How Technology Can Support Dyslexic Students in Education

In News by Olivia Johnson

Last week was Dyslexia Awareness Week—a time to shed light on a highly misunderstood learning difference that affects 1 in 10 people worldwide. Dyslexia is a condition that makes reading, writing, and spelling challenging for some individuals.

My own journey with Dyslexia has had its ups and downs. Growing up, I struggled with reading and writing, and even now, as an adult, I still sometimes find them frustrating. But as an adult in a modern workplace, I have access to numerous tools freely to support my work. I’ve got a spellchecker, the option to change the colours of what I’m reading, and even programs that read text out loud to me—all built into my computer’s apps. I even sometimes use AI to help structure my sentences if I’m struggling to articulate what I’m trying to write.

After all, it’s all about working smarter, not harder.

Back when I was growing up, though, things were different. People often thought dyslexia was just another word for ‘lazy.’ My teachers used to say that every term was a ‘constant battle’ to get me to read and write in class. And if I ever needed extra time in exams, some of my classmates thought it was ‘cheating’ and ‘unfair.’ Using technology as a learning aid? That was out of the question.

Thankfully, times have changed a little. People today understand dyslexia better. Teachers and leaders are more understanding when it comes to students with different learning needs.

We’ve still got a way to go, but technology and better support for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have made a big difference in education. In this article, we’ll talk about how technology is making education easier and better for dyslexic students in the UK.

1. Technology that Reads Aloud: Assisting Dyslexic Readers

Technology has come a long way in helping dyslexic readers with something called Text-to-Speech (TTS) software. You can find it on popular e-book platforms like Amazon Kindle and Apple Books—they’ve added TTS features right into their apps. Research by the Dyslexia Association of London found that dyslexic students who used TTS tech did better at understanding and remembering what they read compared to the usual way of reading.

From experience, and as someone who will have to reread a sentence several times to actually absorb it, TTS is crucial to me, especially if I’m rereading my own work – it helps me pick out the random words I’ve somehow written and I would otherwise read over.

2. Talking Instead of Typing: Speech Recognition

Speech recognition software, like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, helps dyslexic students express their ideas and complete assignments. There’s a study in the International Journal of Speech Technology that found dyslexic students who gave speech recognition technology a go saw big improvements in how accurately and quickly they could write.

3. Fonts and Colours for Easier Reading: Personalising Your Experience

Being able to change how text looks on a screen, like picking different fonts and background colours, is a big help for dyslexic readers. According to a study by the British Dyslexia Association, many dyslexic students liked fonts like Arial and background colours like pale yellow or blue. They found that these choices made reading easier and helped them understand things better.

I personally like a yellowed background. For one, it is a lot less harsh on the eyes if you’re reading from a blue-light screen like a monitor. Especially if you’re Dyslexic and reading is already a strain, making your eyes more comfortable is a huge help and the text, for me, is far more easy to follow.

4. Spelling Made Easy: Word Prediction

Word prediction software, such as WordQ and Co:Writer, helps dyslexic students tackle spelling difficulties. A study in the Journal of Special Education Technology showed that students who used these word prediction tools made fewer spelling mistakes and created better-written work.

Spelling, even now and it’s been more than a decade since I left school, still gives me nightmares. It just never made sense. The English language is hard, and spelling is somehow even harder. I never spell necessary right. Never. And I only know how to spell the word “beautiful” by the “B-E-A-UTIFUL” from the film Bruce Almighty, or Banana thanks to Gwen Stefani. But everything is typed now, spellcheck and word predictions are at our fingertips and will be available in the workplace. Make them accessible in school, too, it’ll uplift students and broaden their vocabulary.

5. Text How You Like It: Customisable Formatting

Technology lets dyslexic students change how text looks—like making it bigger or adjusting the spaces between lines and the way it’s laid out. The British Dyslexia Association suggests doing these things to make reading easier and more comfortable for students with dyslexia.

6. Highlighting and Note-Taking: Enhancing Learning

Digital tools that let you highlight and make notes in text, like in Adobe Acrobat Reader or Microsoft OneNote, are a big help for dyslexic students. A study from the University of Exeter found that students who used these digital annotation tools did better at understanding and remembering important ideas.

7. Text Transformed: Different Ways to Consume Content

Technology makes it easy to change how text looks or even turn it into pictures and diagrams. The British Dyslexia Association says that some dyslexic people find it simpler to grasp information when it’s in the form of drawings, mind maps, or videos, and technology helps make these different formats.

8. Learning with Fun: Educational Apps and Games

Many apps and games are made especially for dyslexic learners. For instance, there’s an app called ‘Nessy Reading & Spelling’ that’s all about making learning to read and spell fun. A study by the British Dyslexia Association found that students who used these kinds of apps got better at reading and felt more motivated to learn.

9. Listening to Learn: Audiobooks and Podcasts

Audiobooks and educational podcasts offer different ways to learn that are really helpful for dyslexic students. The British Dyslexia Association did a study and found that when dyslexic students listened to audiobooks, they not only understood what they were reading better, but they also enjoyed it more.

I would also like to add that it gets dyslexic learns into books. Growing up, until I left school, I don’t think I actually read a single book through to the end. Not even for GCSE English. I would get bored because I wasn’t actually absorbing the words, it wasn’t relaxing because some of the words didn’t even make sense (because I was reading them wrong) and it certainly wasn’t fun because it was so slow and painful. But I did listen to audio books and I expanded my vocabulary and imagination that way. It was something towards a hobby and educational necessity that I otherwise wasn’t interested in.

10. Easy Learning Online: Accessible Platforms

Online learning platforms are important for dyslexic students, especially when they have things like subtitles, transcripts, and content that’s easy to use. A report from Jisc, a UK education tech group, highlighted the importance of accessible digital content for inclusive education, benefiting students with various learning differences, including dyslexia.

11. Tech That Talks: Screen Readers and Assistive Tools

Screen readers and helpful tech tools describe what’s on the screen for dyslexic people. A study in the British Journal of Educational Technology showed that dyslexic students who used screen readers did better in their online learning. They found it easier to access content and be independent in their digital learning.

12. Helping Teachers Help You: Training and Support

Technology provides teachers with resources and training to better support dyslexic students. A study published in the British Journal of Special Education emphasised the importance of teacher training in using technology to meet the diverse needs of students with dyslexia effectively. It’s all about making sure that every student’s unique needs are met.

In summary, technology is changing the way dyslexic students learn. These technological advancements give students tools that fit their special needs, making education more welcoming and empowering. As technology keeps getting better, the future for dyslexic students is looking brighter than ever.