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Digital Dyslexia


Something incredible is happening this week. Dyslexia Awareness Week is introducing 21st century dyslexia, as you’ve never seen it before. It’s not a disability. It’s not a disadvantage. It’s creative, good at problem solving, entrepreneurial, visual and (wait for it) enabled by technology. The British Dyslexia Association’s 2018 campaign has two bold themes: dyslexic strengths and how mainstream technology can now remove dyslexic disadvantage.

Ever type something quickly and get irritated by the number of squiggly red lines beneath the words? Well, hold fire. Behind the frustrating red pen of spellcheck lies a whole new world of support for those with dyslexia and other difficulties. Now is the time to get friendly with this new ‘assistive’ Windows technology, which is transforming classrooms and workplaces world-wide.

Let’s start with spelling and grammar. Can’t work out why the squiggly red or blue error lines are there? The ‘Read Aloud’ function will now say correct alternatives out loud, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by too many alternative choices and can understand where the grammar went wrong. Is reading the main pressure point? ‘Read Aloud’ will convert someone else’s writing into speech for you or read back your own writing to you so you can review it.

Visual stress or visual processing difficulties are often features of dyslexia. By changing a few settings, you can now change column width, page colour, cursor size or font spacing to make it easier to read any text, including symbols and numbers. You can also see syllable breaks within words, have parts of speech underlined and replace key words with pictures. If you find it hard to ‘track’ text with your eyes, ‘Line Focus’ enables you to have one, three or five lines of text to guide you through without getting lost. These are brilliant adaptations, without the need to buy expensive coloured paper, edit, enlarge or adapt text.

And it’s not all about words. If you have difficulty interpreting non-textual visual material, you can even experience maps in 3D sound.

Memory is also hampered for some dyslexics. Need to remember an important explanation or hold onto what’s been said in a lecture? Use Windows ‘Voice Recorder’ to capture it in audio and listen back. This is a powerful revision tool. Then there’s ‘Dictate’. If you struggle to write, software will now type your text for you while you dictate. It’s a secretary and learning support rolled into one neat package.

And the best of it? This assistive technology is truly inclusive as it is embedded like any other feature in everyday, mainstream software, like Word and Outlook. To quote Dr Neelam Parmar, Director of E-learning at Ashford School, “This is a whole new world enabling dyslexic children and adults to access language with digital tools, promoting independence and supporting progress.”

And for the one in ten dyslexics in our classrooms, that’s real progress.

Liz Hawker is a parent, Dyslexia Specialist (Primary and Secondary) and linguist.

For more information about Dyslexia Awareness Week 2018, visit


Posted: 02/10/2018 at 10:43
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