March 12, 2020, 4:16 a.m.

How Technology Can Help Kids With Dyslexia

Broadly stated, dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty in reading. 

“Reading is complex. It requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order, and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs we can read and comprehend,” according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. “People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds [that] those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step, all the other steps are harder.” 

  • Note taking: Some dyslexic people have trouble jotting down quick notes. This makes it hard for a student to create a reminder while simultaneously listening to a teacher. Evernote makes it easy to capture ideas on the fly without breaking stride. Portable handheld scanning devices like Infoscan and Live Scribe Smart Pen also fulfil this role. 

  • Text-to-speech: An online application, Natural Reader uses a natural-sounding voice to give students ready access to web pages, emails, PDFs, documents, and text messages. Balabolka and Panopreter operate along the same basic lines.

  • Typing tools: Talking Fingers teaches typing while also breaking down language into its phonetic components. Students get a practical skill—the ability to type—while absorbing a deeper appreciation for phonics, which can support fundamental reading skills. 

  • Audio books: In addition to Bookshare, another popular source of audio book is Learning Ally, a non-profit whose offerings include a collection of some 80,000 audio books at all grade levels. By highlighting words as students read along, the tool can help dyslexic readers stay connected to the text. 

  • Vocabulary builders: A web-based tool, Rewordify helps students understand words and build their vocabulary. Readers can enter a word or block of text to see suggested alternatives. The tool simplifies hard-to-read sentences, with the reworded portions highlighted.
These tools can help with both the social aspects of dyslexia and the direct educational process: they can enable students to feel like they are keeping pace with their peers, and they can augment teacher efforts to promote reading ability.