Using an e-reader that displays only a few words per line benefits some people with dyslexia, reports a study published September 18 in PLOS One. Smithsonian researchers compared the performance of high school students with dyslexia when reading on traditional paper versus e-readers. They found that some students using e-readers showed improvement in reading speed and comprehension.
"At least a third of those with dyslexia we tested have these issues with visual attention and are helped by reading on the e-reader," said Matthew H. Schneps, lead author of the research. "For those who don't have these issues, the study showed that the traditional ways of displaying text are better."
The researchers studied 103 students with dyslexia from a high school in Boston, Massachusetts. They compared the students’ reading abilities on paper against their reading on an iPod. The iPods were configured to use the Span Limited Tactile Reinforcement (SLTR) reading method. This method displays lines of text in large fonts with only two to three words.
The iPods were set up to address visual attention deficit and visual crowding which are characteristics of some forms of dyslexia. Visual attention deficit is an “inability to concentrate on letters within words or words within lines of text.” Visual crowding is the “failure to recognize letters when they are cluttered within the word.” The researchers concluded that the students with visual attention deficits benefited the most by using an e-reader.
In December, the Smithsonian Institution is starting a free online course to help teachers and other professionals learn how to use the methods from this research. The certification program will “provide instruction in how to identify which students are likely to benefit from this treatment, how to configure a variety of devices for use by students, and provide an overview of the related research.”
More information on dyslexia is available from the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.
The study is called “E-Readers Are More Effective than Paper for Some with Dyslexia.”