Under the Hood

What Is Dyslexia: Web App Shows How Learning Disability Causes Letters To 'Jump Around' While Reading

Glasses on book
A firsthand look at what it’s like to have dyslexia. Pixabay, Public Domain

Most of us are familiar with dyslexia, the learning disability that makes reading, writing, spelling, and speaking a bit harder for some people. However, without a diagnosis, it’s hard to visualize what it's like to live with the condition — until now. Developer Victor Widell has created a web simulator that allows viewers to see firsthand what words on a page can look like to someone who's dyslexic.

Widell’s web simulator:

The jumbled spellings on Widell’s page are an example of "typoglycemia," a phenomenon that describes the ability to read words that have been misspelled as long as the first and last letters are correct. Since there are many forms of dyslexia, his simulation is not perfect; however, seeing letters like "d," "b," "p," and "q" rotate gives those without dyslexia a better idea of what can occur.

On Widell’s website, commenters expressed this was how they experienced reading most of the time, while others said it was difficult or slightly different.

One dyslexic commenter wrote: "I pushed myself and now can read most small words long words and silent letters will always be an obstacle." Another wrote: "Leaving the first and last letter of a word stable makes it too easy. Being dyslexic is hard. Really hard."

The Austin Learning Solutions reported over 40 million American adults are dyslexic — and only two million know it. Symptom onset occurs when a child starts to focus more on learning how to read and write in school. People with dyslexia may read and write very slowly, confuse the order of letters in words, put letters the wrong way round, such as writing "b" instead of "d" among many others.

Currently, the National Health Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are focusing on developing techniques to diagnose and treat dyslexia and other learning disabilities.  

Click here to see firsthand what it's like to have dyslexia.

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