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What Effect does the use of Speech Recognition Software Have on the Compositions of a Student with Handwriting Difficulties

? Julie Way Plymouth State University

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Abstract

This study investigates the effect voice recognition software training can have on the compositions of a fourth grade student with handwriting difficulties. In a previous study, explicit writing instruction was provided along with allowing the student to dictate his composition to a transcriber. The student’s compositions greatly improved as well as his attitude toward schoolwork. In an attempt to create more autonomy for this student, voice recognition software was considered as a possible solution to bypass handwriting. One hour training sessions were administered three times a week for four weeks using Dragon Naturally Speaking® software. Basic commands were taught in order to navigate and edit his work. Portions of script were read to train the computer to recognize the student’s voice. A mind-map similar to the previous study was used to assist organization of thoughts. Samples of compositions that were transcribed on the computer as well as others dictated using Dragon Speak were analyzed using three criteria: word accuracy, composition length, and quality (considering word choice and organization). After 4 weeks of training and dictating it became evident that Dragon Naturally Speaking was not a viable by-pass method. This was due to later research findings that voice recognition software is not accurate for young children due to their physical size and having shorter vocal tract and vocal folds than adults which affects voice sounds causing inaccurate interpretations by the computer. ((Blomber and Elenius 2009). This may be an effective alternative for this student in the future as he matures.

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Dedicated to Josh: Inside my head there’s a lot to say But when I start, the words go away I form the sentence in my head But then I write something else instead Forming letters to such perfection Is hard when you have a poor sense of direction Was it left or right, above or below? My hand asks my eye, “Which way should I go?” I thought that I spaced my work but I see One big long word staring back at me Now, what was it I meant to say? My thoughts are all mixed up today It takes so much time to write what I think Why can’t I just say it and save all that ink? When you look at my paper you’ll see such a mess Right now I wish it was time for recess Julie Way

Handwriting is a complex process involving many different abilities. The first is the ability to accurately distinguish graphic symbols and patterns. Next is the skill to have keen eye/hand coordination along with the control of arm, hand and finger muscles. Writing also requires accurate visual memory of letters and words

(Handbook of Learning Disabilities, 2005). As an educational therapist I work with students who have learning disabilities. These children are average to above average in intelligence yet are struggling academically in various areas. A number of these children have difficulties with the process of handwriting. Josh is such a student. What has made him so interesting to me is the large gap found on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children® — Fourth Edition (WISC®-IV). On verbal activities

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Josh is in the “high average” range yet in the perceptual reasoning portion of the test he scored “low average.” The school psychologist wrote that the results were “not a valid indicator of [his] overall intelligence.” In other words, Josh’s perceptual skills are so severe that it may have masked his true intelligence. As a result of this testing, Josh was enrolled in NILD Educational Therapy Program®; also known as The Discovery Program®. I was trained in this program

after searching many years for a method that would do more than teach children to compensate for their weaknesses. I am personally invested in this program since two of my own children were diagnosed with learning disabilities. I have seen the changes that occurred in their life and desired to be a part of facilitating those types of changes in the lives of others struggling learners. In Discovery, individually prescribed educational therapy is provided three hours a week to students with learning disabilities. At the core of its philosophy is the belief that the brain is malleable and can be retrained by intense focused intervention. Rather than teach students to compensate for their weaknesses, this program offers remediation through the use of cognitive deficit stimulation (NILD parent guide, 2005). Josh became my student in January, 2008. This intervention included special techniques to help Josh improve handwriting as well as address other deficits that were identified. Although he made considerable gains in handwriting and spatial abilities, it has become evident that his expressive language was far more advanced than what his handwriting revealed. Though he is quite verbose, his composition was limited to three or four sentences; afterward, his writing became illegible. I began to wonder

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what would happen if I allowed Josh to dictate his thoughts while I transcribed them using a word processor. With this key question, I began an action research project that provided much insight and understanding of this bright young man and his plight. I will first share a summary of this initial project and its results to provide background information. Next, I will introduce the second part of this project as attempts were made to bring Josh to a place of independence as a writer. Initial Project: In my initial research I learned that working memory is a limited resource (Baddeley, 1998). The more automatic handwriting and spelling become, the more resources of working memory are available for higher level composing (Berninger, 1999; McCutchen, 1996). It was clear that Josh was spending so much energy on the mechanics of handwriting that there was little left for high level composing. Through the findings of De La Paz & Graham, (1997) and Danoff, Harris and Graham, (1993) I discovered the importance of accompanying dictation with explicit planning instruction in order to produce greater length and quality in a student’s composition. Armed with this information I wanted to create a template that would require a minimal amount of handwriting for Josh; something that would be a practical resource to help him organize his thoughts. I chose a “mindmap” form and began to explicitly teach and model its use. My goal was for Josh to use this map regularly until it became a natural part of his writing process as well as something he could accomplish independently.

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I conducted a series of interviews and learned from Josh (Josh D., personal communication, October 15, 2009) that he desires for his handwriting to be neat. He is amazed if he finished writing something big and feels good even if it’s small. Correcting is what he likes least about the writing process. Things he thinks would make him a better writer includes: “practice, a sharpened pencil and a good idea.” He can write about 3-4 sentences without his hand hurting. If the writing utensil is a pen, he might write up to 8 sentences (since the pen writes easier on paper and hurts his hand less). I interviewed Josh’s mom (Janet D., personal communication, October 15, 2009) and learned about tension in the home during homework time. She seemed to place a great deal of importance on neat work and shared that she thought Josh could be more successful in writing if he practiced. What his mom wasn’t realizing was that although Josh can produce a neat piece of work, it requires inordinate amounts of energy, stamina and time. (The International Dyslexia Association, 2009) He is not able to do this with every piece due to the amount of work involved. Thus – he resists writing which makes homework time very stressful for them both. Josh’s teacher (V. Cornwell., personal communication, October 15, 2009) mentioned his lack of effort in some areas “probably due to handwriting.” She felt his greatest hindrance to becoming a success writer was getting his thoughts down on paper in a way that “makes sense without translation.” She would like to see him master the complete sentence using proper punctuation without omitting words. She makes a considerable number of modifications for Josh and is sensitive to his needs and disabilities.

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Josh’s writing samples revealed a degeneration of legibility after the third or fourth sentence. Omitted words, poor spelling, and illegible handwriting made it very difficult to decipher. Josh sub vocalized when he wrote which confirmed how much energy he invested in the mechanics of writing. He used an improper pencil grasp which added to the cramping in his hands when writing. Through the weeks that followed, Josh became proficient in using the mindmap to plan his compositions independently. The process used was that Josh would plan his compositions independently, and then came to the session prepared to dictate. He would use the mind map to dictate sentences in an orderly way. After the composition was transcribed we used the editing page of the template that was created for him. This page contained questions to consider when reviewing the composition. For example: Did you use “just right” words? “Does each sentence have an ending mark?” The results were exciting. Josh’s compositions grew in length and quality. His vocabulary was advanced and his sentences were more developed. His excitement and motivation grew to a point where he suggested we bind the compositions into a book. By the end of the study, Josh even began to insert punctuation in his written work in class! His grades began to rise also. It seemed as though success was breeding success. At one point his teacher shared with me that Josh earned the highest grade in the class; referring to a test she had given in reading. This was exciting news indeed.

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A meeting was arranged with Josh’s parents, his classroom teacher and me. In some of the opening comments, his parents mentioned Josh’s descriptive writing as “much more mature”. We also learned that homework time was less combative and that overall, Josh was excited. My goal for the meeting was to share some of my findings from the study and adopt a plan of practical ways to help Josh acquire appropriate writing habits to continue experiencing success. This plan required a team approach in order to

consistently reinforce healthy writing habits such as the use of a proper grasp, rhythmic writing exercises at home (part of Discovery therapy) and the purchase of a writing utensil that would relieve hand cramping and promote greater pencil control. The spirit of the meeting was one of celebration. New Questions: As I began to reflect on all that transpired within the previous project, some questions began to trouble me concerning the transcription portion of this arrangement. Although I was trying to remain neutral as I typed Josh’s words, how much was I contributing without realizing it? How was my insertion of punctuation and spelling affecting this process? How much was I questioning and cuing along the way? Were these merely clarification questions or was I contributing to his

composition? What could I do to help Josh become more independent? The answer to these questions is what has launched the second part of this study.

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Research: I began to research computer-based compensatory tools for handwriting. My first consideration was keyboarding. As I researched this option, I was surprised to discover that although keyboarding is a different task than handwriting, it still involves perceptual skills and motor processes (even though they are less complex than pencil manipulations) and would not be a good first choice. Unless this skill becomes

automatic, it could prove to be slower in production than handwriting (Lewis Graves, Ashton, & Kieley, 1998; MacArthur & Graham 1987). Other concerns involved the need for intense training and close monitoring by an instructor for more than six weeks for keyboarding to be successful or else the student would revert to hunt and peck (Lewis, 1998). Since Josh’s deficits were severe in the areas of visual motor coordination and spatial perception, I chose not to pursue keyboarding. I learned about Dragon Naturally Speaking® 10 speech recognition software created by NUANCE®. It was advertised as “more than 3x faster than

typing…delivering up to 99% accuracy with no spelling errors” (Nuance Communications Inc., 2008). I wondered how voice-recognition software would affect his composition. I purchased 2 copies; one for Josh and one for myself. I wanted to learn how to use the program in order to begin training. I began by downloading Dragon Naturally Speaking® (DNS) on my home computer as well as on my laptop. In this way I could use it regularly at home and Josh could use it on my laptop while training at school. I gave a copy to Josh’s mom to download on their home computer as well.

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The software wizard walked us through the setup. Josh was required to read an introduction and a 10 minute portion of script for the computer to acquire a sample of his voice to assist in accuracy. I used the wizard at home to create a profile for myself and began learning the basic commands on how to navigate and edit compositions. The opportunity to work on further accuracy issues was easily accessible through the program menu. It didn't take long before the computer became accustomed to my voice and interpreted my dictation with relative precision. In fact, my 28-year-old daughter tried it without any training or readings and found it to be quite accurate. I was excited to think of how this might help Josh. Method/Procedure: With practice, I soon felt comfortable navigating the software and prepared to begin training Josh. We met 3 times a week for one hour, working on accuracy training and learning basic commands. After several attempts I was disappointed to see that the program was not as accurate for Josh as it had been for me. I wrote to a Nuance technician hoping for some tips to improve accuracy (D. Gabbay, personal communication, 2010, January, 21). I acted on the suggestions that were provided such as the importance of articulation, careful placement of the microphone, and changing the voice mode settings to “teen” to accommodate a younger user. Josh and I visited the “accuracy center” option on the software menu and reread the script 5 to 6 times. Although we rehearsed the reading he still stumbled through portions, repeated some words, and misread others. At one point I “echo read” by reading the phrase to Josh quietly and having him repeat each phrase into the

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microphone. Another technique I used was to have Josh read several paragraphs from an easy reader to help the computer adjust to his voice and phrasing. Still, there were problems with accuracy. Josh was taught 7 basic commands to use when navigating through the program. He easily remembered these commands and used them at appropriate times. He was also supplied with a sheet of additional commands as a reference to be used when necessary. Data was collected in several ways: 1. Josh would create a mind map to use then dictate using Dragon Naturally Speaking® (DNS). The mind map helped create order in his composition. The words and phrases were used to cue him. While dictating, the text appeared on the computer monitor. Oftentimes this text was inaccurate. When Josh noticed this, he would begin correcting the errors. This would interrupt his flow of thoughts. Afterward, I had Josh use the mindmap and dictate his composition to me while I transcribed it using the computer. 2. Using this second method, Josh dictated his composition using DNS. A tape recorder captured his words. Later, the dictation was transcribed in order to compare with the text generated by DNS. At one point I allowed Josh to also dictate only using the tape recorder (without DNS to distract him). 3. Another method used was to have Josh use all three modes of communication for one composition. He dictated using DNS. Then he dictated me as I transcribed using the computer. Then he was assigned the same composition to be completed independently at home to be handwritten. This method was used only once for the purpose of comparing each of these forms of communication.

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Measures: Compositions were compared in several ways. They were categorized as

“written”, “dictated and transcribed using a word processor” “dictated using Dragon Naturally Speaking® (DNR)” and “dictated and transcribed using a tape recorder”. Each composition was evaluated considering word accuracy, composition length, and composition quality. Quality was determined by word choice and organization (which was compared to Josh’s mind map). Although numerous compositions were written, three compositions were used and reviewed for this study. Data/Analysis: Data collected and analyzed included mind maps, dictated compositions (see “Methods”), general training observations/notes, and interviews with Josh. Josh’s mind maps were simple but orderly. He was able to use a word or phrase to cue him as he dictated his composition. They included a topic sentence, body and concluding sentence.

Josh’s mindmap template (Fig. A)

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The following, are compositions planned and dictated by Josh using the various methods described above. An analysis is presented in table format following each set of compositions.
Dictated using DNS: The things I did over Christmas vacation

Cursing at in our wind turbine Keeshan is skyward to the science center in line new line. The first thing I did overwinter vacation is the science center. There's a lot of cool animals hair There like black bears tear There bobcats links and birds. There's a lot of playing places tailfeathers about three of themThere's a lot a cool play places where there's about three. And if you want to give you a poor of the placeTourI did overs stop this next thing they did overwinter vacation was swimming I died did right as we got there dived i his tie and I'm asked him not only did I dive in, I also went swimming with Max. I also went sledding as well. Fun fast and I managed. I had fun, I went fast, and I crashed as well. Close all the things I did overwinter vacation. Those are

Dictated to a transcriber: The things I did over Christmas vacation I had a lot of fun over Christmas vacation. First I went to the Science center. It was a cold day but it was worth it. I saw a lot of cool things. I saw two black bears, two mountain lions, a couple of birds, one lynx and 2 bobcats and four deer. They like to run and jump and you can feed them. There are also play places there too. There is one where it has a plastic spider and you crawl in its dark tunnel and you can’t see anything. You can’t even see your own hand. It’s pitch black. You hear weird noises and it is fun. It’s not just that, there are multiple holes and one leads to a dead end. There’s not just a spider hole, there’s a bear cave too. There are skins on the wall and a robotic bear in the tunnel that you meet up with. There’s one where you put puzzles together, another one where you can make a deer out of bones. It’s quite fun. When you are done you can also have lunch there. They have a soda machine. Watch out, the crows will try to steal your food! They have also a museum there. It’s quite big. And there is also two owls in a cage on the side of the building you can see. It’s quite an amazing place. The next day, I went swimming with Max. The pool was so warm that there was fog everywhere. It was ten feet deep and we had goggles so we could see underwater. I was the first one in. My mom was second and Max was third. It is not just a swimming place, it’s also a hotel, a haircutting spa, a restaurant, a lobby and a front deck. It’s actually quite an amazing place. There’s also a hot tub, and a lollipop jar. Max and I actually took two lollipops because they were good. Then the next day I went sledding with Max. There was a lot going on. There was a big hill covered in ice. It was fun, fast and there was a lot of crashing. Every time you went down you crashed into somebody because it wasn’t just us, there were other people too. We put two big sticks in the ground so we wouldn’t hit each other when we went down the hill. The hill was very fast and hard to walk up because it was very steep. It took about 3-4 minutes to get up the hill. We stayed there until about 7:00 and then it got dark and we headed home. Me and Max had dinner at my house, we played on the computer, we played on the Wii, and then he went home and I went to bed. That day was very awesome because I spent my whole Christmas vacation with Max. 481 words 6 paragraphs

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Comparison of compositions dictated to a transcriber and dictated to DNS: Title: Things I did Over Christmas Vacation (Method #1) Mode of Communication Dictated to a transcriber using a word processor 100% Not available Dictated and self corrected using Dragon Naturally Speaking 10® 80% Frequent errors inaccuracies include: The first thing/ “cursing” there/hair Winter vacation/wind turbine Keeshan Dived in/ died in Those are all/close all 159 words Poor quality sentences due to computer errors incoherent sentences. Vocabulary: managed

Hand written

Word accuracy

Composition length Quality considering vocabulary, sentence structure and expression

481 words Followed mind map Used transition words Well formed sentences Vocabulary: elementary, torpedo, traction, lynx, robotic, pleasant, saucer, multiple, luckily, spa, awesome

Table 1

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DNS dictation of model airplane composition: If you have a model their point these of the fun things you can you can do. First thing you can do is first and you have to do before you can even get and to building it is finding the pieces to fill the end fun hammering and drawing Zukowski and the and the hammering a handbag Brown and there's a lot of other fun things thirsted to enders different types of models you can get theirs callers jets planes tanks and your certain ages you have you been a certain age who have to be. On end you can build a lot of different things you know you can have different types different ages were highest in 16 just for bolts which of the really small pieces and not only on number two and each gets quite fun. Mixing up like the talk about is hanging them up it be it's fun because you have the big shrimp about the WAC for Program with an sauce it's been warmish trinkets about 3 feet wall does the likening of well selected Joseph on and it's on Morneau something is the tack because the TAC is see-through swoop looks like you're on looks like it's four-lane and budgets for enormous right so let's pretty funny to watch Albright because lately heater that blows around throwing it to throw it were fun to the control model their point fun out of getting them stuck in trees because the with mobile don't make him look like a big airplane flying senior and it's fun because on there is a lot of different ways you could throw we control from a high point a low point you could throw which trade up you can throw it I know what it basically no most whatever way you can want to add another thing way alike phoniest the snow because it'll stitched it what you fly a host get stuck in the stone stared straight up and the one and I like alleging still making it to loop the loop because it will. It will on…

(351 words)
Josh’s exact words (below) are to be compared with DNS interpretation (above) If you have a model airplane these are the fun things you can do. First thing you can do is first thing you have to do before you can even get into building it is finding the pieces a little bit and hammering and drilling because it goes errrrrrrra and the hammering goes “bang bang” and there’s a lot of other fun things there’s to do and there’s different types of models you can get there’s cars jet planes tanks and there’s certain ages you ha there’s certain ages you have to be. Um and you can build a lot of different things you can have different type different ages the highest is sixteen which is for adults which has the really small pieces and I’m only on the number two and its quite fun. The next thing I would like to talk about is hanging them up its see it’s fun because because you have this big string that I like to whack whack around and the string is about 3 feet long cause I like to hang them long so I can go “phhht” um and its um and another fun thing is the tack because the tack is see through so it looks like it is flying but its flying on a string so that’s pretty funny because I have a heater that blows it around throwing it is fun too because throwing a model airplane is fun I like getting them stuck in trees because the wind will blow them down and it will look like a big airplane flying in the air and its fun because um because there’s a lot of different ways you can throw it you can throw it from a high point a low point you can throw it straight up but it basically goes whatever way you want it to and another thing way I like throwing it is through snow because it’ll stick straight when you fly it it’l get stuck in the snow and stand straight up and when you and I like making it do a loop de loop because it will it will um slide on ice. And that’s the things I like to do with a model airplane. (351 words). Josh’s dictation using a tape recorder (below): If you have a model plane, these are the fun things you can do. The first thing you can do you can do um the first thing, before you can get the plane and doing other things you have to build it and its fun finding the pieces because you don’t know if you lost them you don’t know what happened to them and its fun hammering and drilling because when you’re drilling you go zzzzzzzzzz and its fun

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hammering because you can go bang bang bang and there’s a lot of fun things that come to building it and it takes a pretty long time to build it. It isn’t hard to build one of these things it’s actually pretty easy depend on a level 16 is for adults. I only have a level 2 which is for a 10 year old like me and me and my dad will work on it and its fun because it’s a project we get to do a lot and its fun um the next thing I’ll talk about is um hanging the model airplane up. That’s fun too because of a big string I like to whack around with and its fun and the string and um another thing you have to do to hang it up is you have tack its pretty amazing um the tacks um our tacks um you can see through so at night you can’t see the tacks so it looks like it’s actually hand flying so that’s pretty fun. And you can and another thing you can do with a model airplane is throw it it can get I like throwing it so it can get stuck in trees so the wind can blow it out and make it look like its actually flying on its own and its also fun throwing it through the snow and because you can’t see where its going if its snowing hard enough out and um if its snowing hard enough it will land in the snow and it will stick straight up and I also like to make it do loop de loops and then it will land straight on the concrete and slide on the ice. Those are th that’s the fun things I like to do with a model airplane. (376 words) Comparison of composition dictated via tape recorder and DNS:

Title: Building Model Airplanes (Method #2) Mode of Hand Dictated to a tape Dictated using Communication Written recorder and later Dragon Naturally transcribed Speaking 10® Word accuracy 100% 69% accuracy

Composition length Not Available

351 words WPS: NA

351 words WPS: NA

Quality considering vocabulary and sentence structure expression

Limited use of mind mapa Rambled run-on sentences Words repeated, audible pauses inserted. used transition words
a

limited use mind mapa Rambled Included sound effects, run-on sentences used transition words

Table 2

*WPS - average words per sentence inserted details that took him off course

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Dictated using DNS: My exciting sledding during recess: Act lunch recess I went slightly below point. At lunch recess I went sledding the whole time. What I went wedding I had there was a big joke When I went sledding there was a big It was a lot of fluffy snow that what you want to throw it it was. The flu the jump was full to the pile of fluffy snow. The jump was her of fluffy snow. filled with a pile And if you went to faster with flip over that was the best part with your advice would you work for troubling you would go right through the snow and you would hit I just But if you were in my sled you would be in big trouble because you. You would go right through the snow and you would hit ice. But if you want to slide you have to the big show up later to be but be careful what slippery is lots of lights I put it back where it's going Bill, trying to get up and I went farther but I would farther them rock. It's fun because snow flies in your face's so fluffy it's cool for me it feels like I'm going to a car wash. And it can be scary because you don't know which way to go that was being thickly the thing I did all recess and I used to different slots during the recess of 12 months a use was a a sauce for the soft serve spun me around so fast my got my fellow guy got sick and the torpedo so I used in the slow death of her co-off will never go over the jump it'll go for what always. Hat had to be the most fun recess I ever had. Dictated to transcriber: My exciting sledding during recess

After lunch I went sledding with half the elementary. You have to go up the big slippery hill that’s on the playground. It’s so slippery that I slipped fell on my sled and went backwards down the hill. It took me at least 10-15 seconds to get up the hill. Lucky for me my boots had traction. It is also very fun the more fun the more snow on the sled the faster you go and the funner it is it’s also scary because the path flattens out the farther you go down you don’t know which direction you are gong to go in especially if you are on a torpedo sled like mine. The big jump was the most fun when you go over it. It feels like a big rock because of the ice that is still under there. Dillon and I took some of the time digging up ice so we could go faster. I wish we had shovels but Dillon was like a snow plow and I was like a snow machine pushing the snow side to side. That is the whole reason we all went faster. The fluffy snow flies in your face every time. The jump will get too little sometimes so we have to fill it up with more fluffy snow. If you go too fast like Raphael went you’ll flip over. But if you are using my sled you’re in for big trouble because my sled cuts right through the jump. It’s hard on the bottom so it doesn’t feel too pleasant. You’ll wipe out and go anywhere. And also I used two different sleds that recess I used a saucer sled I spun around so fast I felt very sick but luckily for me it was only a little while until I got back to my normal self but that sled wasn’t the funnest sled because that sled tried to kill me the torpedo sled was a lot better it cuts right through the jump and never goes over. That’s the only thing I did over the whole lunch recess Handwritten Version: My exciting sledding during recess This is a fun sleding time after lunche me and the elumetree went sledinn it was a blast. Ther was a jump it was a pile of flufe snom and it flise in our face when you go fover the jump. And ife you go over the jumpes as fast as rafale did you would flip over. But ife you use my slade you would go right throo the funep. And its hard on the botun of the jump. But be for I did that I had to go up the slipre fill. I slipt and went don bakwrs on my slade and the more snow on your sled the faster you go. And its scary becos you don’t now where yer our goin and I use to difr ______ that day. The furast tha I yse was the sasars I spin so fast that I fealt sick and I went flieing. And I olus used the torpedo sla and I aosus went thrue the fall. That wath I did at resess

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Josh’s mindmap from the “Sledding” composition (Previously created on the blackboard and later transcribed)

Fig. B Comparison of compositions handwritten, dictated to transcriber, dictated via DNS:

Title: Sledding (Method #3) Mode of Communication Word accuracy Handwritten Dictated to a transcriber using a word processor 100% Dictated and self corrected using Dragon Naturally Speaking 10® 50%

Composition length

93% accuracy in word recognition. Due to misspellings some words were difficult to translate. 177 words wps* 12 14 sentences Followed mind map Vocabulary: elementary, saucer, torpedo

354 words WPS: 18 20 sentences Followed mind mapa Vocabulary: elementary, torpedo, traction, pleasant, saucer, luckily

361 words WPS: NA 12 sentences Followed mind map. Poor quality due to inaccuracies Frequent errors such as: basically/being thickly used a simile little punctuation used

Quality considering vocabulary and sentence structure expression

Table 3 *wps = average words per sentence a changed order slightly; not effecting organization

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One of my overall observations was how patient, motivated and cooperative Josh was throughout the entire study. Even though one of the assignments was to write the composition he had already dictated to DNS and to me as I transcribed, it was obvious that he worked diligently on this assignment. When Josh was asked (Josh D., personal communication, January 12, 2010) how he felt about DNS up to this point, he shared that he liked it and although there was a need for accuracy training he felt it was “better than having to write”. As data was collected through these various methods problems began to occur. DNS was very inaccurate when Josh dictated. When I encouraged Josh to speak clearly he would overly enunciate. “I use Dragon Speak” was transcribed as “I Hughes Ragget Peak”. Other factors effecting accuracy were the external noises Josh made such as sniffing. This would confuse the computer and often cause it to generate a word or words. Audible pauses like, "um” or repeated words or phrases also contributed to inaccuracies. I noticed Josh would sometimes repeat a word or phrase if he hadn't formed a complete thought before dictating. For example he might utter, "and um when I… when I…” which was all transcribed by DNS. Sometimes if a command was said without first pausing during dictation, it will appear as text, such as the command: “new line”. Another issue was the need for Josh to insert punctuation using a command such as “period” or “question mark”. He did this sporadically since he often forgot. I also noticed that when using DNS Josh began to ramble as though he were having a conversation with someone. At times he would add unimportant details which would

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cause him to stray off topic and compromise the organization and structure of the composition. There was a noticeable difference in composition style and quality when dictation was used with either DNS or with a tape recorder. The fact that there was no reliable text in view when using DNS or no text available at all when dictating using a tape recorder, may account for the poor compositions. Quinlin (2004) found that visible text is important when composing because it can help prompt additional planning. The absence of text may have made it difficult for Josh to keep tract of what he dictated, causing him to ramble and repeat himself. When dictating while I transcribed, Josh seemed more relaxed and took more time to compose. He sat next to me in full view of the monitor, reading text with a 16 point font in view. When using the other modes of dictation, Josh seemed rushed. He was less careful choosing his words, tended to ramble and often composed before generating a complete thought in his mind. For Josh's parents, there were problems installing DNS on their home computer. Although I helped with some of these problems their Vista operating system wasn’t always cooperative. Using DNS on Josh's computer at home was not successful.

Meanwhile I was using DNS for myself at home regularly and was very pleased with the results. The tips and suggestions prescribed by the DNS technician were followed resulting in only minimal improvement. I did not feel we were making any substantial progress. I decided to broaden my knowledge base by searching beyond the educational

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research sites I had been using. I wanted to find out why DNS was working so well for me and not for Josh. My answer came when I explored research written by technicians in the field that were working on perfecting voice recognition technology. This new search led me to a study explaining reasons why voice recognition is not accurate for children. According to Wilpon and Jacobsen (1996), “children have shorter vocal tracks and vocal folds which result in poor spectral resolutions in vocal sounds.” This effects how the computer interprets speech generated by a young population. Other reasons cited included poor articulation from loss of teeth and the fact that children use language differently than adults. Due to these factors, children’s word-error rate is 100% higher in speech recognition systems than adults (Wilpon, 1996). This information was crucial to this study. After 4 weeks it became evident that due to the amount of inaccuracies and the investment of time needed to edit these errors, DNS was not a viable solution for Josh at this point in time. Any gain made through by-passing handwriting was lost by the added burden of editing the composition not only for expression but for inaccuracies caused by computer error. Although the outcome of this study was not what I had hoped it to be, there were many rewarding by-products. The biggest surprise was that Josh’s handwritten

assignment contained 177 words! It seemed that Rhythmic Writing exercises along with the accommodations recommended at our earlier parent-teacher meeting were generating positive results. Josh was writing more legibly and in greater quantity. His

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sentences were more cohesive with fewer omissions. He even punctuated ten out of fourteen sentences! When it was obvious that DNS was not going to work for Josh, I asked him how he was feeling. He agreed that it wasn’t working and said, “It just didn’t feel right”. I tried to get him to elaborate on this comment but he wasn’t able to express why. “It just felt different.” I asked him to predict which mode of communication was successful from greatest to least. He was able to accurately guess the most successful mode as dictating through transcription, next hand writing, and then DNS. Dictating into the tape recorder was not part of my original plan but I’m glad I experimented with it. I was considering using this as the next approach. After

considering the results and reading comments from Quinlin (2004), I realize the importance of having the text in view while composing and must now consider other possibilities. Results Following the decision to discontinue DNS training, I wanted to end on a positive note. Since Josh had an idea to write an informational book on birds, I assisted by helping him locate birds of prey that he wanted to write about. We gathered information, Josh summarized facts then dictated them to me while I transcribed them using the computer. Josh was delighted with the results. The book was bound and brought home to share with his parents. As I reflect on this project and all I have learned, I am convinced this problem needs to be addressed on two fronts. It is important to continue to search for ways Josh

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can freely express himself when given extended writing assignments, without the mechanics of handwriting hindering his language expression. It is also important to continue therapy with the goal of bringing Josh’s writing to automaticity. He clearly is improving in this area. Research supports the fact that when children’s handwriting becomes more automatic, general improvements result in the fluency of their text generation as well (Berninger et al., 1997, 2002; Graham, Harris, & Fink, 2000). It was also found that “early intervention in increasing automaticity of letter production may have long-range effects on written expression in the junior high years but further research is needed on this issue” (Berninger, Whitaker, Feng, Swanson, & Abbot, 1996 p. 346). I will continue to work with Josh in Discovery therapy along with reinforcing the need for rhythmic writing exercises to be completed at home. This research, as well as the studies of Graham, Schwarts, & MacArthur (1993); and MacArthur (1999), continues to promote the need for early intervention aimed at the teaching of handwriting and spelling to “at risk” writers early in schooling. This is particularly important information to share with lower elementary grade teachers. In an era of performance based education, little time is invested in such activities as penmanship. However, it is particularly important for children “at risk” and should be seen as an investment in their future; providing them with the necessary skills to expressively create compositions in their junior and senior high years and beyond. I plan to take the opportunity to share this information with the elementary staff. On a practical note, by examining Josh’s penmanship I realized that his handwriting is more legible when he uses 3/4” lined paper (third grade composition

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rule). I have acquired this specific lined paper and created a notebook for Josh to use in the classroom. I have discussed the results of this study with his classroom teacher and plans parent/teacher meeting. Its purpose would be to share the results of this study and encourage continued use of the accommodations implemented from the earlier study. They seem to be an effective means of remediation. I learned, through an important study by Gersten & Baker’s (2001), that in some cases fewer than half the students, who are taught to use organizational strategies for composing, actually use them after a study is discontinued. One possible reason is that writing strategy instruction takes place outside the classroom which means students have limited opportunity to regularly apply what they have learned. In order to circumvent this problem I have arranged with Josh’s classroom teacher, to provide whole class instruction on compositional organization. I will use the same three step approach that I used with Josh (the use of using brainstorming, mind mapping, and an editing template). In this way Josh can continue to apply these familiar tools in the classroom and his classmates can benefit from this organizational template as well. As this portion of the project comes to a close, it is time to regroup and discuss future plans with Josh concerning our times together. I shared the need to continue working on hand writing skills as well as composition. Since Josh’s handwriting is gradually improving and becoming easier and less painful for him, he can write more. Josh shared ideas about a new book; an informational one about dinosaurs. The

motivation is there. He sees himself as an author. It’s a perfect time to begin this two-

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fold plan. There are lots of great stories to write and plentiful opportunities to work on the creative aspects of composition as well as the practical aspects of remediating perceptual skills. Gradually Josh is becoming more confident in his abilities to organize and compose. As he continues to improve and experience success, I will slowly transfer responsibilities to him. This gradual release to independence is what builds confidence in the student and is a teacher’s ultimate sense of triumph.

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References

Baddely, A. (1998). Recent developments in working memory. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 8(2), 234-238. Berninger, V., Whitaker, D., Feng, Y., Swanson, H. L., & Abbott, R. (1996). Assessment of planning translating, and revising in junior high writers. Journal of School Psychology, 34, 23-52. Berninger, V., Vaughan, K., Abbott, R. D., Brooks, A., Abbott, S., & Rogan, L. (1997). Treatment of handwriting fluency problems in beginning writing: Transfer from handwriting to composition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 652-666. Berninger, V. (1999). Coordinating transcription and text generation in working memory during composing automatized and constructive processes. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 22(2), 99-112. Blomberg, M., & Elenius, D. (2003). Collection and recognition of children’s speech in the PF-Star project. Phonum, 9, 81-84. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from http://www.ling.umu.se/fonetik2003/ Danoff, B., Harris, K., & Graham, S. (1993). Incorporating strategy instruction within the writing process in the regular classroom: Effects on the writing of students with and without learning disabilities.. Journal of Reading Behavior, 25, 295-319. DeLaPaz, S., & Graham, S. (1997). Effects of dictation and advanced planning instruction on the composing of students with writing and learning problems. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 203-222.

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Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Standard. (n.d.). Speech Recognition, PDF Converter & OCR Solutions. Retrieved January 19, 2010, from http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/products/editions/standard.asp Duel, R. K. (1995). Developmental Dysgraphia and Motor Skills Disorders. Journal of Child Neurology, 10(1), S6-S8. Duel, R. K. (n.d.). Just the facts...dysgraphia. The International Dyslexia Association Promoting literacy through research, education and advocacy. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from http://www.interdys.org Gersten, R., & Baker, S. (2001). Teaching expressive writing to students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis. . Elementary School Journal, 101, 251-272. Graham, S., Harris, K., & Fink, B. (2000). Is handwriting causally related to learning to write? Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 620-633. Graham, S., Shwartz, S., & MacArthur, C. (1993). Knowledge of writing and the composing process, attitude toward writing, and self-efficacy for students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26, 237-249. Graham, S. (1999). The role of text production skills in writing development: A special issue: I. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22(2), 75-77. Lewis, R., Graves, A., Ashton, T., & Kieley, C. L. (1998). Word processing tools for students with learning disabilities: A comparison of strategies to increase text entry speed. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 13(2), 95-108.

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MacArthur, C., & Graham, S. (1987). Learning disabled students composing under three methods of text production: Handwriting, word processing, and dictation. Journal of Special Education, 21, 22-42. MacArthur, C. (1999). Overcoming barriers to writing: Computer support for basic writing skills. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 15, 169-192. MacArthur, C. A., Graham, S. G., & Fitzgerald, J. (2008). Handbook of Writing Research (1 ed.). New York: The Guilford Press. McCutchen, D. (1996). A capacity theory of writing: Working memory in composition. Educational Psychology Reviews, 8, 229-325. NILD National Institute for Learning Development - One Student at a Time. (n.d.). NILD Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.nild.net Purdue OWL . (n.d.). Welcome to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL). Retrieved February 19, 2010, from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ Quinlan, T. (2004). Speech recognition technology and students with writing difficulties improving fluency. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(2), 337-346. Swanson, H.L., Harris, K., & Graham, S. (2003). Handbook of Learning Disabilities. New York: The Guilford Press. Wechsler, D. (n.d.). Product - Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children® — Fourth Edition (WISC®-IV). Retrieved February 20, 2010, from http://psychcorp.pearsonassessments.com/ Wilpon, J., & Jacobsen, C. (1996). A study of speech recognition for children and the elderly. Acoustic Speech and Signaling, 1(May), 349-352.