by Stacey Fulton, EASTCONN

A student diagnosed with Dyslexia, poor phonological awareness, impacted by ADHD and speech apraxia was referred to EASTCONN for an AT evaluation, specifically focused on written expression. (The student was using some tools for accessing text and more recommendations were added for reading as a result of the evaluation.) Her handwriting was legible, but due to her very poor phonological awareness, it was difficult to decipher what she was trying to say. Prior to requesting an AT evaluation, the student was utilizing Read & Write’s word prediction feature on a Chromebook, but she was taking excessive amounts of time to complete writing tasks resulting in frustration and eventually shutting down.

One issue was that the student had significant difficulties and took excessive amounts of time just logging into her Chromebook (even when provided with a visual of information for her account). Once logged in, she had difficulties finding the keys on the keyboard quickly. The student was bright, creative and had great ideas, but even the simplest words required a lot of effort and energy for her to spell despite the assistance of Word Prediction. When using the word prediction, she was usually able to come up with the first letter of a word. Each time she typed a letter, she used the text-to-speech features to listen to the long list of words predicted. This required extensive time and energy and the student often became so frustrated, she was allowed to dictate her sentences while the staff scribed for her. Speech-to-text was also trialed by the district using Voice Typing (Google Docs), but because of her poor articulation, there were a significant number of errors (at the one-word level and sentence level).   It was felt that AT programs that provided the words (like Clicker Writer) would limit her ideas and creativity. EASTCONN’s evaluator trialed Co:Writer Universal using topic dictionaries. Use of the topic dictionaries significantly helped this student as the words she wanted to use came up quickly (after 1 or 2 letters) and she was able to select the correct word by listening (out of a choice of 5). In addition, this evaluator trialed Co:Writer on the iPad and found that the student was quicker and more efficient with finding the letters on the on-screen keyboard and accessing the predicted words above the keyboard.   With everything in the same visual plane and no login, she became much more efficient. With the help of these tools, the student can be more independent and successful with some writing tasks, lessening the frustration and increasing the confidence in herself. After a period of time using the recommended tools, the teacher reported: “EASTCONN found tools to unlock so many reading and writing tasks. They loaned us an iPad from their lending library (which proved to be a gamechanger, versus third grade’s traditional use of a Chromebook). After practicing in the resource room, she has now generalized her use of the AT into the general education classroom.”