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Assistive Technology Part 1

Power Tools for Reading and Writing:  Assistive Technology Software


Through my years of working with individuals with diagnosed LD, ADHD, and other processing disorders, I have realized that assistive technology software can be effective and empowering for managing reading and writing.  The three favorites for me are: the Kurzweil 3000, Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking, and Inspiration. There are, of course, other software designed to help with reading and writing, but I have found these three to be the best for usability, reliability, and…well, they just work for most users.  They also provide an interface system that is not too childish or primary for the user, and allows the user to realize the benefits gained by using it. Of course, a decision and committed effort has to be made to use the Kurzweil 3000 for “reading” an assignment, just as one has to make the decision to sit down with a book and actually read it.

Number ONE in a Series of THREE

Help for the student with dyslexia, slow reading rate, and/or attention-deficit disorder:

For students who either have difficulty reading or are slow readers, getting through text-based classes, or staying involved with a class discussion from a reading assignment,  can be daunting.  The problem with being a slow reader, whether because of dyslexia or slow-processing, is that the meaning of text is lost if not read smoothly or fluently. The reader simply doesn’t know what they’ve read in the end if they stumble through the words. And, if ADHD keeps one from focusing on what they are reading, the meaning is lost even though the words are being read or “decoded”.

The Kurzweil 3000 changes text to synthesized speech and can be used with any printed text. The simple process starts with scanning the material and then accessing it on your computer. Two important settings are the reading rate (speed) and the choice of voice (male, pitch, tone, etc.).  These two settings are important to consider, because if not personally chosen the student is apt to decide they do not like the system and refuse to give it a try.  Kurzweil 3000 uses a multisensory approach that allows students to both hear and see the text as they read, thus supporting a “stronger learn”. While it was developed for individuals with poor vision or dyslexia, it has proven to be excellent for individuals with ADHD, as seeing and hearing the text helps to keep the user’s attention and focus. Some individuals report that using the Kurzweil for an amount of time with scheduled breaks helps to stay focused on a set goal. And it has been proven that using the Kurzweil 3000 regularly can actually increase reading rate and comprehension.

To explore the Kurzweil 3000, go to www.kurzweil3000.com for a free 6-week trial version.



-Lynne Neaves
BS; MA; Special Education LD & ADHD Specialist