Helping those struggling with dyslexia

Fifteen year old Solana Carpenter is researching dyslexia-friendly fonts that can assist students to access learning materials. Times photo Wayne Martin

Solana Carpenter has won the `My Future’ project award aimed at assisting students who struggle to learn at school due to dyslexia.

The prize includes a grant of $1000 and a gift card of $500 to help her kick-start her project.

The Year 11 Ormiston College student was surprised when she heard that from the four finalists judged by a panel of industry specialists,she was the overall winner of the Auckland-wide community campaign by Sylvia Park.

‘My Future’ involved the public nominating an outstanding high school student that they think deserves recognition for their exceptional work and is an extraordinary leader in the community.

The 15-year old, who is mildly dyslexic, has dedicated a lot of time in researching dyslexia-friendly fonts that can assist students to access learning materials.

Solana says fonts like Verdana, Helvetica, Arial and Courier work best for those with learning disorders.

“For high functioning dyslexic students it helps when the fonts are bigger, on a non-glossy paper, preferably cream and not white.

“So many students struggle to read the question paper during exams and cannot make sense of the question, not because they are stupid but because they are mildly dyslexic. Unfortunately a lot of them are not even aware of it because they have not been tested,” she says.

Solana believes that there is a lot more reading and writing to be done in Years 11, 12 and 13, which is a huge challenge for a lot of students.

“We use SciPAD, have Maths work books and worksheets which involve a lot of reading and writing that students struggle with. And it’s too late by then to learn how to read or write,” she points out.

“While the dyslexia spectrum is very vast, taking all these elements together makes the fonts more user-friendly, inclusive and works for both dyslexic and non dyslexic people.”

What started out as a Science project with the help of her coach Robin Wills, from Wymondly Primary School, has now taken a life of its own as Solana has continued working on it over the years.

She now intends to use the $1000 grant money to connect with Auckland University and find out how she can conduct research on a larger scale.

Once she has gathered more data she plans to contact NZQA,Scholastic Books and companies that publish School journals  and advice them on how to make books and question papers more student friendly and do her bit to help those who are severely dyslexic.