It is the intention of Specialkidz to develop a number of working partnerships which will be of benefit to special needs children, their parents and teachers, researchers and other interested people. One such partnership is Microlink which carried out a pilot action research project with us. See some of the outcomes in a short report compiled by Michelle Surridge who is one of our Specialkidz Consultants.
Research Report: Microlink
Independence through assistive technology…putting special needs first
Microlink aims to support individuals with special needs to operate a whole range of technology through the use of the effective and assistive software tools. The facilities promoted by Microlink allow users to independently carry out tasks that require a variety of literacy skills.
Microlink provides solutions that directly improve speech, language and communication skills.
1. Learning Access Suite
This particular software package includes eight applications that target reading and writing difficulties.
Speech Recognition: Through the use of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, this software enables what is spoken to the PC to be converted into written form, appearing on the screen, so that the user is not restricted to typing.
- Reading and Writing Support Toolbar: This application converts any read or written text into the delivery of a human-sounding voice.
- Screen Magnifier and Reader: This programme amplifies areas selected by the user, of the PC screen to various degrees.
- Reading Ruler: This entity provides a horizontal magnifying band that makes it easier to concentrate on a certain part of a text. The contrast of the irrelevant background text can be changed so that it does not interfere; it can be greyed or dimmed.
- Concept Mapper: “ClaroIdeas”, a visual software solution, assists in research and presentation tasks by capturing pictures, research notes, web links, and video files with more flexibility.
- Colour Overlay: This particular aspect of the software package delivers a clearer view of the PC screen by changing the colour and/or level of tint.
- On Screen Keyboard: The Learning Access Suite offer an alternative input method to computers, by allowing users with learning difficulties to operate a PC.
- Language Learning Assistant: This part of the software speaks text aloud in high-quality voices, recommended for individuals where English is their second language. This programme also includes a bilingual dictionary with a large range of languages.
2. Ginger – The Write Solution
This text correction tool is suited for schoolwork as well as all personal needs. Ginger has a number of beneficiary functions for learners that wish to improve their speech and language acquisition skills.
- Corrects whole sentences, and allows users to work quickly and efficiently
- Enables users to write confidently and work independently
- Users are able to personalize the software display, through varying colours, fonts and spacing
- Alternative corrections and their definitions are supplied when grammatical errors occur
- Other personal settings can be changed, including speech, volume and voice selection
- Corrects spelling mistakes, misused words and grammatical errors; the software is compatible with Microsoft Word and Outlook.
3. Audio Book Player
The new portable digital book player, “Book Sense”, allows users to access information for educational purposes as well as entertainment.
- “Book Sense” plays audio files, DAISY content, and has a FM tuner, secured Digital (SD) memory card slot and an in-built recorder
- The digital device supports a variety of formats, including MP4, OGG, WAV, WAX, MPC and WMA
- “Book Sense” gives users access to digital talking books.
Through the Learning Access Suite, Microlink are offering a range of alternative keyboards to accommodate users with special needs.
- Keyboards with high contrast, large keys and ergonomic keyboards
- “Multicoloured Educational” is a modified keyboard, where all the keys are colour-doded into vowels, consonants and numbers for easy learning
- Double-sized keys and a robust build.
How can SpecialKidz contribute?
SpecialKidz could organize a number of workshops in local schools and/or educational events where talks, demonstrations and activities for participants are arranged. This would allow us to promote the software that Microlink is providing.
SpecialKidz can run a research project in schools across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, where installment of the Microlink software and on-going training is provided to the students and teachers in schools. SpecialKidz can also provide one-to-one training with parents in their homes, so that students can maximise their speech, reading and writing skills when carrying out homework.
SpecialKidz could publicize the research findings from the Microlink project, in terms of the extent to which the speech, language and communication skills of participants improved as a result of using the Microlink software.
Michelle Surridge (nee Kendal)