Thursday, 5 June 2014

Apps And Supportive Software (friend or foe?) by Dyslexia Dublin © 2014

There are several areas to explore on the question of apps and supportive software.
Many would believe that products are designed to support and improve a child or adult’s ability to read, write and spell more fluently.  Is this true or are they just a crutch that, when removed, put the child or adult back to square one?

If the technology supports the learner, will it be accepted in the class and further still in exams?  Many children with dyslexia or dyspraxia or even those with a specific learning need don’t all have statements and many would not be allocated resource software, as they would not be statemented dyslexic and very few as dyscalculic.  Also, is that software allowed in exams?…it’s often the case that with re-evaluation come Leaving Cert/ A level time, that technology is not always allowed!

Some of the software on offer today has not been evaluated in controlled group situations. This is paramount if we want to ensure students benefit from the possible use of assistive technology.  Much research has been carried out to see if there are such benefits from assistive support, with evidence being sparse to support long term benefits.  How many parents and adult learners are of the belief that this can improve spelling, reading and writing?

Students in a normal class environment are hard to evaluate, as teaching styles and subjects can make a big difference to the learner.  We would need to ask the question of such software… has this been evaluated in a controlled test and what were the outcomes from those tests?…ie. where students in the group with a specific learning need were broken into two groups - one using the support and one not using any support and were the groups of the same academic and not chronological ages?

Children cannot afford to lose any more time when it comes to their education and people need to ask any question they feel is relevant or will benefit for their child… we cannot get months or years down the road to find that we have made a big mistake at this very vital time in their lives.

There are many stories around about some schools being very wary of assistive technology, from coloured lenses/filters/smart pens, through to software.

The other thing to think about is that companies produce assistive technology for profit and, if profits fall, the technology will no longer be produced and you will have to look for replacements, in some cases.  Also, make sure (in the case of software) when committing to a purchase that it can be moved from one machine to another… meltdowns can be avoided if you factor everything in to the equation.

I would say that helping to improve spelling, which in turn improves reading and writing is often the best way forward.

“Assistive and adaptive technology does not "cure" a specific learning disability. These tools compensate rather than remedy” a quote from Washington University.

There is also stigma that needs to be taken into account… how many children would be prepared to use this in class, if it makes them stand out or feel different from their peers?

We are all for anything that will improve someones position, be it in education and on into employment, but it’s worth carrying out your own personal evaluation before you make your decisions… be informed.

Want to find out more about us and what we do or maybe resources to help

NB: this information is for guidance purposes only, you must make your judgements and seeking professional advice is very important.

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