages - which is the best for you?

    There are numerous concept mapping programs but we will focus on the 3 most popular packages with dyslexic users or for use in education. Whilst they each have similar core functions, they have different procedures for creating and laying out the map. There is also a lot of variation in the export and import functions, which are important if you want to use them for planning and outlining presentations, essays and other documents. The comparison will show how it is important to look beyond just features when it comes to concept mapping tools and will also highlight ways in which they can be used to get the most of your chosen package.

    Inspiration: a flexible concept and Mind mapping program, designed for education, which allows you to switch between a linear-text view and a map view. Image banks enable pictures to be easily added to maps.

    MindGenius: a flexible Mind Mapping program with an automatic brainstorming mode which enables the map to be viewed in a variety of layouts. Closely integrated to MS Office it allows text outlines and images of maps to be easily imported and exported to many common applications as well as time and project management tools through Outlook.

    Mind Manager: a powerful and comprehensive mind mapping tool that encourages efficient and accurate management of ideas using visual cues. The multi-map view makes handling large amounts of information easier while the review mode lets multiple users add to or change maps; great for groups projects.

  • A Review of Study Skill Programs for Dyslexic Students

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Many dyslexic students find it difficult to acquire general study skills. Here we examine tools that can help develop these skills.

    Many dyslexic students find it difficult to acquire general study skills. Unlike other students they do not pick up skills through general teaching, they need to be specifically taught these skills. These skills include:

    • Note taking
    • Memorising
    • Revision
    • Essay planning
    • Reading
    • Writing skills
    • Organisation
    • Time management
    • Presentation skills

    Problems with study skills can carry on after dyslexic students have overcome their problems with literacy skills. This can lead to them underachieving even though their reading and spelling skills seem unaffected by their disability. There are a number of software packages that can help; either because they teach these skills in a multi-sensory environment or because they actually help complete the studying tasks in a supportive environment. This article is going to give a quick overview of the programs that are available and how they can be used successfully.

    Software for teaching general study skills

    Books and software packages for teaching study skills tend to be aimed at students aged 13 or over as this is when they need to develop independent learning skills as they prepare for public examinations.

    Wordswork
    is a huge resource of study and advanced literacy skills for students in further and higher education. Based on material by Ellen Morgan of City University, London, it offers strategies for overcoming many of the hurdles associated with dyslexia by using examples from real students. As well as study skills, Wordswork also covers grammar, handwriting and common spelling errors. Because of the amount of material contained with this package it is ideal for resource centres, study support centres and libraries.

    Wordswork is suitable for students aged 15 and above.

    Software for developing memory and problem solving study skills

    Mastering Memory is a programme for developing memory strategies in children and adults. It consists of a computer program with graded memory exercises and a manual which explains to the teacher or parent how to develop memory strategies. The complete version includes pictures and abbreviations appropriate for use with adults (e.g. road and health and safety signs). It can also be used to develop auditory or visual skills depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

    SCANiT Plus is a program for developing reading speed and accuracy. By offering multiple choice exercises on a variety of topics, including reading, spelling and science, students can increase the speed and accuracy at which they can absorb information. It can also be used both as a revision tool and as a tools to develop reading.

    Scally’s World of Problems is a child-friendly and absorbing program for developing logic and planning skills. Scally is an alien on the planet Wag who has to think his way out of eight different environments. Each environment contains 25 graded puzzles which get the user to solve problems and plan routes to protect baby Wags. More advanced learners can design their puzzles while this program is great for group activities. The program comes with a teachers guide and advice on how to integrate it into classroom activities. Scally’s World of Problems is suitable for pupils aged 7-14 although adults can find it fun and useful too.

    Other Tools To Consider

    Mind mapping or concept mapping techniques are also very useful for overcoming difficulties with general study skills. They are a great way of revising topics, creating essay plans or planning a presentation. There are a number of software programs available such as Inspiration and MindGenius, which enable users to create and edit these maps on a computer. MindGenius also includes time management and project management functions for those who need support with organisation. The is more detailed information on how to use concept maps in our Introduction to Concept Mapping.

  • Dispelling Dyslexia with Omega-3: Fishy or For Real?

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Hailed as 'brain food', omega-3 has been hitting the headlines again. Many of us may remember the pinched noses and curled lips that came with swallowing cod liver oil in the name of keeping mother happy, thinking she was making us cleverer.

    Now, hot-off-the-press is the launch of yet another omega-3 food product for children, this time, a range of sauces in a line-up of enticingly fruity flavours. Commanding more than €180 million in the European market in 2007 and expected to be worth €820 million by 2014, omega-3 fatty acids are big business. Bigger still is its media image as a natural panacea. Even revered chef, Heston Blumenthal recently relied on offerings of oily fish as brain fuel to win over the brawn of the Royal Navy. Whilst Heston’s successful naval mission was inspired by Dr Sandrine Thuret’s laboratory experiments at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, how does omega-3 supplementation actually translate to the performance of our children who battle with dyslexia? An increasingly pertinent question with exams around the corner and tightened family purse strings.

    Not just a Reading or Spelling Difficulty

    The commonest UK disability in education, dyslexia is a complex disorder described by Professor John Stein (brother of famous seafood chef, Rick) as involving a range of difficulties in reading, spelling and writing, as well as organisation, direction orientation, short term memory, visual and/or auditory processing, balance, spoken language and more. Dyslexia often comes hand-in-hand with other childhood difficulties such as dyspraxia, ADHD, anxiety, depression, self harm, suicide and behavioural difficulties. And its impact does not stop there. Taking part in multiagency meetings as a child psychiatrist, I am acutely aware of the stresses, not only for the children, but also their families, school teachers, teaching assistants, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators and Educational Psychologists. With no available cure for this lifelong condition, it is not surprising that parents will frequently try remedies that offer some hope of improvement.

    Essential in the Diet

    Omega-3 is one of two essential fatty acids, the other being omega-6. Essential, because humans can’t make them and they must therefore come from food. But they are also essential because they are key components of, and have a vital role in the brain and cell membranes. Our modern diets have become heavily loaded with omega-6, common in processed food from vegetable oils, meats and dairy products, leaving a smaller ratio of ingested omega-3. Studies suggest that this relative deficiency of omega-3 is linked with a rise in physical and mental disorders. Tom Brudenell Bruce, chief executive of London-based Eau Plus, who has developed a system of extracting omega-3 from algae, states: “The Japanese have a high omega intake and their IQ is 15 points higher on average than ours in the west. They also have the lowest incidence of brain disease and heart attacks”.

    Omega-3 and Dyslexia

    As omega-3 fatty acids were being discovered to have major roles in cell membrane signalling, brain development and functioning, scientists were also finding some differences in the genes, brains, visual, auditory and balance systems of those with dyslexia compared to those without.

    In the 1990s, Dr Jacqueline Stordy of Surrey University was the first to notice an association between breastfeeding and the severity of dyslexia, as well as poor night vision in young dyslexics, which improved with omega supplementation. Meanwhile, other scientists found lower levels of fatty acids in boys with more behavioural problems, temper tantrums, sleep problems, and learning difficulties than their peers. These lower levels of essential fatty acids were also found in blood samples of those with dyslexia, along with abnormal cell membranes. Many also showed signs of essential fatty acid deficiency, such as excessive thirst, dry hair and skin, frequent urination and soft, brittle nails. Dr Alex Richardson from Oxford University noted in dyslexic children that “those with more clinical signs of fatty acid deficiency had more severe difficulties in reading, spelling and working memory”. Researchers began to look into the use of omega-3 supplements in people with dyslexia.

    The Evidence to date

    Despite all the media reports of omega-3 improving school performance, there are surprisingly few trials on supplementation in children. Only four trials focused specifically on those youngsters with dyslexia, three of which are published in detail. Unfortunately, each study showed different results as they looked at different aspects of dyslexia; some showed positive findings of improvement and some, no effects. There was also little consistency between them. The studies varied in the way the trial was conducted, with different duration of supplementation, doses of omega-3, ages of the children, their school setting and just to confuse the matter further, involved different countries and languages. No overall agreed conclusions can be made to support omega-3 supplementation in dyslexia.

    What the research does clearly show is that larger and long-term studies are crucially needed in this area, designed to give results that can be applied to everyday life. Experiments looking at rats, brain cells in laboratory dishes or reading in Nordic languages are difficult convert into helping those young dyslexics I saw in clinic last week. Mark was excluded for the third time this term and Jess has been cutting herself from exam stress, convinced that she will fail. Both of their mothers desperately wanted to try something that would help.

    The Future

    Everyone knows that bad food is harmful for our children’s physical health, but it has taken much longer for us to realise that the mind and brain may be the first and most sensitive parts of the body to be affected. The research into the effects of diet on our children’s brains lags well behind the studies into their physical health. We need to shift more of the spotlight onto disabling conditions such as dyslexia. Otherwise, our children will be left struggling not only with their education and literacy, but with the arguably more debilitating mental health associations such as depression, anxiety and poor self esteem which can hinder the rest of their lives: a sizeable proportion of our society’s talent could be lost. But how we can make this change? I’m not sure. But I might have some ideas after tucking into that juicy salmon steak.

    Dr Val Yeung
    DCH MRCGP MRCPsych
    ST5 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

    April 2011 - copyright protected

  • Dealing with PDFs

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    PDF is an increasingly popular format for publishers to use for web versions of printed documents. What are they? How can reading impaired people read them?

    Accessibility is increasingly important not only for fairness but also because the Disability Discrimination Act often makes it a legal obligation. The British Dyslexia Association, for whom this article was originally written, is particularly keen to set an example in being dyslexia and disability friendly and so to make its materials as accessible as reasonably possible.

    Reading PDFs:

    What is a PDF?

    Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format developed by Adobe Systems. Publishers and designers like PDF because they can make an electronic document for people to read on a computer, but which looks exactly like it did on paper. They have full and detailed control of what can be quite complex formatting.

    They also like it because it is very convenient — the document will usually have been sent to the printer in PDF format from a publishing program like Quark. BDA Contact Magazine goes through this PDF stage. So it is very easy just to put this file on the web, or to adjust it slightly by, for example, making another version with the pictures at lower resolution to make a smaller file that is easier to download.

    How do you read a PDF?

    To read PDF files you need at least the free Adobe Acrobat Reader which you can download from the Adobe website. If you have reading difficulties and want to listen to the text you can use a screen reader like the ‘Read Out Loud’ option in the Acrobat Reader itself, which allows you to read whole pages or, more conveniently, use Texthelp PDFAloud which you get with Read & Write Gold or as a standalone product. It offers text highlighting and greater text to speech versatility with a choice of voices. Ironically, at the time of writing, even in the flagship document of Adobe’s in the illustration, Read Out Loud doesn’t read absolutely all the text (a little is image, part of the table of contents seems to be hidden) and PDFALoud doesn’t read any because of the document’s security settings.

    Types of PDF:

    There are three types of PDF file, which at first sight all look the same:

    • Image;
    • Searchable image;
    • Formatted text and graphics.

    Image PDFs are rare on the web — fortunately so, because they are a pain. They are usually created by scanning pages of text and just contain an image of the text not the separate characters and words of the text itself. So the screen readers cannot read them as they are. Some of the advertisements in BDA Contact Magazine are just images.

    In principle you can convert image PDFs into textbased PDFs by feeding the file into an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) package like Abbyy FineReader. But the process can be frustrating and you may do better just to print it out and scan it back in again using an OCR package!

    Searchable image files are better because they have a copy of the actual text behind the image. So screen readers can read the text and search engines like Google can index these files.

    But it is formatted text and graphics that you need if the file is to be truly accessible.

    Some PDFs can be in old formats. Authors can set security settings — e.g. to stop copying or printing. These can also stop screen readers working properly. If all else fails and you can’t read the PDF satisfactorily, you may be able to convert it into plain text or to HTML. Adobe have programs to do this at www.adobe.com/accessibility. Easiest of all, but not with the best layout options and with pictures removed, you find that the search engine ‘Google’ offers the document with a ‘View as HTML’ option.

    What is an accessible PDF?

    A formatted text and graphics PDF file is not necessarily accessible. Some aspects of accessibility are mainly relevant to visually impaired people (who may of course be dyslexic or interested in dyslexia). Others are also directly relevant to the needs of dyslexic people. Accessible PDFs should have:

    • Structure — styled section headings, table of contents linked to the headings for easy navigation;
    • logical reading order: unless the order is tagged a screen reader may read the different pieces of text in the wrong order.
    • bookmarks and cross-references.
    • “alt” text for images and links, so that people who cannot see the images can know what they are about.
    • natural language identification, so that the screen reader knows what language to read in.

    Creating accessible PDFs:

    Although it is possible to make existing PDFs accessible using Adobe’s Acrobat product it is frustrating, difficult and time-consuming to do so. We are not going to go into detail here, as Adobe publish a little 115 page document to help you with it.

    It is better, and ultimately easier, to build accessibility into the document as you are creating it. With a little bit of training and consistency for authors and designers it is possible to build accessibility into the workflow from writing the original content (usually in Microsoft Word) to assembling it in a desktop publishing package to publishing it as PDF. Unfortunately Quark Express, the most popular desktop publishing package, cannot handle PDF accessibility.

    Adobe’s own Indesign product is better at preserving and correcting accessibility features as part of publishing workflow. The publishing and printing industry needs to gear itself up to handling and enhancing accessible documents. The pain of retrofitting accessibility to existing PDFs is not acceptable.

    This is a longer version, with links, of an article originally written for the British Dyslexia Association Contact Magazine.

    Links

    These resources often refer to things as they were a couple of years ago, so version numbers are obsolete. But maybe things haven’t changed enough since then!

    • The JISC TechDis guidelines on Accessibility Essentials.
    • http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/ — Adobe’s accessibility area.
    • http://tsbvi.edu/resources/1148-accessibility-guidelines — useful links available.
    • http://www.webaim.org/techniques/acrobat/.

    By Ian Litterick and EA Draffan. Both authors are British Dyslexia Association New Technologies Committee members: Ian Litterick is chairman of iansyst Ltd/dyslexic.com and EA Draffan is a consultant and provider of the www.emptech.info assistive technology resource.

  • Tools for Supporting Students and Professionals in Medical Fields

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Find out more about what tools and software can offer those students and professional in nursing, medicine and other medical fields.

    According to statistics provided by the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) for 2001-2002, approximately 10% of dyslexic undergraduates were studying on courses related to medicine. The majority of these students were on nursing courses. Evidence also suggests that people with dyslexia are drawn to people-orientated careers, such as nursing and midwifery (Sanderson-Mann, McCandless 2006).

    Medical disciplines can causes particular problems for learners and professionals who have spelling and reading difficulties as they need to:

    • read and spell accurately a large number of specific terms
    • make notes and remember patient details quickly and accurately
    • make quick and accurate mental calculations when administering and prescribing drugs
    • learn the correct pronunciations of medical terminology

    Learners on medical courses will also spend some time on placements where they may have limited access to technology and computers while having to work independently of support staff. However there are a growing number of handheld and computer based resources that can help them.

    Handheld Solutions:

    The Spellex Handheld Medical Speller provides a portable phonetic spell checker for medical terms. It will spell check over 300,000 medical and pharmaceutical words. You can store names and phone numbers in the built-in databank. It also includes a calculator and a databank for storing up to 150 names and contact details. You can even schedule alarms for important meetings and reminders.

    However this spellchecker is American and may not include all UK-specific spellings. It also does not have a dictionary or speech function so may not help those who find it difficult to identify a correctly spelt word from a list.

    The Franklin DMQ-2100 is a UK spell checker and dictionary with speech feedback. It has the ability to search over 40 subjects which includes Medicine.

    Android Devices

    Android devices such as mobile phones and tablets can help with organisation as they contain calendars and reminder tools. Access to the internet for information gathering and email facilities are usually available.
    The other advantages of Android devices are the ability to download helpful Apps, such as CapturaTalk. The CapturaTalk App uses the built-in camera so you can capture essential information from written material for example from a book, a leaflet, sign etc and have it read back to you.

    The photo you take of the written material will be scanned before the text-to-speech function will read it out loud and you can then store it for future reference. CapturaTalk also contains a Word Processing function so you can write and have the text read back to you before sending it out as an email or saving it as a document.

    Computer-based Medical Resources:

    Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium provides high-quality speech recognition. Used with Spellex LE medical, an add-on for Speech Recognition software you can access a range of medical vocabulary to make it quick and easy to transcribe medical notes and documents with correctly spelt specialised terms.

    When used in conjunction with a Dragon-certified digital recorder, such as the Olympus digital recorder, reports and notes can be created wherever you are working to be transcribed later.

    Inductel’s Medical Dictionary and Speller is a stand-alone US medical dictionary which includes UK specific terms. In total it includes 40 000 terms and it works on both Windows and Mac. Throughout the dictionary there are hundreds of anatomical illustrations including clickable graphics. The spell checking tool integrates 100 000 medical terms into the spell checker of common word processing applications such as Microsoft Word.

    Spellex Medical MS Office 2010 Spell Checker integrates 300 000 terms into the spell checker of your word processor. It will work with most versions of Word (PC or MAC), Word Perfect or Pocket Word for PDA but we do need to know which program it is to work with on ordering. You can buy Spellex Spell Checkers covering more than one topic including dentistry and pharmacy.

    Please note that Spellex and Inductel software are not compatible on the same computer.

    References

    Sanderson-Mann, J., McCandless, F.(2006): Understanding dyslexia and nurse education in the clinical setting. Nurse Education in Practice, 6 , pp.127-133.

  • Technology For Supporting Dyslexic Students Using Mathematical Notation And Scientific Language

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Mathematical notation and scientific language poses particularly difficulties for dyslexic students studying scientific, maths and engineering disciplines. This articles looks at the technology available to help them.

     

    Introduction

    Mathematical notation and scientific language poses particular difficulties for dyslexic students studying scientific, maths and engineering disciplines. This articles looks at the technology available to help them.

    Students studying maths and science courses need to be able to understand, manipulate and retrieve a variety of scientific terms and mathematical notation. Symbols and expressions must be accurately recalled during lectures, exams, lab sessions and assignments; all difficult tasks for those with dyslexia. Science, engineering and maths students also tend to study in many varied locations: laboratories, field sites, computer labs and work placements as well as in the more traditional lectures, tutorials and libraries.

    Approximately 30% of dyslexic undergraduates study scientific, engineering or medical disciplines. But whereas in other subject areas assistive technology such as phonetic spell checkers and text-to-speech can be used alongside standard word processing packages to overcome many of the difficulties associated with dyslexia, these solutions cannot generally handle scientific terms or mathematical notation. Nor can they always cope with the wide variety of learning environments or computer applications used in science, engineering and maths disciplines. So what assistive technology is available for these students?

    Writing and Spelling

    Standard word processing packages and spell checkers will not recognise specialist terms. In fact they will mark them as incorrectly spelt. So it is important to have tools to easily double-check if these are genuine mistakes or not. Electronic dictionaries, combined with spell checkers and speech feedback, help to spell terminology correctly and to identify errors. There is a variety of specialist dictionaries and spell checkers available covering a wide range of topics. These can be stand-alone software packages, handheld devices or spell-checkers that integrate into standard word processing packages:

    • Spellex adds subject specific terminology into Microsoft Word spell checker. UK versions cover medical, pharmaceutical, legal, biotech, botanical, technical and geographical.
    • InducteI provide electronic medical and scientific dictionaries which also include a spell-checking add-on to word-processing packages.
    • The Spellex Handheld Medical Speller provides a portable spell checker for medical terms. Although this is a US product and does include some UK-specific terms.

    Specialist electronic dictionaries can also be downloaded on to portable devices and computers from Mobipocket.

    EB WordBanks, a word-grid program, can be used to create grids displaying frequently used words or phrases. When the user right-clicks on a cell in the grid the word or phrase is read aloud so that they can check they have the correct text. When they left-click it is entered into the application they are currently working in. Wordbar works with virtually all text-entry programs including email, web-based forms and databases. New grids can be quickly and easily created.

    Word prediction programs, such as Read & Write Gold and Co:Writer, can learn scientific terminology and so help predict commonly used terms and phrases. This is particularly useful for those students with word retrieval difficulties and slow typing speeds.

    Reading

    Text-to-speech engines can read aloud new words. However, they will try to pronounce them phonetically, which may be incorrect. Most text-to-speech programs, such as Read & Write and ClaroRead, have tools for training correct pronunciation but this takes time. Inductel Medical Dictionary contains recordings of many terms that can help with the correct pronunciation.

    Optical character recognition packages for scanning have problems with scientific documents. They are unable to convert any equations or formulae into text and it is necessary to manually select that these are kept as images. See below for more details on handling equations.

    Some OCR packages may also be unable to recognise whether scientific terms have been scanned in correctly and may query many words. It is best to skip this process within the OCR package and transfer the text into an application where a specialist spellchecker can then be used to check it, such as Word with the appropriate Spellex or Inductel add-on. Abbyy FineReader has medical and legal terms in its English dictionary and can also recognise some computing languages. The latest version of Texthelp Read & Write Gold uses this OCR engine.

    The C-Pen portable scanner is a digital highlighter that inserts whatever you highlight into any application on your computer. The C-Pen comes with a built-in speech synthesis that allows you to listen to whatever you highlight, on your computer.

    Writing Mathematical Notation

    Equation tools in standard word processing packages such as Microsoft Word 2003 are basic. It can be time-consuming to create an equation and once done the program treats it as an image making it difficult to edit and impossible to read aloud with a speech engine.

    Text-to-speech for Mathematical Notation

    Mathematical notation normally cannot be read aloud by text-to-speech engines; maths uses symbols which are not read linearly and usually takes up more than one line. It is possible to use accessibility tags within PDF files to program that each individual equation is read aloud correctly by typing in the text version of the equation (see our PDF Accessiblity article for more details. This is a time-consuming and complicated process, only manageable by a central disability service or publisher with extensive knowledge of the subject material and is therefore not an option for individual students. However, it is possible to read aloud html files or web pages containing equations if they have been coded using MathML. MathML is a version of XML code designed specifically to make equations and scientific notation on the web. A free plug-in called MathPlayer enables Internet Explorer to correctly display and read aloud MathML. Read & Write Gold can read aloud equations displayed using MathML.

    Specialist mathematical word processing or web packages are required to create MathML. They packages also make it easier to create equations within documents and typeset them correctly. The most popular packages are Scientific Notebook and MathType. MathType is a more advanced version of the equation editor which will work within Office 2003 and many other applications. Both Scientific Notebook and MathType have functions for exporting documents to web pages with equations displayed using MathML.

    Using Speech Recognition with Maths

    MathTalk is additional program that can be combined with Dragon NaturallySpeaking to dictate equations into Scientific Notebook. With MathTalk the user trains Dragon NaturallySpeaking to control Scientific Notebook. This can be time consuming and there a lot of commands the user must remember. Dictating equations via MathTalk can be quicker than using a mathematical word processor where an equation is entered using clicks on menus and the toolbar. But it requires a very powerful computer to run at a workable speed and is only suitable for users that would be using speech recognition anyway due to the additional training required.

    LaTeX

    LaTeX is the scientific industry standard for typesetting mathematical text. It is a mark-up language similar to html and can be written into any text-editing application on any operating system. For example emph{this is in italic} creates this is in italic. Equations are written in a similar long-hand: [ f(x) = sum_{i=0}^{infty}frac{f^{(i)}(x)}{i!} ] produces

    Raw LaTeX documents are not WISIWG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) and must be complied to produce a printable document. Although this may not seem very dyslexic-friendly, specialist LaTeX editing programs enable colour to be used to highlight the code which many visual students have said they prefer to a WISIWIG approach. Both MathType and Scientific Notebook export to LaTeX. Scientific Workplace, a more advanced version of Scientific Notebook, allows users to use LaTeX for typesetting commands. Most academic users of LaTeX distribute files in PDF format which are difficult to make accessible to speech engines. However, it is as easy for authors to create these files as html/MathML but there is a lack of awareness of this approach.

    Microsoft Word

    Microsoft Word provides an advanced method of editing equations within Word documents. It is easy to enter equations within documents and to edit them. Equations are presented in a font making them look professional while they can be quickly entered and edited using a linear code via simple LaTeX commands called Maths Autocorrect.

    Tablet PCs

    Tablet PCs combine the functionality of a laptop with the versatility of pen and paper. A Tablet PC has a touch-sensitive screen allowing users to write on it and control the computer with a stylus. Most models consists of a standard laptop with a screen that can rotate and lock the screen over the keyboard so that it can be used both as a laptop and in paper mode. Tablet PCs offer specific advantages to science and engineering students. Users can:

    • Annotate Office documents
    • Draw diagrams on screen directly into documents
    • Select, copy, paste & highlight using pen
    • Convert handwriting to text
    • Convert hand written equations to text

    Microsoft OneNote

    Microsoft OneNote is an application for managing notes on your laptop or PC. When used on a Tablet PC, handwritten notes and diagrams can be included. You can easily re-organise and search through these notes. Microsoft OneNote 2007 will be included as standard in the new Microsoft Office 2007 for Students package.

  • Dyslexia and Non-English Language Learning

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    There are a lot of resources available for language learning, some much more suitable for dyslexic students than others. But there seem to be some substantial gaps in tools which are very popular in English, but seem to have no equivalent in other languages, or translations, as yet.

    Some of our products are available in other languages.

    Text-to-Speech

    1. Kurzweil 3000 for PC can now read in a number of languages other than English (French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian). It also comes with a variety of dictionaries to translate between English and these languages. In some languages there is even a choice of small and large dictionaries.
    2. textHELP Read & Write, which offers writing support tools as well as speech feedback, will allow you to install other language SAPI (Speech Application Programming Interface) engines, if you can find one that allows itself to work with textHELP!
    3. ClaroRead, ClaroRead Plus and WordRead are all text-to-speech applications that can be shipped with additional speech engines in most Western European languages.
    4. Penfriend XL provides word prediction, an on-screen keyboard and speech output in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, Dutch and Swedish.

    Scanning Text in Other Languages

    If you have a suitable Text-to-Speech engine you can hear this text read out to you. Abbyy FineReader can scan in a wide range of languages.

    Speech Recognition

    Dragon NaturallySpeaking is available in.French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and Japanese. Most if not all versions also include an English speech recognition engine allowing you to dictate in either language. For up-to-date details, please contact us .

    Writing, Planning and Structuring Written Work

    Graphical organisers, concept or mind mapping applications canbe great tools for planning writing. There are numerous affordable applications available. Inspiration, the most popular package, is only available in English, US Spanish and French. Mind mapping programs that have been developed for business, such as MindGenius (English) and Mind Manager (English & German), tend to be more complicated to use and have many more functions including linking into MS Office applications. Most mind mapping programs have demo versions available to try out the programs, so it is worth comparing them to find which application suits you.

    Tools for Away from the Computer

    1. Franklin electronic dictionaries and spell checkers help with spelling and translation in the major European languages. But they can only speak (which can be helpful if you cannot recognise the word shown) in English and Spanish.
    2. A voice recorder for recording notes and instructions, for helping with short term memory, and for learning and revising vocabulary.
    3. and you should also bear in mind whether the student has relevant visual problems.

    If You Are Learning or Using English

    1. Kurzweil 3000 comes with a variety of dictionaries to translate between English and French, Spanish, German, Dutch, or Italian. In some languages there is even a choice of small and large dictionaries. Kurzweil 3000 is probably now the best tool for helping dyslexic learners (and others) learn English.
    2. textHELP! Read & Write is designed for people who have difficulty reading or writing English and it helps with learning vocabulary and spelling. It will also help with pronunciation. The talking spelling checker and dictionary can help any learner of English, but particularly one who is dyslexic.

    Resources for English as a Second Language

    The University of Hull has a major CTI (Computers in Teaching Initiative) site for Modern Languages, has a software database which contains details of over 1100 language-related software applications, and lists reviews of them.

    Linguanet hosted by the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT) lists a lot of resources, including a lot of software which is available for review at their London centre. Alas there’s no qualitative comment and no web links to the publishers.

    Can You Help Get Products Translated into Your Own Language?

    From time to time people contact us to say that they would like to translate one of the products that we sell into their own language. Before you do so, you should bear in mind that this is an expensive process costing tens of thousands of dollars in research, programming, documentation, testing and packaging. The mostly small organisations who produce this specialist software are usually at full stretch producing, updating and maintaining products for the English speaking markets, which account for a very high proportion of the world market for computer based products. They have to do this to keep competitive. Even if you offer them large amounts of definite money, they may not be immediately keen. It is sometimes possible to get another company to do the translation, but it is difficult for teaching products, as these do not just need translating, but often need partially redesigning to meet the different language needs and customs of a different culture. But even if the work is contracted out, it will inevitably need quite a lot of supervision from senior people in the development team, who have other priorities.

    In addition, the tools which the developers need - text to speech engines, dictionaries, word lists, spell checkers, thesauruses - may not be nearly as easy to find in languages other than English.

    But if you can help them solve these problems, above all by guaranteeing sales, the developers are always looking for new markets. We hope that it will not be too long before other nationals can enjoy the tools which English speaking people with dyslexia now benefit from.

  • Crossover Technology for Deaf Learners

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Numerous software packages have been designed for and used successfully by dyslexic students to overcome their literacy difficulties. However this is not the case in the hearing impaired community where little software development has taken place. Here we are going to look at software and technology used by dyslexic learners which can also be used to support and teach deaf learners.

    Similarities between deaf & dyslexic learners

    There is a cross-over of difficulties in acquiring literacy skills for dyslexic and deaf children. Many children with dyslexia have problems with processing information given orally and rely on visual patterns of words to read and spell. A similar technique is taught to deaf children who may rely on word recognition instead of phonetic understanding to spell words. Because of the highly visual environment provided by computers, software packages are an ideal method of reinforcing a visual approach to learning to read, spell and write. Here we’re going to introduce some technology which could also be used with hearing impaired children.

    Concept Mapping

    Concept Mapping is a method of visually representing information. Traditionally it has been used as a drafting or revising tool but it can also be used for teaching. The three most popular software packages are mentioned below:

    Inspiration:a flexible concept and Mind mapping program, designed for education, allows one to switch between a linear-text view and a map view. Image banks enable pictures to be easily added to maps too.

    MindGenius: a flexible Mind Mapping program with an automatic brainstorming mode which enables the map to be viewed in a variety of layouts. Closely integrated to MS Office it allows text outlines and images of maps to be easily imported and exported to many common applications as well as time and project management tools through Outlook.

    Mind Manager: a powerful and comprehensive mind mapping tool that encourages efficient and accurate management of ideas using visual cues. The multi-map view makes handling large amounts of information easier while the review mode lets multiple users add to or change maps; great for groups projects.

    Spelling

    Many software packages for helping dyslexic students with spelling use a multi-sensory approach with both sound and pictures, but a few programs also work without sound.

    Punctuate, from Xavier, teaches punctuation through example sentences. It includes practice games and a quiz to improve and test punctuation skills.

    Wordshark is a popular game for reinforcing reading and spelling. This latest version, contains more than 30 games. These games use either the built-in word lists (covering the National Literacy Scheme, Key Stage 3 subject words and the Alpha to Omega word lists) or your own lists. Many of the games can have signs and pictures accompanying words which makes it suitable for those with hearing difficulties.

    Hardware

    The Franklin electronic dictionaries offer phonetic spell checking and definitions independent of a computer. Because all entries are spell checked it removes many of the difficulties encountered with dictionaries by those with spelling problems. Franklin dictionaries range from the Literacy Word Bank, designed specifically for primary aged children and containing the National Literacy scheme vocabulary to those designed specifically for those with special educational needs, such as the Franklin DMQ-2100 Speaking Dictionary. This includes speech feedback for those with partial hearing.

    Typing Tutors

    Touch typing can be a great skill for deaf children and adults to acquire. With touch typing skills they can take down information while watching what teachers, lecturers or colleagues are saying. There are a huge number of touch typing tutors available. But many rely on auditory instructions or use the home row approach which, with its nonsense typing passages, does not help those who have difficulties with spelling. The EnglishType Junior typing tutor is an easy to use typing tutor which is great for those users who have hearing or spelling difficulties. Instructions can be written on the screen or given orally while it only uses real word or phrases in typing exercises.

     

  • Visual Stress and Dyslexia

    by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

    Visual Stress and Dyslexia

    If you suffer from reading difficulties, you may first want to investigate whether or not you have a visual stress problem. Many children and adults with reading difficulties can benefit from a number of aids designed to help individuals who suffer from visual stress.

     

    What is it about?

    Many children and adults with reading difficulties can benefit from using coloured overlays or coloured lenses.

    Recent research, examining children aged 7-11 in two primary schools, found 50% of children reported improvements in the perception of text with coloured overlays. But how and why colour helps is still not clear.

    This visual problem is known as “Meares/Irlen syndrome” or Visual Stress — a difficulty certain people (not just dyslexic people) have with glare from the page. Coloured filters placed over the page can reduce the glare. And the result is that you can read faster, for longer, feel less tired and understand more of what you have read. If working on screen, you will usually benefit from changing the colours from the standard black on white display to your preferred colours.

    (The problem has also been called Visual Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, word crowding and Asfedia. Practitioners’ names include Behavioural Optometrists from BABO -The British Association of Behavioural Optometry; Chromagen; and Vision Therapy from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development - COVD in the USA. Amongst others!)

    Who can benefit from colour?

    The research suggests that 20% of the population could improve their reading by using colour. Colour, however, does not help all dyslexic people, and it is not a cure, just a treatment of the symptoms.Lucid ViSS identifies visual stress. Trained teachers and optometrists can carry out assessments to identify which colour may help you. Different individuals prefer different colours and one person’s preferred colour can change after a time. Please note that normal high street opticians may not know about or be able to test for these conditions, although they are increasingly doing so. You need to see a specialist.

    Different practitioners have different approaches and there has been no study to see which approach is “best”. There is no generally agreed explanation of what the process is that means that colour makes a difference.

    How is colour used in practice?

    • Coloured overlays are sheets of transparent vinyl which you lay over each page of type. Assessment kits and rate of reading tests help to work out which is the best colour for you.
    • Coloured lenses can be bought from specially trained optometrists. The colour used in lenses is usually a different colour to that used in overlays because of the difference in the distance between the text and the colour film. For a list of optometrists who prescribe coloured lenses, visit Cerium Visual Technologies.
    • Lucid ViSS identifies people who experience visual stress. There are different versions for people of different ages.

    Further information

    • The best source of information using an evidence-based approach is Bruce Evans’ book on Dyslexia and Vision (Whurr, 2001) ISBN 1-86156-242-X.
    • There is a very useful site on colour and reading problems by Professor Arnold Wilkins at the University of Essex.
    • A video is available from the University of Essex, called Reading with Colour, shows children talking about their experiences with overlays, and a demonstration of a test with overlays.
    • A list of optometrists who prescribe coloured lenses can be found on the Society of coloured lens prescribers website.
    • Frequently asked questions about coloured overlays and reading can be found here.
    • Behavioural Optometrists have a different approach to essentially the same problem, majoring on eye exercises as the cure. It may be more appropriate for younger children if they have the commitment to do the exercises.
    • The BDA has a helpful page of information and contacts on vision and dyslexia.