In our ongoing series this month on Assistive Technology, here’s another tool to be used by the special needs population: SymWriter.
SymWriter is a symbol-based word processor that combines symbols, text and speech to support vocabulary and writing activities. As you type text in SymWriter, symbols appear above the text, giving the user or students a visual representation of the words, thus providing more meaning and comprehension. You can also hear the letters, words and sentences spoken aloud.
We use SymWriter extensively to support literature activities that are provided for our students. We use SymWriter to adapt the reading of novels to older students with cognitive and behavioral disabilities. SymWriter helps to focus student attention and increase comprehension of the content. We also use SymWriter to speak aloud a quick review, and then as we read, we type student answers to comprehension questions and summaries of paragraphs, with speak sentence activated. Students read along with the typing, and they give input on the appropriateness of the pictures for the meaning of what we are trying to say. SymWriter makes it easy to jump into quick review and to continue focus on a novel in 15 minute short reading sessions.
We also use SymWriter for facilitating personal storytelling. For example, we read the story of the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard one week. While learning about the blizzard of 1888, many students and staff had their own blizzard stories to share. We typed them into SymWriter and used those personal stories as the content of the next week’s sessions.
You can obtain SymWriter from Dynavox Mayer-Johnson. Click on “Store” and then type in SymWriter in the search box. SymWriter can be used for any age of learner who could benefit from the combination of text, speech and symbols.
- Submitted by Kathy Remmich, Children’s Care Librarian & Tina Miller, Children’s Care Computer Coordinator