kitchen table math, the sequel: iPhones for dyslexia?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPhones for dyslexia?

in the Guardian:
I was hopeless at school, messy and terrible at spelling. And although the term dyslexia was not something I came across until much later in life, when I did I understood immediately that I had a number of its symptoms. My writing often had a jumbled logic. The advent of computers, of course, brought spell-checkers, but even so my word blindness can carry such conviction that I sometimes find myself staring incredulously at the red line underneath words, before finally realising that "during" does not begin with a "J".


Recently, at the age of 57, I got an iPhone. Like many, I spent the first few hours loading up apps, including a Classics book app. Some weeks later, while mending a client's computer, waiting for the blue line to progress slowly across the screen, I began reading. The first thing I noticed was that, while familiar with many of the books on the app, having seen a film version or been read them as a child, I had not myself read a single one. Books which would have been part of many a youthful literary diet had passed me by. Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer – I hadn't read any of them (but I have now).

The first title I selected was The Count of Monte Cristo. I raced through this on my iPhone in just over a week, my wife asking why I was continually playing with my iPhone. When I'd finished I enjoyed the story so much that I went to buy a copy for a friend. In the bookshop I was amazed. It was more than 1,000 pages! Had I been presented with the book in this form I would never have read it. It would have been too much like climbing a mountain.

So why I had found it easier to read from my iPhone? First, an ordinary page of text is split into about four pages. The spacing seems generous and because of this I don't get lost on the page. Second, the handset's brightness makes it easier to take in words. "Many dyslexics have problems with 'crowding', where they're distracted by the words surrounding the word they're trying to read," says John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. "When reading text on a small phone, you're reducing the crowding effect."

I was so impressed that I contacted the Dyslexia Society, where Sue Flohr, herself dyslexic, recounted how her iPhone had changed her life.

My iPhone has revolutionised my reading
by Howard Hill
Guardian April 6, 2010


Liz Ditz said...

Also see my review of the Intel Reader.

Darling daughter, the dyslexic college student, isn't using the Intel machine but text-to-voice provided by her university. It's revolutionized the sense that having the text read at the same time she is reading it is improving her comprehension AND reading rate.

What took so long? She used RFBD in high school and didn't like it.

dd has an iPhone, but dislikes reading on it as she finds it very helpful for comprehension and later retrieval to mark up physical text.

However, she loves text-to-speech on her computer, especially in composing papers for class. She might not perceive awkward phrasings or redundant words in text she has written, but can perceive such written errors if the text is read back to her.

Now, is this "auxiliary and augmentative communication"? Well, if a person without a disability uses it, is it still AAC?

ElizabethB said...

On a somewhat related note, I checked out the iPad at our local Apple Store and thought that the iBook dictionary look up function would be great for individuals who currently have reading problems or those that have been remediated and can now read well but have a vocabulary deficit.

You can double click a word and immediately right above the word a bar comes up, you click dictionary and its pronunciation and definition come up. It's super easy. I'm hoping they will have a Spanish dictionary and also a Spanish/English dictionary as well so I can do the same thing for books in Spanish to improve my Spanish vocabulary. (We don't have one yet, but I'm thinking it's in our future.)

Catherine Johnson said...

A friend whose daughter probably has dyslexia (not sure whether there's a formal diagnosis) reminded me today that last fall she had reported her 7th grade daughter reading much better once she got a Kindle.

She said the difference was so striking she knew she wasn't imagining it.

Kindles, fyi, allow you to adjust how many words per line of text.

Catherine Johnson said...

she finds it very helpful for comprehension and later retrieval to mark up physical text


I have to have the underlining feature.

Kindle underlining is OK, but it causes the thing to crash a lot. (That may be just my Kindle. I've dropped it a couple of times.)

I read a P.G. Wodehouse novel on my iPhone & am partway through Tom Paine's Common Sense. I find reading on the iPhone slightly taxing. I seem to want a larger screen.