Word Prediction Technology: What It Is and How It Works

ByJamie Martin

At a glance

  • Word prediction is an assistive technology tool that suggests words while a child types.

  • Kids with writing issues can benefit from this technology.

  • You may have used word prediction on a smartphone, but more advanced tools also exist.

Word prediction is an assistive technology tool for writing that suggests words as a child types. If you’ve sent text messages with a smartphone, you’ve probably used it already. But you may not know about the advanced word prediction options now available. These tools can be very helpful for kids who struggle with writing.

Read on for more about how word prediction technology tools work and where to find them.

How Word Prediction Works

To use word prediction, your child needs to use a keyboard to write. This can be an onscreen keyboard on a smartphone or digital tablet. Or it can be a physical keyboard connected to a device or computer.

When a child types words, word prediction detects what letters are being typed. After a few letters, it makes suggestions for words it thinks the child is trying to write. Those suggestions are shown on the screen, like at the top of an onscreen keyboard. The child clicks or taps on a suggested word, and it’s inserted into the writing.

There are also advanced word prediction tools available. They include:

  • Tools that read word choices aloud with text-to-speech. This is important for kids with reading issues who can’t read what the suggestions are.
  • Word prediction tools that make suggestions tailored to specific topics. For instance, the words used in a history paper will differ a lot from those in a science report. To make suggestions more accurate, kids can pick special dictionaries for what they’re writing about.
  • Tools that display word suggestions in example sentences. This can help kids decide between words that are confusing, like to, too and two.

Types of Word Prediction Tools

Word prediction is available on many platforms.

  • Built-in word prediction: Basic, free word prediction is built into almost every device. This includes iOS and Android mobile devices, Windows tablets and Chromebooks. The technology is also available in the Windows 10 and macOS operating systems. Your child doesn’t need to purchase or download anything to use these built-in tools.
  • Word prediction apps: You and your child can download many word prediction apps on smartphones and digital tablets. Sometimes, the technology is part of a word processor application. Examples include iWordQ and Spell Better. Or it may be included as part of an onscreen keyboard, like Co:Writer Universal, Read&Write or Dyslexia Keyboard.
  • Chrome tools: Chrome has several tools called extensions and apps with word prediction. Co:Writer Universal and WordQ are examples. See more Chrome tools for kids with writing issues.
  • Word prediction software programs: There are several literacy software programs for desktop and laptop computers. They offer word prediction in addition to other reading and writing tools. Examples include Clicker 7, Kurzweil 3000, and Ghotit Real Writer & Reader. Learn more about software for kids with writing issues.

How Word Prediction Can Help Your Child

Kids with writing issues may have difficulty finding, choosing or spelling the words that express their thoughts. By making suggestions, word prediction makes this process easier. Here are some of the ways it can help:

  • Kids with motor skills issues need to press only one or just a few keys, rather than many, to type out a word.
  • Kids who have trouble spelling can broaden the range of words they use while writing. Without word prediction, these kids often avoid words they can’t spell.
  • Kids with writing issues can use word prediction as extra support, so they can focus on the ideas they’re trying to express.
  • Kids can also use word prediction to practice their phonics skills. Kids can practice sounding out words while writing them.

Word prediction can be a big help for many kids with learning and thinking differences. Keep in mind, it’s only one tool. Kids may still need writing instruction or other accommodations for writing, like a scribe to write down what they say. Physical tools may also be helpful for handwriting. And your child may prefer another assistive technology, like dictation or graphic organizers.

Key takeaways

  • Word prediction is available on nearly every platform, from iOS and Android devices, to Chromebooks, Windows and macOS computers.

  • Some word prediction tools can make suggestions tailored to specific writing topics.

  • While word prediction can help with writing, kids may still need instruction or other accommodations.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Jamie Martin is an assistive technology specialist at the New England Assistive Technology Center (NEAT) in Hartford, Connecticut.