Learning Challenges

Prediction: Your Child Will Probably Do Better with This Software

Word prediction software can help shave time from completing assignments. Read how they can help writing be one less challenge for your child.

Boy with ADHD wearing headphones, smiling, and working on computer at desk
Boy with ADHD wearing headphones, smiling, and working on computer at desk

There is no magic bullet cure for dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADHD, or any other learning disability. You need a multi-prong approach: Good teachers and a supportive family make a big difference. So do the right assistive technologies. These vary from child to child and, it takes a little while to figure out what’s best for your child.

For my son, Henry, word prediction software was a godsend. What is it? It’s software program that runs in tandem with your child’s word processing programs. As you type, it anticipates the word you’re about to write based on the first few keystrokes.

It’s like the auto-correct feature on a smart phone. However, instead of automatically changing the word — and occasionally causing embarrassing miscommunication — it provides the user with a list of likely words. Your child then picks the word that best demonstrates what he wants to say.

Word prediction software helps kids like Henry in several ways. For starters, it quickly increases his typing speed. Second, it bridges the gap between a child’s thoughts and his ability to express them on paper.

Finally, it helps with spelling. Because the software predicts words based on the first few letters of a given word, along with syntax and context clues, it can usually guess what Henry wants to say when he doesn’t know how to spell it. A standard spell-check program would, for example, never guess that when a kid writes “lfant” he is referring to an “elephant.”

Over the years, we experimented with several different programs before we found the one that worked best for Henry, which is called Co:Writer.

It took us longer than it should have to get him on this software. The developer, Don Johnston, doesn’t let you sample the program before purchasing it. I’ve bought my share of snake oil in my quest to help my son, so I wasn’t excited about shelling out a few hundred bucks for a program that may or may not help.

On top of that, there were several companies that sold word prediction software that allowed you to sample the merchandise with a free 30-day trial. We tried a few of these. They worked, but they were no match for Henry’s dyslexic spelling. Eventually, I threw caution to the wind and ordered Co:Writer.

Henry quickly learned to use it on his own. Assignments that took him 60 minutes to finish could now be completed in 45. Shaving 15 minutes off the completion time doesn’t sound like a major victory. But know this: Kids with a learning disability work 10 times harder than their peers. If you can give your child an edge, take it. The playing field for Henry is still far from level with kids who don’t have his challenges, but every intervention helps.