Special Font Helps Dyslexics Mind Their Ps and Qs

Nov 4, 2011 1:49pm
ht dyslexia dm 111104 wblog Special Font Helps Dyslexics Mind Their Ps and Qs

Image credit: Courtesy Stuidiostudio.nl

Some of the letters are a bit askew, others gape open or slump slightly. But all the letters in the font Dyslexie are designed to make reading easier for people with dyslexia.

Christian Boer, the Dutch graphic artist who designed the font, is dyslexic himself, and knew firsthand that people with the disorder often mix up letters that look similar, MSNBC reports.

The letter “b,”  for instance, can easily flip into a “d” or even a “p.” A lowercase “e” can be mixed with its simpler cousin, “c.” A little “i” looks very much like a “j.”

In his Dyslexie font, Boer altered the letters ever so slightly to give them a bit more individuality, making some lean forward or backward, making others wider, or spacing the characters farther apart. Boer said the slight alterations make the letters more distinguishable to dyslexics.

The font “is gaining popularity because people with dyslexia see-experience that it works,” Boer told MSNBC, citing a small study conducted by a Dutch grad student showing that dyslexics made fewer errors while ready Dyslexie.

Although dyslexia, also called developmental reading disorder, is commonly characterized simply as a problem transposing letters – changing “b” into “d” – scientists say the disorder is much broader than that. Dr. Stefani Hines, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician who works with dyslexics at the Beaumont Health System near Detroit, said the solution to dyslexia is not as simple as just changing a font.

“Dyslexia is not a vision problem, it’s a problem with deep phonological processing,” involving problems understanding letter and sound association and rhyming, Hines said. “So changing the font is not a cure, it’s just a help.”

But Hines noted that a number of her patients report that larger fonts or text that has more white space helps them with their reading. She said solutions such as Dyslexie or other fonts such as “Lexia readable” are worth studying. What will help dyslexics more, however, is intense tutoring and strategies that help people deal with the deeper issues that cause dyslexia, she said.

“If you start relying on a font, every word in your environment would have to look like that,” Hines said. “The words on your restaurant menu probably aren’t going to look that way.”

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