Assistive Technology: Wizcom's ReadingPen 2 for Dyslexia
Reading a short passage can be almost painful for someone with dyslexia. Skipping words or struggling to read small pieces of text due to an inability to properly decode words makes comprehending written information a chore with no real meaning of the text attained. Luckily there are new advanced technologies available that can make reading and learning a much easier task for people with dyslexia.
Wizcom has created a pen device that scans printed material and speaks it back to the user. It works by swiping the pen along the length of the text to be read then in seconds the material is read back to the user with clear pronunciation and the option to hear definitions (it even defines words with definitions) for homonyms and words with multiple meanings, which are like kryptonite to the person affected by dyslexia. The ReadingPen 2 comes in basic and advanced levels, scanning thousands of words from the dictionary, with the basic version being most suitable for students reading at K-12 and the advanced for those at the college level.
An Example of Use
Give the student a short passage to read and inform them that they can use the pen to help them when reading, but they cannot use it to read the full passage and can only use it to read words they don’t know. Words directly related to the lesson should be highlighted to bring the student’s attention to the main idea of the lesson.
After they are done reading the material, test them in a variety of ways to determine how well they have comprehended the main idea text. The student should be able to get through the material faster with less reliance upon others for help and with a better understanding of what they have read.
The more the student uses the pen, the less likely they are to rely on it to read text for them.
- Remember, the problem of dyslexia, when it comes to reading comprehension, isn’t due to lack of trying, but the fact that it is a neurological dysfunction that one must be given tools to manage and overcome.
Why it Works
The ReadingPen makes reading flow when it is used and builds confidence. Since many people with dyslexia have an average IQ, the problem isn’t how smart they are, it is how they process information. Assistive technology builds up reading comprehension because it helps make sense of the misplaced and garbled information in the information centers of the brain impaired with dyslexia.
Pros and Cons
Like many high-tech assistive technology devices, the ReadingPen 2 carries a steep price tag, averaging in at about $200 USD per pen, but can be bought in a set for a classroom at over $1,700 USD. Buying a set to be used in the classroom and for homework can be highly beneficial for schools with students with learning disabilities that affect their reading.
The pen can also be helpful for ESL (English Second-Language Learners) since it translates scanned Spanish text as well. Users can listen to the spoken word through the built-in speakers or through earphones (included) and learn how to use the pen through the built-in trainer (even with training on board, the pen may still be unusable for students with significant cognitive delays and/or poor fine motor skills). There is also an Oxford Dictionary version for users in the UK.
Teachers and parents should encourage the use of the pen, but stress the need for the student not to rely on the pen to do all of their reading for them. It should be used to supplement the strategies and techniques they already possess to complete their toolbox of reading assistance.
After introducing the ReadingPen 2 to a student with dyslexia reading should go from a painful to a gainful experience with the student having to depend less on others to read for them. A stronger level of retention of information could convert them from a reluctant reader to an adept reader who happens to have dyslexia.