Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Using Adaptive Technology to Learn through Dyslexia

Because many students struggle with disabilities while at Gordon, the Academic Support Center (ASC) acts as a liaison between students with disabilities and faculty, setting up appropriate accommodations like recorded audio books, quiet testing areas, extended time on tests, notetakers during class and special advising. They also help with time management, study skills, specialized advising, issues related to learning disabilities and ESL as well as general troubleshooting.

When it comes to adapting to dyslexia, Katie Whallon is a pro. A sophomore business administration major, Katie uses the adaptive technologies provided by the ASC to achieve success in her courses.
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that occurs when the brain lacks the neurological connections to decode phonemes, the basis of written language, which causes reading difficulties in otherwise bright students. Katie has overcome her difficulty to the point where she can read competently, but long assignments and dense texts still exhaust her mentally.


To facilitate her studies, she uses Kurzweil Educational Systems reading software. This program can read out loud from text files with nearly flawless precision, allowing students with dyslexia to simply scan their textbooks into a computer, load them into the program, and listen to their assigned readings. In Katie’s case, because she has developed her auditory comprehension to compensate for her reading difficulty, she can listen to the Kurzweil reader at up to twice normal speaking speed. People with dyslexia often develop such outstanding abilities, although the process of listening will always be slower than the average reading speed for students without dyslexia.

The adaptive technologies offered by the ASC make it possible for students with learning disabilities to thrive at Gordon. Still, Katie points out, “The software is not meant to substitute for learning but to enhance the learning.” For her these tools are not crutches but running shoes.

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