Reading on Small Screens Brings Unexpected Advantage to Dyslexics

This week the Guardian ran a really interesting piece on how dyslexics can benefit from reading on small screens found on smart phones. The writer, Howard Hill, recounted how he’s struggled with reading and writing all of his life because of undiagnosed dyslexia but recently discovered the ease of reading via his iPhone.

“I raced through this on my iPhone in just over a week … 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.”

Neuroscience professor John Stein theorizes that it’s partly due to the screen’s brightness, which eases the “crowding” of text that throws many dyslexics off. Hill suggests that the limited amount of text on the screen keeps him from getting lost in it.

I find this fascinating because all the benefits Hill and other dyslexics derive from reading on a small screen are what bother me and keep me reading on an E-Ink screen instead of my Droid even though the latter is more convenient.

It also has me wondering if this has value for kids still in school. Many parents wouldn’t want to give them expensive smart phones, but what about an LCD eReader developed specifically with dyslexic learners in mind?

Hat Tip: @charliejane

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  1. Ha Says:

    iPads for dyslexics?

  2. K. T. Bradford Says:

    Not likely. The iPad’s screen is large. As large or larger than many books. So the benefit of the small screen goes away.

  3. Gregg Eshelman Says:

    I read through all seven books of a series about a certain boy-wizard in two weeks on a Handspring Visor with a 160×160 pixel 4bit greyscale screen.

    Dunno if I could’ve done that with the ‘dead tree’ versions. I have read through some ~500 page paperbacks in a single sitting, namely some of William R. Forstchen’s “Lost Regiment” series. Turn the last page and “Holy crap! It’s 6 AM!”.

    I don’t have problems with reading and was always tops in spelling and grammar in school. My problem is with writing. Over the years, and especially with computers, I’ve learned to cope to the point that I have to be quite tired for my dyslexia to rear its ugly head when writing. When I start repeatedly hitting the wrong keys over and over, I know it’s past time to hit the hay.

    I can, with a bit of concentration, “turn off” my “filtering process” and let out pure, unadulterated dyslexic output. I don’t like to do that, I had trouble writing that previous sentence just thinking about doing that. :P

    The major benefit dyslexics get from computers is they immensely cut the frustration factor. Unwanted, uncontrollable errors vanish with the quick stroke of Backspace or Delete. No more smudges and wearing holes in the paper with pencil erasers! Perfection is finally achievable and nobody ‘out there’ can tell the difference between what a person with dyslexia and one without it has written.

    Writing was such a frustration for me, I hated doing rough drafts. I’d compose a paper 100% in my mind, make sure I was well rested, then laboriously and carefully chisel the words out in graphite on wood pulp. Of course my teachers didn’t like that. They preferred causing mental anguish and torture rather than just respecting the final work. They also weren’t amused that I never needed to take notes in any class, especially the one English teacher who’s “teaching” consisted mainly of requiring her students to copy down a whole blackboard full of her less than stellar cursive handwriting every day.

    Dyslexia is not fun at all, but recognizing when a student has it and teaching the student methods to cope with and even overcome it, rather than trying to force upon the student conformity* that only makes things worse, that’s the way to go.

    *Or drugs, the schools seem to be very fond of calling every problem attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and doping the kid up. I’m so glad I was out of school before they started that garbage.

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