Dyslexia is a well-known learning disability, yet many people do not fully understand it. In part, this is because there are many degrees of severity. Symptoms may not present in children initially, or they may change over time. Some sufferers of dyslexia can even compensate for their differences in perception, making diagnosis more difficult. When people think of dyslexia, they tend to believe it involves reading letters or words backward. However, dyslexia affects far more than the ability to recognize letters in their intended order. A Master of Education in Special Education degree helps prepare teachers to identify complex learning disabilities so students may receive the accommodations they need to achieve their academic goals.
Students with dyslexia are not lazy, and they do not have lower-than-average intelligence. Dyslexia is not the result of visual or hearing impairment, and there is no cure for it. It is a processing disorder that affects the brain’s ability to process spoken and written language. The degree of impairment varies greatly. While reading difficulties are a common symptom, it can also affect spelling, speaking and writing. Fortunately, technology in the classroom and at home can provide students with alternative processing methods.
The Importance of Text-to-Speech
While dyslexia varies from person to person, most students will have difficulty reading. This is one of the main reasons text-to-speech software is so important. This technology allows students to see the text and hear it at the same time. Some of the most common software includes both screen readers and text readers.
Many tablet devices and smartphones can read screens. Native software reads text files and can announce the names of folders and apps the student taps. These features also benefit students who have visual impairments. Browsers on these devices can also strip away advertisements from websites and read the remaining text to students. This is an invaluable tool for students who need to perform academic research but who find the visual noise on websites overwhelming.
Text readers are similar: they can read digital books aloud to students. The Kindle device, as well as the Kindle app for other devices, has this function. Bookshare, Learning Ally, Librivox, NaturalReader and Project Gutenberg all offer free digital books to students, which text readers can read aloud. Ensuring there is technology in the classroom that can translate reading material into speech for students with dyslexia allows them access to the same academic tools their peers use in a format they can process.
Speech Recognition Software
Speech recognition software does the opposite of text-to-speech software; it translates what the student says into typed words. Many students with dyslexia find it impossible to proofread their own writing, and they may struggle with writing on their own. While communicating verbally can also be challenging, this symptom occurs less frequently and typically less severely. Speech recognition software allows students to process their thoughts differently.
One of the most popular speech recognition programs is Dragon Dictation. It allows students to speak and see transcriptions instantly. It works on a variety of platforms, and with practice, it is easy to use. The latest versions of Microsoft Word include speech recognition features. This is becoming an increasingly common feature for word processing applications, although most people remain unaware of it.
It does take time to learn to use speech recognition software. Students must learn to speak clearly and more slowly than they may be accustomed to. They will need to become familiar with the functions and limitations of the software and use it regularly for optimal results. They will also need a good microphone in order to eliminate background noise.
Game Changing Smart Devices
New devices such as tablets and smartphones are revolutionizing the education landscape. They have created many problems for teachers, but they have also created remarkable solutions. Schools often ban smart devices in the classroom because of their potential for distraction and academic abuse. However, the potential for these devices as assistive learning devices is an educational game changer.
The apps and resources available on smart devices once cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per student. They were less effective and less functional. Students can now take life-changing software with them wherever they go and integrate it into their daily lives. This allows them to study any topic they find interesting, express their thoughts in writing, and participate in the online world without reserve. Teachers who have earned a Master of Education in Special Education will undoubtedly see the functionality in these devices. They can explain their value to classroom teachers who may initially resist the idea of allowing phones or tablets in their classrooms.
Educators who are pursuing an online master’s degree in special education will learn to work with students facing a variety of learning challenges. While the specifics for each student with dyslexia will be different, many of the learning strategies will be the same. Technology in the classroom that converts text to speech or that recognizes speech and translates it into text are invaluable tools for these students. Smart devices have made them more affordable and portable than ever before, and they allow schools to provide students with the help they need in school and at home.
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