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3. If learning disabled students use voice recognition for writing, are they still able to use other methods?

Certainly. Usually, learning disabled students who use voice recognition are only able to do so in certain circumstances and therefore must use other methods of writing at other times. However, they often come to view voice recognition as their text-entry method of choice whenever they have a chance. Moreover, for some students, using voice recognition for writing enables them to regain confidence in themselves as writers, and in turn to persevere with other writing methods.

Ben, a 17-year-old boy, is a clear example of this phenomenon. He is a very bright youngster who came to our program during fifth grade for an assistive technology consult because of his increasing frustration with difficulties in getting his ideas down in writing. He had used the computer and word processors for a couple of years, and he still was not working at a pace that satisfied him. His parents, who brought him to the session, were very concerned about his frustration and perception of himself as unsuccessful and even incapable. They told me later that Ben, who had always loved school, had grown to dread this daily, negative experience because it reinforced his image of himself as a poor writer. Even at that young age, Ben had even expressed a desire to quit school.

We looked at a number of "lower-tech" options, but none of these worked for Ben. He simply could not manage to write efficiently enough, even with the benefit of word prediction. However, when he first tried voice recognition, it was like watching a light go on over his head. He, and his parents, were immediately very excited by the potential they saw in this system, and they went about obtaining a system for Ben on their own that he could use at home.

Ben used voice recognition throughout sixth and most of seventh grade. At the end of seventh grade, two critical events occurred: he got a terrible head cold and his voice changed! During this period, the voice recognition software had great difficulty understanding his changed voice and Ben found himself typing lots of corrections for the software. Despite his frustration, Ben learned to type in the process of correcting the software. In fact, during that time, Ben became so proficient with the keyboard that he dropped voice recognition all together.

It has now been more than two years since Ben stopped using voice recognition, and he has successfully maintained his transition back to typing. He now attends an academically challenging high school in the Boston area and is doing very well. In his own estimation, Ben thinks he is an "average" writer among his peers.

Despite the fact that Ben's family bought the voice recognition system when it was still fairly expensive, they think it was money very well spent. His father said that using voice recognition "saved Ben's life" in the sense that it kept him from giving up in school.

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