Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Written Output and the Least Restrictive Intervention

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Lately I've been fielding a lot of questions about voice dictation for young children (first through third grade).

Here are my thoughts on the subject...

  • In Occupational Therapy grad school, professors told us that the best opportunity to impact handwriting is up until the end of third grade. With this in mind, I never want to jettison handwriting instruction/therapy too soon. 
  • In special education we discuss the importance of placing children in the "least restrictive environment" to help them be successful. Meaning: too much support is just as bad as not enough support. I feel the same way about technology...if a student can learn to use standard available word processors, that is ideal.  Our hope is that a student could enter any library and access any computer for word processing. If they need special software or hardware, that becomes less likely. 
  • Voice dictation requires a relatively clear voice (though this is getting better all the time) It also requires fairly succinct sentences, or you get a lot of "uhms", "errs", and other filler phrases. Along with these necessities, one needs a fairly thick skin, aka a strong frustration tolerance. Apple's Siri is remarkable, and I've spent no time with the Android version, but hear it too is good. 
All that considered, sometimes a student's handwriting is just simply not functional. So, while their peers have already learned the task of writing, and are now learning with their writing, some students are still learning to write, and missing the next level content. 

In such a situation, if feasible, I like to introduce word prediction, and have the student engage in keyboarding instruction daily (10-15 minutes tops). The only way to become proficient keyboarding is to practice, and use it regularly.  For longer assignments we might ask the educational team to provide a scribe, thus allowing the student to focus on his/her content and not the arduous task of writing.

If the team envisions the child being able to learn and utilize keyboarding, that is my first choice. If not, then we consider voice dictation, knowing that we will ultimately be binding that child's productivity to a specific piece of equipment and software. 

I'd be curious to hear how other's navigate such questions. Thanks, and happy therapy!