Fractured Text

Mixed Messages

Whenever I have heard dyslexia is discussed in media articles, those who suffer from this condition report a variety of symptoms regarding the aspect of reading, from letters moving, jumbling up, or floating around the page as they try to read them.

And it is difficult for those of us who do not have the condition to properly appreciate the degree to which this can impede a person's life. Words and text being everywhere, and in every thing in our world that not only allow us to enjoy the pleasure of reading a book, but basic things which unavoidably necessitate the ability to comprehend a piece of text.... street signs, price tags, bills, receipts, labels on medicine bottles and almost every other thing you can think of, especially in an increasingly information rich environment of a world increasingly dependent on technological communications devices.

There are some solutions other than the herculean effort required of the dyslexic to make even some basic progress.... I have seen that one method is placing a coloured sheet of cellophane over a page reduces the contrast between the sharp black text, and the bright white of the page, and so allowing at least some people with the condition a greater degree of success in understanding the words they read. But this does not always work in every case, there being a spectrum of types, or varying specific causes of dyslexia, that to an objective observer will present itself in just one apparent way... the inability to read.

Broken English

But I have an idea which may be useful in other cases, and with the assistance of modern technology, and the inherent properties of language, may present a new solution to the problem.

As you have been reading this, your eyes have been moving across the page detecting word forms in their familiar shapes and patterns created by the permutations of different letters, but consider for a moment if you actually read the words, or are simply so practiced at reading that your brain can now simply acknowledge the general shape of the word, understand it's meaning intuitively, and only cursory recognition is required through process of familiarity, and so to some extent predict what likely may follow.
But this is only possible if you have a grounding in the language, and have those shapes stored in memory from your earliest years, built in layers of complexity and sophistication of meaning over time, which your senses relate to your cognitive processes, and instantly compare to the memory stock of word shapes, likely outcomes etc. But if you are prohibited from even creating that basic memory stock of the simplest building blocks of words from your earliest years through such a condition as dyslexia, where even those basic patterns change and shift around the page, no fixed pattern recognition is possible, and each attempt to read the words are like seeing language for the first time, and requiring the attendant degree of concentration... no automatic word pattern recognition. So naturally, more sophisticated constructions are of course precluded too...

... you can't built a house, if you cannot first make a brick.

And so the idea I had was inspired by the use in flat pack furniture and other technical diagrams of the “exploded diagram”. Whereby the the thing you are to make is represented in a manner which conveys the relation of each of it's constituent parts to each other, but pulled apart, so each part is seen distinctly, and separately... the smaller, and simpler units, arranged on the page to show the construction, and give you an understanding of the functionality of the whole by learning how each piece relates to the other.

For while any item of technology is made of several parts, working together to make a whole, the same is true of language, and more specifically... text.

So let's blow up text... Let's throw a hand grenade into language, and explode it!

This is easier than you might think, as well as the ability to increase the size of the fonts, line spacing, boldness of text, spacing between words, there are natural inbuilt fault lines in words themselves which allow us to pull them apart too.

We have prefix, suffix, syllables, and phonetics to assist this fracturing of the language or text, and permit us to break the text into smaller more distinct, and intelligible pieces for the dyslexic condition to more easily define and digest.

Or, in order to demonstrate, let's see that statement again (this won't work in translation):

We      have      pre fix,      suf fix,      syll ables,      and      phon et ics      to      ass ist 

this     frac tur ing      of      the      lan gu age      or      text,      and      per mit      

us        to      break      the     text      in      to      small er      more      dis tinct,      and 

in tell ig ible       piece s        for      the       dys lex ic       con di tion       to      more      

easi ly       de fine       and       di gest.

In this example, I have simply increased the line spacing by one line, the space between the separate words by five spaces, and the space between each piece of word by two spaces, to create word piece groups, each group more distinct from the other word group, and rendered in bold for illustrative purposes, although this last fact may either impede or enhance the problem... it will have to be tried by someone with dyslexia if the theory holds at all.

Prescription Text.

As with visiting the optician to get glasses, the kind of lenses required being the result of matching them to the eye's ability to see, so the degree to which this explosion of the text is rendered could be calibrated to the individual's ability to define the words to a particular degree. So someone may need two more line spacings and three more spaces between word groups, one, or even two more spaces between the word pieces, and an enhancement, or diminishment of the boldness of the text or background.

And this may offer another benefit, as the specific qualities of individual cases of dyslexia for each person can then be ascertained, by using the text calibration process as a diagnostic tool itself by a systematic explosion of the separate qualities of the text one at a time.

And then, it could even be possible to overcome, with time and effort, the condition of dyslexia itself to some degree... as now the ability to build the bricks of words, though in smaller pieces, can at last allow them to exercise that pattern recognition muscle of the mind in a manner it can now at last cope with, and through repeated use, build that muscle to be able to cope with larger pieces, and more sophisticated word patterns by creating that subliminal word stock in the memory... meaning that the prescription can change, and be used to exercise that muscle by pushing a little harder when required to exact a little more effort from the reader as desired, until gradually the text can be put back together to some extent.

A Little Application Required

And this is where technology can help, as it would not be too difficult to make a simple phone or computer application that can use already existing programmes such as text recognition and translation software to process, not only text found on the internet, but by using the phone's camera for instance, street signs, and everyday real world text through this fracturing filter for the dyslexic user. Once their prescribed text specifications are determined, and entered in the phone's basic set up preferences, all text passes through it, for display to the user.

Like eating food, you first have to break down a meal of words into bite size, digestible chunks that you can chew and swallow, before the benefit of the whole meal can be eaten.

Break it Down, then Build it Up.

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