Accommodation Breakdown: Word Prediction Software

Word prediction software is an assistive technology (AT) tool that suggests words as a person types them. If you want your student to use it and/or your student’s IEP or 504 Plan team suggest it, what should be included in the accommodation? How should it be written?

The following is an example of an accommodation written into one student’s IEP:

Student will respond using word prediction software.

Seems straightforward, but there are too many holes to allow it to stand. Missing pieces include the following:

  • When, where, and how will it be used?
  • When, where, and for how long will the student be trained to use the software?
  • Do the student’s parents need training so they can help the student at home? If yes, when, where, and for how long will the parents receive training?
  • Will the student be provided a computer, tablet, or other device to use in school and to take home for homework or will a device be provided in each class?
  • Will the student be evaluated to determine the most appropriate device?
  • Will the software be loaded to the school device and/or home device?

Breaking Down the Accommodation

What is Word Prediction Software?

Word prediction software is an assistive technology (AT) tool that suggests words as a person types them.

For example, while I was typing “assistive” in the previous sentence, the word “technology” popped up as the next suggested word. I accepted it and continued typing. In the same sentence, as I wrote “tool that”, the word “supports” was suggested. In this case, I ignored the word suggested.

Some software, such as Co:Writer, come with topic-specific dictionaries that help predict words for specialized writing. For example, if a student is writing about mammals, vocabulary commonly used within this topic arena will be suggested.

Flexible spelling is another feature. If a student misspells a work as he or she types, a flexible spelling feature will be able to recognize what the student it trying to type.

It’s important that the software be paired with text-to-speech. Students who struggle to read need to hear the word predicted to ensure it is the correct word to use.

Who Needs Word Prediction Software?

Students who struggle with handwriting, writing fluency, typing, working memory, word recall, limited vocabulary, spelling, and/or organization can benefit from a word prediction accommodation.

This AT tool minimizes the number of keystrokes needed to type, encourages students to use words they might have avoided due to stress related to spelling them correctly, introduces new vocabulary words, and helps reduce some of the stress associated with writing.

When and Where Will it Be Used?

If a student needs this accommodation, then the student needs it all the time. This means the student must be able to access it in all classes and at home.

Rather than assuming educators who read this accommodation understand that it must be accessible all the time, consider including the following line in the accommodation:

Student will use prediction software in all classes and at home, for all classwork, homework, assignments, and assessments that require writing.

Some students might need this accommodation for verbal responses, too.

When, Where, and for How Long Will the Student Be Trained to Use the Software?

Providing this tool isn’t enough. Students must be able to use it.

The student should receive training until he or she is able to independently use the program. The amount of training will depend on whether the program is easy or hard for the student to grasp.

Students shouldn’t miss class in order to receive training. Training could take place before or after school. If the student has a homeroom or study hall period, training could take place during this time, but it should take the student’s schedule into account. Training should not negatively impact a student.

As the student progresses, someone should check in with the student to assess usage. Is the student struggling with the program? Should a different program be used? Should different vocabulary words be added?

Do Parents Need Training so They Can Help the Student at Home? If Yes, When, Where, and for How Long will Parents Receive Training?

Parents must be in the position to help their students at home, hence they need training.

Just as with students, the amount of training will depend on whether the program is easy or hard for the parent to grasp.

The time and location should not negatively impact the parent, so the parents and schools should collaborate to find a time and place for training.

Will Student Be Provided a Computer, Tablet, or Other Device to Use in School and to Take Home for Homework or Will a Device be Provided in Each Class and at Home?

Word prediction software is useless if the student doesn’t have a device on which to use it.

This could take the form of the school providing the student one device for use at school and at one. Another option would be a device that is kept at school and a device that is kept at home.

Will Student Be Evaluated to Determine the Most Appropriate Device?

An assistive technology specialist should evaluate the student to determine the best match for the student. A student with vision struggles might need a device with a large screen, while another student might need a keyboard rather than a touch-screen device to type.

As with the software, the student and parents should be trained to use the device and then should be reassessed later to gauge use and/or identify any problems. Someone should routinely provide maintenance to ensure the device works.

Will the Software Be Loaded to the School Device and/or Home Device?

The software should be loaded on whatever device the student will use. This could be one computer or it could be a computer provided by the school, a laptop that might be used if the student is traveling or has another reason to use a computer outside of school and home, and/or a phone.

Example Accommodation

With all the pieces above considered, an accommodation related to assistive technology might look like the following:

Student will use word prediction software for all writing-related classwork, homework, assignments, and tests, Student will use the software to response to verbal questions instead responding out loud. Student will be evaluated by X to determine appropriate device for student. Student will be provided X device to use at school and at home, and routine maintenance will be performed by X the last week of each month. X word prediction software will be loaded to device. Student will be trained by X, during Y time, and at Z location to use software and student’s use will be assessed the last week of each month. Parent will be trained by X, during Y time, and at Z location.

Remember: There is no rule dictating the length of an accommodation. Clarity and covering all bases trumps word count.

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