The MLO Minute: By, Jennifer Grobe, Esq.
When it comes to learning, does it matter if your child is taking in content with their eyes or ears?
People have been using oral communication to learn far longer than they have used the written word. And increasingly, studies are showing that “ear-reading” is just as effective when it comes to comprehension as traditional reading of the written word. In fact, cognitively ear-reading and eye-reading stimulate the same areas of the brain.
For students with disabilities such as dyslexia, who struggle to read written text, learning to effectively read with their ears can have immense benefits. Ear-reading enables them to take in text at a comparable rate to their peers – or even faster! Ear-reading helps build fluency and vocabulary. Most importantly, ear-reading can revive a student’s enjoyment of learning by reducing the heavy lifting they have to do to simply access text let alone comprehend it. Overall, ear-reading allows the student to focus on learning the content instead of learning how to read.
There are several ways to encourage a student’s development as a proficient ear-reader. Here are a few
1.) FIND A WAY TO ACCESS AUDIOBOOKS. Audiobooks are a form of “assistive technology” that may benefit a student. There are several sources for your student to access audiobooks, such as Learning Ally and Audible or your local library. Your school may already have a subscription that you can access. If not, an audiobook subscription can still be included in the specially designed instruction or Assistive Technology sections of an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”).
2.) DOWNLOAD A TEXT-TO-SPEECH EXTENSION FOR YOUR WEB BROWSER. Another form of assistive technology to facilitate access to ear-reading is text-to-speech software. For online text, there are several free extensions available for web browsers, such as Balabolka and Natural Reader.
3.) FACILITATE MEANINGFUL ACCESS TO EAR-READING THROUGH ADEQUATE TRAINING. The closing of schools due to COVID-19 has shown families everywhere that accessing virtual educational material does not mean accessing learning. The child needs to be able to sit and focus on their device, be physically able to use hardware, and understand how to navigate software. Your child might need direct instruction with an Occupational Therapist or similarly trained professional to learn the steps to access their ear-reading material.
4.) INVEST IN COMFORTABLE HEADPHONES. Not only do headphones reduce outside distractions, they also enable the student to ear-read anywhere they’d like without worrying about disturbing others.
When a student with a disability relies on ear-reading to access their education, it should be included in their IEP or 504 Plan. Schools have an obligation to facilitate access to “assistive technology”, such as audiobook software or text-to-speech software, if it is necessary for the student to access educational content as adequately as their non-disabled peers.
Contact us by clicking here if there are issues with the student’s IEP, or if we can help in any way.