Dragon Dictation Speech to Text


Is this a good tool for my autistic child?

Good question with no easy answers, however, I can tell you about our own experience, two different versions, and then that might make the decision easier for you.


First up, IT IS FREE.  I don’t know about you, but I have lost count of the number of things I have purchased for my children which made claims to help this or that, at vast expense, with no trial period nor ‘return if it’s a bust,’ option.  Therefore, anything that comes free, goes straight to the top of my list.


What is it?  Here’s a link to check out:-


How does it work?

You hit the record button and surprise, surprise, it records your voice.  Then miracle or miracles, it turns your speech into text.   [this is a bit hit and miss – more later – and the results can be hilarious, but you still have text which you can then edit with the handy dandy keyboard screen which pops up to use with one tap.]

Why is this good?

Because then you don’t have to fight with a pencil, and organize your thoughts and then write, which means you’ve skipped three steps in the nightmare.  This in turn means there is less pressure on your tortured brain which might make all the difference to some.


But my child’s prosody means that all those speech to text programmes are useless, surely?

You have a valid point.  All those breaths, stutters and stammers, make it harder, but it’s infinitely better than any of the competitors that we have tried to date.  Also, because it’s virtually instantaneous, there is less ‘wait time’ and therefore less frustration.

Will the programme cope with my child’s monotone delivery?

Works for us.  It encourages fluidity and a more animated tone.

But my child sounds like he has a mouthful of marbles when he talks.  No programme can deal with that?

Indeed it can.

What about pooling and drooling?

Hold the ipad in front of the child’s face instead of on their lap.

My child’s hand co-ordination, tracking, fine motor control, visual impairments, and tremors would make it too difficult for him to accurately touch the button to record.

It is a biggish RED button on a blank screen, you can take a few stabs at it until it records, it’s quite forgiving.

The frequent pauses in between words and phrases would mean that it will stop recording.

True, but you can record your sentences in little bursts of one or two words and then add another couple of words and so on until you have a whole sentence.

My child’s speech starts off strong and then peters out at the end.

Fine, no problem.  You have half a sentence recorded and then you can add the next bit.  The child can read what he has recorded so far and then add the next bit on the end.

What happens if the programme misunderstands my child’s words?  What if it misinterprets ‘had’ for ‘hand’ for example?

You pull up the keyboard at the bottom of the screen and correct it.  Warning – it’s not good at names.

But my child can’t do that.

You can do it for him.  It’s still quicker and easier to read and correct than it is to erase pencil handwriting and rewrite it, far less laborious and much more encouraging.

Fine, but what about background noise?  Won’t that interfere and make the speech unintelligible?

Background noise is an issue, probably not suitable for a classroom situation, but at home you have the chance of managing the noise factor.

That’s all very well, but I don’t want to buy an expensive Mac printer to go with my very expensive ipad?

No problem, you can send it via email [all drop down / fill in the blanks boxes] to your computer and print it out as you do everything else.

What about formatting the material?

You can do all that on your computer once you’ve emailed the text to match the school’s presentation requirements.  Maybe the programmers will add some new features in the future to accommodate these needs.

But I want my child to be able to write.  Won’t this just delay the inevitable? How will he cope in the future if he can’t write?

True.  Your decision.  Anyway, mine can write, unfortunately no one can read what they’ve written, however, I’m happy to encourage keyboard skills as a back up.  We can’t predict the future, but the technology is here, why not use it to their advantage?

It’s all very well for you, but I don’t have an expensive ipad.  Are you going to donate the technology to me?

Sorry, not going to happen I’m afraid.  But prices are falling and I would have lobbied my school district for this as a piece of adaptive technology that could really make a significant difference to my child’s performance – a positive, reasonable and useful accommodation.

How long would it take for my child to become competent with this gizmo?

Don’t know, we’re still fighting with shoelaces around here, but daily practice helps.  We’ve made it part of the daily routine, and the motivational factor is huge because it saves the torture of handwriting, and it’s quick and  easy.

But if you can only use it at home, how is that going to help with school?

Homework.  Most children have homework and reading assignments etc. and if your school is up to the mark then you can send the work directly to your child’s teacher via email.  [Added benefit of knowing that the work has reached the teacher and not gone astray between home and the classroom]

I’m not convinced.  You make it sound too easy.  Nothing can be that foolproof.  I would have already heard about it if it were that good.

It’s not foolproof, but it is a significant improvement on the other programmes we’ve tried.  Also, it takes practice [and co-operation and motivation].  These come, hopefully, from the payout, the benefit of avoiding writing.  A timely reminder of this pertinent fact seems to work wonders around here, especially in an upbeat, cheerleader style.

My child doesn’t speak at all.  Have you any idea how lucky you guys are?


And lastly, a sad spoiler.  If you happen to have a British accent, it doesn’t translate at all, but that’s probably because we have it set to English US.




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Sleep Difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorders

A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Kenneth J Aitken



[Isn’t it a great illustration]

This is a weighty tome as well it should be considering the subject matter, which deserves every word.

Anyone who has any experience of sleep difficulties knows the detrimental effects that can wreck havoc in a household.  Anecdotally, I know several families with one autistic child, or rather, only one child, who sleeps together with his parents in the same marital bed.  When I say ‘sleep’ it would be more accurate to say ‘cat nap;’ each individual snatches intermittent minutes or hours, none necessarily at the same time.  This observation of mine is born out by the statistics in Aitken’s book and should serve as reassurance for parents.  We are not alone.

The spectrum of difficulties are explained in detail as well as a broad selection of possible solutions.  Desperate parents are likely to claim, like me, that we’ve tried all that before, but it is useful to remember that what didn’t work when they were 3 or 5 or 10, might be worth another try now that they are teenagers.  For instance, I plan to show my sons the highlighted section about ‘aerobic fitness,’ although I’ll hide the bit about ‘surgical removal,’ on the next paragraph.


I agree whole-heartedly with the first step of making a ‘sleep diary,’ only then will you be able to get a bird’s eye view of the true situation.  When we started doing this many years ago, a pattern emerged: three or four months of blissful sleep, following by up to a week of being awake, then gradually tailing off until we were all thoroughly exhausted and a ‘normal’ sleep pattern re-established itself again.  Over the last decade the periods of normal sleep lengthened, and the nocturnal times shortened, but without the diary [ies]  I would have been none the wiser.  Now, if I could just get them to be nocturnal at the same time, that would be a real breakthrough.

Overall, this book has a great layout, easy to follow with the data to back up the assertions and some delightful quotes to lighten the load  e.g. ‘It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.’

Available from JKP and Amazon.


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Prompt becomes Trigger

I’m sure I have many fine qualities, but there is one particular skill I lack, probably more.  The one that I yearn for is a scientific bent, or a hefty dose of logic in the alternative.  This would help me be a better predictor of outcomes.  Instead, I am usually bumbling along several metres or sometimes kilometres behind the rest of the herd.  My herd is unruly, in need of firm leadership, if not a cattle prod.  It may well be something to do with their growth and development, coupled with my own age and decrepitude, but the combination appears to be paralyzing.


This dawns on me one morning when I notice a trend.  We have prompted our larger darlings through the morning routine, given countdowns about our impending departure until the moment arrives.  The moment when their father says, “Time to go,” prompts an unusual phenomenon.  Instead of filing dutifully towards the exit and the awaiting car to chauffeur them safely to their ultimate destination, namely school, they turn tail and run in the opposite direction in a mad stampede.


This habit, for it is an intermittent habit that pops out to bite us every once in a while, used to be due to an aversion to transitions.  Then it was an aversion to the school bus.  Then, an aversion to school.  So now I see how much progress we have made.  The exodus is not an aversion to anything. For some while it was a wordless retreat, a mass movement back upstairs, leaving us dumbfounded as they are far too big to be picked up and deposited against their will in a vehicle.  But of late, words have begun to accompany the pounding of size 10 sneakered feet thundering up the stairs with the seconds frittering away before the first bell.  Now we discover they voluntarily use words to explain the mystifying retreat.


“I’m just gonna get my …………”

“Just a minute, I need my ………”

“Heck, where’s my ………..”


So it is not an aversion to anything, instead it is the love for some miniscule and irrelevant object, which must be found and taken with them to school.


I’m sure we’re not alone in experiencing this hiccup; in fact I seem to remember my father, a stickler for time and motion studies, having similar issues.  Could this be why all the clocks in my own childhood were pushed five minutes forward?

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