Recently, people are asking me about the value of fonts designed for those with dyslexia. Specifically they have pointed me to OpenDyslexic Font and Dyslexie Font . The both say that these fonts increase readibility for readers with dyslexia. This is misleading since dyslexia has many causes and different symptoms. The implication that a solution will help all those with dyslexia perpetuates a stereotype that dyslexics are in one bucket.
Let’s review some of the symptoms presented by Susan Barton in the Bright Solutions website.
- Reading and spelling difficulties
- Handwriting issues (dysgraphia)
- Directionality issues
- Sequencing steps in a task
- Rote memory of non-meaningful facts
The above symptoms all contribute to learning to read at the beginning but fonts that are designed to weight the letters for directional clarification only helps a small percent of dyslexics. The comments on the Dyslexie Font website are split as to whether or not this custom font helps or not in recognizing letters and sounds or the meaning of words.
My bigger concern is how non-dyslexic pickup on things and toss them around by saying things like “Oh look here’s a font to help dyslexics . . . . how wonderful, another breakthrough” which continues one of the big myths of dyslexia – the trouble with writing letters like p, b, F, or E. “Dyslexics always get mixed up on which side the circles or lines are pointing or whether the stem is point up or down.”
Myth: People with dyslexia see things backwards
Fact: People with dyslexia do not see things backwards. They see things the same way you and I do.
Dyslexia is not caused by a vision problem. That is why vision therapy does not work for this population. There is nothing wrong with their eyes. Yes, they reverse their b’s and their d’s and say “was” for “saw.” But that’s caused by their lifelong confusion over left versus right and by their difficulty reading by sounding out.
Myth: Dyslexia is a “catch all” term
Fact: That was true back in the 1960’s and 1970’s before the research existed. But we now have a research-based definition of dyslexia, which is:
- Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.
- It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
- These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.
- Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
I and many others recommend that dyslexics learn how to recognize and remember letters in whatever font they come in since the print and digital world has multiple fonts. The first step is to get the left-right and the up-down differences figured out. Then move on to recognizing, sounding-out, and writing specific letters. Most of the programs for dyslexics help with these basics.
If a student may use the “L” letter and the left hand point finger to represent up and the thumb to be the base line of a capital “L”. This will help the student remember which hand is left since it looks like an “L”.
The “b” and “p” can be distinguished by whether the thumb is point up or down.