Skip to main content

Expert Q&A

Assistive Tech for Spelling Difficulties

Are there other examples you can think of about how AT is being used effectively to serve students with learning disabilities?

Another great example is word prediction. So for students who have difficulties with spelling, we have these fantastic programs that are very much like the auto correct on your smartphone. So as you’re typing in, it gives some suggestions of what are you actually trying to type, or changes it for you. However the technology for students with literacy difficulties is much more advanced than our smartphone is. It’s using very sophisticated algorithms to look at the phonetic spelling. So if I start off the word computer, and start spelling it with a K, instead of a C, the computer will recognize, “Oh, he’s trying to get the K sound, and be able to guess what I’m trying to write.

The software uses a natural language processing algorithm. So it will look at the words around the word that you’re trying to be spelled, and say, “Hmm, statistically based on the five words you’ve already written, what are the most likely words you’re going to try to be writing right now?” So looking at both the phonetic aspect and the statistical properties of that word in its environment. The software can be very accurate at guessing which word the child is trying to spell.

So if I have a spelling challenge, if I’m a really poor speller, if I start using one of these programs, almost immediately, I have bypassed my spelling challenges, so I can take all that energy that I use to spell, and trying to think of how do I spell that word “computer,” I can devote all that energy now into holding onto my main ideas, and thinking of what I want to write about, and then I can continue on in the writing process.