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E-readers Help Students with Dyslexia Read and Understand Text

Sep 19, 2013 10:27 AM EDT

People with dyslexia can improve their reading and comprehension abilities by switching over to e-readers from traditional books, a new study has found.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects about ten percent of children in the U.S. The condition is mostly diagnosed around second-grade. People with dyslexia have difficulty reading despite having normal intelligence.

Many people suffering from dyslexia have visual attention deficit, where people can't concentrate on letters within words. Another aspect of dyslexia is that people can't focus on a particular line or feel that the entire text is cluttered. E-readers can show the same text in shorter lines that can help make the text more legible to a dyslexic.

The latest study, conducted by researchers at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and colleagues, included 103 students with dyslexia from Landmark High School in Boston.

"At least a third of those with dyslexia we tested have these issues with visual attention and are helped by reading on the e-reader. For those who don't have these issues, the study showed that the traditional ways of displaying text are better," said Matthew H. Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and lead author of the research.

Schneps had earlier tracked the eye movement in people with the condition and had found that shorter lines helped them read better. The present study tried to find whether or not e-readers help students read.

The latest study found that e-readers not only helped students read efficiently, but also helped them understand the meaning of the text.

"The high school students we tested at Landmark had the benefit of many years of exceptional remediation, but even so, if they have visual attention deficits they will eventually hit a plateau, and traditional approaches can no longer help," said Schneps in a news release. "Our research showed that the e-readers help these students reach beyond those limits."

The study is published in the journal PLOS One.        

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