Learner profiles

In the following video, Ruwani Payoe, teacher at Perspectives II High School, discusses why she and her team decided to introduce their students to accessible reading materials.


Who benefits from TTS?

Students with print disabilities stand to benefit greatly from using text-to-speech as an adaptation.  Please refer to What is a print disability?  for a summary.  Copyright law entitles students with diagnosed print disabilities to be eligible for special alternate format services, such as accessible Textbooks and Accessible Library Memberships.

However, there are many more students who exhibit a large range of abilities and learning profiles who will also be enabled by use of this technology. Not all of our students who use TTS have a diagnosis of a reading and / or learning disability.  Following the Universal Design for Learning framework, it is important, where possible, to offer TTS as an option for all students.  These students can take advantage of text-to-speech apps and commercially-sourced enhanced e-books, for example.

“When students are engaged in making decisions about TTS, this technology becomes a support for choice, differentiation and self-advocacy.”
(Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2011).

Susan Waite, a Speech Language Pathologist at the English Montreal School Board, describes the difference between students for whom text-to-speech is essential and those for whom text-to-speech is beneficial, in her Webinar.

Who does NOT benefit from TTS?

Classroom ethnographic research demonstrates that students who are strong readers do not use text-to-speech because it impedes comprehension and engagement with the text.

There are also some students with learning difficulties who may not benefit from text-to-speech adaptations. These include students who:

  • Are stronger processing written language than oral language. Sometimes slow readers may still comprehend text better when reading slowly on their own rather than when being read to, as they just need more time to read or reread.  
  • Have weak auditory memory.  Sometimes these students may have difficulty ‘hanging on’ to oral language and understand better when it can be revisited in written form.  For example, sometimes students with language disorders (e.g., Code 34), who can decode well, comprehend language better when reading on their own.

Speech and Language Pathologists can help teachers determine if and how text-to-speech will assist their students.  They bring expertise in understanding the steps of the reading process (e.g., letter-sound correspondence, blending, spelling patterns, etc.), language comprehension, as well as assessing learner profiles. Their consultation can be key in identifying which students can benefit from text-to-speech.

Contributors: Sandra Amyot, SLP, Lester B Pearson School Board,
Susan Waite, SLP, English Montreal School Board

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