As our kids enter the middle school years I begin to add the use of assistive technology to their homeschool goals. Dyslexia is not ‘outgrown’ and despite remediation, most dyslexics will benefit from the help of technology well into their adult lives.
Having said that, not all apps are created equally. Take for example, spelling. Most standard spell checkers don’t ‘understand’ the phonetic nature of spelling errors typical of dyslexics. People with dyslexia need a spell checker that checks spelling based on the types of errors typical to dyslexics.
The apps listed here are particularly useful for the types of weaknesses typically found in the dyslexic learner.
Even after remediating our kids’ dyslexia with research-based reading methods (LINK) some of our kids still prefer to be able to listen to text. Some people just learn better auditorily. This category of app includes a variety of what is known as text-to-speech because they literally take the text and convert it to sound – reading aloud to the listener.
Apps that read text aloud, especially those that highlight words as they go make reading a more pleasant and more productive experience. There are also apps that can read PDF documents aloud, apps that convert pictures of text to readable text through optical character recognition (OCR),
Since PDF files are essentially images of documents, they present a problem for basic text-to-speech technology. ClaroPDF is an app that can recognize image text and read it aloud with synchronized highlighting. Unlike most OCR apps, it preserves the formatting of the original document. Includes text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting, annotation tools, ability to add audio and video notes, and Dropbox integration. $6.99
This is a great e-book app for Android devices because it integrates with the operating system’s TalkBack accessibility feature in order to provide continuous text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting. It should be noted that Google Play Books is also available for iOS devices, but that version lacks the “Read Aloud” feature present in the Android app. Includes integrated text-to-speech (“Read Aloud”) with synchronized highlighting, and annotation tools. FREE
Learning Ally is an affordable source for human-narrated audio books. After purchasing an annual membership, users with dyslexia (or vision impairments) can use the mobile app to access and listen to books in Learning Ally’s collection. Includes access to VOICEtext books (human narration synced to printed text), ability to adjust text appearance and reading speed. See this post on how to get a Learning Ally subscription for your kids here. Learn about more sources of audio books here.
Voice Dream Reader (text-to-speech)
Voice Dream Reader has become a favorite reading app for iOS users, and the Android version is currently in beta testing. It contains multiple visual and auditory options that make the reading experience completely customizable for each user. In addition to having the ability to read text from other apps, Voice Dream can also be synced with Bookshare, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Project Gutenberg. It has its own Web browser that can extract just the text from other distracting material found on many Web pages. $14.99
Natural Reader (text-to-speech)
NaturalReader is similar to ClaroSpeak in its basic text-to-speech functioning. Text can be imported from other apps or placed directly into a blank document. The app also features auto-scrolling for longer documents. In addition, it has its own Internet browser that extracts just the text from Web pages for easier reading. Includes text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting, integrated Web browser, and Dropbox integration. iOS $9.99 Android FREE
The Talk app is a basic text-to-speech tool for students who use Android devices. It can read a variety of text, such as website articles, stories from news apps, and copy-and-pasted email messages. Includes text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting, various visual and auditory settings, and the ability to export text as audio files. Android $2.80
Web Reader (text-to-speech)
Web Reader uses text-to-speech to read web pages, blogs, and other online content aloud. $1.99
Many students with dyslexia also struggle with writing or dysgraphia. Dysgraphia can be caused by motor issues, vision issues, or a variety of processing issues. Writing apps can utilize word prediction, dictation, contextual spelling and grammar checking, and word retrieval tools to make the writing process easier.
Sometimes, traditional spell-checkers do not catch every error in a piece of writing, such as when students use incorrect homonyms. Ginger Page is a word processing app with a contextual spelling and grammar checker. It looks at entire sentences as units while searching for errors. It also has a unique rephrasing tool that suggests better word choices for a piece of writing. Includes contextual spell and grammar checking, rephrasing tool, text-to-speech for proofreading, integrated dictionary and thesaurus. $3.99
Workbooks and photocopied worksheets can be problematic for students with dyslexia. During normal OCR (Optical Character Recognition), the formatting is often lost for fill-in-the-blank and matching exercises, a problem that makes it difficult to use AT to insert answers. SnapType solves that problem by giving users the ability to overlay text boxes on photos of worksheets. Students can then use a keyboard to place their responses in the correct spaces. $4.99
One of the best tools to use for spelling assistance is word prediction. Co:Writer lets students practice their knowledge of phonics while providing an important accommodation. The app’s keyboard predicts the word a user is trying to write after only a few characters are typed. It bases its predictions on the context of particular sentences and on how well students sound out words they cannot spell correctly. $19.99
Like other iOS word prediction tools, Spell Better acts as a basic word processor that provides spelling support by suggesting words as characters are typed. It has two unique features, however, that are worth noting. First, if students tap and hold a selection in the word prediction bar, the app will provide the pronunciation and dictionary definition. Second, students can have all of the word prediction choices read out loud in the order they appear before making a selection. FREE
This app allows you to type in a word phonetically (based on how it sounds) and it will come up with the actual spelling of the word. It also provides definitions to help you understand the meaning of the word. FREE
This app uses word prediction and has a sophisticated spelling error model to help you focus on the content of your writing. Typ-O is able to identify the most common spelling mistakes and will often suggest words. $14.99
Ghotit Real Writer assists people with dyslexia and dysgraphia in their English writing and text correction.
The application corrects badly spelled words, confused words, homophones, grammar, and punctuation like no other writing assistance tool and offers advanced word prediction with grammar and phonetics awareness capabilities.
The main features:
– Phonetic and context-sensitive spell checker;
– Word-Prediction with grammar and phonetics awareness;
– Quick-Spell Word-Prediction with instant correction for creative/phonetic writers;
– Advanced grammar and punctuation corrector;
– Effective proofreader;
– Speak as you write (speech feedback);
– Reading assistance with dual highlighting;
– Independent text editor;
– Importing and sharing of text with other iPad applications;
– Integrated dictionaries;
– US, UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African English dictionaries;
– AirPrint compatible.
Note Taking and Study Skills Apps
There are several apps that make it easier to generate multi-sensory notes, along with apps that can be used to create multi-sensory electronic flashcards that promote effective, independent study.
Electronic flashcards have several advantages over traditional ones created with index cards. The biggest advantage for students with dyslexia is that they can use text-to-speech technology to study their cards independently. Flashcards Deluxe is perhaps the most full-featured flashcard app available. It has integrated text-to-speech, the ability to create more than two sides for each card, the ability add images to all sides, and multiple visual options for customization. Includes text-to-speech, multiple card sides, integration with Quizlet, Dropbox, and Google Drive iOS — $3.99, Android — $3.99
Quizlet (flash card app)
Create your own flashcards or choose from millions created by other Quizlet users on thousands of subjects. App can read flash cards to you. Lots of fun review games. FREE
Notetaker HD handles all of your handwritten notes, diagrams, and drawings in one place. You can annotate PDF files, shrink text to fit on the screen, and customize how your notes are organized.
Note Taker HD lets you create pages by writing on the screen with your finger or an iPad-compatible stylus. You can either write directly on the page for large drawings, or have the “ink” you write shrunk down. You can write in large letters on the screen rather than trying to make tiny motions like a pencil. You just keep writing and Note Taker HD automatically adds new writing next to the old. To quickly correct mistakes, it has multi-level undo and redo buttons as well as an eraser — just drag your finger over the page to erase the “ink” under it. $4.99
Mental Note is a full-featured note-taking app for Apple devices that allows students to create customized, multi-sensory notes. In addition to typing or dictating text, students can add voice notes, sketches, and photos. Includes multiple visual options for notepaper, Dropbox integration, ability to protect notes with a password, and ability to use tags to organize notes. $4.99
Notability is another option for multi-sensory note-taking. It is packed with features and options, including rich-text formatting, audio recording, sketching, and highlighting. In addition, students can add multiple forms of media, including photos, Web clips, and sticky notes. Completed notes can be exported to Dropbox and Google Drive and opened in other apps. Including audio recording and multiple options for creating and sharing multi-sensory notes. $7.99
ModMath is an adaptive program to assist students in acquiring math skills from basic arithmetic to complex algebraic equations. The app lets you type math problems right onto the touch screen of an iPad rather than write them out long-hand. You can then solve the problems using the built-in touch pad. And you can print, save to cloud services like Dropbox, or e-mail the assignments all without ever picking up a pencil.
This app helps you learn multiplication visually by displaying graphically rich multiplication tables. $5.99
Mindmapping and Organization Apps
When my dyslexic kids can organize their thoughts and ideas visually, they are much better able to be organized and express their ideas. These apps help kids do just that.
ANIMATE YOUR THINKING
• Create slides using an infinite canvas, use a laser pointer, draw in any color, add shapes, text,
math equations, videos, images and audio files.
• Rotate, move, scale, flip, copy, paste, clone and lock any object added to the stage.
• Record everything you do within the app (even yourself while using the front-facing camera)
to create high quality, creative and valuable content for others to learn from!
• Prepare lessons, tutorials, guides of any kind and upload them as videos to YouTube or
Vimeo to share with others.
• Insert Math Equation Objects to add structures, symbols, equations, and functions which
can be graphed on a coordinate plane.
A very powerful tool for the visual thinkers in your home. $5.99
Ideament (used to be Idea Sketch)
Ideament lets you easily draw a diagram (mind map, concept map, or flow chart), convert it to a text outline, and vice versa. It can be used to brainstorm new ideas, illustrate concepts, make lists and outlines, plan presentations, create organizational charts, and more. FREE
MindMeister (mind mapping)
This cloud-based tool lets students create mind maps to structure their thoughts, prepare reports, summarize books, study for exams, and much more. It’s simple and intuitive, offers many export options (Word, PDF, PowerPoint etc.), and features a built-in presentation mode. FREE
Parents can use FTVS to create schedules that combine images, text, sound and even video for their kids, who may find them more fun and easier to follow than text-only schedules. Kids can rate their own progress and customize schedules according to their learning styles. Any schedules you create can be saved, shared electronically or printed. $14.99
This app “by dyslexic people for dyslexic people” has a suite of useful assistive technology features for older kids with dyslexia. One feature is a type pad with word prediction software that can help kids create messages for text, email and social media. Another is a digital overlay for reading text through a color screen. There’s also a digital document reader (for purchase) that takes photos of text and reads them aloud.
How about you? Which apps have helped your dyslexic students?