BACKGROUND: Dyslexia, a specific learning difficulty and a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010, is a lifelong condition that affects a child from the start of education. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties in language processing (reading, spelling, and writing) which do not correspond with the child's general intellectual abilities. Although dyslexia cannot be cured, there is a consensus that interventions are more effective and have greater impact the earlier they are administered. Effective interventions start with diagnosis. Currently, formal diagnosis requires an assessment by a dyslexia specialist or educational psychologist. These assessments are expensive and are not easy for a non-specialist teacher or parent to interpret. Consequently, formal assessments are normally performed at a much later age, when interventions are less likely to be effective. Combining the latest in scientific research, expertise of dyslexia practitioners and real-time interactivity facilitated by digital technologies, we aim to provide a cost-effective and convenient solution that focuses on early dyslexia detection and management.
OBJECTIVE: We discuss the rationale and protocol for the design and development of a digital health solution aimed at improving the early detection, monitoring and management of dyslexia (DIMMAND) in young children (4-8 years). The primary objective is to create a game-based digital solution aimed at children, parents, and teachers that firstly assesses, then monitors and manages progress in a convenient, cost-effective and private environment.
METHODS: The proposed solution will be designed and developed in phases. In the initial phase, the full functional specification of the games that constitute the app will be designed, together with the overall architecture of the solution. Prototype proof-of-concept implementation for few of these games, and commercialization strategies will also be developed. The follow-on phases will see the design implemented into a validated solution.
RESULTS: In the initial phase, we worked closely with dyslexia specialists, adult dyslexics, teachers of special-needs children, parents of dyslexic children, and senior dyslexia representatives for large organizations. These interactions provided insights into the range of language difficulties faced by dyslexics, which solutions are used by teachers and professionals, and an overall understanding of the market. We comprehensively defined the ethical, privacy, and data security issues. The detailed design spec of the games, the methodology to be followed to interpret the results, and flow diagrams illustrating how the game screens will be presented was completed. As proof of concept, a few reading, visual, and auditory games were developed and successfully tested by stakeholders on different digital devices. The stakeholders provided regular feedback and confirmed the viability of our game-based solution.
CONCLUSIONS: DIMMAND has the potential to provide significant positive health care and economic impact. It is expected to reduce intervention costs, improve dyslexia detection at an early age and aid self-management.
REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER: RR1-10.2196/9583.
- digital health
- early education
- special education needs
- study skills
- serious games
- VISUAL-SPATIAL ATTENTION
- DEVELOPMENTAL DYSLEXIA
- READING ACQUISITION