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Children's Health

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Spacing Letters Apart Helps Dyslexia

Study Shows Spacing Letters Farther Apart Increases Reading Speed, Accuracy in Dyslexia

Testing Wider Letter Spacing to Ease Reading continued...

The children were asked to read two blocks of 24 short sentences in their native languages. The sentences were unrelated to prevent the kids from using contextual cues to understand them. The words were printed in 14-point Times-Roman font. One block of text used normally spaced letters. In a second block, the space between the letters was increased 2.5 points.

H e r e ' s h o w t h a t l o o k s .

The children in the study were asked to read each block of text separately, at sessions that were two weeks apart to make it harder for them to remember what they read.

Some of the kids were assigned to read the widely spaced text first. The others were asked to read the normal text first.

In both cases, dyslexic kids made fewer errors when reading the widely spaced text. Increasing the spacing between the letters doubled the average accuracy. When researchers looked more closely at individual results, they found that the kids who were the poorest readers to begin with benefited the most from the wider letter spacing.

The extra space between the letters also helped dyslexic kids read about 20% faster, an immediate improvement that was on par with the average gain over a full school year for dyslexic children in Italy.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Not a Cure, but a Tool

Experts who were not involved in the research praised the study for its practical approach.

"It's a good study. It matches well with what we see in our clinic," says Fernette Eide, MD, a neurologist in Edmonds, Wash., who specializes in treating children with dyslexia.

Eide is also the co-author -- with her husband, Brock, who is also a doctor -- of the book The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain.

She says therapists who treat dyslexia have recognized that crowding can pose a problem for their patients.

"It's a real phenomenon," Eide says. "You can adjust the fonts, increase the spacing, reduce the number of items on a page and so on. It helps immediately."

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