How useful is ICT in making mainstream secondary education dyslexia-friendly? A policy of inclusion, even when supported by special provision, means that most, if not all, dyslexic pupils' learning takes place in the mainstream classroom. So does ICT have a role in making it work?
Some of the early claims about voice recognition programs and talking word-processors compensating for learning difficulties have fallen by the wayside. Not only has this technology proved unreliable, it fails what some teachers claim is the acid test: peer group approval.
Judith Stansfield, a retired secondary school teacher and member of the British Dyslexia Association's computer committee, argues that peer pressure is the critical factor in using ICT to support inclusion.
One area Ms Stansfield believes is under-exploited is the use of computers to differentiate lesson plans. Word-processors, for example, allow you to change the font size, increase white space, quickly change a long sentence with several subordinate clauses into bullet points, number tasks, highlight, add graphics or colour-coding and change the vocabulary.
Computers also produce support material to a professional standard. "Most children -nbsp; not just those who are dyslexic - struggle with science vocabulary," says Ms Stansfield. Her solution was to put flash-cards on the wall and give a printed word list to pupils who found copying from the cards difficult. "It made a huge difference to all the children," she says.
Becta, the government agency promoting ICT in education, has an information sheet at www.becta.org.uktechnology infosheetshtmldyslexia.html and publishes an online guide, Dyslexia and ICT: building on success, pound;6.50, at www.becta.org.ukbooks special_frame.htm
Join the mailing list for Sencos at: www.becta.org.ukinclusion discussionsenfor.html
The NgFL has a special educational needs section at inclusion.ngfl.gov.uk
The British Dyslexia Association's website is at www.bda-dyslexia . org.uk
iANSYST, a supplier of dyslexia software and hardware, has a useful website at www.dyslexic.com
Folens Publishing, tel: 01582 470821; email: Folens@Folens.com
A longer version of this article appears in this week's Friday magazine