Education/Use of Assistive Technology to Remediate Reading Disabilities in High School Students term paper 41348

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This study deals on the use of assistive technologies to remediate reading disabilities in high school children. Reading disabilities affect the learning process of children and cause school dropouts. Remediation to RD becomes one of the major challenges in education management. On the other hand, the recent developments in assistive technology provide several hardware and software solutions to RD. The legislative measure of the government directing schools and local educational bodies to compensate RD in children is a welcome initiative. This calls for a definite course of action with accountability. However, much is left to be done by the schools in terms of drawing the attention of psychologists and training the teachers to diagnose RD in children and revise the educational methodology to suit the needs of children with RD.

Contents Pg. No

Introduction: Reading Disabilities and Assistive Technology 4

Need for reading, its effects on learning and community 4

Reading: Definition and key skills 5

Remediation to Reading Disabilities: History and overview 6

Solutions to Remedy Reading Disabilities 6

Software Solutions to RD 7

Hardware Solutions to RD 8

Implications of AT for school psychologists 9

Implications of AT for school teachers 9

Recommendations 10

Conclusion 10

References 11

Introduction: Reading Disabilities and Assistive Technology

The task of this review is to observe and appraise the current scenario to find answers to three questions related to RD and AT: What are reading disabilities and what are available solutions for remediation?; What is the history of compensating RD with AT in high schools?; and What are the implications of RD and AT to teachers and educational psychologists?

Reading is a quite complex and dynamic process fundamental to acquiring knowledge in any field of study. The ability to read is vital for success at school and life in general (Reed, P. & Lahm, E, 2005). Reading disability in a student could be understood as the difficulty or impossibility to perform a particular task related to reading.

Remediation measures to reading disabilities comprise of compensating the difficulties of children with reading difficulties through innovative teaching strategies and assistive technologies. Assistive Technology is a tool or device that a student with disabilities uses to perform a task, which otherwise would not be possible for him. AT could mean a commercial product or a gadget made by someone implying a low-tech device such as pencil groups or ruler or a high tech device like a computer (Reed & Lahm, 2005).

The need for reading and its effects on learning and community:

During the early years, the schools teach the students how to learn to read, but later, the process shifts to reading to learn. Therefore, reading skills become vital to learning process. Reading helps children to comprehend the text and grasp the content for application and gaining knowledge (Ministry of Education, Ontario, 2003). Name any subject and it is only the child�s ability to read that makes it proficient in the subject.

Depending upon its degree, reading disability can impinge upon a child�s educational performance and consequently can affect its social image and self-confidence. Therefore, finding appropriate Remedial measures to compensate reading disabilities becomes a major concern in education management.

Reading: Definition and key skills

Reading is a complex and dynamic process that forms the foundations for all learning activity in schools. There are five research-based components to reading namely phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to identify and manipulate the identical sounds of spoken words. (Kamil, Mosenthal, Pearson, and Barr, 2000) Children with high levels of phonic awareness perform well in reading over other children with disabilities (National Institute for Literacy, 2003).

Phonics is the correlation between the written letters and the corresponding sounds. Through phonic awareness, children are able to perceive the established connection between a written letters and the spoken sound (National Institute for Literacy, 2003).

Fluency is the bridge between recognizing a word and the ability to comprehend while reading. In other words, it is the capacity to decode the written document and the ability to read with accuracy and uninterrupted flow. Substantial practice over a considerable time develops fluency (National Institute for Literacy, 2003).

Vocabulary is the stock of words and their meanings possessed by a student. There are four areas under vocabulary covering the areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing (Harris and Hodges, 1995).

Comprehension is a complex process involved in the act of reading. The ability to comprehend in a student depends on the student�s prior knowledge and experience and the capacity to process the text fluently. Reading and consequent understanding is in fact not different from comprehending (National Institute for Literacy, 2003)

These five key factors listed above need to be integrated into the instructional process to enhance the reading abilities in children (Rosalie Jorden, 2005). On the other hand, the difficulty of a child in any one of these areas would mean a reading disability.

Remediation to Reading Disabilities: History and overview

How RD is addressed by the schools and the government is quite encouraging. In 2002, the research on reading was extensively reviewed by two national bodies namely the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Reading Panel. Their findings are supplemented with recommendations for remedial actions to compensate reading disabilities also with an invitation for specific approaches to teaching to help children. The goals of the National Reading Panel (NRP) were 1) reviewing the literature regarding the classroom instructional methods; 2) determining the studies that meet the standard criteria; 3) identifying effective approaches to teach reading; and 4) gathering the programs that are ready for classroom implementation (Sally Shaywitz & Bennett Shaywitz, 2002).

Prompted by this research, the legislation passed an act called �No Child Left Behind� which proposes directives to early reading programs for children at schools and expressed its seriousness in ensuring that all children will learn to read. This act called for evidence-based reading instruction with definite provisions for accountability and thus raised the hopes of combating reading difficulties in children. This legislative measure is the best example for a concrete measure to remedy reading disabilities (Sally Shaywitz & Bennett Shaywitz, 2002).

Solutions to Remedy Reading Disabilities

A range of technologies both high and low are available to remedy the reading disabilities of children with poor literacy skills. These solutions operate in two levels. Some technologies support enhancing teaching and learning. Some examples in this regard are software programs for drilling and practicing academic concepts. Other technologies like screen readers and read aloud text on a computer are helpful in assisting the students with disabilities to combat and manage literacy problems and accomplish the tasks more effectively and independently. Quite a many number of assistive devices developed to aid people with visual impairment also prove to be effective with people with reading problems. Therefore, these devices have become popular as AT in schools. (ATIA & SEAT: 2004)

Software Solutions to RD

Watch-me!-Read is a very popular and highly acclaimed solution for remedying reading disabilities. This is a software developed by IBM in partnership with the school district of Philadelphia. Through Reinventing Education 2, IBM has come into association with Houston Independent School District. Watch-me!-Read, helps a child by reading the text aloud. The material has to be just present in the system or scanned and loaded into the computer. The child is assisted by a computerized �pal� who recognizes the mistakes made by the student and asks the student to repeat the misread words. This can also read the words correctly if needed. Other attractions about this program are that the students can anytime hear back what they have read or can even make multimedia presentations to be shared with others. The program also maintains a chart of the progress of the student. (ATIA & SEAT: 2004)

ReadPlease and outSPOKEN are designed to read out any text displayed on a computer monitor to the user.

Kurzweil 3000 Learn Station and OminiPage Pro 14 are interesting programs that scan a given printed text and convert them into editable text thereby assisting a screen readerto read the words aloud on a computer.

Read&Write (v7) Gold and TextAloud. These programs transfer a printed text into an audio file that could be played using MP3 player or other portable devices.

Format Features in Microsoft Word and Write:OutLoud SOLO. These programs enable formatting a text for the benefit of the reader by increasing the font size, pairing graphics and text, changing the background colour, highlighting options and text colour changing options.

Franklin Speaking Homework Wiz and Quicktionary Reading Pen: The former helps the students in learning the pronunciations and definitions of words using portable spell checkers and auditory dictionaries and thesauruses. The later is helpful on paper as a reading pen.

Writing With Symbols 2000 is a very interesting program which pairs text with graphics. The graphics list would include Widgit Rebus symbols or picture-communication symbols, specifically for those who can recognize pictures but not a printed word.

Visual Tracking Magnifier: This would be useful to mark their place through transparent overlays by changing the background colour of a page or increase the font of a line for easier reading.

For the students who cannot read from a printed page, alternatives could be thought of in different formats. The website,, provides learning materials and academic text books in the form of audio cassettes or CD. They have a very good collection of academic material from grade 4 to the postgraduate level. This is called (RFB&D) application which requires a signature by a medical or psychological professional or education specialist. (ATIA & SEAT: 2004)

Hardware Solutions to RD

Assistive Technology offers solutions to reading disabilities through a range of hardware too. Some of the important ones in this connection are large monitors for the benefit of visually impaired users; CCTVs which can provide enlargement for paper based text. Through this, the sections can be seen in a larger frame without magnifying through photocopying. Ergonomic keyboards employ certain special designs to reduce strains to fingers and hand movements. Ergonomic furniture provides flexible options to alter the comfort level of the furniture to suit the needs of people with disabilities. (ATIA & SEAT: 2004)

Implications of AT for school psychologist s

The role of school psychologists is vital in tracing the type and cause of learning disabilities in students. They may employ better assessment techniques and instruments to achieve this. There has been little consensus regarding the deficient processes and the tools of measurement. Therefore, the assessment of intrinsic processing weaknesses is not included cannot become a part of the operational criteria under the current regulations to diagnose learning disabilities. An aspect in the care of children with learning disabilities is the ability to assess the efficacy of intervention through AT in minimizing speech and language deficits. However, this is a special area and this would not become a part of child�s ongoing medical care. In the early stage of development, it is highly necessary to identify and evaluate a child with a central auditory disorder. The testing though may appear simple is indeed a complex process often not being exact with respect to the outcome. Educational evaluation, the first step toward understanding and remediation of central auditory disorders (Knapp, 1985, p. 345-52)

Implications of AT for school teachers

In designing teacher preparation programs with respect to learning disorders, schools need to explore the possibilities and ways of strengthening the curricula, methodologies and practical ways of preparing teachers to work with students availing the support of AT. Through this, they could be enabled to compensate the specific RD of students. The regular and effective use of training procedures for teachers broadens their role and defines an educator as a skilled trainer and evaluator in grammatical decoding and the consequent vocabulary development.

Other Useful Studies in this area

1. �Technology: becoming an informed consumer�: Lahm, E. & Elting, S. (2005). NICHCY Maryland State Department of Education Universal Design.

2. �Assistive technology: meeting the needs of learners with disabilities�: Duhaney, D. (2000). International Journal of Instructional Media.

3. �AT is changing the world: assistive technology opens new worlds and provides independence, integrity and a better quality of life�: Williams, J. (2004). Paraplegia News.

Conclusion & Recommendation for future studies

RD in schoolchildren and compensating them with AT have become quite popular issues in education and a lot of substantial research has been accomplished in this area. The results of a good number of studies in this regard have been greatly encouraging in that they could even persuade legislative measures to direct schools take this issue seriously and undertake remediation measures. The available literature in this area sufficiently informs about RD, the challenges faced by students with RD and compensating RD through AT. However, a substantial research needs to be done in the areas of diagnosing RD in early school, training material for teachers and psychologists to implement remediation to RD. Studies of such nature would be of a valuable help to school managements to take concrete measures in remedying RD.


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