Technology to Help Dyslexics Yet to Be Developed

Posted June 12th, 2015 at 3:17 pm (UTC-4)
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    A file picture shows couple of children using Qread in Denmark. (Appi Dappi)

A file picture shows a couple of children using Qread in Denmark. (Appi Dappi)

Reading apps might be helpful to kids and adults who struggle with reading. But the technology that could help dyslexics overcome reading and comprehension challenges and decode the words they read has yet to be developed.

Appi Dabbi‘s Qread, which stands for quick read, is an Android and iOS mobile app that helps people with dyslexia, who often have memory and organizational problems, make sense of what they read.

The app is also designed to help those looking to learn a new language.

Developer and CEO of Appi Dabbi, Precila Birungik, described the app as “a learning journey you as a parent step into with your child.”

The app has different levels that let parents keep track of their kids’ progress. Birungik said in an email interview that children who had difficulty reading showed improvement after being tested for the app.

According to Appi Dabbi, Qread is based on the direct method of reading, which lets children use both halves of their brain to learn that words are a visual representation of things they already recognize. Words, pictures and animation are employed to help children quickly learn the words.

But education professor Julian Elliott of Britain’s Durham University, co-writer of The Dyslexia Debate, argued that there is no specific program that “could actually make kids overcome their reading problems” and no scientific evidence to vouch for brain-based approaches.

“In the book, he said, “we make it quite clear that there is no intervention that we could find which is in a sense brain-based, which leads to improved performance with large samples of kids … It’s yet to be found.”

He said the existing scientific evidence of intervention relates to traditional, structured educational approaches to reading.

“At the current state of knowledge, we do not have sufficient evidence to be able to say with any confidence that we know of technology that will help children become better readers,” he said. “That may happen, but we’re waiting for the evidence to come through.”

Reading apps might be helpful, but they do not solve the problem. “You use technology to help people overcome,” said Elliott. “But putting someone in the wheelchair isn’t going to make them any better physically.”

What is needed, he added, is technological augmentation – the kind a blind woman he knows uses.

“She has an Apple iPhone,” he said. “And she photographs … a menu in a restaurant and then what the phone will do is it will play into her ear what it says.”

He said technology can try to help the “small proportion of people whom we don’t know what to do to make them better, how to help them. And these people need technology not to become better readers, but because the technology will do the reading for them.”

Dyslexia, he explained, concerns the ability to transfer written text into speech.

“Although this will obviously affect how much of the text can be understood, it is not directly concerned with primary difficulties of reading comprehension,” he said. “Often the very significant differences between these two very different problems – decoding and comprehension – can be misunderstood”

Elliott said technology can help dyslexic individuals both to become better at the reading process and to decode the words they read.

But not all people who struggle with reading are dyslectic. And some of them are able to read better than others.

And Appi Dabbi is committed to unlocking the awareness of children around the world. It hopes to empower children and educators to do that by introducing different games intended to teach reading, stimulate language or help adults looking to learn a new language.

Qread is currently available in the U.S., U.K., Denmark and Germany, but the company is looking to expand to other countries, including China.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with a clarification from Julian Elliott about how dyslexia affects the ability to transfer written text into speech.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

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