25/01/2017 9:00 AM AEDT | Updated 25/01/2017 4:04 PM AEDT

These Simple Tricks On Our iPad or Mac Can Help Students With Dyslexia

Think about it.

sturti via Getty Images
Learning, but differently.

Every time Apple schedules a pesky iOS update that can makes users groan, they are often making tiny, unassuming changes.

These can make going back to school that much easier for students with dyslexia, and they have been compiled in a new e-book for parents and teachers.

Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence. In fact, those with dyslexia are great problem solvers with an extraordinary memory who are able to see the bigger picture.

"They may be small features that are coming in but they can be such a game changer for these kids," Jeanette Davies, Library and Inclusive Technologies specialist told the Huffington Post Australia.

What is it?

Dyslexia is a specific learning condition that is best understood as a persistent difficulty with reading and spelling.

Recent statistics estimates it affects approximately ten percent of the Australian population. In an average classroom, that's three students who learn differently.

"Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence. In fact, those with dyslexia are great problem solvers with an extraordinary memory who are able to see the bigger picture," Davies said.

"But it is a life-long condition. For a lot of students, despite explicit learning in the early years, they need some extra tools as they move through primary school and into secondary school."

What we are after is already built-in.

As a specialist in Information and Communication Learning Technologies (ICLT) Davies has spent her career working with students with disability and tech in the Catholic education sector.

Klaus Vedfelt
These days, iPads are being integrated into more and more classrooms.

"The question I get asked the most by teachers and parents is, 'What apps are out there to help?'

"I tell them, 'What you are after is already built-in."

How can Apple help?

'Dyslexia: Supporting Students' is Davies' response. The free multi-touch book provides a series of simple tricks and tips about how the in-built 'Accessibility' features on an Apple iPad or Mac can support students with dyslexia.

You know the ones... turns out they are way more useful then you may think.

Let's start with Siri.

"Think about it. Students can ask Siri to spell out any word, and Siri will read out every letter," Davies said. "This is the best way for these students to learn at school."

And there's plenty more.

Marilyn Nieves
This little guy has a lot to answer for.

Like dictation.

"People often thing you need a separate app for that, but dictation is built in," Davies said. "With your iPad or Mac, as long as you have Siri enabled, you can tap the microphone symbol and away you go."

Dictation: (both iPad and Mac) works offline

Enable on Mac: System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Dictation -> Turn On

Enable on iPad: Settings -> General -> Siri (Launch any text enabled App -> Tap the Microphone symbol on the onscreen keyboard to the left of the space bar

Text to Speech is a game-changer.

"This is crucial for students with dyslexia. Typically, they'll be doing lots of research on the web and they'll get a whole lot of text that they can't read," Davies said.

"You can select the text and there is an option to send it to iTunes as a spoken track. This way, a student can be listening to the research on their way home."

Text to Speech

Mac: send to iTunes as a spoken track, now MP3 which can be transferred to a mobile device (select text -> right click -> Send to iTunes as a Spoken Track

iPad: speak selected text and speak screen (add highlight if required) Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Speech -> Turn on desired features

Use the Alex voice: Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Speech -> Voices

"Try Alex out reading this passage: 'Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.' Alex is the only voice that will read it correctly."

The e-book is updated with every iOS or OS update. It is available from the iBook store on both Mac and the iPad.

"At this time of year, a lot of parents are becoming very anxious for their child who is going back to school. They also need to know these strategies so that this kind of appropriate learning can carry on at home."