Are E-Readers Helpful for Dyslexia?

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By Sara Bernard

The many bells and whistles of e-readers are fun to use, but for dyslexics, they can be essential tools for basic reading.

For example, the book reader for the iPad has a text-to-speech feature built in called VoiceOver and the Intel Reader can take pictures of text and convert it into audio files within seconds. Readers can then choose the speed of playback for those audio files, helping them sound out words they’re struggling with.

E-readers with built-in dictionary features can also help readers quickly see the pronunciation and the order of syllables in a word. And readers can customize reading modes, such as font, size, and color. "All the books I've found so far tend to be on white, but there's an option to make it a dark yellow which is good for me," notes one member of an online forum.


There’s even an iPad and iPhone app called "Tips and Tricks for Beating Adult Dyslexia" includes general information about diagnosis, techniques for dealing with symptoms, and first-person stories.

Still, there’s little significant research to date that supports the claim that e-readers help students with disabilities -- it's primarily anecdotal evidence so far, since all of this is so new. An article in Education Week explores the use of e-readers in special-needs education and concludes that "the jury's still out."

This might be because some students might need to rely on the physical pages to skim headings and subheadings quickly to organize their thoughts, one researcher says.

But the advantages are clear to those who use them – students show independence without help from adults. According to one teacher, "It is not only liberating for the kids, but also liberating for the teachers."