A Review on Assistive Technologies for Students with Dyslexia
Rebeka Lerga
, Sanja Candrlic
and Alen Jakupovic
University of Rijeka, Department of Informatics, Radmile Matejcic 2, 51000 Rijeka, Croatia
Polytechnic of Rijeka, Trpimirova 2/IV, Rijeka, Croatia
Keywords: Dyslexia, Assistive Technologies, Education, Reading Assistance, Writing Assistance.
Abstract: Last decades have seen tremendous change in education under the influence of the digital technologies.
Education no longer relies on traditional methods; it rather makes use of modern technologies. This paper
presents an overview of the recent research on the use of assistive technologies in education with emphasis
on students with dyslexia, a specific learning disability referred to as a reading disorder which can also
affect writing, spelling, speaking and reasoning. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the
proposed technological solutions as well as the recent research on technologies and methods used to teach
dyslectic students language skills, such as reading and writing.
Difficulties learning to map letters with the sounds
of one's language, or to read printed words is often
called dyslexia, and is one of the most common
manifestations of specific learning disorder
(American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
The word dyslexia comes from the Greek words
dys (weak or bad) and lexsis (language, word)
(Croatian Dyslexia Association, 2014), and like
many medical and educational constructs, has
definitional challenges (Stoker, et al., 2019).
However, the basic notion of dyslexia, described as
a difficulty in reading which is often unexpected in
relation to other cognitive abilities has reminded
constant across most definitions definitions
(Shaywitz, Morris & Shaywitz, 2008; Lyon,
Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2003; American Psychiatric
Association, 1994). Moreover, it is most commonly
recognized as a specific learning disability that is
neurobiological in origin, which primarily affects
reading and writing skills, characterized by
difficulties with accurate and fluent word
recognition, poor spelling and decoding abilities
abilities (Lyon, Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2003;
American Psychiatric Association, 2013; British
Dyslexia Association, 2020), in addition to
difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal
memory and verbal processing speed (Rose, 2009).
World Health Organization (2011) describes it as a
specific learning disability marked by specific
impairments in information processing which result
in difficulties in listening, reasoning, speaking,
reading, writing, spelling, or doing mathematical
Being a life-long condition, early identification
and treatment of dyslexia are associated with
improved outcomes academically and quality of life
(Stoker, et al., 2019). Therefore, dyslexia has been
the focus of considerable interest for
transdisciplinary studies, including the development
of assistive technologies, trying to develop rational
and effective therapy to enable successful outcome.
Moreover, current assistive technologies are mostly
available in English, however, there are several
specifically designed for other languages.
The remainder of this paper is structured as
follows: section 2 describes early signs and
prevalence of dyslexia. Section 3 provides an
overview of the available technologies, section 4
describes the future work and section 5 closes with
conclusion and discussion.
Lerga, R., Candrlic, S. and Jakupovic, A.
A Review on Assistive Technologies for Students with Dyslexia.
DOI: 10.5220/0010434500640072
In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2021) - Volume 2, pages 64-72
ISBN: 978-989-758-502-9
2021 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
2.1 Early Signs of Dyslexia
Dyslexia involves much more than lagging behind in
learning to read. The etymology of the name
dyslexia expresses the difficulty in using words, how
to identify them, what they signify, how they are
pronounced and spelled (Miles & Miles, 2004).
Students identified with dyslexia have problems in
identifying speech sounds and learning how to relate
those to letters and words. Moreover, they typically
display several key attributes, including: (a)
difficulty with word reading, (b) difficulty with
spelling, (c) phonological processing difficulties,
and (d) slow and laborious reading (Stoker, et al.,
2019). Therefore, dyslectic students tend to avoid
activities that involve reading; they also show
problems in remembering the sequence of the things
and most usually are not able to sound out the
pronunciation of (more or less) unfamiliar words
(Mayo Clinic, 2017).
2.2 The Prevalence of Dyslexia
Experts have estimated that 5-10% of school-age
children fail to learn to read in spite of normal
intelligence (Habib, 2000), and 10% of the
population (or up to 20% depending on definition),
suffer from such condition (Habib, 2000; Skiada, et
al., 2014).
In addition, there are other disorders similar to or
related to dyslexia, including developmental
auditory imperceptions, dysphasia, specific
developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia,
and developmental spelling disability (Stoker, et al.,
2019), in fact, reading disability is by far the most
common learning disability, affecting over 80% of
those identified as learning disabled (Shaywitz,
Morris & Shaywitz, 2008).
This subsection presents a literature review of the
recent research on the use of technology for students
with specific learning disorders, with an emphasis
on technologies that are either specifically designed
for, or have the features that can be useful for
dyslexic students. Even though, there are other
possible classifications (e.g. according to language,
features, etc.), in this paper these technologies are
classified according to the type of devices they are
mainly intended for. The first subsection presents
desktop software (Table 1), while the second deals
with mobile applications (Table 2).
3.1 Desktop Software and Applications
There is a wide range of software specifically
designed to assist people with learning disorders,
including dyslexia. Most of such software is directed
towards enhancing reading and writing skills. For
such cause was developed the Phonological
Awareness Educational Software (PHAES), which
presents a hypermedia application for helping
dyslexic readers, using phonological awareness
training in Greek language (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Example of PHAES interface.
Learning activities present graphemes and
corresponding phonemes at the word and sentence
level. The PHAES demands only basic computer
skills, it is designed with simple graphics and
navigation, and is therefore suitable for young
learners who can use it with or without supervision.
It can be supportive tool for both teaching and
speech therapy treatment, and it uses multisensory
approach. Moreover, it consists of four phases and
tasks are divided according to difficulty. The first
stage deals with practicing letter-sound
correspondence, in the second stage letters are
embedded into words, the third stage introduces
sentence formation and in the final stage students are
asked to form common words. The software has
proved to be educational in early literacy
development, moreover participant were motivated
and found it easy to use (Kazakou, et al., 2011).
The following study (Staels & Den Broeck,
2015) used Kurzwiel 3000 as a text-to-speech
software to investigate whether orthographic
learning could enhance the reading skill for dyslexic
children. Effectiveness of the software was analyzed
using the phonological recordings. In their study, 65
dyslexic children were asked to read eight stories
A Review on Assistive Technologies for Students with Dyslexia
containing embedded homophonic pseudoword
targets in Dutch language (e.g. Blot/Blod,
Kowand/Kowant). Participants read stories with and
without assistance of the software and subsequently
were assessed based on their completion of naming,
spelling and orthographic-choice task. This study
showed that children with dyslexia can obtain
orthographic knowledge through independent silent
reading, therefore target spellings were correctly
identified more often, named more quickly, and
spelled more accurately than their homophone foils.
However, a negative effect of text-to-speech
software on orthographic learning was demonstrated
among younger students who only passively listened
to the auditory presentation of the text, because
dyslexic students need to participate in active
reading to enhance their reading skills (Share, 1995).
Moreover, another research (Alsobhi, Khan &
Rahanu, 2014) showed that generic e-learning
applications are not as effective with dyslexic
learners because what might be required are specific
learning applications that are tailored for specific
categories, depending on the dyslexia type. In
addition, even though assistive software facilitate
learning to some extent, there are other
preconditions that need to be in place to successfully
implement technology in learning process
(Goumopoulos, et al., 2018), such as availability of
digital course material, the possibility/authorization
to use software during classroom courses, as well as
sufficient training for students to fully use all the
possibilities these assistive technologies offer.
Experimental study (Alsobhi & Alyoubi, 2019)
presented the same point using a novel dyslexia
adaptive e-learning management system - DAELMS
Figure 2: Learning materials implemented in DAELMS.
The system correlated each given dyslexia type
with its preferred learning style, and subsequently
adapted the learning materials which are presented
to the student. Being an adaptive e-learning system,
the DAELMS incorporated several personalization
options: (a) navigation, (b) structure of curriculum,
(c) presentation, (d) guidance, and (e) assistive
technologies that ensured that the learning
experience is aligned with the user's dyslexia type as
well as the preferred learning style. The DAELMS
was evaluated by the group of university students
studying a Computer Science related majors. The
participants were presented with course materials
related to their field of study (Computer Science).
The evaluation results proved that when the system
provided the user with learning materials that
matched their learning style or dyslexia type it
enhanced their learning outcomes.
Another team of researchers (Hall, et al., 2015)
developed a Strategic Reader, technology based
system that incorporated curriculum based
measurement (CBM) and a universal design for
learning (UDL) aiming to enhance the reading skills
of students with learning disabilities. The CBM
presents a form of formative assessment (Silberglitt
& Hintze, 2005), used to monitor student growth,
evaluate performance, and change instruction. On
the other hand, the UDL is a framework for
instructional design (Kennedy, et al., 2014). It is
based on three principles: (a) to provide multiple
means of representation, (b) to provide multiple
means for action and expression, and (c) to provide
multiple means of engagement for students. In
addition, the Strategic Reader was created with three
components: (a) the CBM to monitor the students'
progress, (b) an online forum for discussion, and (c)
an interactive, computer-supported reading
environment. The participants were 10 teachers, 307
middle schools’ students in total, with 64 students
identified as those with learning disorder. Teachers
could easily create interventions for students due to
the flexibility of the tool. The effectiveness of
Strategic Reader was evaluated using two treatment
conditions for measuring progress (online vs.
offline). Results showed that students with learning
disabilities experienced a statistically significant
score increase in the online progress monitoring
condition, they were significantly more engaged by
(and with) Strategic Reader, finding many aspects of
the tool more helpful than other students (Hall, et al.,
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Table 1: Assistive desktop applications for dyslexic students.
Name Main features Reference
PHAES Interactive, multisensory, user-friendly navigation, display difficulty levels Kazakou, et al., 2011
Interactive, text-to-speech, spelling-checker, word prediction, translation
(powered by Google Translate), bookmarks, text and audio notes, personalized
Staels & Den Broeck,
Incorporated personalization options, adaptive (materials presented to students
aligned with dyslexia type and learning style)
Alsobhi & Alyoubi,
Interactive, multisensory, incorporated curriculum based measurement, applied
universal design for learning
Hall, et al., 2015
3.2 Mobile Applications and Games
In addition to computer software, more recent
studies are directed towards the design of mobile
applications for educational purposes using playful
and targeted exercises to improve the language skills
of children with dyslexia. Therefore, the following
study (Zakopoulou, et al., 2017) was conducted
using iLearnRW software (Figure 3), developed to
provide individualized intervention through games.
Figure 3: Game activity example: Serenade hero in
iLearnRW software.
The software incorporated learning activities,
derived by dyslexia experts, that especially
addressed language areas that were most challenging
for dyslexic students. The game consisted of two
modules: a student model and a lesson planner.
Individualized intervention was provided through an
underlying user profile, which incorporated
language features and was constantly updated as the
student played games. For each difficulty, the model
kept track of the student’s skill based on their
performance during game activities and the time
elapsed since the last practice. The software selected
language material based on student's difficulties and
progress. The participants were 78 dyslexic students,
9-11 years old. After the 6-month intervention, the
students were assessed in order to establish the
tool’s effectiveness. The results’ analysis revealed
that there was a strong constructional linkage
between the profile entries of the sample, the
language content of the tasks of the screening test as
well of the games and its effectiveness in the
students’ performance. In addition, the students who
received specific guidance by their teachers,
obtained higher success rates in most of the games
than those without any guidance.
To improve the educational performances of
students with dyslexia, the authors of the following
study (Alghabban, et al., 2017) developed a
multisensory, cloud based, mobile learning tool. It
provided convenient data input and output and was
adaptable to fit each student's profile and preferred
learning style using pedagogically approved
materials with interactive and multisensory
approach. Authors conducted a user needs analysis
through a literature review, interviews and
questionnaires with special educational teachers,
dyslexic students and their parents, and offered the
architecture with three components: (a) a mobile
client, (b) a public network, and (c) a cloud
environment to provide the content. The results of
this study revealed that the multisensory function
supported the needs of students with dyslexia,
enhancing their learning progress by almost 30%. In
addition, results showed an increase in reading skills
after three months of use, and user-friendly interface
had positive impact on students' motivation to use
the tool. Moreover, interesting, and appropriate
presentation of learning materials eliminated
boredom and provided helpful mechanisms to aid
students' reading ability.
Another interactive mobile application,
EasyLexia (Figure 4), was developed with the aim
to improve dyslexic students' fundamental skills,
such as reading comprehension, orthographic
coding, short-term memory and mathematical
problem-solving using gamification approach.
A Review on Assistive Technologies for Students with Dyslexia
Figure 4: EasyLexia: Main page layout.
The application was developed for both mobile
phones and tablets and was tested among students at
a “Speech Therapy Center”, located in Syros
Greece; however, the application was designed in
English language. Preliminary evaluation of this
application with 5 dyslexic students (7-12 years old)
showed promising results in such contexts as the
students showed progress in performance over a
short period of time. In addition, results indicated
that tablet applications aimed for children with
dyslexia, could potentially be more engaging than
mobile devices (Skiada, et al., 2014).
Another research (Rello, et al., 2014) integrated
teaching materials in an iPad game, DysEggxia
(Figure 5).
Figure 5: Dyseggxia: derivation exercise (left) and
substitution exercise (right).
In contrast to previous approaches, these
exercises (in Spanish language) presented the child
with a misspelled word as an exercise to solve.
These training exercises were created based on the
linguistic knowledge extracted from the errors found
in texts written by children with dyslexia. To test the
effectiveness of this method in Spanish, the study
was carried out for eight weeks, 48 children played
either DysEggxia or WordSearch, another word
game. The children who played DysEggxia for four
weeks in a row had significantly less writing errors
in the tests than those playing WordSearch for the
same time. The results provided evidence that error-
based exercises presented using tablets helped
children with dyslexia to improve their spelling
skills. Moreover, it proved that technology in order
to be useful in education must integrate right
didactic and pedagogical methods.
In addition, another learning model LexiPal
(Saputra, 2015) (Figure 6) integrated educational
gamification approach for dyslexic children, by
incorporating seven gamification elements, namely
(1) story/theme, (2) clear goals, (3) levels, (4) points,
(5) rewards, (6) feedback, and (7)
achievements/badges. The game elements were used
with a purpose to encourage dyslexic students while
granting desired psychological outcomes when they
used the application, including engagement,
enjoyment, and motivation.
Figure 6: LexiPal: Example of gamified learning.
The participants in the study were 40 dyslexic
students. Based on the observation while students
were using the application, most of the students were
eager to participate in the evaluation process until it
was ended, thus the gamification improved
engagement of dyslexic students. On the other hand,
quantitative analysis showed that all students
enjoyed playing, and most of them wanted to play it
again, which indicates that gamification can improve
enjoyment and motivation of the children. However,
the results are considered as a short-term effect,
which is the effect of gamification when and after
dyslexic children used the application for short
period of time (Saputra, 2015).
Moreover, another research explored potential
benefits of gamification using classDojo. The
educational platform was adapted for the dyslexic
students by teachers from dyslexia teaching center.
It was used for twelve 1.5-hour lessons. Two main
components of the classDojo system were
emphasized for this study: (1) awarding of badges,
and (2) the reporting system. The teacher could
award a badge from a set list of either positive
(green) or negative (red) badges. The set of badges
was fully customizable for each teaching session,
allowing the teacher to tailor the awards for the
needs of their students. On the other hand, the report
system maintained a record of the badges awarded.
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Moreover, a report of a child’s badges was
automatically emailed to parents every week, as well
as comments teachers had written about specific
badges. The authors collected data by means of
interview (with teachers, students, and parents) and
kept daily log of students’ and parents’ logins to the
application. The results indicated that gamification
can foster student motivation, in this instance, due to
an interaction between a highly customizable design
as well as pedagogically tailored appropriation by
teachers (Gooch, et al., 2016).
In addition, there are several educational
applications designed and adapted to the specifics of
the Croatian language, for students with learning
disorders and specifically for students with dyslexia.
One of the recently developed applications is
OmoReader, with the OmoType, highly readable
font designed within the application, which can be
adapted to the individual needs of users. In addition,
the application allows words to be broken down into
syllables using the automatic syllabification
procedure for the Croatian language (Meštrović, et
al., 2015), which helps users to read more correctly
(Figure 7).
Figure 7: OmoReader interface.
Users can also insert lines in the background of
the text to make it easier to follow the text, which
helps in staying focused and keeping the reading
speed. Within this application, users can also access
more than 200 Croatian books, enriched with 3D
content, animations, videos, audio, images, and
comprehension tasks. The application also supports
OCR technology, which recognizes text from
various sources, printed and digital. Also, users can
convert, edit and save texts using the camera on a
mobile device by capturing texts from books,
magazines and others printed forms. In addition,
data obtained from users is used solely for the
purpose of analysis required to develop and improve
the application (Šarac, 2019).
Several other applications, also specifically
developed for Croatian language, were designed and
developed within the project named Competence
Network for Innovative Services for Persons with
Complex Communication Needs (ICT-AAC), a
multidisciplinary project focused on ICT based
augmentative and alternative communication.
Different experts worked together to create iOS and
Android applications, including several specifically
designed for dyslexic students, such as Letters,
Vocals, Memory, Learning Syllables, Learning
Words, Learning to Read (Figure 8), and Language
Figure 8: ICT-AAC Learning to Read interface.
These applications can be used for direct speech
therapy for students with dyslexia, for developing
phonological awareness and morphological skills, as
well as initial writing skills for young learners. All
ICT-AAC applications are visually attractive,
provide multisensory access to learning (tasks are
accompanied by visual and auditory support,
different syllables are highlighted in different
colour) and often give positive feedback for correct
task completion, which is essential for a sense of
success in students with dyslexia (Zorić, 2019).
Table 2 presents the main features of the above
mentioned assistive mobile applications for dyslexic
A Review on Assistive Technologies for Students with Dyslexia
Table 2: Assistive mobile applications for dyslexic students.
Name Main features Reference
Interactive, individualized approach (learning materials selection based on
student’s difficulties and progress), multisensory, gamification elements
Zakopoulou, et al., 2017
interface tool
Interactive, multisensory, cloud based, personalized (output aligned with
student’s profile and preferred learning style)
Alghabban, et al., 2017
EasyLexia Interactive, multisensory, user-friendly interface, gamification elements Skiada, et al., 2014
Interactive, multisensory, user-friendly navigation, gamification elements,
included error-based exercises
Rello, et al., 2014
LexiPal Interactive, multisensory, gamification approach Saputra, 2015
The study focused on gamification approach using badges and reporting
system, adaptable design
Gooch, et al., 2016
Personalized (preview adapted to students’ needs), involved
syllabification approach for Croatian language, OCR technology
Šarac, 2019
Interactive applications developed for different language areas,
multisensory, user-friendly visuals, feedback
Zorić, 2019
Previous chapters present an overview of the
assistive technologies for dyslexic students. Even
though all these applications and software are very
useful, there is still room for improvement, which is
the aim of our future work. Moreover, concerning
recent trends in technology and education, an
increase in the number of technologies using
Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality or Game
Based Learning can be expected.
In addition, future analysis of assistive
technologies implies development of a conceptual
model for a system that would support educational
processes (both teaching and learning) for dyslexic
In order to produce a taxonomy for classification
of available technologies, they need to be further
analysed with the emphasis on their main features,
such as interactivity, multisensory approach, simple
graphics and navigation, personalization elements,
gamification, and other features considered as
important for dyslexic students.
Dyslexia, namely characterized as reading disorder,
affects around 10% of population, and is therefore
one of the most common learning disorders. It
mostly affects language skills that involve reading,
spelling, and writing. However, it is not linked to
intelligence, or, in other words, dyslexic students’
cognitive abilities do not differ from those of their
peers, even though they lag behind when it comes to
developing language skills, and mainly reading
comprehension. As such, reading comprehension is
described as the ability to grasp or fully understand
information communicated through text. Therefore,
dyslexic students mainly lack the ability to
comprehend written texts. Moreover, dyslexia has
been the focus of considerable interest from
researchers in different areas, including
neurophysiology, linguistics, educational sciences,
computer science and others.
The explosive growth of digital technologies and
developments in artificial intelligence have provided
powerful possibilities for developing educational
aids for students with learning disorders. Also, m-
learning, and e-learning have become an influential
trend in the educational process. New educational
trends promote learning accessibility and flexibility.
Moreover, there are additional aspects of these
educational trends, as well as assistive technologies,
that are especially useful for the students with
dyslexia. This paper presents an overview of recent
research on the use of technology to assist students
with learning disorders, and specifically with
dyslexia, both in formal and informal education.
Although there is a substantial amount of
research, and applications available for students with
dyslexia, there are several gaps that must still be
addressed. Firstly, most of available applications are
directed towards the enhancing of language skills for
native languages. Moreover, applications are mostly
in English language, designed for students’ whose
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
native language is English. Therefore, there is a little
research on how dyslexic students acquire foreign
languages, in terms of developing all language skills
in English as a foreign language, and furthermore,
what are the implications for developing such
learning system for dyslexic students whose native
language is Croatian.
Another substantial issue pertains to the lack of a
comprehensive learning system which would be
directed towards enhancing all language skills
(reading, writing, speaking and listening). Available
applications and software manly emphasize either
reading or writing skill and neglect the language
comprehension, as a whole. Moreover, educational
systems are usually created and designed with the
aim to help dyslexic students, however, little number
of applications is used after the research. Even though
the assistive technologies prove to be useful, and
increase students’ motivation and self-confidence, in
most cases, after the research is over, the teachers and
students return to previous educational model.
Moreover, it is not enough for technology to
exist in the classroom, it is only beneficial when
used appropriately. Thus, effective educational
methods must comply with pedagogical requirements.
Due to interactive aspect of education, learners
should be more involved in the learning process.
Therefore, digital technology, used in education,
must offer students autonomy with attention to their
age, special educational needs, potentials, and
preferences. Also, not all methods and technologies
are appropriate for all students. They have to match
individual’s learning style. Moreover, since all
dyslexics do not share the same symptoms, each
student presents a special case when adopting
educational tools. Therefore, there is a strong need
to involve individualized approach when developing
assistive technology for students with dyslexia.
In addition, effective educational systems for
dyslexic students support multisensory approach,
which is crucial for improving students' reading
skills. In such approach, the same information is
presented in different formats (text, image, sound,
and other) since students learn best when they use all
senses. Moreover, collaborative learning presents
another virtue of assistive technologies. In addition
to one-on-one learning, technology enables students
to collaborate with one another, with teachers,
parents, tutors, and other individuals. Collaboration
gives students the sense of integration, which is very
important for all students, and especially for those
with learning disorders.
Furthermore, learning environment needs to be
interactive, filled with instructional resources and
challenging assignments, enabling students to
become engaged participants. Thus, games have
become a very effective educational aid for dyslexic
students, especially because they use badges
(rewards) and points (ranking). These offer a
constant feedback and promote competition, which
is a highly motivating factor.
After all, new technologies offer a wide range of
possibilities for development of educational aids for
dyslexic students. They open new avenues through
which students with dyslexia can learn and enhance
language skills, both in their native and foreign
This work has been fully supported by the
University of Rijeka under the project uniri-drustv-
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