Where Dyslexia and technology meet

Rose, Johnston and Boogart compare the use of technology as like the benefits of providing good reading instruction for all children.

“For students with Dyslexia, this radical shift in the literacy landscape will be an enormously good thing. They have, more than any other students, long been the casualties of print’s requirements. Like the canaries that were sent down into the mines to alert workers when the air was toxic, students with Dyslexia have inadvertently provided early warning signs that our learning environments can be narrow and toxic for the most vulnerable of students, disabling for many others, and far from optimal for almost anyone. All students will benefit from a broader and more flexible array of media for learning—there will be more good oxygen for everyone in the classrooms of tomorrow” (2009:41).

This tomorrow is here – as young people across the African continent use their phones as learning devices.

Children with Dyslexia struggle with print. This difficulty lies with linking speech sounds to letters/letter patterns, which we refer to as a phonological difficulty. These children’s development usually is typical, but they struggle with learning to read, spell, and express their ideas in writing. In the long term, this limits their reading exposure, resulting in poorer vocabulary and background knowledge. In the higher grades background knowledge and vocabulary are key skills to comprehend what one reads. Access to technology can reinforce early literacy skills for your child who is beginning to learn to read; and for your high school child, it can enable access to content and materials at their peer group level, which might not be at their reading level.

Reading involves so many different parts of the brain, thus where your child’s difficulties and strengths lie, is highly individual. Your child’s preference for devices and technology are highly individual. Assistive technology, in particular the use of text to speech and speech to print (for dictation), has been around for at least twenty years (my guess), and these have become more finely tuned to meet individual challenges and preferences.

Most commonly used software is text to speech (read-aloud) and speech to text (dictation). The latter enables ideas to be written down quickly and by-pass the problems of typing. All devices have built in accessibility features which your child has to learn to turn on in “settings”.

The research suggests the most effective text to speech software considerations are:

  • Text that is visually presented, highlighted with the audio presented at the same time.
  • Spacing between words and between lines of text makes ‘reading with the eyes’ less strenuous.
  • Flexibility of text size and contrast improves user
  • The use of Sans Serif fonts (font with no decorative strokes, like Tahoma, Arial, Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, and Tahoma ) is easier to read than Serif fonts. See box below.
  • Avoid apps and websites with rapidly flashing images as these are distracting and can be a problem for children with epilepsy.
  • Apps and accessibility options follow universal design


A useful skill for all children to learn is touch typing – as soon as their hands can cover a keyboard. There are online programs which combine learning touch typing, with reading and spelling – which provides simple, short, quick tasks to practice touch typing and simultaneously learn sound-symbol association, so that it becomes accurate and automatic.

The use of technology can be used in tandem with accommodations from Grade IV into high school (extending into college/university). Most schools have policies and codes of conduct for using devices/technology for learning purposes. Get to understand these policies and engage with your child’s teachers and the school leadership.

The use of social media has become mainstream in the last 15 years, and the early users were teenagers or students. We (South Africa) have 100% penetration in cell phones (Goldstuck 2023). Your child’s reading and critical thinking skills is an ever more, necessary life skill with the advent of artificial intelligence. For more information, visit Bellavista School’s website.


Article written by Kalie Naidoo, Clinical Psychologist and Course Leader at Bellavista S.H.A.R.E



 Arthur Goldstuck: Young, African and hooked on Social Media, Sunday Times E- Edition. https://times-e-editions.pressreadsarticle/282295324996880.

Joanne Karger and Jonathan Lazar (2014). Ensuring that Students with Text- Related Disabilities Have Access to Digital Learning Materials: A Policy Discussion Perspectives on Language and Literacy, Volume 40, No.1,


David H. Rose, Sam Catherine Johnston, and Amy E. Vanden Boogart (2014). Canaries in the Mine: Reading and Its Disabilities in a Post-Gutenberg World Perspectives on Language and Literacy, Volume 40, No. 1, 41-44

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