Monday, February 9, 2015

Just Let Them Dictate...

Recently I was in conversation with a fellow OT and colleague (Molly) whom I've worked with since I came to this district. She is a veteran therapist, a wealth of knowledge, willing to share, and inquisitive ( I work with some really terrific people).

We were discussing the amazing progress in voice dictation software. We also discussed some of the inherent challenges of voice dictation, which users often don't recognize. Switching from brain-->pen/paper to brain-->voice output is not as simple as it might seem.

She made some really interesting observations, and so, seeing a gold mine to tap, I asked her to guest blog.

Below you will find Molly's thoughts on helping to train/teach students how to use voice dictation successfully.

The “go to” solution for children with handwriting problems used to be “just let them keyboard.” This solution was rarely a quick fix – 

keyboarding is a skill that needs to be learned and if a child has fine motor problems to begin with, keyboarding is also going to present challenges.  

Now, a frequent “go to” solution is using a speech to text program.  Thankfully, these programs have improved immensely in recent years and can be effective in helping a reluctant writer get words onto paper.  
However, what are the necessary component skills to make a child a competent dictator of text?  How can a therapist or teacher help a student use this software successfully?  
I am on the beginning of this learning curve, but have learned a few things that might be helpful for others.  
1.     Reading pre-written sentences is a good way to start using speech to text.  It gets the child used to the “mechanics” of the program (like turning the microphone on/off), and gives them a degree of instant success.
2.      The child will need to learn to say punctuation.  Reading from a written copy with big red periods/question marks helps teach this skill.
3.     As with writing, using some type of graphic organizer is crucial to organize and sequence information before dictating.  Using a traditional graphic organizer with key words does not work well.  The child sees the key word(s) and says that without thinking about putting it into a sentence.  What works better is “sentence starters” combined with the key word(s) so the child knows where to begin.
4.     Rehearsing with the graphic organizer can help achieve increased success.  It might also lead you to add additional words or cues to the graphic organizer if you see “stumbling” points.
5.     Proof-reading is vital.  Dictation software is not perfect and the child must learn to read their dictated text carefully to catch mistakes.  (You might even use a text to speech program to read it back to them.)
Dictation software has come a long way from the days when you would end up swearing at the computer because it was mangling your words.  It can now be an invaluable tool for children who are resistant to writing for any number of reasons.  You might even find yourself beginning to use it.

I hope this provides you with some useful tools in working with your students. Thanks for the guest blog Molly!

Happy Therapy!

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