A ‘b’ is a ‘d’, a ‘p’ is a ‘q’.
Lynn Walker couldn’t understand why her young daughter was getting the letters all mixed up when they read together.
“We’re reading these books and they only have six words on the page and the word ‘the’ comes up, so I’ll say ‘that’s the’, and a few pages later it’s there again, and she stops and I say, ‘that’s the,” Walker said. “She sees ‘teh’ and I say, that’s ‘the’. Then we read a little more and she sees ‘eht’ and I say that’s ‘the’ and I’m looking at her like ‘what’s wrong with you’ and she’s like ‘what’s wrong with you?”
That is when Walker understood that her daughter has dyslexia, a very common condition that causes words to appear jumbled when a person reads them. It affects some 20% of all Americans.
“The little words are the ones that trip them up the most. The 2 and 4 letter words,” said Walker. “They usually just flip the middle two so ‘girl’ is ‘gril’ and ‘salt’ is ‘slat.”
It is impossible for anyone without dyslexia to appreciate how difficult it is for someone with dyslexia to read normal sentences.
To help, Victor Widell built a website to give anyone a better idea of what it must be like for dyslexic readers. The site jumbles paragraphs with the letters moving around on the screen. It’s difficult, if not impossible for people to read.
Walker can barely make it out. It’s frustrating she said, and pretty accurate for what some students describe.
“I’ve heard students say they jump around,” Walker said.
There are apps and computer programs aim to help dyslexic students write and read.
“Open Web” is a font designed especially for dyslexic students and adults. It reformats every web page with a font proven to help dyslexic students read the words.
Using the ER browser, dyslexic readers see the words spaced out a little more and changes the contrast in colors.
Black letters on an all white background which is typical of web pages are challenging for dyslexic students and adults.
An app and Chrome extension “Co:writer” predicts the words the student is writing and completes it in a browser or word processor.
Walker said apps like these have the potential to dramatically improve the student’s ability in the classroom and in life.
“Some of these kids have incredible ideas, but they can’t get it out of their hand, so they just give up,” Walker said.