A postsecondary environment often challenges a student to produce an increased number of written assignments that use professional and technical terminology and are of increasing length and complexity. When creating such texts a critical element is the speed of text entry with correct spelling and syntax. This element may be very difficult for students with specific disabilities.
A successful assistive technology device is one that allows a student with a disability to complete the same assignments in the same time frame as a student who does not have a disability. This article will describe two tools, abbreviation expansion and word prediction, that may be useful in completing assignments by minimizing the barriers of a specific disability on the production of text and allow a student to achieve competitive typing speeds (Newell, Arnott, Booth, & Beattie, 1992).
The usefulness of abbreviation expansion and word prediction for a student must be assessed on an individual basis, and both will require some training of the student. Each product is available in all types of operating systems, and has a growing body of information to support its use in education.
Abbreviation expansion allows the student to assign a letter pattern or abbreviation to a phrase, sentence or even a paragraph. The assigned abbreviation will automatically expand into the complete text item when it is typed with a space before and following the abbreviation. Abbreviations can be used effectively for long vocabulary items or phrases that are used frequently. For example, ast, may be an appropriate abbreviation for assistive technology.
The abbreviations should be short, recognizable and logical in order to facilitate accurate recall of the abbreviation and its meaning. The abbreviation should not be a word that is an actual word that the student may want to use. For example, at would not be an appropriate abbreviation for assistive technology because the student will use at as an actual word.
Abbreviation expansion also can be used as an accommodation for words that are consistently misspelled. For example fr could be used as an abbreviation for friend, and enable the student to correctly spell out friend without having to recite the mnemonic phrase concerning the correct use of I and e. Both of these uses of abbreviation expansion will allow for a decreased number of keystrokes and correct spelling of words, phrases, and paragraphs that are used repeatedly in typing, thus increasing the efficiency of text entry for some users.
The limitations of abbreviation expansion are twofold. Firstly, the abbreviations themselves must be customized to the individual student and not be words that the student may use in the process of text entry. Secondly, the student must actually use the abbreviations. A common mistake is that the student begins to type the phrase and when the typing is complete the student then remembers that the phrase was abbreviated. In assessment and training the student and a professional need to attend to three elements