Technology - in conjunction with other strategies - can help to address the support needs of autistic learners who may experience a range of challenges relating to literacy and numeracy activities. Some may find putting a pencil on a piece of paper is challenging as they feel under pressure not to make mistakes and it can result in paper being ripped up and distressed behaviour. Others are unable to focus, work independently, understand the task presented or have difficulty planning and formulating their ideas. Some may have underlying additional literacy issues that means they have low levels of reading ability.
How can technology help?
- Using a computer or tablet for word processing or reading text
- Supportive writing framework software / apps
- Text to Speech
- Spelling support
- Speech recognition
- Predictive Text
Click on the drop-downs below to explore available resources and find out more information.
Using a computer or tablet provides many supportive assistive features that are not possible with paper based activities such as handwriting or reading printed text such as spelling support (writing) or text to speech (reading). Paper based texts are a barrier to 'print disabled' learners because no adjustments can be made to make it easier for them to read the text.
Features of writing support software/apps include:
- Access to whole words, phrases and pictures/symbols
- Colour filters, masking and highlighting to help with visual stress
- Homophone checker e.g. here and hear, etc
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which converts text shown in images to actual text
- Save text to audio - so you can listen to the text on a portable Mp3 player
- Spell checking
- Word and sentence sets/writing frames
- Word definitions
- Word prediction
If it is difficult to read from a paper book or document then it is possible to get support to do this if you can use an electronic version of the text. e.g. an e-book or a digital version of the Word document.
A 'text-to-speech' program or 'text reader' on your computer or tablet reads text from a document or web page to you using a computer voice.
Text-to-speech may help if you:
- Read slowly or with difficulty
- Get tired, or have visual stress when you read
- Have problems concentrating when you read
- Have difficulty following the text with your eyes
- Want to listen to the text being read out while you do something else
Often there is an apprehension to write a word down due to uncertainty about the spelling and a refusal to attempt the word in case it is wrong. Work done on paper can become messy if there is constant rubbing out of misspelt words which can be very frustrating.
There are many options to address these issues. Technology in the form of a computer, laptop or tablet can provide valuable support.
There is another option to getting text down on paper / on screen when physically handwriting or word processing on a computer or tablet is not possible: using Speech (or voice) recognition software or apps.
For some autistic learners producing written or typed work may be very difficult, however they may be able to experience success when they are able to talk into the headset and the software will pick up their voice and will it appear as text on the screen. This can be rewarding and motivating for them and it can help to open a range of possibilities on how this could be used for educational purposes and for life skills.
Further information on Speech recognition information pages from what it is, what it can do, how to use it and how to access it.
Word prediction is especially useful for someone who is slow at typing or has limited keyboarding skills. Word prediction can reduce a user’s number of keystrokes by up to 45%. This allows for a greater volume of work to be potentially produced which will help avoid anxiety and stress related to not keeping up with others.
Word prediction software predicts words in context as you write (after the first or second keypress). Word prediction aids spelling accuracy and can increase typing speed.
Features of word prediction software include:
- Word banks - list of words grouped together
- Topic dictionaries - predicted words relate to the subject, i.e. 'dinosaurs'
- Create your own word banks or topic dictionaries
- Phonetic spelling corrections, i.e. elefant > elephant
- Tools to customise the colour and font
- Words spoken back to you to you - roll the mouse over the word
- Next word prediction - predicts the next word in context of what is being written
- Text-to-speech - you can hear what you are writing
A range of free resources and software is available to improve access to text. Some examples are below (see Resources bar, right, also). These resources may have ‘dyslexia’ in their names however, many learners may find them helpful and due to the co-occurrence of neurological differences as highlighted in the Toolbox section ‘Understanding Autism’ some autistic learners may be dyslexic.
Books for all
Scottish pupils with print disabilities can access the Books for All Scotland database which provides books in accessible formats for pupils in Scotland who have difficulty with ordinary printed text, including those with dyslexia, who have a physical disability or who are blind or partially sighted.
My Study Bar 4.1
A suite of portable Windows freeware applications assembled into one package to support learners with literacy difficulties. It can be run from a USB pen drive or from your desktop. To download the software an access further information and online tutorials access CALL Scotland’s website.
CALL Scotland have created 2 posters which highlight a range of apps – some of which are freely available. The ‘wheels' on the posters identify relevant apps categorised according to some of the difficulties faces by people with writing difficulties.
- Click here to download the CALL Scotland Android Apps for learners with Dyslexia and Literacy difficulties
- Click here to download the CALL Scotland AAC IPad APP Apps for learners with Dyslexia and Literacy difficulties
You can also access these files via the Resources bar underneath the sub-menu, right.
Tablet devices such as iPads and Androids also provide a range of writing support apps including:
- Text-to-speech apps
- Word processing apps
- Note Taking apps
- Writing support apps