Learning difficulties and computers


Sound and word processors are used a lot in most modern computer systems but how can these help the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia? This report sets out to answer this question and can these two technologies be used together to help even more, this report sets out to answer this question also.

The author of this report has Dyspraxia with cross over Dyslexia and is a kind of personnel journey into this subject from someone who has it


This report set out to find out what is Dyslexia or Dyspraxia and how word processors can help people with this problem, this report is also about sound processors and how to link these to word processors to help the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia to read.

This report also about sound in the classroom and what is the disadvantage of using sound in the classroom.

What is Dyslexia and Dyspraxia?

To find out how computers help we must find out what dyslexia is according to the Dyslexia Institute
http://www.dyslexia-inst.org.uk last accessed 29th Nov 2005

“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that hinders the learning of literacy skills. This problem with managing verbal codes in memory is neurologically based and tends to run in families. Other symbolic systems, such as mathematics and musical notation, can also be affected.”

Having said this, the condition is not widely known and a lot of debate has happened over this problem, people with this problem have a different level a intelligence between language skills such as spelling or reading and other skills, they may also find skills such as maths, knowing the difference between left or right, organisation, reading, knowing how to say words and putting things into order, they may find they have short term memory problems.

http://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/ last accessed 1st Dec 2005.

“Dyspraxia is generally recognised to be an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. Associated with this may be problems of language, perception and thought. Other names for dyspraxic include Clumsy Child Syndrome; Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD); Minimal Brain Dysfunction: Motor learning Difficulty; and Pereceptuo-motor Dysfunction. Problems include”

Another condition in people with this condition is poor hand writing and so word processors can help in this area, they also may have problems with reading, listening and reading..

Word processors

Word processors can help the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia a lot in this section we going to look how word processors can help.

People with Dyslexia can be helped by word processors because word processors have spell checkers and grammar checkers that are helpful to the person with Dyslexia, also people with Dyspraxia have poor hand writing which makes word processors good tools in the hands of the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia.

Having said this some word processors use America English for example spell colour, “color” which is not helpful to the person which this condition, but most now give you the choice of UK or American english.

In the journal “An empirical investigation of ways in which some of the problems encountered by some dyslexics may be alleviated using computer techniques by Gregor, P.; Newell, A.F 2000 outlines how word processors can help and the problems people with Dyslexia have, it also introduces SeeWord processing environment discussed later in this report.

The journal states that the author did a experiment about if changing the colour of text and backgrounds help people with Dyslexia the results show that the people tested could read the words better, this means that changing colour of the display and the ability to take text in using ocr (optical Character recognition are useful ability found on most word processors and should not be overlooked when helping the person with Dyslexia as they can help the person with this condition to read as it makes the words stand out and so easier to read.

There are on the market more powerful word processors such as Co:writer which is useful to the person with Dyslexia, Co:writer is a Predictive word processor that Predicts what the word is as it is being entered from a large database or dictionary of words, it also can tell if the word should not be there as the next word and does not offer that as a choice or does not put it in.

Sound and the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia

In this section we are going to talk on how sound processors can improve word processors for the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia and why it is important

If you look at any computer these days they have the ability to produce sound in some way or other but the sound quality is not that good as computers sometimes sound like robots when they speak, they do not have natural speech that sound like a human at present, unless you use expensive systems such as Realspeak made by Nuance Communications, Realspeak is a powerful natural voice processor that can sound like a male or female, used in applications such in-car navigation systems to screen readers, you can also download voices that you what to use in the system, but even if you have this powerful technology, the computer will find it difficult to read documents with lots of spelling mistakes.

Having said this computers that read aloud may help the person with dyslexia, as reading aloud does help the person with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia because it shows the child or adult how the word should be said.

In the journal “speech perceptual abilities of children with specific reading difficulty (dyslexia)” by Valerie Hazan and Alan Adlard 1996, found that some children with dyslexia have problems with reading, after reading this journal computers that read could help some people with dyslexia, but having said this the journal also says that some of the children tested had also hearing difficulties, this means some people who had dyslexia would not be helped using computer software that reads documents.

In the journal SeeWord—a personal word processing environment for dyslexic computer users by Peter Gregor et al 2003, outlines how sound are used in this personnel environment, this software can be added to the Microsoft Word for Windows environments and helps by reading the text on the screen this helps the person with punctuation which gives the people with dyslexia how the word sounds, it also helps the person with dyslexia how to spell words as people with dyslexia find spelling words hard the user of this software can change how the texts looks on the screen and change other text with these settings.

The journal also says that they did an experiment using this software and that people who used the environment performed better. Looking at the evidence reported in this journal people using this software can be helped by providing reading and writing ability’s in 2003 this software was a prototype, when the software comes out it could help a lot of people but it will all to do with the cost as if the software is expensive schools will have to think the benefits over the cost as would the home user of the software.

Another way in which sound can help is in speech recognition software in the journal “Speech Technology: A Solution for People with Disabilities” by Norma Conn and Michael McTear 2000, says that people can be helped by using speech as they do not need to use keyboards which can be hard for some users and by using the software people with Disabilities such as dyslexia they deliver a better quality of work as they don’t have to think about spelling or using a keyboard which makes computers accessible to non computer users.

This is good idea in considering how to help people with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia as people with these conditions have high verbal ability and using speech recognition may help in getting their ideas and thoughts on to paper, by having said this you need to speak clearly and train the software to your voice which will make multi user environments such as schools hard to introduce, as you have to train the software to each users voice, also in noisy environment such as classrooms this technology is hard to use.

Another thing to think about is that speech recognition software is expensive and some people may not be able to afford it even if it helps the person, also you may not be able to use the technology to write confidential documents because people can hear you, this means you may have to use other help technologies available.

Sound in the classroom

These days there are a lot of education software that reads text from a word processor but are these good ideas in the classroom such as Texthelp.

In the book “Computers and dyslexia: educational applications of new technology” edited by Chris Singleton in 1994, Chris singleton writes an essay outlining the difficulties of using sound in the classroom, the difficulties he outlines are that sound could disrupt the class of children and if the child uses headphones the child could not hear a teacher if the teacher talks to them.

But these days this can be overcome by using teacher/student control systems in the classroom such as the systems from classnet or Research Machines, that even if the child is using headphones the teacher can still talk to the child using a microphone attached to the teacher’s computer and the sound comes out of the student’s computer, with these classroom systems the teacher can also control and monitor the students computers, but these systems are expensive and many schools may not be able to buy them but may be idea for schools getting new computer equipment for the first time to buy as a package as it may be cheaper from companies such as Research Machines as this company provides a whole education computer package for schools. The picture below from the classnet website gives an example of this technology.


The finding of this report are word processor can help the person with learning difficulties such as Dyslexia or Dyspraxia to carry out everyday writing tasks and in some cases to read also the Predictive word processor can also help the person with learning difficulties.

It has also found that computer software that reads and speech recognition software also help people with these conditions, but in the environment of the classroom it may be difficult to use unless you spend money on other equipment which may be expensive

As to, is it better to mixed these technology to help people with learning better, this would need to be tested which is not possible in the scope of this report.

Reference and Further reading

Gregor, P.; Newell, A.F. (2000) An empirical investigation of ways in which some of the problems encountered by some dyslexics may be alleviated using computer techniques. Annual ACM Conference on Assistive Technologies, Proceedings Pages (p 85-91)

Gregor, Peter et al (2003) SeeWord – A personal word processing environment for dyslexic computer users. British Journal of Educational Technology, Volume: v 34 Issue(3),Pages (p 341-355).

Hazan, V.; Adlard, A.; (1996) Speech perceptual abilities of children with specific reading difficulty (dyslexia). Spoken Language, 1996. ICSLP 96. Proceedings, Fourth International Conference, Volume 1 Pages (p165 – 168)

Conn, N.; McTear, M.; (2000) Speech technology: a solution for people with disabilities. IEE Seminar on Speech and Language Processing for Disabled and Elderly People, Pages (p7/1 – 7/6.).

Chris Singleton (editor)(1994) Computers and dyslexia : educational applications of new technology, Published by Hull: Dyslexia Computer Resource Centre

Dr Amanda Kirby (1999) Dyspraxia: Developmental co-ordination Disorder
Published by souvenir press

British Dyslexia Association (BDA)
[internet] http://www.bda-dyslexia.org.uk

The Dyslexia Institute
[internet] http://www.dyslexia-inst.org.uk

Classnet – Interactive Training Room Control System
[internet] http://www.keyzone.com/classnet/classnet.htm

Research machines
[internet] http://www.rm.com

Dyspraxia foundation
[internet] http://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/

Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities
[pdf document] University of Washington

Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre
[internet] http://www.arkellcentre.org.uk

ICT advise for teachers
[internet] http://www.ictadvice.org.uk/

BrightEye Technology (Texthelp)
[internet] http://www.brighteye.com/

Nuance Communications, Inc (Realspeak)
[internet] http://www.nuance.com/realspeak/

Dylexia the miracle cure
By Wynford dore, Published by john Blake publishes in 2006

The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Brightest People Can’t Read and How They Can Learn, By Ronald D. Davis, Published by Souvenir Press Ltd 1997

Dyslexia and Information and Communications Technology: A Guide for Teachers and Parents (Paperback) by Anita Keates, Published by David Fulton Publishers Ltd 2002

A Practical Guide to Dyslexia
by Jean Blight Published by Egon Publishers Ltd 1985


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