Neurodiverse students each have a different experience of being neurodiverse. Each student will have different needs but if their neurodiverse profiles straddle conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD/ADD then it is quite possible that supporting their writing experience with great assistive technology is likely to be essential whilst they are at university and beyond.
Generally speaking, students with neurodiverse profiles can often be found struggling with concentration, focus, spelling, and grammar. These challenges can then bring about anxiety and problems with productivity before one even thinks about the impact on grades. That said, with support, this can so easily be turned around and students can start to find that they can enjoy their process of studying again.
There are two types of assistive technology that, when used together, can really be a ‘dream team’ solution for students and that is mind mapping and text-to-speech software.
Why is mind mapping and text-to-speech software the dream team for students who struggle with writing?
To be fair, used in conjunction as a process is when the power of these two pieces of tech get to make a difference.
Mind mapping is a way of visually organising thoughts and information. Given that it is often a non-linear way of organising information this often sits well with students with neurodiverse brains who struggle with a more linear process. The student can use the software to do a ‘brain dump’ of everything they about a topic onto a mind map and then use the software to rearrange and connect the data accordingly.
Where mind mapping software simply excels over the pen and paper approach is that with some mind mapping software such as Mind Meister, one can then convert the mind map into a fully formatted Word document that can then be edited prior to submission.
If mind mapping was the first stage of writing an essay, then all the student would need to worry about is getting their ideas and knowledge onto the mind map without worrying about spelling and grammar as this can be dealt with at the editing stage. The mind mapping stage is simply about playing with ideas and the least anxious one is at this stage the more fun and engaging it is going to be.
If one was writing an essay from scratch in Microsoft Word, it is not easy to play around with ideas and working in a non-linear format and so as a result this makes the process of writing an essay stressful and overwhelming.
Within MindMeister, simply export your resultant mind map into Microsoft Word and you are then ready to start editing and correcting any grammar and spelling mistakes.
The term ‘Text-To-Speech’ is technical jargon for software that reads out text on a computer. Having exported from Mind Meister, you then have a formatted MS Word document and so you are ready for the editing process. This is where text-to-speech really adds value to the process.
The reality is that when working on any document, one’s brain can miss mistakes in the text. One can get tired as they work with the text and this is when struggles with spelling and grammar can be exacerbated.
Text-to-speech provides a different way to interact with the text. By reading it out and the student listening, if there are grammar issues, text-to-speech will easily highlight it in the way that it reads out the text. The same goes for spelling issues.
Problems with spelling and grammar are really easy to identify when listening to the text being read out.
One of our favourite text-to-speech packages is ReadSpeaker TextAid, which can be used on any technology platform that uses an internet browser so once you have generated your text you can then choose how you wish to work on it in order to edit the content. It also works with different languages too which is helpful.
Some neurodiverse students experience overwhelm and anxiety at the prospect of writing text. Using a mind mapping tool, such as MindMeister, and a text-to-speech tool, such as ReadSpeaker TextAid, have been found to be essential components of a process for writing lengthy course work whilst reducing overwhelm and increasing engagement.
Here at Aventido, we provide training for both these products as well as demonstrate how they work online. If you would like to know more then do check out our events page for the next event taking place showcasing how these products work.