Reading and Writing Difficulties: Software Solutions.

Learner using mind map software

If you're looking for software solutions to support learners with reading and writing difficutlies...look no further!

Word prediction, mind mapping, touch typing and text-to-speech software programs are just a few of the many resources that can help to support struggling learners.

We provide a comprehensive list of these programs and give a brief overview of each one. Assist-I.T. can provide training on a range of software programs.

For more information about our training courses select this link

Features in this section:

Word Prediction

Organisational Skills and Mind Maps

Text to Speech, Spell Checking and Phonetic Support Software

Voice Recognition Software

Dyslexia Detection Software

Word Prediction

What is word prediction?

Word prediction programs can be very helpful for learners with reading and writing difficulties. Word prediction, sometimes known as lexicon prediction software offers suggested words as text is entered into the computer.

Usually used alongside a word processor, word prediction can help people with additional educational needs in a number of ways, for example to increase data input and accuracy.

As text is entered the prediction program will offer a list of suggested words, based on the letters entered, for example if 't' is typed a list of words related to 't' will appear in the prediction area: 'to', 'the' etc . Prediction packages usually offer a range of options which can allow them to be tailored to suit the individual, the precise features can vary in detail from program to program.

Penfriend XP

Penfriend logo

Penfriend XP is a great software program for people with reading and writing difficulties. One of the great strengths of Penfriend is its word prediction. But Penfriend has so much more to offer. With its speech feedback, on-screen keyboard and numerous other features, Penfriend can bring a number of benefits to learners with dyslexia and those who have difficulties using a standard keyboard.

Penfriend prediction

Typing a letter prompts Penfriend to display a new list of the most likely words which fit the typed letters. Choosing one is a simple matter of pressing a key or clicking on the word with the mouse.

If you are not sure how to read it, you can hear it spoken before you choose a word.

Penfriend can read back whole paragraphs (or more) of text from other applications using the clipboard. This might be a Word document, a web page or an email.

Learning text from a text file or the clipboard is very easy and can be saved to a topic lexicon for specific subjects such as social sciences, biology or chemistry etc.

Penfriend onscreen keyboad

For people either with physical disabilities affecting their use of a keyboard, or for those who are unable to glance repeatedly between the screen and keyboard, Penfriend XP offers an on-screen keyboard.

For a detailed explanation, you can download a free demonstration at: Penfriend or contact Penfriend Ltd at: 30 South Oswald Road, EdinburghEH9 2HG, Tel: 0131 668 2000.

Penfriend Video Tutorials

Click the links below to download video tutorials on Penfriend XP. The first tutorial explores some of the introductory features of Penfriend while the second looks at the versatile features of the Clipboard and Lexicon.

These tutorials are in Macromedia Flash format and are approximately 2 MB each to download.

Click here to download the Penfriend video (Windows)

Click here to download the Penfriend video (Mac)

Learn how to use Penfriend's Clipboard and Lexicon.

Click here to download the Clipboard video

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Co:Writer 4000

Co:Writer 4000 is a flexible and easy-to-use lexicon prediction program. This is a great tool for struggling writers and can be set up to meet a range of learning needs, for example the 'Flexible Spelling' tool can help with learners who have phonetic difficulties with spelling.

Co:Writer will work alongside a range of Windows and MAC based programs, for example MS Word and e-mail. One of the great strengths of Co:Writer is the way it can discreetly sit at the bottom of the screen without being too obtrusive.

As well as having a number of topic dictionaries for curriculum subjects such as Geography or History it is possible to add your own customised words/lexicon.

Another option is to consider using Don Johnson's SOLO which integrates Co:Writer, Draft Builder and Write OutLoud into one integrated package.

You can find out more about Don Johnson's learning 'intervention' software by selecting this link

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Gus Prediction

Gus Prediction is a basic and simple to use word prediction program. You can download the 30 day trial version here and try see if word prediction will help you with your writing skills.

Download Gus Prediction

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Organisation skills and Mind Maps

What are mind maps?

Mind Mapping was created and developed by Tony Buzan. Mind Mapping is a tool that helps you to learn, generate plans and ideas, record and recall information. The method uses both sides of the brain with an emphasis on right brain, 'whole picture' thinking.

Mind mapping assumes that thought is not necessarily linear and that thinking and learning is best carried out when words and information are linked or associated together and to existing knowledge. It is a highly visual technique using colour, symbols, pictures and limited words.

The process of mind mapping requires you to be consciously involved helping you to organise your ideas and thoughts easily, as you can return to different concepts and add, link and rearrange as much as is required. Mind Mapping is a fun way of carrying out tasks such as structuring stories or preparing for essays.

Inspiration and Kidspiration

Inspiration mind mapping software

Inspiration 7.6 is an easy to use program to strengthen critical thinking, comprehension,and writing across the curriculum, in language arts, science and social studies. It is particularly useful for students who need to structure research or other thought processes.

Inspiration uses integrated diagrams and outlining environments which work together to help students comprehend concepts and information.

Created for younger learners, Kidspiration provides an easy way to apply the proven principles of visual learning. Pupils can build colourful, graphic and engaging diagrams (mind maps) by combining pictures, text and spoken words to represent thoughts and information.

Select this link to visit the Kidspiration website and download a trial version

You can find out more about Inspiration by selecting this link and follow the interactive demo at the Inspiration web site

You will need Macromedia Shockwave to view the demo, download it here

Click here to download an Inspiration tutorial (introduction)

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Inspiration and Palm OS

OS Palm Inspiration mind maps

If you have a Palm OS PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) then you can use Inspiration for Palm to complement your studying. Inspiration for Palm OS offers similar features to the desktop version together with capabilities that maximise the natural ease and versatility of handhelds.

OS Palm mind maps

For example, you can change from diagram view to outline instantly! It is possible to capture ideas quickly with RapidFire and you can easily add details with Notes text.

It is also easy to manage notes and subtopics with Quick controls.

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Mind Manager

Mind Manager enables you to create mind maps on the computer quickly and easily, ensuring all your creative talents go towards the content and not the aesthetics of each mind map.

Select this link to find out more about Mind Manager and to try out a 21 day trial version

Mind mapping software for free!

Free mindmapping software

FreeMind software is a mind mapping software that can be downloaded for free. It might not contain the range of features that many of the more popular programs offer but it works just as well.

Download your free mind mapping software here!

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Text to Speech, Spell Checking and Phonetic Support Software

Many learners who struggle with reading and writing can benefit from using a multi-sensory approach to learning, for example using a computer program that will read text aloud or identify spelling mistakes and provide verbal explanations or definitions of the word or phrase.

Multi-sensory programs allow learners to use strengths in one area, for example, visual processing to compensate for a weakness in another, such as auditory-verbal processing and/or physical processing such as memory. The following programs provide a range or tools to help promote independence for those individuals who find traditional methods of learning difficult or impossible.

TextHELP Read and Write

TextHELP logo

Texthelp Read & Write has been specifically designed for users with dyslexia and provides a range of tools to help access and compose and read written and on-screen material. TextHELP features include speech feedback, a phonetic spell checker, word prediction, a dictionary and talking calculator.

There are two versions of TextHELP Read and Write; Gold and Standard. The Gold version has additional features such as 'scanning and Optical Character Recognition (scan a document and hear it read back), and Fact Folder, an excellent utility for capturing information from websites and other relevant information.

It is also possible to record information and save it in either WAV or MP3 format so that it can be played on a portable device at a later stage, for example an MP3 player such as an iPod.

TextHELP menu bar

The Teacher's Toolkit enables teachers, administrators or parents to customise Read & Write to meet the requirements of the individual; including turning on or off functions (such as the spell checker during exams) and monitor spelling mistakes and usage logs.

The style of the toolbar can be customised to be appropriate to the age of the user. Users can chose whether they want basic or advanced word lists and definitions in the dictionary, word prediction list and homophone checker.

If you have someone who is new to a computer TextHELP may not necessarily be the best option, particularly as some of the features require a good grounding into I.T. and requires a reasonable level of computing skills.

You can find out more about TextHELP Read and Write by selecting this link

Click here to download a TextHELP Read and Write tutorial

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Kurzweil 1000 / 3000

Kurzweil logo

There are a number of programs available for scanning text into the computer. Kurzweil 1000 is used by people with a visual impairment while Kurzweil 3000 is for those with dyslexia and/or other related difficulties reading text.

Both Kurzweil 1000 and 3000 are fast and easy to use scanning programs and contain a number of accessible features.

For example, scanned text can be read back, words and sentences are highlighted as it is read and text and sizes can be adjusted to suit different needs.

Scanned text can also be manipulated and bookmarked if required. Both Kurzweil 1000 and 3000 have spellcheckers, dictionaries and other tools to help with spelling or other literacy and visual difficulties.

Visit the Sight and Sound website to find out more about Kurzweil

Click here for an on-line Kurzweil demonstration

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ScreenReader 4

ScreenReader 4 bar

ScreenReader 4 is designed by TextHELP to allow learners to read text in a word processor, the Internet and e-mail programs.

ScreenReader 4 has user-friendly tool bar, which allows your PC to read text in any windows based application. A great utility for younger learners or someone new to computing but requires some additional support with reading and writing.

Visit the TextHELP website to find out more about ScreenReader 4

Download a trial version of ScreenReader 4 by selecting this link

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Voice Recognition Software

Dragon NaturallySpeaking software

Voice Recognition software allow people to control a computer by speaking to it through a microphone, either entering text, or giving commands to the computer, e.g. to open or close a program, or to print a document.

In some circumstance voice recognition can be useful for a learner with reading and writing difficulties but can involve a steep learning curve, for example, learning voice commands and knowing when to correct spelling mistakes or a misinterpreted words.

In recent years, speech systems have improved considerably both in accuracy and the speed in which it takes to 'train' or develop a voice model for each user.

PC based systems include Dragon NaturallySpeaking and IBM ViaVoice. Microsoft have included their own speech recognition system within recent versions of Windows.

For more information on Dragon NaturallySpeaking software select this link

Assist-I.T. offer courses on voice recognition, to find out more click here

For a comprehensive overview of voice recognition you can download a 13 page info sheet from the CALL Centre

Select this link to see for yourself the potential of voice recognition - a demo from Voice Power

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Talking Calculator

Support for numeracy can often be overlooked for learners struggling with basic adding and subtracting. Sometimes a hearing the numbers read out can help. Talking Calculator is a fully functioning calculator to carry out all your E=MC2 and other calculations.

Download it here

Dyslexia Detection Software

Recently developed software now makes it possible to screen for dyslexic indicators (although this should always be used in conjunction with other forms of detection) for as early as age 4 up to adult. For many people who are familiar with computer use of ICT, particularly children, it can provide a non-threatening method of detection.

One positive outcome of dyslexia software detection it that it can indicate the direction that further assessment might take.

Dyslexia screener software

Dyslexia Screener is an innovative, computer-based assessment designed to help you identify pupils with dyslexic tendencies. As an initial diagnostic tool, it enables you to distinguish between poor reading ability and dyslexia, and gives advice on next steps.

Dyslexia Screener includes adaptive testing which provides relevant information, instant scoring and analysis with immediate results. It is simple to administer and accessible to use and is suitable for a wide range of pupils. Dyslexia Screener has been designed by experts in dyslexia assessment and diagnosis.

To find out more about Dyslexia Screener you can visit the SEMERC website by selecting this link

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Keeping up-to-date with developments

We are constantly updating this section with new information, downloads and links. If you would like to know more about our services to assist people with reading and writing difficulties, please get in touch.

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