Changed beyond all recognition

28th November 1997 at 00:00
Judy Thomas enthuses about software that has liberated her dyslexic son.

Many dyslexic people are finding that a portable computer with voice recognition software is one of the most invaluable learning tools.

Working with computers makes use of dyslexics' often highly developed - although usually unrecognised - visual-spatial and kinaesthetic senses. The ability to compose mental pictures for individual words is not helpful when reading is taught using a mainly phonetic approach. But voice recognition software allows dyslexics to learn naturally and without strain, and software is becoming more efficient as prices continue to drop.

My 10-year-old dyslexic son has been trained to use Dragon Dictate and Keystone, packages we bought on the recommendation of a friend who is severely dyslexic and who has struggled with literacy throughout school, university and work. After using and teaching the system for two years she is convinced it has transformed her life and is eager for the education system to recognise exactly how and why it is so liberating. Life was too short to learn to spell, or so she thought - now she is of a very different opinion.

Her success in reading, writing and spelling is far from unique. Dragon Dictate and Keystone have enabled Emma Elliott and her students at Bilston Community College, Wolverhampton, to speak and write coherently. The software works efficiently when speaking slowly, which enables the user to hear and see the written word. In the past, Emma needed to speak quickly in a vain attempt to keep up with her thoughts. Only when the software required her to slow down her speech did she find the key to success. She became aware of how her visual strengths played a major part in coding and decoding.

Fluency with words brought added bonuses. Her emotional blocks to learning dissolved. Because she is now free to express herself, she appreciates the beauty of language. The more she writes, the more she understands - and the further away she gets from the vicious circle of failure she knew so well. She is now writing a book, a lot of it by hand, having never read a book before.

The software she uses was developed specifically for the blind, deaf and dyslexic and those with restricted physical ability. The voice recognition specialists at Aptech Ltd in Newcastle upon Tyne have had the good sense to develop the software in line with requests and observations from dyslexic users. They have produced a package which is changing lives, and further developments in the pipeline promise even more efficient technology tailored to dyslexic ability.

Aptech: Aptech House, Meadowfield, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne NE20 9SD. Tel: 01661 860999

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