HomeaccommodationDon’t Be Fooled, These “Fixes” Won’t Help All Dyslexics
A roll of duct tape sitting in front of a black, full sized computer keyboard, and distorted by a fisheye lens.
Duct tape may hold the world together, but it doesn’t work for all situations, just like these supports for dyslexia.
by John Arcadlan, via flickr

One of the most persistent misconceptions about dyslexia is that it can be “fixed” through glasses, fonts or computer programs.

For starters, we don’t need to be “fixed”. Dyslexia’s not a disease, and the only time it’s a disability is when people act on their ignorance without being to willing to learn more.

That aside, let’s talk about some of the “miracle cures” out there and why they just don’t work for everyone.

I’m actually a huge fan of spellcheck. It can usually catch simple reversals, and the words that are mangled too badly are at least pointed out to me. I can usually figure out what they are with the help of a search engine.

However, it doesn’t always give the right answers, or the words are so similar I still can’t tell the difference. That’s why I hit spellcheck before going through for more edits. That way, simple misspellings won’t distract me from misused words.

Then, there’s the fact that the spell/grammar checker isn’t always correct.

A screenshot of a spellcheck suggesting "and eleven" be changed to "and and eleven".

No, grammar check. I don’t mean “and and eleven”. Why would you even think that?

Dyslexia Friendly Fonts
I can think of three of these off the top of my head, and I found none of them particularly helpful. I’m sure there are other dyslexics who like them, but for me? Not so much.

In fact, the last one I saw was incredibly hard to read. The letters were spaced so far apart that I had trouble differentiating words, and the font itself was so thin that the letters continuously morphed.

I couldn’t tell you why, but simple, moderately bold fonts with enough white space to keep the letters from connecting are much easier for me to read. However, too much bolding or if the letters are misshapen in some way, aka “bottom weighted”, it becomes too hard to read.

That’s not to say they don’t help some dyslexics. I’ve seen some people who absolutely love the fonts.

The point is, I’ve seen these fonts billed as perfect for ALL dyslexics, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Dyslexia’s a lot more diverse and complicated than that.

Glasses, Overlays and Background Colors
Irlen glasses are often billed in the same way fonts are. They’re supposed to be a cure-all to all dyslexics’ reading woes, according to some companies. Others are more honest in stating proper eye exams and tests be done before purchase.

Don’t get me wrong, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, what those glasses actually help with, is real. That doesn’t mean it is dyslexia. That said, people with dyslexia could have both, and the glasses can help to a degree, but they’re not a cure-all.

Further, not all people with dyslexia have that issue. Without the right testing, buying a pair of those glasses would be a waste of money if they don’t help.

Similarly, switching backgrounds from bright white to more subdued colors or using color overlays may help some dyslexics, but it makes no difference for others.

A small screenshot of an icon made up of three horizontal lines next to an icon with an uppercase B and a gradient background shifting from blue to red.
I do still use the beeline reader for websites with poor layouts.

Computer Programs and Apps
I suppose I can include spellcheck with this, but recent years have brought an influx of programs designed to take dictation, change lettering on the screen and a whole bunch of other things.

While some of these programs are immensely helpful, they’re still only tools, and they don’t work for everyone. They can also be expensive tools, too.

That’s why it’s always best to do your research or try to get a free sample to see if they’d work for you. Never just believe anyone who says “this helps EVERYONE” without doing your research first.

You’ll note that all of these, with the exception of computer programs, only address reading. There’s much more to dyslexia than only reading and writing that needs to be addressed. We tend to be big picture thinkers, many of whom see our thoughts as images and have minds which shoot ahead of the rest of us.

We need the freedom to explore our strengths, but we still need to discover ways to work with our weaknesses, too. Reading and writing is a part of it, but so are things like working memory, spacial orientation, sequencing and many others.

That said, many of the listed measures can be helpful, but none of them cover the entire spectrum of the dyslexic experience. Don’t be fooled into thinking dyslexia doesn’t go beyond the words on a screen or on paper.

Likewise, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s something that needs a cure. At its roots, it’s just a difference in how our brains process information. With that comes just as many, if not more, strengths as it does weaknesses.

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