In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the use of assistive technology to help people with learning disabilities cope with their challenges. One of the most effective is Dragon Naturally speaking. This “speech to text” software does a great job converting thoughts to written expression.
What concerns me is the growing use of “text to speech” software like Kursweil. According to research by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, 80% of people with a learning disability actually have a specific reading disability or dyslexia. Thanks to fMRI imaging and researchers like Shaywitz, we know exactly what exercises are required to wire the brain’s reading centres. In her book, Overcoming Dyslexia, A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level, Shaywitz spells out the phonemic, sound symbol, phonological and decoding exercises that teach reading. These skills make up the foundation of the award winning Academy of READING software that I have used to teach reading since 1993. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what my former students and their parents have to say.
We need a paradigm shift. The vast majority of students with an Individual Education IEP for a learning disability have specific reading disability, and virtually all these students can be taught to read. Kursweil and other text to speech software should never replace teaching a person with a learning disability to read. What do other you think? I hope this starts a discussion.