Assistive Technology for Dyslexia
Technology has come a long way in supporting people with dyslexia, but it cannot replace foundational language and literacy skills. Research suggests that older students benefit from text-to-speech assistive technology (AT) to meet higher demands of reading and writing, but that younger students who are still developing these skills are negatively impacted. Elementary-age children need active decoding practice in order to become proficient readers, and text-to-speech does not engage the necessary neural circuits at this crucial developmental stage.1
Evidence-based instruction programs, such as Slingerland, use handwriting almost exclusively while students are building skills, because recent research has shown that handwriting recruits a “reading circuit” in the brain.2 Moreover, older students show lower cognitive load and better retention of information while taking handwritten notes, as opposed to touch typing.3
That said, AT allows dyslexic learners to access and produce information at a rate that would not be possible without it. There is a growing variety of options, with exponential possibilities when “app-smashing,” or using more than one app simultaneously. AT skills should be explicitly taught, consistently reinforced and carefully chosen for specific purposes.
International Dyslexia Association: Overview of instructional and assistive technology
PDF article detailing guiding principles and framework for choosing and using AT
Elisheva Schwartz: 22 assistive technology tools
PDF with descriptions of apps and links to YouTube videos showing how to install and use
Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity: Tools and technology
Link to featured content on a range of technological tools
University of Michigan: Software and AT
Link to list of software and apps with brief descriptions and links
1. Staels, Eva, and Van Den Broeck, Wim. "Orthographic Learning and the Role of Text-to-Speech Software in Dutch Disabled Readers." Journal of Learning Disabilities 48.1 (2015): 39-50. Web.
2. James, Karin H, and Engelhardt, Laura. "The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Functional Brain Development in Pre-literate Children." Trends in Neuroscience and Education 1.1 (2012): 32-42. Web.
3. Shibata, Hirohito, and Omura, Kengo. "[Papers] Reconsideration of the Effects of Handwriting." ITE Transactions on Media Technology and Applications 6.4 (2018): 255-61. Web.