WordQ Predictive Writing Software

Using Assistive Technology for Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities

Down syndrome student using computer
Down syndrome student using computer. Getty Images/Robin Bartholick/Blend Images

What Is Assistive Technology?

Software programs like WordQ are examples of assistive technology. Using computers in the classroom is not new, and the best teachers know how to make great use of the enhanced communication, interaction and overall richness that technology offers students. But for the learning disabled student, the computer can be a focus of frustration. Computers demand reading skills and motor skills (typing) that are often their weaknesses.

Assistive technology makes creative use of computers to help students with disabilities and delays. 

Kinds of Assistive Technology

WordQ is a software program that falls into the category of word prediction. These kinds of programs help writers by suggesting words as they write; some, like WordQ, also read back to the writer to make her aware of spelling, grammar or logic errors. These are the major types of software solutions for students with learning disabilities:

  • Text-to-Speech: The computer reads text in a document or from the Internet to the student.
  • Text Highlighting: These programs read text as above, and highlight words to allow the child to follow.
  • Word Prediction:  Now widely used in cell phones, this technology predicts the word that the student is trying to type and offers suggestions for spelling and usage.
  • Spell Checker:  Important for beginning writers and veterans alike.

How WordQ Works

WordQ is a software program developed by Quillsoft Ltd.

and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital that's compatible with a wide variety of word processing programs. It runs in the background while the student writes, suggesting words in menu after just a few keystrokes. The program may be configured to read along as the student writes, and to read the completed sentence after the final punctuation mark is entered.

 

WordQ is an effective tool not just because of the accuracy and speed of its predictions. By pushing the student to choose words that she may be thinking of, the program short-circuits some of the anxiety that learning disabled students feel when faced with a blank paper or screen. These negative attitudes towards learning often lead to frustration and lower academic performance. Word Q allows the child to become successful when writing, and may actually make them want to write. 

SpeakQ

A companion program, SpeakQ, uses voice recognition software to further assist struggling writers. SpeakQ allows the writer to use the computer's microphone to take dictation. The writer can switch between using the keyboard and speaking, which is ideal for writers who need to take a break from the rigors of typing while still allowing them to finish their work. Like WordQ, SpeakQ operates in English, Spanish, French and German.

Development of WordQ and SpeakQ

Dr. Fraser Shein developed WordQ at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada, in the late 1990s. The hospital had previously developed assistive technology solutions for children with physical barriers to writing; WordQ was devised to tackle language-based learning disabilities.

The program was used successfully in Ontario public schools, and has become popular in many schools in Canada and the United States. SpeakQ was developed with the Education Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts.