Though I was never formally diagnosed with dyslexia, my 4th grade teacher expressed her concern that I showed some symptoms in my reading, writing and spelling skills. I still wonder today, but I have been able to manage my challenges enough to be successful in my career without major concern. The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge” (International Dyslexia Association, 2016). Thanks to after school tutoring sessions in grade school, I made positive strides and learned some techniques for combating my weaknesses concerning reading, writing and spelling. Today we are fortunate to have a vast amount of knowledge on the topic, as well as technology that can support learners of all ages who may struggle with symptoms of dyslexia.
As I said, I was never the strongest reader in school and still as an adult I have to use several techniques to support my reading, writing and spelling skills. I am fortunate to have gotten over the shame of my weaknesses and have utilized my strengths to make my struggles nearly unnoticeable. As educators there are many ways we can structure content delivery to support learners of all ages and abilities. Applying the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, 2014) is one of the best methods we can employ to cover a wide range of challenges learners may face. These guidelines stress a student-centered approach and the phrase “multimodal” comes to mind repeatedly as I think about implementation into practice. Video is one of my favorite content types and I feel more supported in the content area when the video is captioned. Specifically related to dyslexia, captioning can support phonological awareness in some learners. As observed in the field of Neuroscience, improvements within children with dyslexia have been found when instruction “includes explicit and systematic instruction in phonological awareness and decoding strategies” (Gabrieli, p.282).
The captioning process can be time consuming, challenging and/or expensive depending on the method used. YouTube has one of the easiest and least expensive options for captioning videos, but it does come with its constraints. As with all automatic computer-based captioning services I have experimented with, the Youtube service is not prefect. This is especially true when captioning video within fields that have their own set of complicated languages. Computer programming and healthcare are two areas that come to mind which require extra attention to make sure the captions match what is truly being said in the video. The YouTube system does have a fairly easy system for allowing edits to the automatically generated captions, so this is certainly an effective method for providing captions for recorded audio/video. Captioning will always add extra time when in the preparation process of delivering content, but the value added can make a large difference for a variety of learners. Also, the value will continue for future students with minimal effort if videos are reused for future classes. Another option that lowers the time investment for content creators, but increases cost, is sending the videos to an external company for captioning. This may not be an option for many institutions, but the services are fairly quick and extremely accurate. With a fee-based service like Automaticsync, an audio/video file is submitted and a file containing human produced captions is produced that can be attached in YouTube and other content management systems. The process takes a few days, but saves a lot of time for the original content creator. No method is perfect, but captioning can have profound effects on learning for individuals with symptoms of dyslexia, and truly, learners at all levels of ability.
frankieleon. My Cereal Speaks. 2010. JPEG. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/armydre2008/4278905797
Gabrieli, J. (2009). Dyslexia: A New Synergy between Education and Cognitive Neuroscience. Science, 325(5938), 280-283. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20536638
International Dyslexia Association. (2016). Definition of Dyslexia. Retrieved from https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/
National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2014). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines_theorypractice
YouTube. (2016). Add Subtitles & closed captions. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2734796?hl=en