Rachel Ingham: How does ClaroRead benefit dyslexic learners?

This is an image of Rachel InghamBy Rachel Ingham, Dyslexia (SpLD Consultant)


The obvious benefits of using text to voice software, such as ClaroRead, need little explanation. It reads Word and PowerPoint documents, emails, the Internet and EBooks. This provides a wealth of educational and career benefits as well as providing a way to make reading a pleasure. However, like most technology, it can be underutilised. I would like to share some of the ways I have used ClaroRead to increase the learning potential for children and young people in the classroom. Its benefits in the workplace will follow in a future blog.

There were some compensations for being a teacher with dyslexia. One of them being I understood the difficulties of learning to read and the frustrations of being unable to read and comprehend in order to write and learn. Although I loved literature, the effort of reading lessened the pleasure and reduced the number of books I was able to read as reading was so laborious.

ClaroRead breaks down the barriers for the learner with dyslexic related reading difficulties by reading the unfamiliar words that cannot be easily decoded. It allows learners of all ages to independently access more complex informative text increasing the inclusive learning environment for individual or collaborative class based tasks. This independence allows the learner to choose areas of particular interest, motivating and enthusing them to research subjects further.

Problems with phonological processing for the learner with dyslexia are a well documented cause of reading difficulties. These difficulties can be ameliorated with good teaching increasing reading fluency and accuracy. Despite this, comprehension is often still negatively affected because of the level of cognitive processing required to decode, inhibiting the reader’s ability to gain a full understanding of the text. When text is read aloud the listener does not have to focus on the decoding, providing greater opportunity for comprehension and critical assessment of the information being studied.

Less understood are the problems relating to language and language development in the learner with dyslexia. ClaroRead provides the opportunity for the vital exposure to new words, often subject related, that are not commonly used in speech. Without the facility of accessing reading material with automaticity, the dyslexic learner’s vocabulary development is impaired which, in turn, affects their communication and writing skills.

A perpetual problem for some readers with dyslexia is the interference of other voices making it difficult to read with comprehension. With ClaroRead, the busy classroom is no longer an inhibitory factor as the learner can listen to the text through headphones. In addition, this provides an advantage of their hands being free to record the relevant data without losing their place in the text and thus enabling them to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.

One of the greatest benefits of ClaroRead is as a proof reader. Learners, particularly those with dyslexia and or visual stress, miss many spelling errors and grammatical mistakes despite their dedicated efforts to seek them out. ClaroRead reads exactly what is written so the writer can hear what they have written ‘Brian breaks reduce stress in the learner’ instead of ‘Brain breaks reduce stress in the learner.’ It can also identify homophones which is crucial for the proof reader with dyslexia who is often unsure which homophone is the correct option. Picture or context descriptors help the homophone selection.

Not only is this a more effective method of proof reading, it is less arduous for the writer who has already put considerable effort into engaging with the difficult skill of committing their ideas to paper.

I often wonder if this history student would have recognised their mistake if they had used ClaroRead.

“It was important for the king to have the support of the no balls in court …”

Another advantage of ClaroRead for proof reading is that you can slow the voice of the reader supporting the slower verbal processing skills of the learner with dyslexia. Slowing the speed at which ClaroRead reads has an added advantage of providing time to record notes and to critically think about the reading material. Notes recorded for revision purposes can be revisited repeatedly without the constraints imposed by reading.

Everyone benefits from the use of ClaroRead in the classroom. Firstly, the learners are able to read more complex, informative text and gain more knowledge and understand with increased confidence. ClaroRead creates independence by reducing the anxiety and embarrassment caused by having to ask classmates and friends for help. Class discussion and collaborative learning settings are a lot more rewarding for all involved. Secondly, the teacher has a more inclusive classroom with engaged learners who can make independent progress.

We have discussed academic advantages and will close by acknowledging the positive aspect of being able to read for pleasure. To enhance this further the listener can choose the accent they would prefer, Heather from Scotland being a particular soothing choice. There are times when learners are required to learn to read and others when we should create the opportunity to enjoy literature without a needless struggle.

Can brain scans predict dyslexia?

Brain scans performed on young children could predict their reading ability in later life.

Performing brain scans on young children could detect signs of early reading difficulties, such as dyslexia, new research has suggested.

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning difficulties, whereby the affected individual typically experiences problems with factors like verbal memory, the speed of verbal processing and phonological awareness. According to the NHS, an estimated one in every ten people in the UK has dyslexia to some degree.

Boy having mire scan
Boy having mire scan

Diagnosing the condition in young children can be tricky, as the signs are not always clear. But research has shown that the earlier it is identified, the sooner appropriate interventions for treatment can be put in place – subsequently helping the child to improve their reading and writing at the earliest stage possible.

The latest study of dyslexia comes from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). They set out to investigate whether the white matter in children’s brains – which is crucial in helping us to think, learn and perceive – could predict their reading abilities in later childhood.

In order to examine this section in detail, the scientists conducted brain scans on 38 nursery school pupils and monitored the development of their white matter until they reached the third year of primary school.

The study found that the development of the children’s white matter was a significant indicator of their reading abilities. In particular, differences in areas of left dorsal white matter – associated with phonological processes – predicted 56 per cent of the variance in reading outcomes. The ability to process words phonologically is a key requirement of reading and detecting problems at an early stage serves as a biomarker for reading difficulties.

Dr Fumiko Hoeft, lead researcher at the university, said: “Early identification and interventions are extremely important in children with dyslexia as well as most neurodevelopmental disorders.

“Accumulation of research evidence such as ours may one day help us identify kids who might be at risk for dyslexia, rather than waiting for children to become poor readers and experience failure.”

Other common ways to assess a child’s reading abilities include looking at IQ levels, socioeconomic factors, early language skills and a family history of reading difficulties. However, the recent study revealed that performing brain scans improved the accuracy of reading ability predictions by 60 per cent.

Dr Hoeft added that by examining white brain matter at a critical milestone in a child’s life – when they begin school and learn how to read – contributed towards the effectiveness of predicting their reading ability.

Following the study, Chelsea Myers – lab manager in UCSF’s Laboratory for Educational Neuroscience – said it is hoped that the findings will raise awareness and understanding of children’s neurocognitive profiles among teachers, parents and carers, so they can provide the appropriate treatment and facilities – especially for children with dyslexia.

One effective treatment is the use of assistive technologies. These are digital software tools that can be executed in the classroom or at home and are an interactive way of teaching children with learning difficulties. Through a series of fun-filled, educational games and activities, the child can work through each one at their own pace, all the while enhancing their literacy and numeracy skills.
For example, the Lucid Comprehension Booster programme allows children to work with texts that vary in content and complexity, helping to improve their level of reading and comprehension. It also has a function to specially tailor the tasks to the child’s individual rate of learning and requires minimal supervision.

(Credit image: Thinkstock/iStock)