Selecting the right device for a dyslexic 

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I am often asked about the best advice to buy for a child or student. I find answering this question difficult as it depends......

Not only on your budget, but also on what it will be used for.

It is useful to start by writing a list of everything you want to do with the device, not only now but perhaps 2 years in the future.

This is not an exhaustive list but it might serve as a helpful prompt.

  • Type homework;
  • Listen to soft copy: text books; notes, webpages.....
  • Take photographs of the board;
  • Take photograph of worksheet to use scan and use text to speech.
  • Type notes in class;
  • Record notes in class;
  • Dictate notes/homework;
  • Work on programme to improve literacy, for example Lexia Core 5.
  • Learn to type;
  • Set reminders to be more organised:
  • Working Memory programmes, for example Jungle Memory or Cognifit;
  • Eye tracking solutions, for example, Engaging Eyes;
  • Revision solutions for example, Quizlets;
  • Learn to touch type;
  • Dyslexia friendly word processor, for example Clicker.


From my experience when selecting a device give consideration to these attributes.

it will be carried around in the school bag all day therefore the lighter the better.

Many schoolbags of thrown around and stood on. Whatever you buy needs to withstand being knocked about. It is very unlikely any device will be covered by the schools insurance policy. It might be worth making sure any device is covered by your home policy.

If a device is slow to switch on, it could put the user at a disadvantage when carrying out work in class. How long it takes to save work and access the internet are also significant.

Battery life
Give some thought to what the device will be used for throughout the school day, and therefore how long it will be used.
Is there anywhere at school where it could be charged up and be safe.

Ability to save to the cloud
being able to save information to the cloud as soon as it is created means students are less likely to lose work.

Ease of printing
If students are required to print work while at school. How will they be able to connect to a printer?


Can one device do everything?

You don't have to find one device for everything.  Sometimes it is cost effective to have more than one device.  This often depends on the schools policy towards phones.  

For example.

If it is important to take a photograph of the board, create reminders......  and a student is able to use their phone then the device does not need to carry out these functions.

If audio recording is important consider buying a digital voice recorder. While most phones have voice recording facility they take up a lot of valuable space.  Once a phone is full it is no longer helpful.

With both audio and photographs you will need to establish a workflow that ensures all these files are easily transferred to the students device.


So which device should I choose?

When I visit computer stores I am totally bamboozled by the RAM, processor, memory... options that are available.  I am certainly not the best person to give technical advice on purchasing devices.  

I am a member of Which and do check out their Best Buy suggestions and Don't Buy warnings. I can wholeheartedly recommend Which but understand that not everyone can afford membership. It is worth checking if they still do a 30 day free trial.   Look at Performance and Portability in these reviews, The web is full of people reviewing laptops and tablets.but do check on the date of the review as this information is outdated very quickly.

Check with school / college

Some schools 'allow' devices to be used without putting procedures in place to enable students to do so. It is worth checking if your school ensures devices can:

  • be stored safely;
  • access a wireless network;
  • be connected to a printer to print work;
  • be charged up.

Be aware!!

I've known parents invest in good devices but children ignorantly downloaded viruses that made them useless. No amount of uninstalling on my part helped. Further expenses was then required to clean up.   It is important that nothing is download without supervision. Be aware of Trojan horses when downloading seemingly harmless freebies.

Chrome books can look like brilliant buys, and they might well be.  The Google education suite of products is fantastic however be aware you cannot run Windows products on a Chrome book.  You can however run Google products on Microsoft machine.

How much to spend

Apple Macs and many other top of the range laptops meet all the criteria but are very expensive.  I personally would struggle spending a lot on something a child is carrying around all day.  It is tempting to use an old work laptop.  This is a great idea, I'm all for saving money but before determining if it is a suitable device check that the machine can be switched on, and everything required can be opened, and saved, quickly. Dyslexic students struggle sufficiently in class with out adding the additional frustration of a slow machine.

My personal favourite?

I am very reluctant to commit as this device is certainly not right for everybody.  A second-hand iPad (full size) with a keyboard and robust case is worth considering.  I am sure other tablets might tick all the same boxes but I have not used them.  ALWAYS Check your particular requirements as not everything runs on an iPad.