Study of an 8-year-old child with dyslexic tendencies and the C-Pen Reader for every day classroom based work

Supporting young children with dyslexic tendencies is not only a worry for parents, but also for teachers as cited in an article from Dyslexia Action (2017)2.  74% of those teaching dyslexic children feel dissatisfied with their initial teacher training, questioning whether if it provides them with the skills to identify and teach children with dyslexia.  Often dyslexic children are incredibly skilled and intelligent; therefore, it is imperative early identification of dyslexic tendencies are recognised to enable the implementation of the right teaching/learning style for that child (as recommended by educational psychologist Dr. Gavin Reid (2017))7.  However, reading problems can occur due to other issues such as medical and learning difficulties.  Early identification of dyslexia can prove to be challenging. 

When a clear identification has been achieved, teachers require a bag of strategies and knowledge such as access to supportive guides; for example, the Dyslexic Screener (available online)3; awareness and instruction on the use of up- to-date available assistive technology; which in turn will enable them to support the dyslexic child; and confidence to explore the child’s learning styles to help the child reach their full potential.    Finally, the teacher will need to understand the individual child’s emotional well-being, Rosie Bissett, (Dyslexia Ireland chief executive cited in Irish Examiner, 2017)8 recently stated “It is crucial that teachers understand dyslexia while at the same time having expectations for the child…”.

There are several research papers relating to assistive technology and students with learning disabilities; livescribe pen, (Harper et al. 2016)4 android software platforms, (Tariq et al. 2016)9 mobile learning (Alghabban et al. 2016)1.  However, many of these devices are aimed at the older student.  Studies involving primary aged children focus on computer-based training programmes rather than smaller hand-held devices which may encourage independence.

This study evaluated existing dyslexic teaching strategies; sounding out, phonics, learning words from sight, multi-sensory activities and aligning these tried and tested approaches with a device which promotes independent learning; the C-Pen Reader.

A further focus for this study was to gain understanding of how a primary aged child could develop independent skills and habitual behaviours which would support their future educational journey.  The dyslexic child requires continual feedback to confirm their success, they require extra time; to enable others to listen to them read; and they need to be motivated.

Extra time to practice reading and sounding out text is of great import to the dyslexic child, followed by confirmation from the adult (who often will have 20-30 other children in the classroom), before continuing with their work.  Obviously, this impacts on the dyslexic child’s chance of achieving all the work set in each lesson due to the extra minutes they require to ensure they are confident with their learning.   The C-Pen Reader was deemed the perfect device to promote such efficiency, with confirmation coming from the pen rather than an adult.

The research question: “How effective would the early introduction of assistive technology be to the primary aged child, to encourage emotional development, independent learning and lead to positive reading outcomes?”


Hearing loss may be something students experience from birth, a sudden onset due to health problems or a gradual issue, it may be short term or have permanent implications for the student.

Recently I became aware of a student who had temporarily lost her hearing at 4 years of age.  She started school with confidence but soon dropped behind her peers’, due to nobody being aware she was unable to hear in one ear and had partial hearing in the other.  Reading was proving to be an absolute rotten experience as she struggled with her phonics due to her incapacity to hear what was being said to her, she tried exceedingly hard but her enunciation of words gave her teachers an indication of hearing difficulties.  This was confirmed by a routine hearing test carried out by the school nurse.

Hearing difficulties and loss will be the obvious priority for any young student, but they may also mask a reading difficulty, such as dyslexia.  The early years programme teaches reading by phonics!  With hearing loss, you may very well expect to see the student struggling with learning to read phonically; however, this can also be an early sign of dyslexic tendencies.  Once the hearing loss has been diagnosed and suitably treated, as with the little girl, the next step was to overcome having fallen behind with reading and spelling.  When the little girl reached 7 years of age a dyslexic screening test was carried out and indicated overwhelming dyslexic tendencies.

The little girl and her school where asked to be part of a study looking at the use of the C-Pen Reader to support her reading difficulties alongside other strategies.  The flexibility and support of her teachers enabled her to show confidence and independence in using the C-Pen Reader in her every day studies.  Her teachers commented how important it was to explore technology with dyslexic students and also commented on how this would work for a student with hearing aids, the girl’s history of hearing loss was questioned and therefore would the C-Pen Reader be compatible with hearing aids?

The C-Pen Reader and Exam Reader are compatible for those with hearing aids via a simple device called HEARING HOOKS.  Hearing hooks are currently promoted for use with SmartPhones , Netbooks etc, however do not be put off by the lack of mention of their most important compatible device, the C-Pen Reader and Exam Reader!  Hearing hooks will enable the hearing loss student with reading difficulties to have use of a device which promotes independent learning within school and during those important exams.  Hearing hooks, dual or singular, fit into the C-Pen Reader and/or Exam Reader exactly as they would with the supplied ear phones, via the 3.5mm jack plug.  Giving the student the freedom to have the sound played into both ears or into one.  A return to the audiologist department, who fitted the student with their hearing aids, may be required to ‘tune in’ to receiving the sound from hearing hooks but once this has been achieved there should be no other barriers!

Hearing hooks are a very reasonable cost and worth having available to support students who wish to utilise reading pens, in class and in their examinations.  Breaking down barriers and promoting access to learning is a regular supportive element within all schools today, those leading by the front are not only seeing the emotional well-being of their students rapidly improving, which in turn impacts on educational achievements leading to increased to academic success for the school, but also with the knowledge they are equipping their students to become confident adults; what more could you want!