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Open Letter to those who recommend technology for reading disorders (dyslexia)

© Dr. Jeanne Beckman.  All rights reserved.

July 9, 2004

Dear Provider;

I am writing in regard to questions about text-to-speech programs for students with reading disorders such as dyslexia.  It is important for you to know that there are quite powerful products available for both PCs and Macs that are specifically designed for use by those with learning disabilities.

Many learning disabled students in public schools and universities utilize the Kurzweil 3000 Color Scan and Read program.  This program is a multi-sensory wonder, displaying the highlighted text while reading it aloud in a humanlike computer voice.  The scanned pages appear exactly like each textbook page, so students can see color pictures and graphs on the computer screen as the text descriptions are read aloud.  Schools and individuals use Kurzweil 3000 to provide accommodated access to their textbooks so that students can keep up with and benefit from their regular mainstream education.  Additionally, Kurzweil 3000 has extensive study skills tools so that students can learn to highlight or annotate their texts, look up words in Kurzweil's dictionary, look up information in a PDF-based encyclopedia such as Encarta, and create flashcards for memorizing vocabulary and concepts.  If their teachers ask them to utilize quotes from books, students can select, copy, and paste these quotes directly into their essays and papers.  With this program, students can also "read" any PDF or text file, Internet page and search engine result, and e-mail messages.

You are correct in stating that scanning can be a time-consuming endeavor, but Kurzweil 3000 has a batch-scanning program that can be utilized with high-speed scanners to complete the scanning process more quickly.  Additionally, there are inexpensive scanners with automatic document feeders available for home use.  In order to use these automatic document feeders, copy shops can cut the bindings off of books.  The Kurzweil 3000 website (www.kurzweiledu.com) lists compatible scanners with indications of those that have automatic document feeders.

Parents should be aware that students in public schools who have been diagnosed as having a disability requiring assistive technology should be provided with the appropriate software and hardware by their public school.  Additionally, if the students need this particular technology in order to appropriately access their education, the school needs to provide the scanned and proofed material, ready for the students to read.  Because these programs are expensive, parents sometimes have difficulty getting the schools to provide such technology, even though federal special education laws mandate that appropriate assistive technology must be considered for students with special education needs.  Some parents hire independent experts to help them figure out what technology their child needs, but some families have found it easier to just pay for the software.  Your readers should know that there are increasing numbers of students attending public schools in the Chicago area   have school district-provided text-to-speech programs such as Kurzweil 3000.

It is essential that students with reading difficulties have access to such technology early  in their public school education (as soon as their disability is identified) so that they can have the same opportunities to learn as their non-disabled peers in preparation for college.  Once students reach college, many schools such as Indiana University have comprehensive student assistance programs that provide programs such as Kurzweil 3000 to their learning disabled students in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Students with dyslexia often have difficulty producing quality written work because of the profound spelling difficulties associated with this disability.  If students utilize voice recognition technology for written schoolwork at an age as early as nine, the research indicates they can write essays as well as their non-disabled peers.  If your readers are interested in learning about voice recognition technology for those with learning disabilities, they can read my article at www.jeannebeckman.com/VoiceRecog.html

or read my new book entitled Tech Psychologist's Guide, available at my publisher, VirtualBookworm.com, Powells.com, or other online retailers.
Dr. Jeanne D. Beckman

About Dr. Beckman
Dr. Jeanne Beckman attained her masters and Ph.D. in developmental and clinical psychology  1980 and 1982.  She was a consultant to schools for severe emotional and behavioral disorders and, while at Michael Reese Hospital’s Developmental Institute, was an evaluator of individuals with a wide range of developmental issues that included low incidence and multiple handicaps. 

Dr. Beckman has been working with learning disabled and other physically handicapped individuals for twenty-two years.  She provides comprehensive psychological evaluations, learning disabilities evaluations, and assistive technology evaluations and training.  She has presented sessions including titles of “The Dyslexia Prescription” at the Closing the Gap conference in Minneapolis and "Aiming for College: Technology Accommodations/Study Skills Training for LD Students at the Illinois Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

Dr. Beckman provides seminars, inservices, and training to schools, organizations, and families in the areas of appropriate remediation, accommodation, assistive technology, inclusion, IEP design, and advocacy.  She recently completed a book entitled Tech Psychologist's Guide to Technology and Access Tools (ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4).  The daughter of an inventor, she utilizes an enthusiastic, practical problem-solving approach in developing “work-arounds” to serve individuals and their families’ learning needs.

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