Learners with dyslexia may struggle to read fluently and have difficulty understanding what they read and because of these difficulties they may be reluctant to read and therefore will struggle to access much of the learning in school. Technology can address many of these support needs.
Source: Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit
The development of phonic apps to support emergent reading has increased in recent years. Examples include:
The nature of paper-based books with black text on a white background can be challenging to those who experience visual discomfort or disturbance when they read.
For more on visual discomfort see the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) website section on Neurodiversity and Co-occurring difficulties.
Coloured overlays or colour transparencies can be placed over a page to soften the contrast of black text on a white background. Sticky highlighter strips can also aid the reading process as important words, sentences or phrases can be annotated in different colours.
The 'Making a document dyslexia friendly' guide explains how to customise a Word document to improve readability.
The Addressing Reading Difficulties poster/infograph is a step-by-step guide in the form of a question and answer 'checklist' to help identify problems. It suggests a range of practical technology-focused solutions to support pupils with reading difficulties.
Download the 'Addressing Reading Difficulties' poster.
This poster/guide recommends 8 technology tips that you can easily and quickly implement, that are either built-in to the operating system or free to download.
Download the 'technology guide to creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom' poster.
The 'Wheel of Apps' is not comprehensive, but attempts to identify relevant, useful apps and to categorise them according to difficulties faced by people with dyslexia / literacy difficulties.
Download the 'iPad Apps for Learners with Dyslexia' poster.
The wheel of apps poster is also available for Chromebook and Android. These posters and others can be downloaded from the 'Posters and Leaflets' section of the website.
For a comprehensive overview of technology to support writing, see the CALL Scotland Technology section of the website.
One of the most popular ways of helping learners to read is by using text-to-speech. A 'text-to-speech' program or 'text reader' on your computer or tablet reads text from a document or web page using a computer voice.
There are many text readers available, many are built-in to the device's operating system but it is also possible to buy (or download for free) natural-sounding and localised voice. You can find out more in the Technology text-to-speech section.
The technology writing checklist (below) is designed to help pupils and staff identify and explore technology to help address specific needs arising from dyslexia.
The tools suggested are mostly freely available or via your Glow log-in so everyone in a Scottish state school should be able to access them. There are separate links to each of the most popular devices in the columns Windows, Chromebooks (ChromeOS) and iPad (iOS).
These are ‘universal’ supports. They may or may not be the best tools to meet your own needs – apps and resources that you pay for may be better - but this should help you to get started with technology.
Customising the screen on your device or the background and font colours can make all the difference.
Microsoft Word is a popular word-processing program, that is used extensively by schools across Scotland (via Glow) available as an app or online via a web browser.
CALL has created a series of short video tutorials on using Word to Support Literacy. The videos below explain how to use the built-in 'Saving and Setting the Font Style in Word' and 'Setting the Background Colour', and the brilliant 'Immersive Reader' - great tools that are readily available in Word to support reading.
See the full playlist of videos - many of these tools are also available in Word Online for iPad and Chromebook via the browser.
A series of short guides to support literacy difficulties using the iPad's built-in tools - tools to support reading include 'Making web pages easier to read with Reader View', 'Using Speak Selection to help Reading' and 'Highlight Content to aid visual focus and concentration'.
1: Using Speak Selection to help Reading
The Chromebook also includes tools to help with reading - the video below explains how to use Select to Speak in Google.
As well as freely available built-in tools, specialist software/apps provide a more targeted approach to support reading. Examples include:
Clicker 8 along with Clicker Books offers a child-friendly environment with tools such as text-to-speech to help young children to become confident readers. Clicker Books is available for Windows, iPad and Chromebook and offers numerous tools such as word prediction, word banks, text-to-speech and more.
A good example of free software is Natural Reader, a floating toolbar that reads text aloud by simply selecting areas of text.
This illustrated article 'Text-to-Speech to Support Reading Difficulties' gives an overview of text-to-speech and explains how to Natural Reader.
All-in-one literacy support tools tend to take the form of a 'floating toolbar' which sits on the desktop and includes a range of tools such as text-to-speech, options to change the font style, colour and colour background with colour masking tools. Typically, they also include picture and/or talking dictionaries and tools to convert text to audio/Mp3 files.
With digital or eBooks it is possible to customise the reading experience, such as changing the font style, font and background colour as well as text-to-speech. Digital formats can help learners who have difficulty reading ordinary printed books, including those with dyslexia.
If you are a teacher in a Scottish local authority school, you can download books for the Scottish curriculum in accessible formats.
Reading Pens are small pocket-sized devices that scan and read back single words and lines of text from a variety of documents, such as worksheets.
The most popular reading pen is the C-Pen from Scanning Pens. They also provide an Exam Pen which has the same functionality as the C-Pen with the exception of dictionaries.
An alternative to the Reading Pen is the increasing number of apps for snapping, scanning and reading printed text. Scanning apps convert printed worksheets, flyers, pages of books into digital text that can be read aloud and customised to suit personal reading needs, e.g., colour backgrounds, font styles and colours etc.
The following illustrated guides compare scanning apps and explain how to use them.