Can technology help my son with dyslexia?

March 24, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

IMG_2008 Recently, after a series of tests, our 8 year old son was diagnosed with the developmental reading disorder, dyslexia.

In many ways, this diagnosis was a relief after months (and years) of confusion and frustration stemming from my son's difficulties with reading and writing. Through our research we found ourselves presented with many ways to help our son compensate for his disorder, including many technological solutions.

Guess who's pretty excited be the technology blogger for Real Simple Magazine?

Over the next couple of months, my son and I will be testing several technological solutions – including hardware, software, and apps –  with the goal of determining if technology can help with his dyslexia.

In the book "An Introduction to Dyslexia for Parents and Professionals" author Alan Hultquist recommends allowing students to use a laptop computer or portable word processor such as an Alphasmart for notetaking. We received an Alphasmart (now called a Neo) from the manufacturer and through our testing over the last several weeks identified the following pros:

  • Price – At $169, the NEO Alphasmart is certainly more affordable than a laptop or netbook.
  • Consistency – Our son had been using an Alphasmart word processor in class, so it seemed like a good idea to use the same technology at home.
  • Simplicity – Designed very much like the word processors I grew up with, there are no games, videos or color to distract from our mission of writing.
  • Portability – The unit is very light and can be carried in his backpack without adding much weight.
  • Spellcheck – For some reason, our son takes it better when Neo tells him the words are spelled wrong (instead of me).
  • Battery life – With 3 alkaline batteries the unit will last up to 700 hours.

Our son and 5-year old daughter each tried the Neo and it worked pretty well. I think the kids could benefit from a smaller keyboard, and an improved save functionality. They both enjoyed watching their words being sent from the Neo to the laptop (plugging it in with the included USB cable turned the Neo into an auxiliary keyboard. Clicking "Send" made the words appear within my wordprocessing program as if typed by invisible hands.)

We are a little sad to be returning the Neo after our test, but I'm not sure if we'll replace it at this point. The price, while affordable, feels a little steep for a piece of technology that does just one thing. But it will certainly be on our short list of solutions.

Have you tried a tech solution for a learning disability?