A Dutch man has developed a special font specifically designed to help individuals with dyslexia read. Christian Boer, 33, is a graphic designer who suffers from dyslexia. He developed the font, called “Dyslexie,” as a final thesis project when he was a student at the Utrecht Art Academy in the Netherlands.
The font varies the shapes of similar letters, like b and d, making them easier to distinguish. Boer describes the difficulties with reading people with dyslexia often face on his website as follows,
“Traditional fonts are designed solely from an aesthetic point of view, which means they often have characteristics that make characters difficult to recognize for people with dyslexia. Oftentimes, the letters of a word are confused, turned around or jumbled up because they look too similar.”
You can see a video sample of the font here http://themighty.com/2014/11/this-man-invented-a-font-to-help-people-with-dyslexia-read/. Boer is hopeful that the font will help to raise awareness of dyslexia, and is offering it as a free download here http://www.dyslexiefont.com/.
Independent studies at the University of Twente and Amsterdam found that nearly three-quarters of students with dyslexia reported making fewer reading mistakes when taking a test using the font.
Dyslexia is a language-based processing disorder resulting in difficulty with word recognition, decoding, and spelling. If often co-occurs with autism, as both disorders cause issues with language processing. In a 2009 study published in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders Dr. Manuel Casanova found that the brains of individuals with autism had several opposite characteristics than the brains of subjects with dyslexia. For example, the brains of people with autism tended to be larger, with an abundance of short connectors but fewer long ones which process complex information, while the brains of people with dyslexia were smaller, with more long connectors and fewer short ones. In effect, the brains were “opposite” of one another. “There’s a yin and yang here, almost like a seesaw,” said Casanova.
While it may seem that the “opposite” brain characteristics would lead to divergent symptoms in affected individuals, the truth is that either extreme can cause a disability in reading, explaining how dyslexia can often co-occur with autism.
Other studies have shed light on the different ways individuals with dyslexia and autism process language. A 2011 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that individuals with dyslexia have more difficulty recognizing voices than those without dyslexia, and that dyslexia affects oral language processing as well as reading. Difficulty processing spoken language is also a characteristic of autism, and could account for the reading difficulties many individuals with autism face.
These findings are intriguing and will hopefully lead to positive interventions for people who are challenged by these disorders. Dr. Casanova is exploring the use of high frequency magnetic waves to help people with dyslexia make short connections. He has also tested the use of low frequency magnetic waves on individuals with autism.
In the meantime, Boer’s Dyslexie font may be a useful tool that will make reading easier for those who are challenged by dyslexia.