Curb Cuts for Writing: Students with Learning Disabilities' Perceptions as Learners and Writers using Assitive Technology

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Schock, Robin Elizabeth
Assistive Technology , Learning Disabilities , Writing , Self-Perceptions , Word Prediction Software , Elementary Students
Assistive technology, specifically, word prediction software holds great promise in supporting the writing process for students with learning disabilities. This thesis reports on a qualitative study that examined eight students’ self-perceptions as learners and writers using word prediction software. Participants were purposefully recruited from a local Learning Disabilities Association’s listserv located in a mid-sized Eastern Ontario city. Three groups of two to three Grades 4-8 students previously identified with a learning disability, and who were already using word prediction software (e.g. Co-Writer or WordQ), attended a 3-hour session. This session included an instructional workshop, and completion of a short reflective writing task followed by a focus group. Separately, participants’ parents attended a focus group. Data for this study includes focus group responses (student and parent), observations from the workshop, and the written student reflections. Using content analysis, emerging themes from participant responses were analyzed. The main themes from this analysis were: (1) students’ perceptions of having an equal opportunity to participate in academic subjects; (2) increased student self-efficacy; and (3) an ad hoc approach to training and the use of assistive technology software in school. These themes were then linked to relevant literature and a set of recommendations was developed for educators. Recommendations for the future included facilitating increased self-efficacy for students with learning disabilities; reducing the ad hoc approach to teacher education by instituting mandatory courses about students with disabilities in teacher education programs; and increased instruction in the use of assistive technology for parents and teachers.
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