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purple arrowNCIP Profile: Using Word Prediction Software: Students with Motor Impairments Have the "Write" Stuff



Many word prediction programs were first developed for students whose ability to select keys was severely limited by motor impairments.

Though some students with motor impairments can select letters directly from the standard keyboard or from adaptive keyboards, the going is often slow. For others who use alternative access methods such as switches or trackballs, writing can be especially time-consuming. For these students, word prediction decreases the gap between generating ideas and capturing them in writing by reducing the number of key selections necessary for writing words.

Meet Tony

Black and white photo of Tony at computer with tutorTony, a young adult with cerebral palsy (right), has significantly improved his writing skills thanks to assistance from his tutor (left) and word prediction software.

Tony is a young adult with cerebral palsy who loves rock 'n' roll and writing letters to his friends. He uses a wheelchair and communicates with a portable communication device with speech output. Tony uses a computer by pressing a switch on his wheelchair pedal with his left foot. He uses a word prediction program with a built-in scanning array.

Here's how Tony writes: The scanning array appears on the monitor and contains all the letters and keyboard functions arranged in rows. Tony watches carefully as each row in the scanning array is highlighted in succession. When the row containing the letter he wants to select lights up, he presses the switch with his foot. Tony then watches again as each letter in the row he has chosen is highlighted. When his target letter is lit, he presses the switch again and the letter appears on the monitor.

Scanning has made writing accessible for many students with significant motor impairments. The process, however, requires considerable cognitive attention for each key selection and can be physically taxing when used over a period of time. Word prediction is a great resource for Tony because it minimizes the number of selections he must make from the scanning array.

With the help of word prediction software and weekly tutoring sessions, Tony's written language has blossomed. When he first began working with his tutor his sentences contained just a few words. For example, to communicate I went to listen to music with my sister Christine on Saturday night, Tony wrote Music Saturday Christine. As Tony has become more adept at using word prediction, his sentences have become more complex and his writing reflects his outgoing personality and unique sense of humor.

READ TONY'S LETTER TO HIS FRIEND MARY

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.