Electronic books can make reading possible for people with executive dysfunction

Electronic books can be an important disability accommodation for a lot of people, including some people with normal vision. If you’re having a lot of trouble reading, or not reading as much as you’d like to, it might help to use electronic books.

There are a lot of steps involved in reading a print book. Some of these steps can be difficult or impossible for people with impaired executive function, autistic inertia, fatigue, chronic pain, or other conditions. Some difficult steps can be eliminated with electronic books. 

In order to start reading a print book, you have to be able to do all of these things:

  • Have the book in a place where it’s available to you when you have time to read.
  • (Which can involve remembering to bring with you somewhere.)
  • (And keeping track of the book and not losing it.)
  • Decide to stop what you’re doing and do a different kind of task.
  • Figure out where the book is.
  • Go get the book.
  • Avoid getting distracted by other things as you find the book or get the book.
  • Figure out where you are in the book.
  • (Which can involve things like remembering the place.) 
  • (Or using a bookmark, which comes with its own multi-step challenges like remembering that bookmarks exist and having one available.)
  • Open the book to the right page.
  • Avoid getting distracted by other parts of the book.
  • Get into a position in which you can read, which you can also sustain long enough to read for a significant among of time.
  • Actually start reading the book.
  • If you want to take notes or highlight, you also have to gather all your note-taking tools.
  • And not get distracted and forget what you’re doing.
  • And not forget where you put the book in the process.
  • That’s a lot of steps, any one of which can sometimes be difficult or impossible.
  • Using electronic copies can eliminate some of these steps, or make them easier.
  • This can be game-changing.

Some ways in which electronic copies can eliminate steps:

  • You can store your entire electronic library on one device (or synced to multiple devices). 
  • If you know where your device is, then you know where all of your electronic books are.
  • This can mean you don’t have to physically search for anything.
  • (Electronically searching to remember where you put something can be much easier.)
  • You also don’t have to remember to bring a specific book. You just have to remember to bring one device.
  • (Which can be a device like your laptop, phone, or iPad which you’re in the habit of carrying with you anyway).
  • If you’re already using your computer, you don’t have to get up to go get your book.
  • You also don’t have to change positions.
  • Being able to stay in the same position and location can make it much easier to start reading.
  • It can also be easier to remember your place. A lot of software will leave the book open to the same place as when you were last reading it.
  • Searching can be easier, faster, and less distracting than flipping through a print book. (This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for some people).
  • Electronic bookmarks may also be easier to use than physical ones.
  • You don’t have to look for highlighters, pens, pencils or notebooks, all of that is right there in the book-reading software.
  • Eliminating these steps can make reading a lot easier. 
  • Making it easier can make it possible.

This isn’t the right strategy for everyone; computers, phones and other devices have their own executive dysfunction pitfalls. But for some people, it makes reading much more possible. 

Tl;dr Some people have trouble reading print books, even if they have normal vision. Sometimes the reason for this is that executive dysfunction (or another disability) makes some of the steps involved in starting to read a print book difficult or impossible. (Eg: people with ADHD might get distracted looking for the book.) For some people, using electronic books instead of print books can make reading much more possible. Scroll up for some specific reasons that electronic books can help.

Question for y’all: Book scanning







I’m trying to figure out a good way to scan books.

Having electronic copies of books can be really helpful to possible for people with executive dysfunction. An electronic copy can be the difference between being able to read something and not being able to read it.

Problem is, most books are only available in print, and scanning print books is fairly difficult. (Especially if they are paperbacks).

I don’t know much about good ways to scan books. I’m hoping some of y’all do.

Standard flatbed scanners are not very good for scanning books — it’s hard to capture the whole page, and easy to damage the book. 

I’ve heard that if you’ve willing to destroy the book, you can scan quickly by unbinding it and using an automated document scanner. I haven’t tried it, and I’m worried about losing pages. (Also, many/most of the books I need to scan are out-of-print library books that I can’t destroy, and they’re not easy to obtain.)

There are scanners specifically designed for scanning books, but they are very expensive. (Thousands of dollars).

Some people have created DIY instructions for building a book scanner, but that looks hard to build and still fairly expensive, and it’s hard for me to tell how viable that strategy is.

There are also very good iPhone apps for scanning (I use Scanner Pro). Unfortunately, it’s hard to hold the book and the phone in the right position, and it’s not very practical for scanning more than a few pages.

Do any of y’all have experience with scanning whole books (or whole libraries)? What works? What doesn’t work? 

signed-me-again said:

To be honest, scanning them can only go so far. My inclination would be to try to get them typed. Low-tech enough. High-labor – but I’d work on that for free, and I doubt I’m the only one. Getting pictures high enough definition for an ebook might actually be harder than finding people willing to type, and the ebook wouldn’t be screen-readable anyway.

For the typing process, you’ll need a stand. In fact, you’ll need a stand for scanning, too. The stand would look something like this.

When I was scanning at my local synagogue, we had an even cheaper stand–we borrowed a pulpit from the sanctuary and I used a paperweight sandbag to hold the book open. The scanning itself was done with an iPad using a normal photo app. But I was only doing cover/title/copyright pages, and it was exhausting work. You really want a good stand for trying to scan or type an entire book.

I wish you luck in getting the books digitized. Out-of-print paperbacks are a sad, sad thing.

realsocialskills said:

Thank you for the suggestions; I think for my purposes a different approach would probably be better..

I have some scans of paperback books that I find very useable, so I know that it’s possible to accomplish. I just don’t know how to do it.

When I need OCR from scans, I’ve found that Abbyyy FineReader OCR software works well for that purpose.

I want to preserve formatting; I don’t just want the text. I can see the formatting, and it’s often important.

Especially for things like out of print Hebrew-English prayer books. (And I think I would have a lot of trouble finding someone who is both capable of typing Hebrew with vowels and willing to do so for free).

I definitely think a stand is needed; I’m not sure one that holds the book all the way open will work for paperbacks though. Have you found that it does?

periegesisvoid said:

Most normal copier-style scanners + adobe can do ocr

realsocialskills said:

OCR isn’t the issue — I have really good OCR software. I use Abbyy FineReader for text recognition. (It supports more languages than Adobe and has a few other advantages.).

The issue is getting good images in the first place. Flatbed scanners aren’t very good for scanning books. They work ok for hardbacks if the text isn’t too close to the margins. But for paperbacks or books with text close to the margins, it’s really hard to get images that contain all the text. It’s often completely impossible to capture all of the text without damaging the book.

mxbees said:

So. This sort of thing is kind of my job (ie digitization and/or digital preservation). The two machines I’ve used for scanning rare books have been the treventus and indus ones. You’ll note that the treventus is similar to the DIY solution you linked to.

I do want to say that both were used to digitize rare books (these are old books in delicate condition with few copies in existence). The treventus is more expensive and much more gentle. But the indus scanner was good and gentle too.

I think trying to follow the design principles behind the indus might be a good way for you to attempt this.

You could look into an overhead scanner like this Fujitsu one, which is still quite expensive at $800 USD. But there are cheaper models. I can’t vouch for any of these scanners but I think its the most promising direction for you to look.

Additionally, one part of the indus scanner which solved the problem you mention about the gutters and books, is you could add to this set up by getting a clear pane of glass that is reasonably heavy. This way, you use the glass you squash the book flat without doing a great deal of damage (you might hurt the spine somewhat but it’ll depend on how heavy the glass is).

One thing to look out since you want to ensure you have a high quality image, is making sure you get a scanner capable of scanning at 600 dpi (which the cheap one I linked to does not, it says its 5 megapixels but this isn’t what you want).

Another alternative to getting an overhead scanner is to get a high quality digital camera and a tripod. This way you can mount the camera on the tripod and point it down at your book. This has the benefit of being somewhat portable (depending). As long as you have something to ensure the book is flat (like the pane of glass). This solution also means that you can use the camera for more than one thing (especially if you can’t find a scanner that is an actual scanner… a lot of the overhead ‘scanners’ I’m seeing in my amazon search are actually just digital cameras mounted on a tripod. And not particularly good ones).

Um… This is long enough for now. Feel free to ask more questions (I love talking about this stuff, btw).

realsocialskills said:

Thank you!

Hello Audio-Needing Friends


For those of you like me who need audio to help you study because of autism, your learning style, or any other reason, 

Did you know that Adobe Reader has an accessibility feature? 

It can read any PDF out loud for you in a computerized voice. Though far from perfect, it helps immensely for class readings. 

Open the PDF from a saved file on your computer with Adobe Reader. At the top of the window you’ll see file-view-tools-blah blah blah. 

Click on View and scroll down the very last item on the menu: Activate Read Out Loud. Click on it. 

The menu will close. Go back to View, and hover over the same menu item which should now read “Read Out Loud” with a submenu. 

Via the sub menu you can choose to have the reader read the entire document, or just one page at a time. There are also pause, stop, and resume options. Skip to a new page at any time during the reading by clicking on the upper left corner of the new page. 

Study Hearty!

realsocialskills said:

Macs can actually do this with any text. You do it this way:

  • select the text you want to read
  • right-click on it
  • select Speech from the contextual menu
  • select Start Speaking

You can control the voice and speech rate in the Dictation and Speech pane of the System Preferences. 

Supporting kids who are below grade level


I’m a reading tutor for kids who are below grade level. This is a Title 1 school, which means poverty and the parents don’t speak English. The kids in my program do. I have a lot of discipline problems, ie, kids refuse to come in from recess to come to the program, kids being disruptive in group sessions. We don’t get the kids who are DIAGNOSED severely disabled. They’re all in grades 2-5. 

So, what should I  be doing to get kids who don’t want to come in from recess to come in? So far, a sticker/star reward system is helping the group sessions, but some kids still call out, interrupt me and other kids, and won’t write answers unless I tell them what to write. 

Any suggestions?

realsocialskills said:

Someone I know who does remedial reading has had success with some of these things:

Using computer or iPad reading games

  • Some kids who associate books with humiliation and failure don’t have the same association with computer-based things
  • But if you’re going to do this, make sure the games you pick are actually fun
  • It doesn’t work if it’s exactly like the thing that’s miserable for them off the computer
  • Particularly if it’s just a simulated standardized test

Having kids read plays together

  • This can work well as a group activity,
  • Particularly since all the kids are involved even when it’s not their turn to read
  • Some kids who don’t like taking turns reading stuff *do* like taking turns reading parts in a play
  • Also, again, it’s something they’re much less likely to associate with failure and humiliation
  • You can get books of kids plays that are designed for various reading levels

Use books with positive representation of kids like them:

  • Far, far too many kids books are about rich white kids
  • If all of your books are about rich white kids, you can end up inadvertently sending the message that you don’t respect your students (especially if you are white, but even if you are not)
  • Or that reading is rich and white
  • Having books that have poor kids, disabled kids, and kids of color can make a big difference
  • Particularly if they are good books
  • Particularly if they are books written by people from the same culture as the kids you teach
  • Immigrant kids come under *tremendous* pressure to assimilate and reject the cultures they came from
  • And it’s worth making an effort to make sure that what you do isn’t part of that

Do what you can to make it a safe space for kids who are struggling:

  • Do not let kids make fun of other kids
  • Do not have competitions between kids
  • Do not laugh at mistakes, even if they’re funny
  • (But do let kids laugh at *your* mistakes, even if they’re not funny)
  • Praise people for trying, not just succeeding
  • Because being willing to try over and over until you do something successfully is important
  • And for kids who have been humiliated for failing, it can be really important that you explicitly respect their efforts

Sometimes it helps to modify things in a way that work with rather than against kids’ behavior:

  • If kids are calling out, make a lesson where that’s *supposed* to happen
  • Have some time where you tell kids what to write and that’s ok
  • (And where if kids decide to not write what you tell them and to write something else, that’s also ok)
  • I can’t think of more examples offhand, but I know that this is something that people do successfully
  • Remember that the point is getting kids to learn, not getting them to obey you
  • (You do have to control the classroom to an extent - but it’s worth avoiding avoidable power struggles, and modifying your approach when kids refuse to cooperate with your initial plan isn’t a failure )

But also, are kids being pulled out of recess in order to go to extra lessons? That strikes me as inherently likely to end poorly. If that’s what’s happening, is there any way you can pull the kids out of something else instead? 

summersaysso asked:

Regarding the question about textbooks via audio:

  • If I can slow a book’s reading speed down, that often helps me.
  • Also, I often pause the player, and repeat key phrases to myself a couple of times.
  • What I think would be more effective for me, though, would be to pause the player, and doodle a little picture of whatever the key concept is before continuing. I’m a visual thinker.
  • In that vein, it can help me a lot if I can find a DVD in the school library, or a YouTube or Khan Academy video on the topic. It gives me sort of a base, and then when I return to the textbook it’s sort of easier to take in. 

More on focusing on audio versions of text - besides taking notes (even unintelligible notes - just writing something from the audio down enforces it), audacity is also great for audio adjustments and is free. For hard texts, sometimes I close my eyes to better focus, while easy ones I can sometimes get while doing other activities. If a part seems important, go back and re-listen. I always end up with sections that I have heard 5 times and some I only hear once.


Social skills for autonomous people: making text more readable



Having aspergers and and ADD has made communicating with people very difficult, especially in relationships. I’ve found that writing helps but reading is hard because I get lost in blocks of words and unable to focus. Are there things that can…

When I’m having difficulty reading text I highlight small chunks, like a single line, as I go. It helps me determine what I’m currently reading, I can see what I already read since it’s before the highlighted words, and it doesn’t require multiple programs. I picked up this habit from a friend with the same problems.

I sometimes have to pick out small bits of text from densely packed books. I use plastic highlighter strips (mine are called ezc reader strip) to help me keep my place and focus while I’m working

I stole mine from my husbands classroom, but they are from

Hope that’s helpful for non-digital writing and communication.


Social skills for autonomous people: making text more readable


Having aspergers and and ADD has made communicating with people very difficult, especially in relationships. I’ve found that writing helps but reading is hard because I get lost in blocks of words and unable to focus. Are there things that can…

When I’m having difficulty reading text I highlight small chunks, like a single line, as I go. It helps me determine what I’m currently reading, I can see what I already read since it’s before the highlighted words, and it doesn’t require multiple programs. I picked up this habit from a friend with the same problems.

making text more readable

Having aspergers and and ADD has made communicating with people very difficult, especially in relationships. I’ve found that writing helps but reading is hard because I get lost in blocks of words and unable to focus. Are there things that can be done to help with communication and reading replies etc?
Sometimes it helps to paste the text into a document and then use either white space or color coding to help you keep track.
Here’s how I do color coding:
  • I paste the text I want to read into Word
  • I turn all the text blue
  • As I read the text, I turn it black again
  • That enables me to keep track of which parts I have and haven’t read

Formatting the text can also help. This is how I do it with emails:

  • I hit the reply button so that I can edit the text
  • Then I put in paragraph breaks where I think there are conceptual breaks
  • This means I can move around on the page more easily when I want to re-read a particular part