Topics:

Key Elements of a screen reader
Classes in reading fluency with a screen reader
Who can be helped by using a screen reader
Working with students with little or no computer skills
Testing and Evaluating Progress

Setting up a classroom/lab area
Eligibility and Copyright Laws
Scanning Books

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Can Be Helped Using a Screen Reader

Clarify some of the disabilities that would be helped such as cognitive disabilities.

There are many people who are having difficulty with reading fluency. Very few people cannot learn to decode. Reading fluency is performed in different areas of the brain than decoding. It is reported that over 50% of the U.S. population reads at 7th grade or less reading levels. Most of these people are having problems visually processing language and can learn to read using an alternative method. These people make up a very diverse group. They may include people with:

  • Visual impairments;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Mobility problems;
  • Mental health issues;
  • Neurological disorders;
  • Cognitive injuries;
  • Developmental delays;
  • Social problems or lack of educational opportunities during childhood;
  • And other learning problems, such as ADHD, behavior, etc.

What about those people who donít struggle with fluency, but with comprehension?

Reading fluency is often only tested as reading speed. A lot of people are learning to read fast in school, but are still having difficulty comprehending what they are reading.

Reading fluency is more than just how fast someone decodes or recognizes words. It is the ability to perform complex cognitive brain tasks that include recalling prior experiences, the time that it takes to perform these cognitive tasks, and understanding the content of language. The understanding of read language necessitates the ability to form complex mental images or representations developed from saved representations of prior experiences, emotions, and perceived information. The ability to form these mental representations is a learned task, which necessitates the ability to recognize words at a minimum of automaticity rates of reading, about 200 words per minute. Reading at automaticity rates does not mean that someone has already learned how to understand the language, only that they now have the ability to learn it, now.

In Stage 2 of our reading fluency curriculum, students not only reach automaticity levels of reading speed, but begin to learn how to understand what they are reading, feel confident in their reading achievement, and become independent readers.

Did you work with ESL students? Do they have to have learning disabilities to benefit from your program?

Yes, we have worked with ESL students with and without disabilities and found that it has been beneficial to them. While it is beneficial, we do not fully understand the differences that a second language learner will have with reading fluency compared to someone learning to read in their primary language. One of the differences is in the availability of reading materials, because e-text book sources for screen readers are typically only for people with disabilities and copy-right laws only pertain to a person with a disability. However, many books are in the public domain.

There is some new research in the cognitive differences between how a second language learner learns to read in their second language compared to someone learning in their primary language. We are currently researching this area. We have been told about a unique program in Southern California that is researching and developing instructional strategies based on second language learners. There is also research being done in the U.S. and other countries on the use of screen readers and second language learners. We will share our findings and citations when we complete our study.

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Could you say a little more about working with students with developmental disabilities? I have students like that and Iím thinking that their problems with comprehension are pretty significant.

The quick or short answer to this question is that yes we have had some very significant gains in reading comprehension with students labeled with developmental disabilities. In general, these students progress in a similar fashion to others through the stages of learning to read with a screen reader.

The longer response must be framed in an understanding of the complexity of the learning problems associated with disabilities. There is probably an unlimited combination of learning problems and ways these problems manifest themselves at any one time in an individual. A person may learn differently on a daily or even an hourly basis.

As an example, one student was deaf, blind, and had developmental disabilities. Compounding these learning problems was that one of his learned behaviors was to constantly try and please others in excess. It was very difficult to determine his actual affective levels. Instruction and measurement had to be done individually. He did not respond well to a larger class setting. But, even this student enjoyed reading and the additional contact with others that reading provided, especially the reading group.

In contrast, another student with severe developmental delays with compounding speech and language problems integrated quite easily into a larger class setting and continually improved reading and language skills over a 3 year period. This student's developmental age was about 10 years old at the most. He started reading very simple books, Anne of Green Gables and The Hardy Boys. At the end, he was reading the books of Narnia. Quite an improvement. His oral speech improved so that he could actually share longer and more complex conversations about his family and home activities.

Did you have high school students who were transitioning into college who are taking this class?

Having high school students enrolled in college courses is a policy decision of the college. We did have a few high school students participating in the reading fluency program. These students performed the same as other students because their development levels enabled them to potentially read at fluency levels. If the students had been younger or less developmentally mature, adaptations to expected outcomes and measures would have been appropriate.