Learning with Dyslexia: Essential Tools You Need to Know About

Since the large bulk of schoolwork involves reading and writing, students who are learning with dyslexia often experience anxiety around schooling, especially when called on to read aloud or when they are expected to read or write large amounts of material. Many report feeling low self-esteem and believing that they are unintelligent or will never have the skills to succeed. Even when the proper diagnosis is handed down and intervention works, school life continues to be difficult for dyslexics.

Advances in technology have been invaluable to students who read and write slowly. Dyslexic students are finding they can complete assignments faster when they employ special features on a laptop or iPad that help them work around their dyslexia-related issues. But to fully maximize how technology can help students with learning differences, educators’ expectations may need to be shifted.

For students learning with dyslexia, assistive technology such as reading with audiobooks is a way for students to fully participate in assignments instead of just focusing on the laborious task of reading, writing and spelling. According to cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, author of Raising Kids Who Read, listening to books is still reading and isn’t cheating. For most books, and for most purposes, he writes, listening to a book and reading it are basically the same thing.

Also, most dyslexic students don’t have a problem understanding information— so allowing them to record a class instead of painstakingly take notes, or to speak an essay into a tablet instead of writing it down, can change the game completely. Although the following is not a complete list of the tech tools that can help students learning with dyslexia, it can provide the basis for further discussion and investigation.

Speech-to-Text: Students can turn their speech into text using apps like Dragon Dictation, Google’s VoiceNote, Easy Dyslexia Aid or just speaking into the microphone of a phone, tablet, or laptop. Some speech-to-text devices are sensitive to different kinds of voices and will require some experimentation.

Google Chrome Extensions: Extensions are small software programs that customize a user’s web browsing experience. Users can tailor functionality and behavior to individual needs or preferences. The programs are built on technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Chrome offers several extensions for free or low cost that can help struggling readers and writers.

  • Read&Write offers text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and word prediction
  • Snap&Read will begin reading aloud from a click
  • SpeakIt lets students highlight a piece of text and have it read to them
  • Read Mode removes ads and images from websites so students can focus on the text

Kurzweil: This educational software offers study skills features and Texthelp Read&Write, plus highlighting, sticky notes, and voice notes. Notes can be compiled into a separate study guide, and files can be imported into sound files for easy listening.

WhisperSync: This Amazon app allows readers to switch between reading and listening to a book. For those whose slow reading can be exhausting, this app allows them to switch to audio to listen for a while.

Audiobooks with Accompanying Readers: Amazon’s Immersion Reading and VOICEText by Learning Ally both allow readers to read and listen to a story at the same time. Each comes with a highlighted text feature that helps dyslexic students follow along, allowing them to read books at the level of their peers.

Livescribe Smartpen: Livescribe offers a computerized pen that doubles as a recording device, recording what’s being said as well as what the student is writing. The student can tap the pen on any written note to replay what was said while they were writing.

Franklin Speller: These mini electronic dictionaries provide

  • Handy lists of confusable words
  • context-sensitive help text
  • spellcheck
  • print and cursive options for words
  • an arithmetic tutor 

This article includes information from chapter five of the MindShift Guide to Understanding Dyslexia. You can find the remaining chapters and a complete printable PDF of the entire guide by clicking here.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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