High-Tech Writing Helpers

Gadgets, software and other technologies to help students compensate for writing difficulties.

Portable word processor

This battery-operated device looks like a computer keyboard with a small calculator screen. Lightweight and durable, it can be brought to school for note-taking and writing assignments. Back at home, files can easily be transferred to a PC or Mac. Basic models, such as the AlphaSmart Neo, cost about $250.

Speech-recognition software

Also called speech-to-text software, these programs allow a student to read aloud into a microphone and see his words appear on a computer screen. Good programs include Dragon Naturally Speaking 8 Preferred, for PCs ($199), and iListen by MacSpeech ($149), for Macs.

Word-prediction software…

…such as Co:Writer Solo ($325), helps with spelling and builds vocabulary, providing a drop-down list of words from which a student can choose. It also fills in words to speed composition. Some programs read sentences aloud, so the writer can hear what he has written and catch mistakes as they occur.

Electronic spell-checkers and dictionaries.

Enter a word phonetically, and these portable gadgets define the word and provide the correct spelling. Talking devices also read the words aloud. Franklin Electronics offers models beginning at about $20.

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