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Why Assistive Technology Is Essential To Successful Outcomes For Dyslexic Learners.

dyslexic learner graduating

John Hicks
This article will help you to understand the importance of having an open mind in letting your dyslexic learner use technology to help them study.  It may be that you already believe this but you are trying to convince your school to support your child.  Then this blog article is for you.

In a recent post, I said that I believed that there were three essential elements that needed to be in place to generate good academic outcomes for a dyslexic learner by boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

In this post, I would like to give you some simple reasons why using assistive technology to support your dyslexic learner is essential.
Firstly let me take you on a history lesson on what is probably the oldest example of assistive technology.

The History Of The Pencil.

Click here to view the Brain Pickings source for the pencil.
Nicholas Jacques-Conte - Pencil Inventor - Courtesy of Brain Pickings
The common pencil is so under-appreciated and yet in many regards is used in all walks of life.  Whilst more recently pens have replaced pencils for writing (mostly), the pencil is just possibly one of the oldest examples of assistive technology.
I know that you will probably disagree with this given the current technological age, but the pencil was invented in France in 1795 by a Napoleonic scientist called Nicholas Jacques-Conte.
Conte worked out how to get graphite formulated in a way that it could be used to write and put wood around the graphite so that it could be held.  It was in its day a disruptive piece of technology.  It was a lot more practical than the quill and a bottle of ink especially when out and about travelling.  It enabled people to have easy access to getting their thoughts down on paper.  The wooden surround of the pencil made the process of writing so much easier than earlier uses of graphite, for example, the Aztecs who used forms of carbon to mark and write symbols.

So my point here is that in the modern age there is a huge emphasis on the use of handwriting to communicate ideas or learning in the education environment and the pencil still plays a huge part.  In a way, it unlocked the potential of millions, if not billions of people to get what is in their mind down on paper.  It is accepted 'technology' that we all use in one way or another.

The pencil was the bridge between what was in one's mind and getting that communicated.

Ok, so what has that to do with what we know assistive technology to be now?

The principle remains the same.  In this technological age we have the tools to support anyone (pretty much) with the process of communicating what is in their head or from a study perspective, empower them to be able to learn.
When I was a lad in school, I used a pencil to write down my notes.  In theory, this was great, but for me I found it tiring to write and the quality of my note taking was often poor.  Added to this, my cognitive capacity to read those notes for revision purposes was often reached too soon and those notes were simply tiring for me to read especially when I felt stressed about exams.

Personally, I found a computer keyboard to be ideal for me to write with (it is what I am doing now).  It is less tiring than writing with a pencil or a pen and of course, with using a computer I am able to write clearly and concisely.
Bully for me!  I can type!  But what if I struggled to be able to type the words that I need to express myself?
For some, dyslexic learners, they will know what they want to write down but for some reason, it doesn't decode into their fingers and onto the page.  So they need another way to get that information
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out there.
For me, I get very tired reading and that can happen in literally minutes from when I start.  So sometimes having the text read out to me is useful and the information goes into my head that way.

We all deserve to be able to express ourselves and learn and dyslexia can be a barrier to that process.  In the same way, not having a pencil in 1795 became so frustrating that Conte invented one.  Conte used technology to remove the barrier and the whole world accepted it.

We now have technologies that can read out textbooks, or that huge essay that you have spent hours writing and editing.  We have magical pens that can scan text in exam papers and read out that text.  We even have dictation software that can take your dictation and convert that into the written word.  There is a tonne of technology out there that makes reading, writing, studying and revising so much easier and which levels the playing field for a student who starts school with barriers to learning through being dyslexic.

Why aren't these technologies not mainstream in schools today?

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