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5 Assistive Technology Tools for Students with Dyslexia

Support your struggling readers with assistive technology for dyslexia. Learn which tools you need here.

July 27, 2023 by Amy Foxwell
5 Assistive Technology Tools for Students with Dyslexia

In the United States, between 5% and 17% of the population has a learning disability that interferes with reading or spelling. Dyslexia is the most common of these disabilities—and, according to some analyses, it’s even more common than these statistics suggest. The International Dyslexia Association estimates that up to one fifth of readers have symptoms of dyslexia, for example.

If you’re an educator, you’ve surely encountered these symptoms. People with dyslexia often struggle with reading comprehension. They may find it difficult to decode unfamiliar words. They might mix up sentences or be prone to misspellings or mispronunciations. All these symptoms might occur at once.

The good news is that, with the right support, students with dyslexia can meet their learning goals—and stay at peer level in all subjects, including STEAM education. That support often comes in the form of assistive technology, or AT.

What exactly does that look like in the classroom or study hall? Here are five examples of assistive technology for dyslexia, any one of which could be the key to better learning outcomes for your students.

5 Assistive Technology Tools for Students with Dyslexia

Assistive technology provides support where it’s needed, removing a clearly defined barrier to access. A student with a motor disability might need a book holder or an adaptive pencil grip. A student with hearing loss might need a hearing aid or captioned lectures. And a student with dyslexia might need one (or more) of these five assistive technology tools.

1. Text Presentation Controls

A lot of today’s learning content is found online. Whether it’s an online course, academic journal article, e-book, or the open internet, digital text can present unique challenges to readers with dyslexia. Namely, the way text looks can make it hard to read.

Of course, every reader—with or without dyslexia—has a unique set of personal needs and preferences. There’s no one font, text size, or color combination that works best for everyone. That’s why it’s often helpful to give readers control over the appearance of their text.

Online tools provide this capability. ReadSpeaker TextAid is a digital literacy support tool that, in addition to enabling text-to-speech (TTS) web reading, allows readers to personalize the appearance of online text. Students with dyslexia often find it helpful to adjust the font, text size, and color for better focus and readability. TextAid provides this capability—and it integrates natively into all major learning management systems (LMS).

Text presentation tools are particularly helpful when people with dyslexia read long, complex documents, said Kelly Indah, editor-in-chief at tech site IncrediTools. Indah described a “close colleague” with dyslexia who uses this assistive technology to read “lengthy technical documents.”

Personalized text settings have “significantly improved his comprehension and reduced the amount of time he spends on each document,” Indah said.

2. Reading Focus Tools

Sometimes it’s easier for people with dyslexia to read text one line—or one word—at a time. With a print book, a simple ruler or note card may be all the AT you need. These tools keep the reader’s attention focused, limiting the distraction of seemingly endless text fields.

Similar tools are available online. ReadSpeaker TextAid even allows readers to highlight text as the TTS engine reads it out loud. It also provides a digital screen mask and reading ruler to help readers stay focused.

These are the sorts of tools that Jess Brooks, professional educator and managing editor of education site Hess UnAcademy, recommends for students with dyslexia.

“Colored overlays or filters on screens or printed materials can help reduce visual stress,” the educator said.

TextAid provides this support for all digital text, including content held within your LMS.

Assistive technology for dyslexia: ReadSpeaker TextAid reading focus tools

Learn more about ReadSpeaker TextAid.

3. Speech Recognition Software

Many students with dyslexia find it easier to speak than write. Speech-to-text technology turns spoken language into written words instantly, providing a key support to people who struggle with putting words on the page.

This assistive technology tool has helped Marc Hardgrove, CEO at digital marketing firm The HOTH, overcome challenges associated with his dyslexia. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case during Hardgrove’s school years, he said.

“During my time in school, we did not have the same level of technology that is available today,” Hardgrove said. “I had to overcome my disability by finding alternative ways to learn and retain information.”

These days, Hardgrove finds both TTS and speech-to-text dictation tools particularly helpful, he said.

“Assistive aids like text-to-speech software and dictation tools have made me more efficient,” the CEO said. “They have allowed me to communicate effectively with my team and clients without worrying about my spelling or grammar.”

Speech-to-text voice typing is part of ReadSpeaker TextAid’s suite of writer’s tools. That allows you to bring native dictation to your LMS. If you’re operating outside an LMS, however, you might try a free speech-to-text service like Google Docs’s voice typing capability, said Brooks.

“This software allows students to speak their ideas, which are then transcribed into written text,” Brooks explained. “This can be beneficial for students with dyslexia who struggle with writing and spelling.”

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4. Writing Assistance Software

Speech to text can help people with dyslexia complete writing assignments, but it’s a heavier tool than some learners need. A few supports tacked onto word processing software may be more appropriate for some writers.

TextAid makes a lot of these assistive writing features available, including:

  • Auto-completion with smart word prediction, which can reduce the cognitive load of choosing common words
  • TTS-based text read-back, which introduces an element of auditory processing during the act of writing
  • Spell check with suggested corrections, which addresses the spelling challenges associated with dyslexia
Assistive technology for dyslexia: ReadSpeaker TextAid writing assistance software

Because TextAid integrates into LMS environments, it brings these tools directly to your online learning systems. That way, students don’t have to open multiple apps or windows to get the support they need.

TextAid also functions online, so it’s available outside an LMS, as well—and it’s not just for standard written language. Writing assistance tools are also helpful for working with computer code, Indah said.

“In my role as a mentor for young coders, I’ve also seen how these tools can transform learning experiences,” Indah said. “I remember a bright young student who was struggling with reading code due to dyslexia. When we introduced her to writing assistance software, her performance skyrocketed. She was able to understand and correct her mistakes, leading to a tremendous increase in her coding skills.”

5. Text to Speech (TTS) Readers

All of the experts we spoke to for this article said TTS is essential assistive technology in classrooms, particularly for students with dyslexia:

  • “TTS software converts written text into spoken words, which can help dyslexic students with reading comprehension,” said Brooks.
  • “TTS tools have helped me a lot with my diction and pronunciation,” Hardgrove said.
  • “The option to have text read back out loud is a feature found very useful by students with dyslexia,” Indah said.

Indeed, a 2018 meta-analysis in the Journal of Learning Disabilities found that “text-to-speech/read aloud presentation positively impacts reading comprehension for individuals with reading disabilities.

Bring assistive technology for dyslexia to your digital learning environments with ReadSpeaker TextAid. Top-quality synthetic voices in many styles and languages keep learners engaged, while a suite of reading/writing tools provides support beyond TTS alone.

Find out what ReadSpeaker TextAid can do for your students with dyslexia.

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