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Solving Spelling Problems with Digital Assistants and Voice Search Technology

Challenges with spelling disrupt the flow of thoughts, distract the writer and often result in poor word choice.  Even though the author may have an excellent speaking vocabulary, their writing may suffer due to avoidance of words that are difficult to spell.  What’s more, many poor spellers skirt writing altogether because navigating spelling potholes can be time-consuming, and they fear that others will question their intellect.

What Can Be Done to Help Poor Spellers?
The technology age offers a number excellent tools for struggling spellers.

  1. Speech-to-Text Software: Speech-to-text is a type of software that transcribes the spoken word into typed words on a computer or handheld device.  Writers nolonger have to be distracted by spelling.  As long as they inunciate their words clearly, all spelling will be accommodated via voice commands.  Macs come with this option for free. To learn more CLICK HERE.  In addition, there are many other speech-to-text options like Speech Recognition on Window 10 and purchaseable software programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  2. Word Prediction Software: Word prediction software helps writers, during word processing, to “predict” a word they intend to type.  Word predictions are based on frequency of use, syntax, and spelling.  To learn more about this technology you can view a short video on ClaroCom Word Prediction and Co-Writer.
  3. Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now:  Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now is a speech recognition option in Google’s search engine. Available via the Chrome browser and Google mobile apps, Google Voice Search merged with Google Now to provide a voice-based personal assistant.  There are also a few tricks that can make the app even more useful.  For spelling in Google Voice Search, simply ask, “how do you spell____”. Google will quickly return the correct spelling of the word and speak the spelling aloud too.
  4. Voice-Recognition Digital Assistants: Voice Recognition Digital Assistants are programs that work as a personal assistant and knowledge navigator. This option uses a voice recognition interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web-based services.  My 4 favorite digital assistants are:
  • Alexa:  The Amazon Echo is a cylindrical device that offers, Alexa, a voice-recognition digital assistant that can spell words aloud, complete simple math, answer questions, share facts, tell jokes, provide the news, make to-do lists and more.  Click here to watch a video of Alexa in Action.
  • Siri: Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knwledge navigator.  If you ask, Siri can you spell words for you aloud and provide a visual definition .

I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you  come across other helpful spelling devices.  Please share these resources below this blog.


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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The Reading Focus Card: An Interview with Designer Joan Brennan

This week’s blog features an interview with Joan Brennan, a teacher and inventor who designs reading tools for struggling readers.  We will focus our discussion on her ingenious Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) and her Reading Focus Cards desktop application (Patent 8,360,779).

_____________________________
Erica: Hi Joan.  Can you tell us about your mission to help struggling readers?
Joan Brennan

Joan: My mission and that of my company, Brennan Innovators, LLC, is to create and provide inexpensive yet helpful low-tech AND digital tools to challenged readers of all ages.  In addition, as certified educators, we also present parent and educator workshops, consultation services and other professional development opportunities in the Greater St. Louis Area. We work diligently to bridge the gap between no services for challenged readers and expensive therapies, methods and other resources that are not accessible to many because of the cost or the location of such resources. 


We are particularly passionate about helping children, teens and adults who struggle to read.  This struggle may be for a variety of reasons.  As a result, since 2007, our Reading Focus Cards have helped many readers of all ages with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision and other issues that can affect reading success.
Erica: Why did you create the Reading Focus Cards website and products?
Joan: The low-tech and sensory-appealing Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) grew out of need in my own middle school classroom in the late 1990’s.  Because a special education teacher was not on the faculty at the time, all teachers worked with all students in their individual classrooms, even children with additional needs. 

More than a few of my students had experienced focus, tracking and attention issues.  As a result, comprehension and retention skills were significantly compromised.  Some had been diagnosed with ADHD while others were suspected to have attention deficiencies.  A few had been prescribed medications by their pediatricians, but even these students sometimes did not always take their medications (parents forgot to administer before school day, etc.) 

The “light-bulb moment” occurred some years ago during one reading class period when a student (without her medication taken that day) privately mentioned to me that she was having difficulty paying attention enough to read the requested 2 pages of a selection.  To make matters worse, this was at a time when the school had just established a daily schedule that included a 90-minute block for language arts classes.  So, I knew something had to be done to help this young student to focus and read with some degree of success—and immediately!  That’s when the first prototype of the Reading Focus Card was born.  I instinctively (and on the fly!) took an old manila folder from the top of my desk and cut a shape about the size of a 3″ X 5″ index card.   With that, I then cut a narrow but long rectangle in the center of the card and gave it to the student, asking her to read each line of the two pages in front of her with that card.  This immediately allowed her to focus on one line at a time and read each when she was ready to read it.  The focusing card also covered much of the surrounding text that had overwhelmed her.  The result?  The student was amazed at the card’s ability to help her, and she asked if she could take it to her next class!  Since that time, I have learned from many special education educators that they, too, have often created similar paper devices to help their students who struggled to read, only to discard it after use.

During the ensuing summer vacation periods and as a result of doing a considerable amount of research, the left side of the Reading Focus Card prototype was opened (for improved tracking), colored filters were added (recommended by a developmental optometrists’ group here in St. Louis) and sensory-appealing materials were sought for the final, working prototype.  Later, two independent focus studies were successfully conducted of the Reading Focus Cards (in 2007-2 6th grade classrooms and in 2011 in a high school reading specialist’s classroom).  Today, thousands of these Reading Focus Cards have been sold and are in use in the U.S., Canada and around the world. They continue to help many readers who struggle with all kinds of reading challenges.
Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the Reading Focus Cards? 
Joan: Yes, there were a few key people and organizations that helped to inspire and contributed to the development of the idea of the Reading Focus Cards;
a. First of all, my husband, Robert Brennan, Jr., M.D., has inspired and supported me and the idea in every way since it first “made a difference” for my reading student.  He is amazing.
b. My former principal, Mr. Michael Talleur, recommended that I “do something” with the first “seeds” of the idea.
c. My business advisor, Mr. William Deemer, volunteer mentor in the St. Louis University Dept. of Entrepreneurship (part of the John Cook School of Business at SLU) advised and supported my efforts to bring all of my reading tools to market.
Erica: Who is your audience?
Joan: My audience is GROWING daily.  The majority of my audience is primarily mothers, teachers and tutors of children & adults with ADHD & dyslexia, and special needs organizations.  However, in the past year, we have received many more orders and requests for services from OTs, speech & language pathologists, optometrists, autism caregivers/orgs. and stroke recovery, brain injury (TBIs) patients and their caregivers.  Most recently, a local optometrist ordered a Reading Focus Card Combo Pack for her patient with Parkinson’s disease.  So you can see that there is a very interesting, diverse AND increasing audience for our reading tools and services.
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about the Reading Focus Cards?
Joan: Our testimonial page will provide many comments from users of the low-tech RFCs.  
Erica: I understand that you have also created the Reading Focus Cards App for both Mac and PC. Can you tell us more about this?
Joan: This new Reading Focus Cards desktop application (Patent 8,360, 779) for Mac and PCs (desktops & laptops) was also created for challenged readers to help provide improved focus and better tracking when reading digital media. This customizable app is an extension of the low-tech Reading Focus Cards used with physical books and documents. As a result and if the app is used properly, the reader can experience better comprehension and retention as well as better focus and tracking when using this desktop app.  In addition, the digital, pop-up Toolbox for the app will allow the user to adjust color, length, width and orientation of several features of the virtual Reading Focus Card to help the reader enjoy more visual comfort as well. This app can be especially helpful for persons of all ages with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision, stroke or brain injury issues and other challenges that can affect reading success. 
The Reading Focus Cards desktop application is very innovative in that it is able to independently float over AND stay on top of underlying digital applications. It can be customized and controlled by using a mouse, touch pad, arrow keys or the reader’s fingers on a screen (where touch-screen technology is available.)  Currently, Apple and Android tablets and other mobile platforms are not able to support this “disruptive” type of technology.  However, we are monitoring this for possible future development.  To learn more about this technology Click here.
Erica: Are you presently working on any other projects to help struggling readers?
Joan: We are currently collaborating with another company to create a new program with e-books, online courses and materials specifically for readers with dyslexia.  In addition, another company has recently requested our new Reading Focus Cards app’s assistance in allowing challenged younger readers to more easily read its new series of e-books soon to be published.
_________________________

I want to thank Joan for taking the time to share all this great information with us.  You can purchase the reading focus card on Amazon (also linked below) and the App on the Mac Apple Store button. You can also purchase products directly on Joan’s website and learn how to get the software for Windows PC


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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BeeLine Reader: Dyslexia and ADHD Technology Improves Word Tracking Abilities

When reading, do you ever find it difficult to track from one line to the next?  This can be tricky for anyone when reading small text, but for many struggling readers, it remains to be a pervasive problem.

A Better Solution
In the past, students have used a finger, highlighter or bookmark to keep place.  In addition, some Apps, such as Dream Reader, will even highlight a line of text or even individual words when text is read aloud.  But wouldn’t it be nice to drop some of those tools and be able to visually scan text with ease? BeeLine Reader, offers a new, ingenious concept that can morph text on the internet and your electronic devices with the use of color.

I was recently contacted by Nick Lum, the founder of BeeLine Reader, and once I saw his

Nick Lum

innovative concept, I asked if I could interview him for this blogpost:

1) What is the history of BeeLine Reader and why was it created?

The idea behind BeeLine Reader is to adapt reading—which has historically been done on printed paper—for the digital era. Digitization has changed so many things about how we interact with written material: emails can be sent much faster than snail-mail, and you can fit a thousand ebooks on a handheld device. But despite these advances in the way we transmit and store written material, the way in which we ingest it is basically the same as it was on paper. Why is this? We never used to read in color on paper because printing in color is expensive. But on smartphones and tablets, color is costless. So the question becomes: is there anything you can do with color to make reading more efficient? The answer is yes, and this is precisely what our technology does. Our eye-guiding color gradients are designed to take advantage of the way your visual processing system works when you’re reading. This wasn’t possible—or at least practical—on paper, but on digital devices its a snap. We’ve created several tools that make this concept a reality, and in the last year readers all over the world have read millions of pages using BeeLine Reader.
2) Do you have your own personal interest in BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine Reader started as an idea for making digital reading more efficient, but we quickly learned that it is much more than that. The reaction from the accessibility community—which we did not set out to target—has been tremendous, and it has changed the way we approach the technology. We have heard so many stories from people young and old who have struggled to read for their entire lives, and it is has been an incredible experience to work with them on products that have such a deep impact on their ability to read, learn, and work.

3) What populations are served by using BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine’s technology is designed to help all readers, but it is particularly helpful for readers with vision impairments, dyslexia, and attention deficits. Vision therapists and dyslexia researchers are doing studies to better understand how BeeLine is interacting with various cognitive and visual differences to generate extraordinary gains for certain populations of readers. 

4) What are your long-term goals for BeeLine Reader? 

Ultimately, we want to see BeeLine adopted as part of universal design and accessibility. Although BeeLine has potent benefits for the accessibility community, it is helpful for the vast majority (over 85%) of readers. Interestingly, it works in every language we’ve tried it in, and we have users reading in 100 languages. Given this broad appeal, the long-term goal is to have BeeLine integrated with many devices and platforms so that it can be used by anyone to read anything.

5) Do you have a testimonial that you would like to share?

We’ve received many emails, tweets, and posts from users who find BeeLine to be helpful for them. Some of our users have reading difficulties, and others are unimpaired readers who simply enjoy being able to read a bit easier and faster:
  • “Wow, It feels like the first time I tried glasses. It completely removes any chances of me missing a line. I have a low dyslexia and this just works. Thank you!!”
  • “Do you have any idea how helpful this is for dyslexia? OMG I can follow this text! The words and lines are not blurring together! I can READ!”
  • “I don’t think you understand just how awesome this is, as someone with ADD, I have a lot of trouble reading. This was the first time I have ever read a paragraph uninterrupted.” 
  • “As someone with sight difficulties, this is amazing. I wish all books were like this, I may read a lot more.”
  • “Having tried BeeLine Reader and found that it makes reading both easier and faster, I really wish I could use it with all of my readings [as a PhD student at Berkeley]. Honestly, it might be the best improvement since I started wearing glasses.”
6) Do you have any links that you would like me to use?

Our website is www.BeeLineReader.com. Our free browser plugins are at www.BeeLineReader.com/install, and our PDF converter is at www.BeeLineReader/pdf. It might be worth mentioning that we’ll have an iPhone/iPad app released within a few weeks. People can sign up for our mailing list (on our website) to get updates on new product releases, scientific studies, etc.

Being dyslexic myself, I have already been using the technology, and I couldn’t be more excited about spreading the word to my followers and associates.  I want to personally thank Nick for reaching out to me and for creating this truly outstanding product. 

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Audiobooks for Students with Disabilities: Comparing BookShare and Learning Ally

Audiobooks are wonderful learning options that make reading accessible to students with a variety of learning preferences as well as disabilities.  For some time, they have been available at a cost on sites like Audible.com where books are read by actors or authors.  However, they are often a costly choice that many can not afford.   Luckily, free options on sites like Project Gutenberg and others are wonderful, but sadly they only offer audiobooks that are in the public domain.  What about individuals with visual impairments, physical disabilities and learning disabilities that impact reading? Are there any options for this population of learners?  

Audiobooks for Individuals with Disabilities that Impact Reading:
Both BookShare and Learning Ally are two online sites that offer audiobooks for individuals with print-based disabilities.  They conduct business under the exception
to U.S. copyright law
 which
permits the availability of copyrighted text to people with qualifying
disabilities.  BookShare and Learning Ally safeguards that
only qualified individuals can use this service by requiring applicants to register as members and provide proof of disability.

Who Can Certify a Disability for Membership?

School
Affiliated:
  • Special education teacher
  • Learning
    disability specialist
  • Teacher of the visually impaired
  • School
    psychologist
  • Resource
    specialist

Medical
Professionals:
  • Family doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optometrist
  • Neurologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical
    psychologist

Other
Certification:
  • Prior Certification
    with Learning Ally or BookShare



How Do BookShare and Learning Ally Compare?
BookShare and Learning Ally are constantly upgrading their systems and adding new materials. So the following table is up to date as of October 2014:

Where Can I Learn More?
Besides the websites of BookShare and Learning Ally, you can also check out their brochures:

BookShare Brochures:

Learning Ally Brochures: 

Each person will have their own preference when choosing a audiobook provider, however, to assure people with print disabilities have access to all the resources
they need, consider joining both BookShare
and Learning Ally.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Podcast

Go Dyslexia Episode 8: Dyslexia: Building Vocabulary & Semantic Skills with Infercabulary

This is Dr. Erica Warren’s 12th Go Dyslexia video podcast: Dyslexia: Building Vocabulary and Semantic Skills with Infercabulary, featuring Guest Beth Lawrence and Host Dr. Erica Warren.

https://youtu.be/WVZkHFXPKo8

This video podcast shares my most recent interview featuring dyslexia expert Beth Lawrence, MA, CCC-SLP. Beth is an Orton Gillingham trained, certified speech-language pathologist, and CEO of Communication Apptitude (dba InferCabulary and WordQuations).

This is the 12th of many free video podcasts for Go Dyslexia!   During the video podcast, Beth and I talk about Infercabulary, a fun and multisensory online site that offers vocabulary and semantic reasoning development exercises and assessments. Beth talks about the importance of developing language skills and also provides a quick description of her app, WordQuations and assessment, Test of Semantic Reasoning.

What is Infercabulary? Infercabulary is a fun online site that develops the language skills semantic reasoning and vocabulary.  Instead of asking students to memorize complex language-definitions, students can now learn to use semantic reasoning skills to actively infer the meaning of words based on seeing five images of the word used in different contexts.  The activities use visual and audio cues to present lessons and game-like assessments that make the process both fun and memorable.  I have now implemented this software into my own private practice for session activities as well as home-fun assignments (I don’t give homework, I give optional home-fun suggestions). The best parts is I can track my student’s progress and growth. This is a dynamic tool that can be used by parents, teachers, learning specialists, reading specialist, educational therapists and more.

Get 30% off Infercabulary: If you would like to purchase Infercabulary, they are offering a special promotion for my audience.  Simply use coupon code GoDyslexia at checkout to receive 30% off!

Important Links Mentioned in this Podcast:

URL to Video Podcast: https://youtu.be/WVZkHFXPKo8

This is Dr. Erica Warren’s 12th Go Dyslexia video podcast: Dyslexia: Building Vocabulary and Semantic Skills with Infercabulary, featuring Guest Beth Lawrence and Host Dr. Erica Warren.

https://youtu.be/WVZkHFXPKo8

This video podcast shares my most recent interview featuring dyslexia expert Beth Lawrence, MA, CCC-SLP. Beth is an Orton Gillingham trained, certified speech-language pathologist, and CEO of Communication Apptitude (dba InferCabulary and WordQuations).

This is the 12th of many free video podcasts for Go Dyslexia!   During the video podcast, Beth and I talk about Infercabulary, a fun and multisensory online site that offers vocabulary and semantic reasoning development exercises and assessments. Beth talks about the importance of developing language skills and also provides a quick description of her app, WordQuations and assessment, Test of Semantic Reasoning.

What is Infercabulary? Infercabulary is a fun online site that develops the language skills semantic reasoning and vocabulary.  Instead of asking students to memorize complex language-definitions, students can now learn to use semantic reasoning skills to actively infer the meaning of words based on seeing five images of the word used in different contexts.  The activities use visual and audio cues to present lessons and game-like assessments that make the process both fun and memorable.  I have now implemented this software into my own private practice for session activities as well as home-fun assignments (I don’t give homework, I give optional home-fun suggestions). The best parts is I can track my student’s progress and growth. This is a dynamic tool that can be used by parents, teachers, learning specialists, reading specialist, educational therapists and more.

Get 30% off Infercabulary: If you would like to purchase Infercabulary, they are offering a special promotion for my audience.  Simply use coupon code GoDyslexia at checkout to receive 30% off!

Important Links Mentioned in this Podcast:

URL to Video Podcast: https://youtu.be/WVZkHFXPKo8

Audio version from iTunes:

Come Check out all my Video Podcasts: https://godyslexia.com/dyslexia-podcasts/

Come check out my Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/warrenerica1

Online store: http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/

YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCClFD…

Monthly Newsletter: http://bit.ly/1CYVT79

Learning Specialist Courses: http://www.learningspecialistcourses….

Private practice: http://learningtolearn.biz

Blog: http://learningspecialistmaterials.bl…

Dyslexia resources: http://www.dyslexiamaterials.com

Dyslexia video podcast, video blogs, & resources: https://www.godyslexia.com

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