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[school-discuss] Dyslexia and Technology

Hi there!   Thanks for the great replies.  Yes . . . current technology can make all the difference for dyslexic students. 

First . . . a bit from the definition I sent Charles C. last week . . .

What we know about dyslexia has completely changed in the last 10 years.  Formerly it was thought that dyslexic people saw letters and words backwards.  Now, after recent studies where scientists have done MRIs of individuals with dyslexia and those without, and have made comparisons - it is known that there are 3 specific things different in their brains.  Dyslexia has nothing to do with vision.  It is actually an internal auditory condition.

1.   A non-dyslexic person has neuropathways that are organized in a grid like pattern.  The neuropathways of a dyslexic person have no apparent organizational pattern.  The most significant consequence is that a dyslexic person's brain does  not convert symbols to sounds.  When they see an "S" they do not hear "sssssssssssss" in their heads.   To learn to read they need to first learn "phonemic awareness."

2.   A non-dyslexic person's neuropathways between the left-side and rearleft-side carry information efficiently.  When a word is sounded out - the information is delivered to and stored in the back area of the brain.  These neuropathways in a dyslexic person  are not formed in a manner that allows the information through.  A dyslexic person can (with difficulty) sound out a word at the beginning of a sentence and not recognize that same word at the end of a sentence.  As a result, a dyslexic person needs to use other areas of the brain to read.  Once a dyslexic person learns to read, they are using 5 times more brain area than a person without dyslexia.  This is why reading will always be slower and more exhausting for a dyslexic person.

3.  On the bright side, scientists have learned that dyslexic individuals have larger brains.  The brain of a person who is not dyslexic, is smaller on the right side than the left.  Both hemispheres of the brain are the same size on a dyslexic person.  This relates to the creative, holistic thinking abilities of dyslexic people.

One in five people (20%) are severely or profoundly dyslexic.  They have significant issues with reading in school and as adults.  Even if or when they learn to read, they will probably never enjoy reading because it is hard work = five times harder.  Then there are those who are moderately or mildly dyslexic, (as high as 20% more) who will be "late bloomer" type readers.   These individuals on the surface seem to read OK, but still have reading or spelling issues.  Any degree of dyslexia will probably mean that the person may learn to read . . . but cannot read to learn.  Severly or profoundly dyslexic individuals CANNOT read to learn, while moderately or mildly dyslexic people PREFER not to read to learn.  All of these students need to hear it, see it, touch it, try it, do it . . . . to learn.  Dyslexic persons often read through a series of educated guesses.  Some word they get, others they guess at what the meaning might be in the larger context.

Current educational systems leave these students behind.  They cannot do worksheets.  They cannot read the chapter and answer the questions at the end.  They cannot do multiple choice questions.  They cannot read words in isolation = they need the larger context to figure out the meaning.  They cannot do worksheets on the computer.  They cannot do online coursework to date, because too much reading is involved.

Dyslexic people are good at holistic thinking, problem solving, creativity, imagining, composing, writing (not handwriting or spelling though), seeing the big picture, athletics, art, music, building things, making things . . . . It's that larger right hemisphere of the brain that  does it.

Technology can make all the difference.  Really good text-to-speech features are very important.

Audio books like those beautiful books at:


Thank you!

Last fall I made an audio book server using gutenberg.org and librivox.org texts and audio books. I just put an embedded audio link for each page or chapter. It started reading right when the child went to a new page. It was great for the dyslexic kids.

Last summer I testified before the Interim Committee on Dyslexia and Related Disorders. The guy that spoke after I did was so interesting.


His name is Eric McGehearty. His written testimony is at:


The first thing he said was, "I have a Master's Degree, teach college classes, and am CEO of my own company . . . and I have never read a book in my life." He goes on to tell how he uses voice recognition, text to speech, audio books . . . etc . . . to do everything. He said he has never read a book, but has listened to thousands of books.

This is what our school kids need to succeed.

That is why I am working to create audio and video of all the lessons in my class. They are not scripted, and sort of goofy, but they are just like having me for a teacher in school.

I hope to hear back from many of you. A couple of years ago I wrote a grant proposal for teaching dyslexic students to use netbooks. Some of you participated. Alas, we were not chosen. I have not looked recently to see what is currently available. The grant proposal is posted someplace at http://ourdyslexicchildren.org

Right now I have to close. Hannah (age 12) wants me to take her to get a new cat. :)