Dyslexie font – is it effective?

A friend recently sent me an article on a new font “designed to help dyslexics read” called Dyslexie.  I love when my friends send me articles or ask me questions about dyslexia because it means I am spreading the word.  However, there are still so many myths and misunderstandings about what dyslexia is and how it should be treated.  This is one of those instances.  Now before you go looking for an article on this new font, you should know some of the facts about dyslexia.  Rigorous research has been conducted at the National Institutes of Health, Yale, and Georgetown University that explores how the brain works when a person reads.  Neuroscientists are using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machines to watch the brain “light up” in active areas while the test subject is reading.  And this research shows that there is a difference between people who are typical readers and those who have dyslexia.  This research has also shown that the reading deficits are not a function of how the eye works.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics: Section on Ophthalmology and Council on Children with Disabilities, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and the American Association of Certified Orthoptists published a joint policy statement in August of 2009 stating in part that “vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities.”  You can read the joint statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics by clicking this link: AAP Policy: Vision Problems Do Not Cause Dyslexia.

As I looked over the website for this new font designed to help dyslexics read, I used my skeptical, critical eye to gauge the effectiveness against what current research has proven.  The website claims that the font makes those similarly shaped letters look “different” from one another.  It was difficult for me to easily discern how the overall structure of the lower case ‘n’ looked different than the lower case ‘u’, or how the lower case ‘b’ looked different compared to the lower case ‘d’.  Further, the current research proves that children with dyslexia are not more likely to experience letter reversals, and that the cognitive deficit responsible for dyslexia is related to the language system.  This website refers the reader to studies that support the claim that the new font makes reading easier and makes reading faster with fewer errors for those with dyslexia, based on reports from the users of the new font.  The website cites a Master’s Thesis that references outdated research about the “magnocellular deficits theory” for dyslexia, which “assumes an impairment of the visual transient system in dyslexics.”  Research at Georgetown University proves that “abnormal visual motion processing is a consequence and not a cause of developmental dyslexia”.  While I am not opposed to anything that might make a daunting task easier, my concern is that in promoting this new font, laypersons and educators both will begin to think that using this new font will be the treatment for dyslexia rather than an “accommodation.”  Only by keeping up with current research and using critical analysis can we decide if the “newest, greatest” item on the market is truly a valuable treatment tool or merely something that might be considered as an accommodation.  To learn more about an effective treatment for dyslexia, click here.

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