Assistive technology for dyslexia: tools and benefits

Elementary school class sitting cross legged using tablets

Last Updated: 22/12/2023

Technology at school is a very delicate topic, arousing diametrically opposed opinions. Our everyday life is filled with technology everywhere, from our connected devices at home to our workplaces. 

Today, technology has positive outcomes in many fields, such as in formative initiatives regarding cognitive disorders such as learning disabilities and dyslexia in particular. Learn more about what it is and how assistive technology can support students affected by it.

H2: What is dyslexia?

The term “dyslexia” is used to describe a difficulty with words. This condition usually impacts the learning process challenging the learner with reading, spelling, and writing. Seldom, people with dyslexia can also have a hard time with spoken language, maths, and memory, but they may also have a personal inclination for problem-solving and creative thinking.

According to the European Dyslexia Association, 8% of the European population is affected by this learning disorder. The American Psychiatric Association has placed specific learning disorders between those usually diagnosed in the time of infancy, childhood, or adolescence. In the international classification of syndromes and behavioural disorders (ICD-10), prepared by the World Health Organization, in fact, LDs fall under the heading ‘developmental disorders specific to scholastic skills‘ and are defined as disorders that present themselves already in the early stages of development.

H3: What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

Learning Disorders are defined as disorders that affect specific skill sets such as reading, spelling, writing, and mathematics significantly but circumscribed, leaving intact the general cognitive functioning. Dyslexia symptoms are visible when the child:

  • confuses the letters that are similar graphically (m/n, b/d/q/p, a/s);
  • confuses the letters that sound similar in the point and manner of articulation, but which differ in the start time of the vibration of the vocal cords (t / d, f / v, p / b, etc.);
  • reverses letters (reads “dog” for “god”), omits some, or adds some;
  • reads a word correctly at the beginning of the page, but can read it in different ways before he/she gets to the end of the text;
  • commits errors of anticipation, that is he/she reads the first or first few letters and “guesses” the word, sometimes getting it wrong;
  • skips lines and/or words;
  • reads slowly, sometimes separating into syllables.

This makes it clear that dyslexia is not to be understood as a disease but as a congenital disorder. Kids affected by dyslexia can be supported through methods for learning facilitation. There are many technologies specifically designed for these profiles, and they all may be seen as an alternative or integration with the study of traditional tools to compensate for reading and/or writing disorders.

H2: How assistive technology can support students with dyslexia

The need for specialized personnel to care for learning disorders is very strong. In recent years, speech therapists and European psychiatrists have laboured in the search for habilitative lessons, characterized by the use of such compensatory tools as intuitive, fast, and exciting. Educational apps are specifically designed to generate faster learning and positively interact with the conceptual breakdown that is typical of the perception of children with learning disorders.

Assistive technology – such as voice recognition, text-to-speech, and mind-mapping software – opens up a wide range of possibilities for children with dyslexia. Research has shown numerous advantages and benefits to using the PC with dyslexic children. Here’s an abstract:

  • the visual sense is enhanced, learning through pictures is more intuitive and faster than verbal (eg. Using maps, simulations, animations)
  • high interactivity allows you to change the unilateral mode of the person-to-person communication process, creating a dynamic and challenging experience
  • the logical search for connections helps to increase information by gradually going more deeply into its meaning.

Connections help stimulate teamwork, developing the individual in synergy with other elements. With training and continuous assessments, children affected by specific learning disorders will benefit from technology for their learning.

Today, learners can count on different assistive technologies to find the support they need to progress in education:

  • Text-to-speech software: very common and available on most devices allowing learners to listen to an audio reproduction of a text, which is much easier for whoever faces a reading impairment. 
  • Frequency modulation (FM) systems: they can be used by students who have a hard time focusing in a loud environment. This technology reduces the background noise to amplify and isolate the teacher’s voice.
  • Talking calculators: they can reproduce an audio output that reads numbers, symbols, and operation keys aloud so that learners can have confirmation about selecting the right button. 
  • Writing supports: most devices feature writing support software, such as speech-to-text and word prediction software, that can help students with writing impairment. 

Thanks to modern technology, dyslexic students can access tools and devices that support their learning path. This level of innovation in education is not only useful on a personal level for students but also contributes to fostering a more equitable learning environment for everyone, where accessibility is granted to all, regardless of their learning needs and specificities.

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