SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

Special Fonts for People With Dyslexia

Recently, a friend of mine posted on social media that she has a terrible time reading menus. Several of her friends agreed for a variety of reasons. One reason mentioned is that she is dyslexic and has problems with sequential processing. The organization of menus is often non-sequential with interfering information near the essential information. In addition, the fonts used are difficult to read. A second reason is simply related to the paper and size of font. Small fonts on shiny paper are difficult to read for everyone in dim lighting.

Menus, as well as many other documents, would be easier for struggling readers if they were created using the newest fonts designed especially for people with dyslexia. One such font is called Dyslexie and is available to individuals for free (schools and businesses pay a fee). A second choice is called Opendyslexic and is available to anyone for free. What makes these fonts better for struggling readers?

First of all, each letter in the font has a distinct shape. In most fonts, the letters “p, q, d, and b” are shaped exactly the same, but are in different orientations. In many fonts, lowercase “L” and uppercase “I” look exactly the same. In the specialized fonts, each of these letters has a distinct shape and if reversed or inverted, they would no longer be the same letter. Second, the bottom of each letter is slightly thicker which tends to cause the letter to “stay put” on the line. Dyslexic readers often report that letters seem to move around on the page. In fact, when I asked a dyslexic what she thought of the Dyslexie font, the first thing she mentioned is that she loved how the bottom of each letter is “weighted.” Third, these fonts have longer stems on certain letters, again making it less likely to reverse or flip a letter that is shaped similarly. Finally, the spacing between words is larger than typically found in most fonts, and the beginnings of sentences are automatically bolded. This makes it easier to see the beginning and end of each word; and, the beginning of each sentence is clear.

There is some scientific research and much anecdotal evidence that supports the use of these fonts for dyslexic readers. Many report that they read faster and more accurately. It may be time for restaurants to consider producing menus for those who need a little assistance with reading. My friend reports that when she can’t read, she feels anxiety and shame.

If your child feels anxious about reading, he might find that the font helps him read better. He can convert digital content for school into one of the new fonts. It is as simple as selecting the content and changing the font. If online, he can copy and paste into a word processor before changing the font. Perhaps, he will be able to read more independently and feel more confident. It doesn’t cost anything to download one of these fonts and give it a try!

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Kids With Learning Disabilities Are Actually Quite Smart

Students who are labeled LD (learning disabled) struggle in school and feel like they are not smart. In fact, a lot of people believe this to be true. But, if you ask many highly successful adults about their school experience, they will tell you they hated school and did not do well. The truth is that what we do in school usually focuses on a small portion of our total intelligence while success in life after school allows us to use our strengths. Many struggling students are actually very, very smart—it’s just the kind of smart that doesn’t show up in school.

Many CEO’s are extremely creative and innovative. School activities rarely focus on creativity and innovation. People who are talented in these areas might have a terrible school experience and then later become highly respected leaders in their selected professions. For a list of executives, athletes, and famous people who overcame their learning issues (in this case, dyslexia), see Famous People With the Gift of Dyslexia from the Davis Dyslexia Association International.

It is important to encourage students who feel dumb to find something they love to do, and make sure they spend time every day engaged doing it. For some ideas, see my post about Summer Plans for Struggling Students.

For example, I once asked a student who signed up for our remedial math class in summer school what she liked to do. She said, “I swim.” When I quizzed her about it she told me she was on the USA Swim Team and would be competing in the Junior Olympics! “I swim” was a bit of an understatement! When I asked her if she still liked swimming she said, “I love it! Once I thought I wanted to learn to dance, but I realized that I love swimming and don’t really have time to pursue something else.” What impressed me the most was that she was confident, poised, and not the least upset that she couldn’t do basic math. I believe this is because she had something in her life that she excelled at and did better than almost everyone else.

Next time you hear that someone is “learning disabled,” remember that they are actually very smart. They may have trouble learning some things, but there are many things they learn easily and do better than most other people. Someday, they may be an investor like Charles Schwab or a writer like Agatha Christie.

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The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016