Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back-to-School Guide for Students with Dyslexia: Apps and More

With the school year fast approaching (or already in full swing) here are my favorite apps and products for accessibility. Hopefully these apps and products will help make the school year successful for those needing assistive technology to support their reading and writing. This list is geared toward students with dyslexia but many of the apps and products can also benefit other students. To learn more about any of these products or apps click on the accompanying link.

Kurzweil 3000

Kurzweil 3000 is a versatile reading and writing program for Mac and PC. With Kurzweil students can read scanned and digital documents with high quality text-to-speech and synchronized highlighting. This gives students with reading difficulty the ability to listen to text and improve comprehension. Kurzweil also allows students to annotate documents using text notes, audio notes, highlighting, and circling. Test taking is also a breeze with Kurzweil thanks to its “fill in the blanks” function which allows students to answer test question directly on the digital document. Kurzweil 3000 is not only for reading help but also includes a number of helpful writing features such as mind mapping and word prediction. Click here to learn more about Kurzweil 3000.


Bookshare is an essential service for people with print disabilities. provides accessible e-books for qualified students. Members can choose from over 200,000 downloadable titles including many textbooks. Bookshare books can be downloaded in a DAISY format for use with text-to-speech software or in a Braille format. Similar to Kurzweil, the combination of text-to-speech and highlighted text can greatly speed up and reading and increase comprehension for qualifying students. Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Education Bookshare is free to U.S. students.  Click here to learn more about Bookshare.

Learning Ally

Learning Ally is another provider of accessible books for the blind and dyslexic. Learning Ally mostly provides human narrated audio books for their members. Learning Ally is also expanding to provide “VOICEtext” books which include human narration and highlighted text. The highlighting of “VOICEtext” books is not word by word like in Bookshare and Kurzweil but rather is paragraph by paragraph. Learning Ally books can be read on iOS and Android devices using the Learning Ally Audio app. Click here to learn more about Learning Ally.

Click read more below for more great apps and products.

Voice Dream Reader

Voice Dream Reader is an amazing text-to-speech app for iOS. The app allows students to input text from the web, clipboard, Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Project Gutenberg, Bookshare, and more. Once you have loaded your text into Voice Dream Reader you can have it read with a number of text-to-speech voices which are available at an additional cost. Voice Dream Reader also allows students to customize the look of their text. The app also includes highlighting and note taking features. Voice Dream Reader is perfect for reading Bookshare books on the go. These features are just the start; to learn all about Voice Dream Reader click here or click here to download from the App Store for $9.99.


Co:Writer by Don Johnston is an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Co:Writer has exceptional word predication capabilities that can help struggling spellers. Co:Writer’s most unique and noteworthy feature is the ability to use topic dictionaries to improve word prediction based on the topic a student is writing about. For example, if a student is writing about World War II he or she can turn on the World War II topic dictionary in order to get more targeted word prediction. Click here to learn more about Co:Writer. Click here to download Co:Writer from the App Store.


Prizmo is an optical character recognition (OCR) app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The app gives students the ability to take a picture of a text documents and have it read back to them using text-to-speech in seconds. So if students comes across a document that they can’t read they can use Prizmo to quickly take a picture and have it read back to them. Prizmo can also act as a portable scanner that can convert printed document into a digital PDF format. Click here to read a full review of Prizmo or click here to download Prizmo.


Quizlet is a virtual flashcard service on the web and for iOS devices and Android devices. The Quizlet app for iOS includes text-to-speech which can read all text on the flash cards. If you use a popular vocabulary book or textbook it is likely that another Quizlet user has already create a flashcard set for that book. Using the search function students can access these flashcards created by other Quizlet users. This gives students all the benefits of studying from flashcards without the hassle of creating them. To download Quizlet from the App Store click here or click here to download from Google PlayClick here to learn more about Quizlet.

Inspiration Maps

Inspiration Maps is a mind mapping tool for the iPad. Inspiration Maps documents are compatible with Inspiration documents created using a computer. Inspiration Maps helps students organize their thoughts in a graphical format. The app also includes many pre-made templates set up for specific subject. Click here to read the full review of Inspiration Maps. To download Inspiration Maps click here.

Livescribe Sky Wifi Smartpen

The Sky Wifi Smartpen from Livescribe is a computerized pen designed for note taking. With the Sky Wifi Smartpen students can take notes on specialized notebook paper and have the written notes synchronized with audio recorded from class. The synchronized audio and written notes help students to review and fill in gaps of information that they may have missed while trying to quickly record information. The Sky Smartpen also automatically and wirelessly synchronizes notes to Evernote. Another useful feature of the Smartpen is the ability of one assigned note taker to wirelessly transmit digital notes and audio recordings to students who need notes provided. Using the Smartpen to provide notes to multiple students removes the delays caused by copying and carbon paper. Click here to learn more.


  1. My daughter is profoundly dyslexic and we are back in public school for the first time with full tech assist. She's using an android tablet and her phone at school, but we have an mini ipad at home. We are looking for an app for the iPad that has the same functionality as the Easy Text to Speech Pro
    Thanks! Always, Jenna

    1. Hi,

      iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) have some of this functionality built in in a feature called speak selection. Click here to learn about speak selection.

      Another really great app is called Voice Dream Reader. Click here to learn about the Voice Dream Reader app.

      Thanks for your question and I hope this helps.

  2. Other than the Intel Reader, what other technology is there for handouts given to kids at school who cannot read it on their own.

    1. In addition to the Intel Reader there is the Prizmo app for iOS. Also, you can use Kurzweil 3000 with a scanner.

      However the best solution is to create a system with teachers to have the documents provided in an electronic format so it is easy to use text-to-speech software.

  3. Thankyou so much for providing all this valuable information . The useful tips can be very helpful for my daughter.

  4. Have you heard anything or tried the Intel Reader?

    1. Yes, I have. Here is my post about the Intel Reader. Click here to read my post. Also, the creator of the Intel Reader recently came out with a great book about dyslexia, you can check it out here

  5. I purchased the intel reader for my son last year, he had a hard time with it. He doesn't use is at all. When we take a picture of the chapter he has to read it usually is a lot of jumbled words and only a few sentences would make sense. If there were pictures in the chapter, page numbers, etc.., the entire page was unreadable. I'm not happy with it at all.

  6. Very nice collection!
    These are very useful and very important apps for those childrens who are suffering from Dyslexia. They helps a lot in improving their skills which are not at that point due to Dyslexia. My friend daughter has reading problem then i suggest her to use Voice Dream Reader App now he is good in reading and feel very confident..Thanks for this awesome share!

  7. Does anyone know of a software program that helps specifically with writing? For example, my child had to a 5 paragraph essay on a book and had significant trouble with proper paragraph sentencing, intro paragraph and thesis development and then trouble with concluding paragraph. He needs more than a graphic organizer but rather ways of saying or starting or ending. Thanks so much

    1. I would recommend looking up Inspiration Maps or Kidspiration Maps. These are mind mapping apps for iPad. If you don't have an iPad there Inspiration for Mac and PC. Hope this helps.

  8. Is there a certain App or technology that would be better for teachers/tutors to use to help students with dyslexia learn in an easier manner? Or are all of these technologies only for an individuals use and not as a teaching tool?

  9. Is there a specific technology or app that a teacher/tutor could use to help a dyslexic student learn in an easier manner? Or are these just for the individuals use and not useful as teaching tools?

  10. I have a 6 year old son who is on the autism spectrum, but I suspect that he also has dyslexia. His reading is coming along nicely, but he is really struggling with writing using a pen. He loves computers and I'd like to find a software package that he can write freestyle with. A lot of the packages that I have found so far are very guided learning tools. Does anyone have any ideas?

  11. I have a 6 year old son on the autism spectrum who is really struggling with writing. I'm trying to find an app which I can use on my android so that he can practise his writing with his fingers. Most of the apps I have seen are very guided learning and don't allow you to do any freestyle stuff. Does anyone have any ideas?