Introduction to Writing by Speaking, Reading by Listening, and DyslexiaiPod Reading


This site will tell about Oral Writing (or Writing by Speaking), Aural Reading (or Reading by Listening), and assistive technology that lets persons read and write print rapidly and effortlessly, despite inadequate visual reading and handwriting abilities.

What is meant by dyslexia?

The term dyslexia is used to mean the inability to visually decode print at a rate and comfort level for the language to be understood as it was intended by the author. People with dyslexia can visually read many words some of the time, but their overall experience does not let them understand all that the author is telling them. They cannot look at the text and turn the print words into aural words in their mind quickly and easily like normal people do. In contrast, when the print is read for them orally they will understand fully what is written, and they will do it instantaneously like normal people read print visually - at rates of 250 to 350+ words per minute. This rate of reading is what is required for the print language to be used as it was intended.

Most people with dyslexia are of average to very superior mental ability. Their problem varies in severity. In more severe cases a person can hardly read 2nd and 3rd grade words, while in milder cases the person can read many words on his or her grade level but must devote so much energy to perform the visual decoding that he or she is unable to fully understand what the author is communicating. In these milder cases students will report that they cannot read fast enough to do all their work. It is true that they cannot keep up, but equally important is that they are so involved with the visual decoding that they are only getting bits and pieces of the information that the author is providing. Bright people who have dyslexia can take these bits and pieces and make statements and answer questions about a passage. This makes it appear that they are reading and understanding well. They are not. These statements are a product of their brightness and a talent for making the most of what they have rather than a product of their visual decoding ability. One has only to question them about specific words or statements in the text to see that they did not fully understand what the author was saying. They were making good guesses and statements based on their general knowledge and what they thought the passage said.

In contrast, if a passage is read to them aloud, they can repeat, often word for word, what the author said and be able to answer questions about specific details presented in the passage. Using this aural reading approach, dyslexic students can read continuously without getting tired -- just as visual readers can. This ability to do aural reading shows that they don't have ability problems nor language problems. It also shows a way they can overcome their problems with print - Aural Reading.

Why can't students with dyslexia write well?

A related problem that persons with dyslexia have is inadequate handwriting. There are three main causes for this condition--inability to read one's own writing, inability to spell words correctly, and lack of training and experience writing one's own language. The first two factors are a direct result of dyslexia -- inadequate ability to read and to spell. The third is not. It is caused by not having the first two problems overcome so students could, over the years, experience writing and reading their own language and develop their writing skills from that experience.

Once students are taught to use Oral Writing and Aural Reading, they can start learning how to produce good written communication and become good writers. However, starting late means that years of writing training are lost and must be made up. When students are accommodated for their disability and receive writing training beginning early in elementary school, the third condition is not present and they develop their writing abilities normally.

How have dyslexic persons coped in the past?

In the past, this disability would mean that a bright person could not learn to use print well enough to become literate. Many people have become famous and accomplished despite their disability for reading and writing. These exceptions are rare. For the most part, a person who could not do visual reading and paper and pencil writing became a "statistic". Their future was to include underemployment, inadequate education, and disadvantage in a society that required visual reading and paper and pencil writing. They did not overcome the problem. They learned how to fake the ability to do reading and writing. Despite their brightness they did not go on to college or advanced training. They had little opportunity to take advantage of the wealth of information contained in books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Most learned how to cope and how to hide inadequate reading and writing skills. Because of their brightness, many completed high school and were successful in jobs that did not require literacy. They proved that a bright person can pass high school, keep a job, pay taxes, and raise a family without being able to read and write adequately. Their coping skills made them fit in and look normal, but they were functioning far below their abilities. They became truck drivers instead of hotel managers, house painters instead of teachers, riverboat captains instead of electrical engineers, beauticians instead of anthropologists, or self-employed craftsman instead of medical doctors. Many felt ashamed of their disability because they knew that they could not use print like normal people use it.

What difference does the new technology make?

The times they are a-changing. Now bright persons with specific reading disabilities (Dyslexia) can access and use print. All books and all other text can be read using computers, etext, or other devices that voice the words so a person can quickly and effortlessly read using his or her hearing -- Reading by Listening. Writing can be done using assistive technology that will remove the barriers caused by inadequate visual decoding and spelling. Voice recognition can let a person speak normally and see their sentences typed onto a screen -- Writing by Speaking. Screen readers on computers can enable students to quickly and effortlessly read and re-read what they have written so they can produce well organized and well thought-out written language. These same screen readers on handheld devices can let students aurally read web pages, email, text messages, newspapers, magazines, books, apps, etc. for pleasure, research, and work. Students who have been thought of as slow readers, inadequate readers or non-readers are now reading at 250 to 350+ words per minute with good comprehension and writing at 100 to 170+ words per minute without spelling nor typing.

Now, persons who have dyslexia can succeed at college despite inadequate visual reading and inadequate handwriting. They can read all their grade-level textbooks and other text. The wealth of information that is available in print can be theirs. They can learn methods for writing letters and papers independently. They can complete high school classes and have read all the class assignments. College programs can be mastered by these students so they can become statisticians, lawyers, biologists, teachers, journalists, etc.

This is possible because of the new technology that allows persons with print-disabilities to read what they cannot read and to write when they cannot spell. All the print that needs to be read can be read by listening, and the writing that we need to do can be done by speaking. These new methods are revolutionizing the way print-disabled people learn. People who have been limited to visual reading far below their grade level can now be empowered to make full use of their intellect -- they can read and write language that is on or above their grade level.

What is Aural Reading?

Aural Reading is Reading by Listening. It is the use of the auditory channel for decoding and using print language. The simplest system is a person reading the text aloud for the user. The most effective and powerful systems are technology systems that produce voiced output of text and let the user read rapidly, independently, and effortlessly with high comprehension, like rapid visual decoders read.

What are Aural Reading Devices?

Devices that produce audio output from printed text can be Aural Reading devices if they let the user control the audio output for (1) speed of reading, (2) rereading of sentences, phrases, and words, and (3) navigation within the book or other print content, giving the user a way of reading print much the same way that normal visual readers read print. Most of these devices are special assistive technology devices designed for persons with print disabilities, but standard devices that incorporate universal design that will produce audio output can meet the requirements for Reading by Listening, giving the user the opportunity to use the same device available to peers and others, for example the iPad and other iOS devices.

Special Devices and Special Content

At this time, both special devices and special content make up the bulk of the print needed for Aural Reading. Special book players like the Victor Reader Stream and special libraries like Learning Ally and National Library Service (NLS) make virtually all the books used by students in this country for education, careers, and leisure reading available in superior form using digitized human speech.

Regular Devices with Screen Readers

Increasingly, non-special devices are including screen readers that use synthesized mechanical speech. While the speech from these devices are of lower quality, they access the Internet and the networks that give all of us information that, in the past, was only available in books or the minds of experts. Now, all of this information is accessible for Reading by Listening.

Mechanical speech is very functional and is improving each year. As regular technology improves, its accessibility through screen-readers and voice recognition systems in its use for Reading by Listening will increase rapidly. As with other assistive technology, we will also see it being used by non disabled users who find it easier, faster, or more convenient to use in many situations, for instance, the personal assistant "Siri". As students and others with print disabilities learn to use this technology, its use will rapidly increase. People with disabilities will move in along side their peers and participate in this modern use of print for getting information using the same device as their peers use. All Mac computers, iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches have VoiceOver and Apple Dictation built in. Anywhere a keyboard is used, we have the option of speaking into the microphone, seeing our sentences typed, and hearing them read back.

Some Aural Reading Systems to consider:

(1) Use a computer with a screen reader to read all text on the screen, quizzes, teacher notes, email, web pages, etc.
(2) Use audio textbooks for pre-reading the textbook sections that the class is going to be covering. Get these books from Learning Ally (formerly RFB&D) 1(800) 221-4792
(3) Use literature and pleasure books and audio magazines from NLS 1-888-657-7323
(4) Use a reading assistant for reading worksheets when they can not be made available using one of the more independent systems listed above.
(5) Use a mobile reading device like the knfb Mobile Reader, the Intel Reader, or the Prizmo app on an iPad/iPod/iPhone. These devices will let you snap a picture of the print (or printed page), turn the picture into text (with OCR) and play it back as audio text in seconds. This is great for reading on-the-fly, reading handouts, labels, pages in a book, etc.

Some Writing Systems to consider:

(1) Use a computer with a screen reader like VoiceOver for trial-and-error spelling with voice feed back and other spelling support and for fast reading and proof-reading while typing -- Computer Assisted Spelling/Writing procedure.
(2) Use Apple's Dictation built into the iPad Touch, iPhone, or iPod for dictating a rough draft of a paper, emails, notes, etc. This system is accurate and very easy to use and works well with VoiceOver for Aural Reading and editing.
(3) Use Apple's Dictation on the Mac in combination with the screen reader VoiceOver for rapid, fluent, simultaneous reading and writing. This writing procedure lets students quickly and easily, write, read, and reread what has been written for proof reading and editing. Accuracy on Apple's Dictation is very high, for me 97% at 170+ wpm. Dragon Dictate on the Mac is also available with many more features, however the system when used on a computer requires using special commands that are difficult to learn and to use.
(4) Use a dictation-to-scribe (or stenographer) system when other systems are not available.
(5) Use a dictation device with someone typing the dictation into a computer that has a screen reader for proof-reading and editing.