The study was carried out by Emeritus Prof Kevin Wheldall, Dr Alison Madelaine, Dr Eva Marinus and Michelle Mostard and Associate Professor Eliane Segers from Radboud University (Nijmegen, the Netherlands).
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You may have seen recent media reports on a special font, called ‘Dyslexie’, developed by Dutch artist Christian Boer to help children and adults with dyslexia to improve their reading. Even ‘the Fonz’ (actor turned children’s author and dyslexia advocate, Henry Winkler) is advocating the font and has had some of his children’s books published in Dyslexie.
Boer, who struggles with dyslexia himself, contends that the letters of the alphabet are too similar for people with dyslexia. He therefore designed the font to make letters more easily distinguished (for example, by alternating tail lengths and giving them a heavy baseline to prevent confusion of letters).
The results of decades of research into reading and dyslexia, however, clearly show that these ideas are not supported by scientific evidence. There are also barely any published studies which have directly tested the efficacy of Dyslexie font.
Our research found that low-progress readers read Dyslexie text more quickly than Arial text, when matched on absolute letter size. When general spacing was also matched, the performance difference became smaller. Finally, when both the within and between word spacing was matched, the children performed the same on the Arial text as they did on Dyslexie text.
From these results, we can conclude that Dyslexie font is easier for low-progress readers to read than Arial font of the same size, but only because of its increased spacing between words and within words rather than from the special letter shapes in the font per se. Therefore there seems to be no need to use Dyslexie, as spacing can be adjusted with every font.