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Speech Recognition Software for Special Education

Relief for the Struggling Student

For those who truly struggle to communicate in writing because of a learning disability such as dyslexia, speech recognition software has the ability to help. Why do we say this?

  • First, we have been selling speech recognition accessories to special education teachers for a number of years now and get nothing but positive feedback. Special education teachers are discovering that it works.

  • Second, there is scientific literature to support its effectiveness. As long ago as 1999, Raskind and Higgins published a study in the Annals of Dyslexia showing that use of speech recognition technology led to significant improvements in word recognition (p < 0.0001), spelling (p < 0.002) and reading comprehension (p < 0.01). Click here to download study.

  • Numerous case studies have documented the benefits of speech recognition software in educational settings:

    • Landmark College, in Putney VT, which is one of the only accredited colleges in the United States designed for students with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning disabilities, has found voice recognition software to be a useful tool in enabling greater levels of independence and success in all forms of student writing. Read more...

    • A school district in Brampton, Ontario has shared the encouraging result pertaining to their use of speech recognition software in elementary school kids. Read more ...

The Requirements:

What does it take to bring such technology to your child or your student? Here are the basic requirements:

Equipment (hardware):

1. A relatively recent vintage computer is needed. The bare bones requirements are a Windows based PC with the specifications shown below. For the average student, a laptop computer will be far more practical than a desktop unit. In general, faster processors are associated with better performance in terms of speed, but not necessarily any difference in accuracy. At least 2 MB of RAM is recommended.

  • CPU: minimum 1 GHz Intel® Pentium® or equivalent AMD processor or 1.66 GHz Intel® Atom® processor. We recommend 1.8 GHz Intel Dual Core or equivalent AMD processor. (IMPORTANT: SSE2 instruction set required)
  • Processor Cache: minimum 512 KB. We recommend 2 MB.
  • Free hard disk space: 2.5 GB (2.8 GB for localized non-English versions)

2. A good quality microphone: Dragon NaturallySpeaking is packaged with a starter microphone which will give reasonable results and we recommend that you start with this microphone when making an assessment as to whether speech recognition software is a workable solution for your student. If it works, though, but accuracy isn't quite to the level you expect, then we suggest that you consider upgrading to a better microphone. Some of our common upgrade scenarios are the following:

Inexpensive Replacement: If you've lost or damaged the microphone that came with Dragon and are looking for an inexpensive replacement, check out the Cyber Acoustics AC101 or AC201. They're comfortable, durable, inexpensive, and work fine. Other simple microphones to include are the Andrea NC181 (single speaker) and Andrea NC185 (two speakers).

Cost effective upgrade: Looking to upgrade from the microphone that came with Dragon but have a limited budget? Consider the Radio Shack Sennheiser knockoff. This product offers a significant improvement in the accuracy and external noise rejection without emptying your wallet. The downside of this microphone is that it does not include speakers, so if computer listening is an important need for your student, you should pick something else.

Best Wired Microphone: Looking for the highest quality wired microphone? Money not a major limitation? See Microphones for Advanced Users and consider any of the following:

  • Sennheiser ME3: this is our personal favorite and probably not a coincident, the best selling microphone on our site. It's also our least returned product. We recommend the "combo" that comes with the Andrea Pure Audio MA USB adapter for reliable excellent results.
  • Audio-Technica Pro 8HEmV: this mic is solid competion for the ME3 and a bit less expensive, but for many a bit less comfortable given that it mounts with pressure pads pushing against the temple.
  • UmeVoice theBoom "O" (single ear) or "C" (both ears). The UmeVoice mics have an amazing microphone element this is nearly the match of the ME3, although these are clearly not built with the reliabilty/durability of the ME3 or 8HEmV.

Best Wireless Microphone for computer use only: If you absolutely need bluetooth, consider the VXI Xpress. We should warn you, though, BlueTooth can be trickly and we get a lot of returns on virtually every Bluetooth device we sell. For a high quality wireless headset microphone which is also great for listening to music and that works on a "plug-and-play" basis (no connection issues), consider the Andrea WNC 1500.

Best Desktop Microphone: If your student might do better without wearing a microphone, you should consider a desktop microphone. Although pricey, we recommend you look at the Speechware 3-in-1, 6-in-1 or 9-in-1 Tablemike (see "Desktop Microphones").


Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Edition: In our opinion, this is the best choice. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a highly refined speech recognition product that has been designed for different age groups, different regional accents, and a variety of special uses. It will work with a plugged in microphone, wireless microphone or digital recorder. It offers a wide variety of extra functionality which will allow tailoring the software to your student.

Other Speech Recognition Software: Although we recommend Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Edition for the average student (shown below) because it offers many advantages over the speech recognition program built into Windows 7 operating system and some of the earlier Microsoft Office products, these microsoft products can also be used.


Although accuracy is amazing good out of the box, your student will definitely benefit by spending some time getting to know the software and being trained how to take advantage of some of the functionality. There are several ways in which this can happen:

  • Virtually everything can be learned by the student, teacher or parent by reading the User Guide, but this is often a slow and laborious process which may not be feasible for the kid with a learning disability
  • Several DVD teaching series are available. We recommend that you visit our Training Page to see some of these products.
  • Read our very brief Accuracy Improvement Guide for tips on improving accuracy
  • We offer personalized training via the internet which can be set up at a convenient time and which is charged at an hourly rate of $100. For the average student, 1-2 hours of training will give them a good start. We would consider this a last resort for most situations and recommend the above methods first. For information on personalized training, please contact

Recommended Products:

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium

This is the basic version of Dragon and is recommended for most general users, students, writers, etc. that do not plan to use advanced command building and simply need excellent speech recognition for use with standard computer programs. This version enjoys the same high level of accuracy, speed, and functionality as the professional and legal version, but lacks legal and medical vocabularies. It does not allow creation of "advanced custom commands" but does allow creation of simple text and graphics commands.

Comments: For the great majority of users, we consider this to be the most practical version of Dragon to purchase. Doctors should consider the Dragon Medical Practice Edition (not yet available in version 12) and lawyers should consider purchasing the Dragon 12 Legal version to take advantage of the legal vocabulary.

Included in the box:

  • Software disk
  • Starter Microphone (full version only)
Dragon 12 Premium
Full Version
$ 199.99

Please call or email us about special "academic pricing" of Dragon products.

Additional Resources:

We recognize that speech recognition software may be only a small part of assisting the child or adult with learning disabilities and hope some of the additional resources listed here may further assist you. We very much welcome you to assist us in adding to this list by emailing your thought or suggestion to

  • Livescribe Pen: this is a unique system which includes a pen containing an optical scanner and audio recording technology that when used with specially designed notebooks allows you to record both your hand-written notes and the audio (instructor's words) at the same time. After notes are taken, you can hear the corresponding audio signal simply by touching the pen to the place of interest on the notebook. We have used this device and consider it to be an ideal note-taking device for anyone, especially the individual with difficulty writing or comprehending. Visit livescribe site. For an amazing demonstration of how this can help, click here. Please note that Speech Recognition Solutions has absolutely no relationship with LiveScribe - we just think their product is great!




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