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E-Readers Help Dyslexic Students Read Faster, Comprehend Material Easier When Programmed To Display Few Words At Once

By Rebekah Marcarelli r.marcarelli@hngn.com | Sep 19, 2013 02:44 PM EDT

E-readers could be used as a tool to help people suffering from dyslexia.
E-readers could be used as a tool to help people suffering from dyslexia. (Photo : Flickr)

E-readers may help people with dyslexia have a better and easier reading experience.

The devices can be set up to display only a few words of a sentence at a time, which was found to allow dyslexics to read with more ease, a Smithsonian press release reported.

Many people suffering from dyslexia have something called visual attention deficit, which is classified as "inability to concentrate on letters within words or words within lines of text." Visual crowding is also a problem for some dyslexics, which is "the failure to recognize letters when they are cluttered within the word."

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Both of these problems can be alleviated by eliminating pages "cluttered" with text, and allowing the dyslexic reader to concentrate on one sentence (or less) at a time.

"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," lead researchers Matthew H. Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, said. "For those who don't have these issues, the study showed that the traditional ways of displaying text are better."

The research team tested the reading comprehension of 103 dyslexic high-school students both when they read from a traditional book and an e-reader programed to only display a few words at a time. Many of the students read much faster and had a better understanding of the material when using the electronic device.

Students with visual attention deficit showed the most dramatic improvement when using an e-reader, those who didn't have this problem were able to read faster on paper.

"The high school students we tested at Landmark had the benefit of many years of exceptional remediation, but even so, if they have visual attention deficits they will eventually hit a plateau, and traditional approaches can no longer help," Schneps said. "Our research showed that the e-readers help these students reach beyond those limits."

A previous study, carried out by the same researcher, tracked the eye movement of dyslexic while they read regular text. This study also found dyslexics can benefit from less-jumbled text.  

These findings could help lead to the implementation of leaning devices such as the e-reader in schools as tools to help dyslexic students.  

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