Advice to a parent considering DRAGON for a dyslexic child
A mother of a dyslexic child asked a forum about Dragon Naturally Speaking and here are two responses, from Jilly, a mother who is also a teacher, and from Ruth, a retired teacher with many years of experience.
“I would by no means claim any expert knowledge, so do check what I say with other sources. But I do want to encourage you to persevere.
I used Dragon over the last summer holidays with my 3 boys, aged at the time 9, 11, 13. I have also successfully supported adults using it, including ones with strong accents and slight speech impediments.
The software belongs to my eldest son, who is very severely dyslexic. Fortunately his voice broke early, quickly and has been stable.
I used a very useful crib sheet I had from iANSYST (lots of useful Dragon information and guidance on their site) e.g. invest in a good quality microphone – better than the one which comes with it. Nuance do a quick reference, of course.
Anyway, from my own experience, it is absolutely crucial that learners do follow correction procedures. It is like starting to join up handwriting. It is slower, requires more effort and concentration at first, but brings great dividends in the long run.
Also, for some it can be helpful to externalise the idea. It is not so much they who are being trained, but they are being guided into how to train the software. I say they have to treat Dragon like a naughty puppy they have to train to behave and do tricks.
If the person makes the mistake, but Dragon reproduces the mistake correctly, e.g. I say ‘running’ Dragon types ‘running’ but I meant to say ‘ran,’ then it is best to use the delete button as the software did not make the error.
However, in the example above, if Dragon typed ‘ruining’ then it is best to train it rather than delete, or you are in effect, de-training it. Dragon can get in an awful mess if folks use the delete button when it is Dragon which made the mistake.
Also, once well trained, I would say it is better if people try and speak in phrases, or even better, complete sentences. It copes surprisingly well. My youngest talks at an incredible speed and set to on Dragon with gusto from the very start. To my surprise it typed what he said almost word perfect. And his speech is not even that clear.
When dictating whole phrases/sentences, if Dragon does write gobbledegook, then pull down the drop down menu and more often than not the correct sentence is in the suggested corrections list.
My eldest (now 14) has now been working with Dragon for about 12 months. Initially he found it very frustrating and got Dragon in a terrible mess by taking the short cuts. On my request, the school started again with a fresh file and supervised his initial use more closely. Last night he phoned me and said that he had just written 628 words of a story for English in 45 minutes using Dragon – and had only just got started on the story. This is a boy who cannot independently write a legible sentence of cvc words, no matter how long you give him. The benefit to him is beyond measure.
So it is worth persevering beyond initial teething problems.
Also, note I have read reviews which favourably compare the free versions which come with later XP operating systems onwards, but they do have their limitations.
In summary, along with Ruth, I think it is a great piece of software. It is not for everyone, but too many blame the software when it doesn’t work. The problems with Dragon tend to be people, training and context based, and if you can identify and solve those problems you should be sorted. Some problems, of course, cannot be solved. Hope your learner’s can be.”
“Make sure that you make the voice files accurately.
This can be time consuming.
I do it sentence by sentence – or even word by word until they have it right ready to say into the microphone.
I tend to do it a bit at a time and take a week or two to get it all there.
If you hurry this process you will get inaccurate recoding of the words spoken. – and what will be produced on screen will contain many errors.
Delete as you record if they make a mistake when making the voice file.
Beware giving this programme to boys before their voices break. As their voices change you will need to make a new voice file. I find it best to ask yourself, ”Do I think that this is their adult voice or is it still changing?”
If it is – don’t start to use it unless you are prepared to spend the time making a new file – I had one student where I seemed to be doing it again each half term.
Now through choice I would offer it for the sixth form. Dyslexic grandson has not yet been allowed to start using this yet – but I plan to do the voice files in the summer holidays.
Girls do not have the same violent fluctuations.
Dragon will learn as you use it for the odd changes – but if there are too many it is not worth carrying on so again you have to make a new file.
I think it’s a great program.”