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June 21, 2012

Dys app increases reading speed in dyslexics by altering letter spacing

Talk about applied science. 

Wrote Robert Lee Hotz in a June 4 Wall Street Journal story, "Children with dyslexia can read faster and more accurately when letters in text are more widely spaced, showing an immediate improvement equal to a year's worth of classroom instruction, Italian and French scientists reported."

More excerpts from the article follow.

In a series of experiments, children diagnosed with the common reading disorder could read 20% faster and twice as accurately when reading text with extra-large letter spacing, the researchers reported in a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We found that when reading the widely-spaced text the number of errors was about half," cognitive scientist Marco Zorzi at the University of Padua, who led the research group, [said]. "The increase in speed was notable. It corresponds to the increase you would see after one year of schooling."

Their finding highlighted the scientific importance of typography in easing dyslexia. It could have immediate practical applications because it is so easy to alter the characteristics of text, such as type size, font, and spacing in computer word-processing software and in electronic books, the researchers said.

Everyone is susceptible to the differences in spacing between letters. Reading speed in skilled readers is usually slowed down when letter spacing is doubled, and most typography design takes that into account.

For dyslexic children, however, the standard spacing that works so well for skilled readers may seem crowded, causing them to take longer to translate the letters into sounds and to make more mistakes deciphering them because the typographical features of characters blend together.

"When you increase the letter spacing, the reading improves on the fly," says Padua neuropsychologist Andrea Facoetti. The increase in reading speed worked out to about one-third of a syllable per second.

Moreover, the simple change in the visual appearance of text improved reading among dyslexic children whether the text was in French or in Italian, suggesting it may hold true for any language that uses the alphabet.

While the two languages use the same letters, they treat spelling differently. In French, one letter can represent different sounds depending on its context and the word in which it appears, in much the same way as in English. In Italian, each letter always stands for the same sound.

To allow people to conduct their own experiments, the researchers have introduced a free iPhone and iPad app called Dys.

The interactive application allows people to tinker with the spacing between letters to find the one that most enhances their reading performance, compared to standard spacing.

The app is free, the way we like it.

June 21, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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There is also a font called Dyslexie that purports to give 'gravity' to letters so as to get things in the right orientation once the letters are separated from the page and in the readers head. I've played with it and it REALLY helps the comprehension.

I have had dyslexia for as long as I remember...I had my teachers and therapists show me numbers of tricks to help me read. I use to have a plastic bar that I could put over a line of letters that would inverse everything and I could focus on reading just that line. But the biggest thing that ever helped was to stop trying to read like others...I can scan a page in a few seconds and get the gist of the what is being said immediately. I can then do this with individual paragraphs through out, and then go towards the microscopic (at least for the dyslexic) sentences and words.

It is very much like reading out of context, but I can read an entire book in a few hours that would take others a few days. Grad school rocked because of this.

Dyslexics simply need to realize they are not like others, and they are designed to process information differently than the average person. Most 'defects' are natures way of saying Hey I've Analyzed The Population And Statistically This Might Be A Better Fit To Fill In The Holes And Advance Society...however people simply look at all this as a problem because they are different than the majority.

Posted by: clifyt | Jun 21, 2012 12:54:52 PM

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