Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology (“AT”) is an extremely important tool to help people with dyslexia be successful. We highly recommend you start using Apps like or similar to the ones below to assist your child (or yourself) with reading, spelling and writing. These apps can be used at home to help with homework and worksheets.  They call also be used at school if your child has access to a tablet. If you are in public schools and have an IEP, you should request an Assistive Technology Consult to have access to AT in the classroom.  Some districts, like Metro Nashville Public Schools, will actually provide a free device specifically for a child with dyslexia if the AT Report deems that it will be helpful. Additionally, Section X of the Tennessee Dyslexia Guide gives schools guidance for the use of Assistive Technology in the classroom for students with characteristics of dyslexia.

Another great resource is this list of Assistive Technology and Tips for Parents created by Anna Thorsen and Krista Bolen for their 2018 Presentation entitled “How Technology Can Support Students With Dyslexia” at the TNIDA RISE Conference.

EAR READING

Ear reading (also known as listening to audio books) is the most important piece of Assistive Technology for students with dyslexia. Students with dyslexia often desperately want to eye read books like Harry Potter but can barely access books like Cat in The Hat with their eyes.  Over time, this has many negative effects on kids.  It starves them for vocabulary and complex sentence structure. It also makes them feel left out socially when kids on the playground are talking about The Hunger Games, but they have no ability to read it to join the conversation. We highly encourage families to give their students with dyslexia access to as much ear reading as they want at home for books that children cannot access with their eyes.  We also encourage you to talk to classroom teachers to let them use ear reading in school for books or chapters that need to be read quickly and accurately (think homework and classwork). When people tell you “thats cheating!” you can confidently tell them that it is not.  Read this great article recently published in the Washington Post. We obviously want kids to also learn how to eye read texts they are able to and finding a balance can be hard.  The International Dyslexia Association has some great advice here.

There are lots of great resources for ear reading including traditional audio books and Playaways from your local library. Often time you can access a surprising amount of ear reading school content through your teacher for things like science, ELA and social studies textbooks. Most families use a mix of ear reading Apps depending on the type and availability of the content they are seeking. Here are just a few:

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 6.23.13 PMLEARNING ALLY

Learning Ally is available to families for a yearly fee.  Audio books are read out loud by volunteers so there is a live human reader, but quality can vary from book to book even within a series. There is also the option on most books to see the words of the book highlighted as you read, so it does give readers a strong to connection to see the words they are listening to.

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BOOKSHARE

Bookshare is available only to those diagnosed with a print disability.  It has a huge library, but uses robotic digital voices. If your account is linked by your school, your child can access textbooks which is a nice feature. This also has the feature to see the words of the book highlighted as you read.

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Audible is an Amazon product.  It has a huge library of audio books for ranging fees. Some of the books are labeled “Immersion Reading” and will highlight the text as the book is read aloud. Immersion Reading books also offer note taking and book marking. The readers on these books are usually very high quality and engaging to hear.

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VOICE DREAM READER

Voice Dream Reader is an App that will read virtually anything out loud with a robotic voice (but you have lots of voice choices and the voice quality is good).  It will not only read Bookshare books, but it will also read any website and any document in Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and OneDrive. It even reads local files on your device. It includes highlighting text and allows for bookmarking and note taking.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 6.24.34 PMOVERDRIVE

Overdrive is a program through most public libraries. It is totally free with a library card, but it is only audio books.  There is no highlighted text or note taking capability.

WRITING AND SPELLING

Writing and spelling can be extremely challenging for people with dyslexia. Writing by hand can be messy, frustrating and downright illegible.  However, with technology, students can be much more successful at writing and spelling.  We encourage you to look at the Apps listed below. We also encourage you to talk to your child’s teacher because often time you can access a surprising amount of school content through online textbooks and programs that are easier and faster than handwriting for students with dyslexia to use.

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Cowriter is a strong app for writing with word prediction, text to speech, spell check, topic dictionaries and more. It can read back an entire story (or word, or sentence). It is very helpful for students with dyslexia. See it in action here.

 

thumbnail-2EASY SPELLING AIDE

Easy Spelling Aide is a quick and easy tools for students to use on their phone or tablet. It can be used in tandem with other programs like Co:Writer to give spelling support. Many children with dyslexia have more than one App open at one time.

  • It will translate spoken words into written words to help with writing and worksheets if a child does not know how to spell a word. (Example: Say “Multiply” and App writes “M-U-L-T-I-P-L-Y.”)
  • thumbnail-3It will translate spoken letters into words to help with reading when the child gets to a tricky word. (Example: Spell “C-H-A-O-S” and App says “Chaos.”
  • It will help with homophones when a child is not sure which word to use. (Example: Say
    There/Their/They’re were three boys” and App will write “THERE were three boys.”
  • It will help with contractions. (Example: Say “We weren’t at home” and App will write “We WEREN’T at home.”)