As I’ve blogged before, my eldest son Mark (10 – nearly 11 Dad!) has rather acute Dyslexia. His ability to ready traditional black text on white page books is limited, causing significant ‘visual stress’. Following a proper assessment and diagnosis (paid for privately I might add, after years of apathy from the establishment) we have various other aids aimed at helping him access the written word.
Chief amongst these were a pair of very dark hued green-filter glasses, which prevent glare and reflections from distracting the eyes when reading. We’d also bought him a Kindle, with its ability to vary font style and size. Both of these have made improvements, but not as dramatic as might be hoped.
Thus it came as a bit of shock to find that Mark suddenly read through six traditional books in a single week without his Kindle and without his glasses. He was absolutely glued and turning pages furiously – suddenly able to ready naturally. Huh? What’s going on?
The books in question will need little introduction to those with children of a similar age – ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ by Jeff Kinney. Whatever the merits of the stories themselves (classic ‘coming of age’ stuff), it appeared it was the formatting of the book that was allowing Mark to read it so accessibly. On closer investigation it was the fact that the Wimpy Kid books are printed as if they are written in a diary – there are ruled lines under each ..er.. line.
This got me to thinking – can I do something similar on the Kindle? A brief google indicated it was impossible to change fonts or underline things throughout without hacking the device -which I could do, but it would have all the usual warrantee problems, and I risked ‘bricking’ Mark’s Kindle which would certainly be an ‘Epic Fail’ – This is a shame. With very little extra R&D Amazon (and the other ebook reader manufacturers) could make these devices increasingly more useful for folks with Dyslexia.
So I resorted to a lower tech solution. I had a bunch of old OHP (remember them?) printable slides in my drawer, so with rather of a lot of trial and error, managed to make an overlay for the Kindle and attach it with a bit of accurately placed sellotape. Beforehand Mark set it up with his favourite font and line spacing. It’s not a long term fix, more a prototype to see if the idea works – click on the first pic to see the results up close.
Gave it to Mark this morning and he said it was really helping. It seems the lines help prevent the ‘rivers of light’ effect that appear to make words move around the ‘page’ for him. It may be specific to Mark, but if you’re interested I can make the Word doc templates available for others to download and try. I’m also going to see if I can make the design a bit more robust. He is 10 (sorry – nearly 11) after all!
Edit : A few folks asked me for the document I used to generate the lines. Here it is with some instructions embedded inside. Click here.