Provide tech tools for struggling readers to access content

A student with dyslexia who requires intensive reading interventions may also require a technological tool to access content in her classes.

“Currently, there’s this thought process with students who have dyslexia that we need remediation over technology, but we need both,” said Nicole Feeney, director of assistive technology services for the NEAT Center at Oak Hill. Feeney spoke during the National Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, Fla.

“They should absolutely be learning how to read; we shouldn’t ever close the door on that,” Feeney said. “But when I see a kid in ninth grade struggling to decode words in science and math, it’s almost neglectful [not to provide technology].”

Consider these tools that can provide access to content for such students:

  • Dynamic text leveling. Text leveling is the ability to change the difficulty of words or phrases in a sentence. Tools such as Snap&Read Universal provide dynamic text leveling that keeps the original word in the passage while also providing a simpler word that the student can use to learn the meaning of advanced vocabulary, Feeney said.
  • Text-to-speech. A struggling reader may need a way to listen to text in order to access the content, Feeney said. PDFs are usually a barrier for such students because these files capture text as images. In order for text-to-speech tools to work on PDFs they need to be converted into readable text using technology called optical character recognition. Snap&Read Universal and Read&Write include speech-to-text with OCR capabilities. In addition, a student or teacher can open any PDF using Google Docsand the software will automatically convert the PDF using built-in OCR technology, Feeney said. “You can also edit a PDF in Google Docs. So, if a student needs to type or speak their answers, they can do that on the PDF with built-in voice typing.”
  • Visual highlighting. Students may also benefit from having individual words highlighted as they’re read aloud, Feeney said. Programs such as Immersive Reader, Snap&Read Universal, Voice Dream Reader, and Learning Ally include visual highlighting. “I have a student who actually turns off the sound on the reader but has the visual highlighting on so that she can practice reading aloud to herself,” Feeney said. When the student comes to a word she can’t read, she hits pause, turns the sound on, and hears the word read aloud, she said.

Jennifer Herseim covers technology as it relates to special education for LRP Publications.

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