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Technology Support for Students With Dyslexia

California Dyslexia Guidelines

The California Department of Education (CDE) recently posted online guidelines to assist teachers and parents in identifying students with dyslexia and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve education services. The goal of the California Dyslexia Guidelines is to provide practical information and resources for identifying and supporting students who may have dyslexia.

As set forth in the Guidelines, supports for students who have dyslexia “must include a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to reading and language instruction that is implemented by trained educators.” (California Department of Education (“CDE”), California Dyslexia Guidelines). Evidence-based instruction includes, for example, structured literacy instruction such as “Orton-Gillingham, Simultaneous Multisensory, [and] Explicit Phonics.” Lindamood Bell, Fast ForWord5, and Wilson Reading are also evidence-based literacy interventions. “Teachers must be familiar with evidence-based strategies that have proven to be effective in supporting students with dyslexia.”

Assistive Technology for Students With Dyslexia

Assistive technology is an important related service for students with learning disabilities. “Assistive technology can eliminate barriers to learning and help a student become more productive and successful. It helps her keep up with the curriculum, read grade-level text independently, and work around the challenges of dyslexia. Instead of worrying about her weaknesses, the student can now focus on her strengths. Assistive technology can also reduce the amount of time she spends on schoolwork. As a result, she is likely to become more confident and less stressed.” (CDE, Guidelines to Dyslexia).

Commonly used tools for dyslexia and other learning disabilities include:

• Audiobooks—Human or computerized voice narrations without text for students with a print (reading) disability.

• E-text and Text-to-Speech (TTS)—Software, applications, or devices that let a student see and hear digital or electronic text at the same time. The combined use of vision and hearing makes a student a better reader. It is a multisensory approach improves a student’s reading and comprehension.

• Graphic organizers—Tools that allow students to brainstorm and organize their thoughts visually in a Web format to prepare for writing. Graphic organizers often include templates to provide structure and prompts for students who have difficulty knowing what to write or how to get started.

• Low-tech options—Examples include reading rulers, handwriting tools, highlighting tape, fidgets, and more.

• Smart pens—Pens that combine a camera and an audio recorder. A student can record notes with minimal writing so that she can focus on listening and processing information in the moment. She can listen to the recording again and again, as needed.

• Speech-to-Text—Voice recognition tools that convert speech dictation into text to make writing easier.

• Spell checkers—Designed to recognize and correct flexible and phonetic spelling in the context of a student’s sentence.

• Word prediction (WP)—As a student types, word prediction software selects several word choices on the basis of the context of the sentence. This technology is designed to recognize creative or phonetic spelling. It gives a student the freedom to write without getting bogged down with handwriting, typing speed, spelling, or word retrieval difficulties. Word prediction software will read words and sentences aloud so the student can self-correct. Many word prediction programs also include a speech-to-text option.

(CDE, Guidelines to Dyslexia).

Priya Bahl-Sen is an attorney with over 15 years of experience, litigating and advocating for her clients. Ms. Bahl-Sen is a graduate of UCLA and Santa Clara University School of Law. Attorney Bahl-Sen works in alliance with Hope4Families, a non-profit Special Education law firm, that provides legal services to families in need, at no cost. Hope4Families assists parents/guardians of special needs school children in advocating for services from their school districts.


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