Dedicated word processors are computing devices that provide easy and portable word processing capability. They are particularly useful in the school system because of their ease of use. One example of a dedicated word processor is the Neo from AlphaSmart. It turns ‘on’ and ‘off’ with a single button and has eight file areas that have more than enough memory for even the most prolific student writer. There is an onboard spell checker and you can print directly from the device. It has a low contrast screen that, depending on font size, will hold six lines of text. Students use the keyboard arrows to navigate their files.
Dedicated word processors are generally used for taking notes in class and starting or completing written assignments. Once the student has finished typing his work on the device, it is sent to a word processing program on a regular computer by connecting to the computer via a USB cable and then hitting the “Send” key. The text spools into the word processor and can then be reformatted, edited, saved and printed like any computer file.
These devices are particularly helpful for students with ASD because of their lack of complexity. They are extremely easy to use and students can become independent with the technology very quickly. There are also a limited number of features and few things to "fiddle" with or perseverate on as the student is using the device. Their low cost also makes them attractive for the education system.
Alphasmart makes another dedicated word processor called the Dana. This device has the Palm OS built into it effectively making it a large keyboard PDA. For high school students with ASD, the organizational tools in the Palm system help address their deficits in organization and give them visual reminders of their schedules and assignments.
Many teams have used dedicated word processors very successfully with this student population. If the student only requires word processing capability, it is a better choice than a laptop computer.