Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Like Links in a Chain

It's amazing how things all come together. I have not been teaching in a school since Holland was born. But I've kept in contact with several of my co-workers. One in particular was actually my boss at the school. Over the years she's sent me great websites with information about education and just been a great resource for all the complexities of this journey of teaching a child with learning deficits.

I emailed her a copy of a writing that Holland did. It was unprompted, but it was about birds which we have been studying for a couple weeks. If you remember the bird sanctuary he built on our deck, that was the inspiration for his writing. Basically, it's unreadable. I had to send along an interpretation of it. And several of the "sentences" Holland wasn't even sure what he had written when I asked about it. After seeing this, my friend offered to drive up to my house (she lives over an hour and a half away!) and chat face-to-face to see if she could offer any more help. Holland had a speech and language evaluation several months ago and I showed her a copy of that. Many of the suggestions she had were very similar or the same as this evaluation. I showed her the drawings and writings we do for any reading we do; the picture dictionary and the general curriculum we're using.

Then she told me about this computer software called "Co-Writer". We went to the website and I've gotta say it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. The software uses "intelligent word predictor", a built-in ability of the computer to recognize phonetic and invented spelling patterns. It has a very extensive dictionary and all the possible spellings of a word. So when a child is typing, the software will predict what the next word will be and the student can roll over the word to hear it. I looked at before and after writings and the difference is phenomenal. Some of the students had legible handwriting, but spelling, punctuation, spacing problems were common among all of the samples. Then they had a sample of what that same student did with Co-Writer. Not only was spelling improved almost 100% in every case, but the students wrote more and added more details.

I want this software! Only problem is it costs $245. I don't have $245 just lying around. But I've talked with several people on his IEP team to see about getting the software added to curriculum the district has for special needs students. The wheels are in motion. Hopefully (sooner than later) we will have this software and I can't wait to see what kind of writing Holland produces!

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