Technology and Dyslexia: Strategies and Tips for Parents

Technology and dyslexia are a match made in heaven for many students who struggle with reading or experience other language impairments. Whether it be text-to-speech software that has your digital device read a book out loud or the touch screen of an ebook that pronounces a word and gives you the definition, technology for dyslexia is a powerful tool. The use of technology for dyslexia has altered our definitions of “reading” and the methods by which a student can “read to learn.” If a child struggles to visually read (and therefore comprehend) a book, but has a complete understanding after having listened to it, what should the preferred method of teaching this child be?

Yes, we still need to put in the effort to teach children with dyslexia how to read traditionally.  Yet technology and dyslexia have another relationship in how we are teaching reading in the digital world. While many dyslexics benefit from a structured reading program such as Orton Gillingham or Wilson, there is one ingredient that is crucial for all students with dyslexia; repeated practice.  This is where technology including fun apps and games can prove useful. Titles such as Words With Friends, Ruzzle and Tumblr  all facilitate improved attention towards reading and writing, mainly through their high level of engagement.

There is another important connection between technology and dyslexia observed in the world of business. There are many studies that indicate that successful entrepreneurship is more common amongst individuals with dyslexia and other learning disabilities than in the typical population. Theories for this finding include: Individuals with dyslexia learn differently leading to creativity, they may have to work harder, develop compensatory skills, and be more persistent and they tend to effectively delegate authority and have excellent skills in oral communication and problem solving.

Simple Tips for Using Technology and Dyslexia

1.) Use your child’s interest in technology to teach methods of handling frustration. Many youngsters with dyslexia and learning disabilities experience frustration in learning and often require repeated practice and persistence in order to develop a particular academic skill. Video games by their very nature can be a frustrating experience, so make playing video games without severe displays of frustration a condition for continuing to play games. Point out how persistence helps overcome in-game obstacles and handling frustration lead to success in video games and can also be used in day-to-day activities.

2.) Expect that they become an expert typist or dictator. If your child shows signs of Dyslexia or a language disability, start teaching them to type as young as age 7. You can teach early dictation skills by offering yourself as a “scribe” for written work, but encourage them to start using a simple dictation program such as “Notes” or “Siri’ on a cell phone, before moving to a more complex program such as Dragon Dictation.

3.) Play games to improve reading skills. Many popular video games that are clearly not “educational” in fact practice reading skills in a fun and unobtrusive manner. Games such as Puzzle Quest and The Legend of Zelda require a fair degree of reading in order to be successful in the game. Kids will read because they’re having fun and, as a result, practice the skills that are necessary for improved reading.

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