This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week, from the 1st-7th of October, 2018. It is a week of awareness organised by the British Dyslexia Association, with Thursday 4th October marking British Dyslexia Awareness Day.
This year’s theme is based around 21st Century Dyslexia with a focus on how technology can assist everyone with dyslexia, be it someone in a school, in the workplace or at home. Over the past 40 years, the British Dyslexia Association has been raising awareness because over 15% of the global population has dyslexia.
So, how can technology be used to support people with dyslexia? There are many solutions out there that can help to assist those with dyslexia, and as everyone is different: it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. The solutions that we’ll focus on in this blog, however, are the following:
- Text-to-speech software.
- Cross-curricular use of technology.
- Wordbanks and predictive text tools.
- Customisable fonts/colours.
- Programs which track pupil progress.
1. Text-to-speech software.
Speech support is essential for people with dyslexia, especially for use during literacy activities. Text-to-speech software can be used in a number of ways for those with dyslexia to increase their independent learning.
Speech software can read aloud pre-written texts, highlighting words as they are read, which not only makes texts easier to follow but can support and strengthen weak memory skills. Many people with dyslexia experience difficulties with their memory, so finding software that can support this is key in supporting independent learning.
2. Cross-curricular use of technology.
It is important to support pupils in all areas of the curriculum. Dyslexia largely affects literacy activities, and it is important to recognise that most subjects will include reading and writing to some extent. Technology is well placed to support pupils across the curriculum, as it can be applied to most subjects. By providing supportive technology for pupils in all of their subjects, we enable a consistent environment which supports pupils in overcoming barriers to learning through literacy.
3. Wordbanks and predictive text tools.
Wordbanks enable pupils to see (and sometimes hear) a range of vocabulary which relates to the subject they’re writing about. Being able to see meanings and spellings of words can support pupils in making informed word choices in their writing. Some more advanced wordbanks can also support pupils by explaining contextual uses of words and homonyms.
Pupils can also benefit from the use of predictive text tools – by predicting word choice pupils’ spelling can be improved and their keystrokes reduced. Some predictive tools intuitively allow for phonics that sound like others – for example, if a pupil types ‘ord’ words such as ‘audience’ would be predicted alongside words like ‘ordinary’.
4. Customisable fonts/colours.
For some people with dyslexia, font and colour (of font and/or screen) can help to support both reading and writing.
The font of written text can affect comprehension for some people with dyslexia. Many fonts used in day-to-day texts have little differentiation between similar letters which can be confusing for some people. Common letters where this can be seen are lowercase letters b and d; as well as capital i: I and lowercase l. Having clearer differentiation between letters, as well as using fonts which closely resemble letters as we are taught to write them, can reduce the time and effort spent by pupils to decode what is written.
Some pupils have access to coloured overlays in school, which can be placed over textbooks or worksheets – being able to have an on-screen equivalent can be just as helpful for students when they are engaging with technology.
5. Programs which track pupil progress.
Programs which track pupil progress can help pupils with dyslexia by showing them their performance clearly. Not only can this encourage them and boost self-esteem by showing areas of achievement, but it can alert teachers and other supporting adults to areas in which student may need additional support. It can equally help by allowing pupils to be set realistic targets, and clearly see how they are progressing towards these.
What Is Get My Grades Doing?
Get My Grades automatically tracks pupil progress. As well as tracking progress through the course content, pupils can see predicted grades which are calculated using course progress as well as how many questions have been answered correctly, and the difficulty of these questions. Although these grades are not a guarantee, we aim to give pupils a realistic view of how they could perform in their exams given their progress to date.
Get My Grades has several other features which can support the learning of pupils with dyslexia. Throughout our subjects, we use images to demonstrate and supplement content – helping to clarify what is written. The font ABeeZee is used across our Platform – this font has differentiated letters which are similar to the handwriting we are taught. Both concept links and hover-over definitions can help support pupils with dyslexia by encouraging them to build links between ideas and to understand the terminology used in these ideas. In our revise assignments, we provide a suggested time to complete questions – these can be used as a guide, but will not cut pupils off to enable them to spend more time on the questions and less time worrying about how long they have left.
This isn’t all though: we are passionate about developing new features which will further support pupils with dyslexia – so be sure to keep an eye out for them in the future!
In a world where technology is present in all of our lives, we can (and should) be using it to make learning more accessible for those with dyslexia. Each person with dyslexia experiences it differently, and it’s important that technology can be used to not only support their needs but also to adapt to them. Whilst some adaptive technologies exist, we look to a future filled with exciting new technological developments which will make learning and working more accessible and adaptive for all!