Dyslexia and Kindles

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.

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3 Responses to Dyslexia and Kindles

  1. John says:

    Fascinating. I’m amazed that Amazon have missed a trick with something like the Kindle to have an “Enforced” underline, and, as somebody said elsewhere (Facebook?) Kindle’s should come with the ability to take coloured screens for dyslexics. I know we could do this ourselves post-purchase, but I want the manufacturer to think about it too.

    We haven’t yet bought a Kindle for Milly, almost did, buoyed by your initial enthusiasm, but we’re trying not to make a big thing of it, calling the idea “the family Kindle” rather than “Milly’s Kindle”.

    We also had to pay privately for a Dyslexia assessment/report after we wrote Milly’s Year 2 experience off completely when the teacher at the end of the year said of Milly, “she’s a lovely girl, but she’s not Dyslexic, she’s just a bit thick and quite lazy.”

    Milly, 9 (10 in a few weeks dad!) has now had two years of professional SENCO help and has improved immensely – she still only has a reading age of a 7yr old, but a year ago that was the reading age of a 5yr old, so we’re getting there.

    Watching her sob with frustration as she tries to read the Harry Potter books is awful, and hence my frustration at the Pottermore Hoop jumping and unavailability of the Potter books in eBook format. I wish Rowling would hurry up and pull her finger out – there’s a whole extra (dyslexic) audience just waiting to give her even more cash!

    I admire your efforts – and I hope a world full of clever, frustrated and mis-labelled children benefit from it.

    Bravo (and thank-you).

    • dmj says:

      I was doing my best hanging in there with my sons education….. i knew there was something going on all along….. things were not coming together! Then within in the first few wks of middle school my son was called lazy! I made sure my voice was heard and with the support of one reading specialist who also noticed him ( so thankful for her) had more private and public school evaluations done and he was finally diagnosed with dyslexia (years prior ADHD) One of the suggestions made by the doctor was books with audio for him to read along with….. because some books didnt have a cd availble it limited his choices and the other downside was his inability to focus (he would daydream not read along) I discovered the kindle at first for its audio abilities but found changing font size and sentence spacing helped him without the need for audio (he can read on his own!) also recently found online another trick of covering the screen with a clear film with lines on it, after you settle on a font size, to underline all the words.I havent tried it yet but i showed my son and he thinks it may help…. need to gather materials. sorry so long but i am very passionate about this subject! The Kindle is a great help! love it!

  2. Pingback: no2self.net » Blog Archive » dyslexia, eBooks and typography

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