Can a computer help my son’s writing?

May 17, 2011 | By | Comments (1)

IMG_2781 As I write this my 8 year old son is sitting next to me, working his way through one of fifty book reports (yes, I said, fifty, as in 5-0, as in the number of states in the Union, which is why the program is called "Read Across America" or RAA) he is required to complete this year.

You can imagine that, for my dyslexic child, RAA has been one of the ongoing challenges of our second grade year, and has lead to many breakdowns, arguments and tears.

While I was researching assistive technology to address his writing issues, I received an e-mail about goQsoftware, a company that designs solutions for struggling writers.

Thanks to the company, we were given licenses to wordQ+speakQ ($279) and wordQ ($199), two pieces of software that "float" above open applications to provide assistance as he writes. We've been testing wordQ since March.

Our first challenge was figuring out where to install the software. A big thanks to our friends at Intel, for which I am an Advisor, for lending us a Dell Inspiron Duo Convertible Tablet for our testing. This allowed our son to work on a computer that was separate from our work laptops (and are largely unavailable because, you know, we are working on them), and because of it's small size, was easier for him to handle with his smaller hands.

Our second challenge was typing. Turns out I've forgotten what it's like to be unable to touch-type – Watching him hunt-and-peck was almost unbearable for me! (Note to all parents – make your kids take a typing class!)

Anders had some frustration which came with using a computer – accidentally erasing everything on the page, forgetting to add carriage returns, having trouble finding the comma. But soon got the hang of using a computer, and remembered not to hit the space bar when everything on the screen was highlighted.

As for wordQ, we found the software to sometimes be helpful, and sometimes to be a distraction. After each space or period the software reads the word typed, helping Anders determine if he spelled the word correctly. While the floating box of suggested words seemed like a great idea, it usually distracted our son from the task at hand, rather than helped him.

While I'm hoping to have him try wordQ+speakQ, which layers speech recognition onto the functionality of wordQ, I'm not entirely convinced that typing or even a computer is the right solution for our son – at least not right now. Both because of the cost of having another computer in the house, and because the mechanics of using a laptop seem to get in his way.

Do you or your child use assistive technologies to read or write?