A Southern Illinois University Edwardsville graduate student has created a website application to help other dyslexic students like himself. Jason Braun, 35, of Edwardsville recently launched an online "homophone" checker.
A homophone refers to words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, and Braun's web application, www.homophonecheck.com, allows writers to proofread for errors that word processing software can't find.
For example, spell checking a document won't find an error if you use 'there' instead of 'their' or 'they're' or 'know' instead of 'no.'
"I knew as a student, writer and a teacher that homophones are an area where we frequently make mistakes," said Braun, who teaches an English composition class at SIUE. "These are things that aren't caught by Microsoft Word or various other word processors."
Melissa Taylor, director of special services for Belleville School District 201, said the site would be helpful for older students who understand what a homophone is.
Sandy Sweeney, director of special education at Mascoutah School District 19, said "any tool that helps students to improve their writing skills is going to be helpful, but it's up to them to use it."
However, she said students often misspell words and the site doesn't identify a misspelled homophones. "Homophones are not one of the things that keep students from writing well," Sweeney said. "It's misspelling words."
Jim Boyle, a learning disability specialist at SIUE, said the site seems helpful for students with reading disabilities and difficulty writing. "This seems like it would be pretty convenient for them," he said.
Growing up as child in Hecker, Braun, a Waterloo High School graduate, said he always struggled in school and had to repeat the first grade. It wasn't until later in life that he was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
Braun admits he still struggles with homophones. "Partly, I created this, because I wanted to be able to correct my own writing," he said. "These are mistakes every student makes to a certain degree, and students with dyslexia and non-native speakers are going to make these sort of mistakes more frequently."
Braun developed the idea for an online homophone checker web site two years ago. With the help of friend Dan McKenzie, of Clayton, Mo., a computer programmer, it has become a reality.
Visitors of homophonecheck.com can paste the text of a document onto the site, and 40 of the most commonly confused homophones are highlighted automatically. Braun said the writer can then determine if he or she used the correct version of the word based on information provided by the site.
Braun provides the site at no charge to users in hopes of helping others. "I hope it empowers people to check their own writing," he said. "I want students who have problems with these (homophones) to correct them for themselves."
Since launching the site, Braun said it's "getting a lot of traffic" from all over the world including Ireland and Germany.
Braun purchased the domain name homophonecheck.com from GoDaddy.com -- a domain name registrar and Web hosting provider. "Sometimes I have a few too many glasses of wine and buy domain names," he said with a laugh. Braun also owns www.passiveverb.com, but is still working to develop the site.
In the future, Braun hopes to expand homophonecheck.com by including a version specifically designed for homophones non-native English speakers find challenging.
In addition to teaching English at SIUE, Braun, who will graduate with a master's degree in English and creative writing in May, serves as the associate editor of the national literary magazine, "Sou'wester" at SIUE.
Braun hopes he can serve as an inspiration to others. "If you have a problem and there's not a solution for you, maybe what you should do is create that solution" he said.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or email@example.com.