Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reading with Text-to-Speech

Image of word highlighting feature for text-to-speech
For students with reading disabilities, completing reading assignments for class can be time consuming and frustrating. There is software that can help students not only keep up on reading assignments but also have a better idea what they have read. One of the most helpful features offered by many of these software programs is called text-to-speech (TTS). The ability to hear text read out loud is the important component in TTS that aids a student in reading speed and comprehension. Most software products that offer TTS also provide a feature that highlights the word being read out loud so that students can follow along and will associate the word on the computer screen with what they hear. This gives students a better understanding of what the word is and how that word should sound when they read it without the assistance of the software. Reading webpages and electronic documents is easily accomplished using TTS but many reading assignments come from books or printed handouts. Some software programs include the option to scan and convert hardcopy pages into a variety of electronic text formats including word documents, and then using TTS, these pages can be read out loud. Several software programs also have the ability to convert any electronic text to an audio file that could then be listened to on a digital music or mp3 player, which is a useful aid for keeping up with many reading assignments. When looking at the various products available with TTS and other reading, writing, and spelling aids, it is important to think about what features and supports the student needs. The software interface can range from simple, fewer-featured toolbars, such as WordQ, TextHelp Read & Write, or ClaroRead, that work with existing software such as Microsoft Office and internet browsers. More inclusive programs, such as WYNN or Kurzweil 3000, have their own word processors, study aids, and web browsers built into the user interface. If a student doesn’t need a fully featured all-in-one program, you can save time and money by investing in a simpler program with just those features that meet the specific needs of your student. But for students who would benefit from study aids and many of the other features discussed above it is often easier to go with a full featured program instead of trying to use multiple simpler programs in conjunction with one another. As always our AT Specialists are available to work with and explore the specific needs of students and their support team when determining what options might work best. These products and many others are available for short term loan through WATAP's Device Lending Library to help individuals make an informed decision about what products will work best for them.  

This is the first in a series of blogs our Director has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency. 

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