Learning Apps & Tools

Text-to-Speech (and Speech-to-Text) Tools to Address Reading and Writing Challenges

Text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools can assist students with reading and writing challenges. Learn how these technologies work, and understand how available programs and tools can make all the difference in your child’s education.

text to speech and speech to text concept image

Students with ADHD who struggle academically often benefit from using Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text tools. But how do these technologies work?

  • Text-to-Speech (TTS) converts text into automated speech
  • Speech-to-Text (STT) enables speech to be converted to text

These tools can improve your student’s reading comprehension, reading fluency, vocabulary, and writing skills.

TTS and STT free up working memory — an executive function essential for writing essays and remembering what is read — by allowing the student to focus on the task at hand and not be overwhelmed with too much information.

Because schools continue to upgrade and focus on technology, many helpful TTS and STT tools are readily available to help students with reading and writing challenges.

Speech-to-Text for Writing Challenges

Students who are strong in verbal expression but have difficulties organizing their thoughts on paper, or struggle with slow processing speed, can use STT to demonstrate their knowledge.

[Free Download: 9 Teaching Strategies for ADHD Learning Hurdles]

For students who are frustrated by the task of written work, STT can aid with the complex skills of writing essays or reports.

In addition, when students have trouble paying attention in class, STT can be used to record the lecture and convert it to text. That way, students can process the information by hearing and seeing the words simultaneously.

STT Tools and Programs

  1. Google Docs Voice Typing allows dictation on Google Docs and Google Slides, Google’s online word processor and presentation apps. To use it, you must be connected to the Internet with Google Chrome on Windows, MacOS, or Chromebook devices.
  2. Windows Speech Recognition enables dictation on PCs running Windows Vista or more recent operating systems.
  3. Dictation Keyboard allows dictation on iPad and IOS devices (configured in settings).
  4. Google Gboard Keyboard enables dictation on Android devices.
  5. Dragon Anywhere offers fully formed dictation powered via the cloud. Pricing varies.
  6. Otter is a cloud-based program that offers real-time transcription for lectures. The free plan includes 600 minutes/month, while the “Pro” paid plan includes 6,000 minutes/month.

Text-to-Speech for Reading Challenges

Reading academic material can be challenging, whether it’s due to difficulties with holding attention/interest, with remembering important facts, or with reading fluency. Having the ability to read and listen to the material can aid in increasing comprehension and interest. Text-to-speech tools do just that.

Beyond converting text to audio, these tools also offer other assistive features – like highlighting, text and background changes, and underlining text for focus — to personalize and meet individual needs.

[Read: The “Write” Assistive Tech Tools for Kids with ADHD]

TTS Tools and Programs

  1. Immersive Reader is a reading enhancement tool available in Office 365 that works with Word, OneNote, and Outlook.
  2. Voice Dream Reader is an app that converts PDFs, Web pages, Microsoft Word documents, and other formats to spoken word. It also offers book marking, note taking, and a built-in dictionary.
  3. Read&Write is a Google Chrome extension that provides comprehensive support for Google Docs and the Web.
  4. Speak Screen is built-in screen reader software that can read aloud the contents of the screen on iPad and iOS devices.
  5. Voice Assistant/TalkBack is a Google screen reader included on Android devices.
  6. Bookshare is a service that’s free for students with qualifying disabilities. It offers textbooks, bestsellers, children’s books, and career resources. Non-eligible students and individuals may purchase the service for $50/year.
  7. Learning Ally offers test prep, popular fiction, classic literature, textbooks, and study aids for $135/year.
  8. Libby App is a free app that allows the reader to borrow ebooks, digital audiobooks, and magazines.

Online libraries or your library system’s website may also provide access to audio books, textbooks, and magazines.

STT and TTS tools can be used in a variety of ways. For example, students can create and share voice recordings with classmates as part of a group project. They can also send quick verbal reminders to themselves or keep track of their thoughts.

Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text can also be written into your child’s IEP or 504 Plan to help build skills. Prioritize your child’s needs and focus on one area at a time that needs strengthening. Practicing these skills will increase confidence and reduce your child’s frustration.

Text-to-Speech & Speech-to-Text: Next Steps

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