Dyslexia is a prevalent challenge in our world. One of the foremost scientific studies on dyslexia shows it affects one in five people to some degree or another. If you are a parent of a dyslexic child, you don’t need to be told about the devastating effects to self-esteem, school performance, and other aspects of a child’s life. If you are a disbeliever in dyslexia as a real condition, go read the book Overcoming Dyslexia. You’ll quickly learn about the decades of scientific proof and brain mapping showing how real dyslexia is.
The good news, however, is that dyslexia can be overcome! Through proper, intensive intervention and tutoring, a dyslexic child can learn how to read quite proficiently and literally re-wire their brain for reading.
Although we at knowonder! are not dyslexic tutors, we have experienced our own struggles with children who have struggled to read and worked with numerous dyslexic children, as well. We know of the pain, the heartache, and the frustration. And we want to help!
There are two main things you need to do in order to help your child overcome dyslexia.
- Find an Orton Gillingham based tutor near you, or become an Orton Gillingham tutor yourself!
- Help your child develop a LOVE of reading!
It is in the vein of the 2nd recommendation that we at knowonder! are going to great lengths to make reading materials enjoyable and accessible for dyslexic kids. There are three things to consider in order to help your child have a love of reading.
- Interest: A child must have access to reading materials he is interested in
- On-Level: A child must have access to reading materials on his level
- Read-Aloud: A child must have adults or tutors who read out loud to him OFTEN to help him develop a love of stories and reading that is not tied to his challenges, thus providing the intrinsic motivation (which is MUCH stronger than an extrinsic motivation) to learn to read.
To help with these three things, we are working on two projects. The first, DyslexiAssist Books, is detailed below. The second, DyslexiAssist Website, will soon be unveiled.
About DyslexiAssist Books
DyslexiAssist Books use a combination of two unique features we use to enhance the readability of content for our children who suffer from dyslexia. The first, and most well-researched, is the layout itself (the spacing of the letters and sentence, etc.). The second is the font. We’ll dive into both. Stick with us here. It’s a lot of text, but it’s valuable and it’s proven to help. You can find books from various publishers an authors using our DyslexiAssist approach here, on Amazon.
Changing the layout of text is one of the best ways to increase the readability of text for children suffering from dyslexia. A peer-reviewed study in PNAS showed that “a simple manipulation of letter spacing substantially improved text reading performance on the fly (without any training) in a large, unselected sample of…children.” PNAS, as it turns out, is “one of the world’s most-cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals, publishing more than 3,100 research papers annually. PNAS publishes only the highest quality scientific research. Every published paper is peer reviewed and has been approved for publication by an NAS member.” You can read the study here: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/28/11455.short
The Abstract of the Study
“Although the causes of dyslexia are still debated, all researchers agree that the main challenge is to find ways that allow a child with dyslexia to read more words in less time, because reading more is undisputedly the most efficient intervention for dyslexia. Sophisticated training programs exist, but they typically target the component skills of reading, such as phonological awareness. After the component skills have improved, the main challenge remains (that is, reading deficits must be treated by reading more—a vicious circle for a dyslexic child). Here, we show that a simple manipulation of letter spacing substantially improved text reading performance on the fly (without any training) in a large, unselected sample of Italian and French dyslexic children. Extra-large letter spacing helps reading, because dyslexics are abnormally affected by crowding, a perceptual phenomenon with detrimental effects on letter recognition that is modulated by the spacing between letters. Extra-large letter spacing may help to break the vicious circle by rendering the reading material more easily accessible.”
The Results of the Study
So just how effective was the simple change of increasing the font spacing and line spacing? “Dyslexic children made significantly fewer errors in the spaced than the normal version…and they read significantly faster in the spaced than the normal version.” You can dive into the actual study to see the detailed analysis, numbers, stats, etc., but to put it simply, every single subject in the study, “all recruited in specialized hospitals where they had been diagnosed with developmental dyslexia,” all with varying degrees of dyslexia, improved in both reading speed as well as accuracy.
The font we use is called Dyslexie and was created by a dyslexic, Christian Boer from Amsterdam. From the website, www.dyslexiefont.com, we read, “People with dyslexia often swap, rotate and flip letters without noticing. The problem is that some letters are too similar to each other. Dyslexie font is designed so that every letter is unique in its own form. This counters the rotation, flipping and reversal of the letters. Sometimes they have a “crowding effect” (the apparent fusion of letters) because they are too close to each other. In addition, the font has extra distance between the letters (kerning) and between words (spaces). Dyslexic people may also overlook the beginning of a sentence and read two sentences as one. Therefore, the capital letters are bolder so the reader will easily identify the beginning of a new sentence.”
It is important to note that the font has not necessarily been scientifically proven to help (and even has some people in the dyslexic community who do not like it, mainly because of it’s claims to help dyslexics), however, our own tests with children using the font and our spacing show an unequivocal preference to use our text and layout versus traditionally published text.
The Combination = DyslexiAssist
The combination of these two unique approaches to dyslexia provides a powerful, and thus far highly successful, tool in helping children learn to love reading. As was stated above, the main challenge is getting dyslexic children to read more. The more we take down the barriers and make it easier and more enjoyable for children to read, the more they will read, and the more they will succeed. That is our goal here at knowonder!
Current statistics show that 1 in 5 children is affected by some form of dyslexia. Even if they haven’t had an official diagnosis, a child with delayed reading development and/or other challenges in reading may very well be suffering from dyslexia. We hope you will join us by sharing DyslexiAssist resources with your friends and family.
An Important Note
It is critical to understand that dyslexia causes phonemic awareness difficulties. It does not affect a child’s vision of letters (ie., a child does NOT see a /b/ instead of a /d/), rather, it affects their ability to recall the sound a given letter makes. Therefore, even the reading materials mentioned above are not a “cure” or a “fix” for dyslexia. Increasing spacing helps, but a dyslexic child will still struggle to read a word he has not learned, or for which he does not know the phonics rules of spelling. The Orton Gillingham approach takes a very methodical approach to teaching these rules. In so doing, it arms a child with the tools and rules he will need to be able to decode almost any word, sound it out, read it and understand it. It is a highly focused and detailed approach, and is scientifically proven to re-wire dyslexic children’s brains. We strongly recommend you find a local tutor. If you don’t know where to start, click here to find the local chapter of a support group called Decoding Dyslexia.