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Testing the effectiveness of gaming and learning apps for children with dyslexic characteristics


When I was a child, I could not learn to read. My parents knew I had dyslexia. They promptly enlisted child psychologists. Although the Orton Gillingham approach, which our game relies on, was known at the time, my parents went with a competing method, the Doman-Delacato treatment. The experts said that I had walked too soon and that I needed to “rewire” my brain. I had to crawl around on my hands and knees for two hours a day while looking at my hands for 4 years. I would have done whatever they said because there is a tremendous amount of shame and humiliation that comes from not being able to read.

There were no studies done to prove that this would work. Only the endorsement of the “experts” validated the protocol. It was not a total waste. I had quality time with my mother while she watched me and protected me from a few of my siblings. Although it did not “rewire” me, crawling around made me incredibly strong. I became a very good athlete and that did help me feel better about myself. When you come up to bat and the entire opposing team takes several steps back, well that is an ego boost. I finally connected with a tutor in the fourth grade that worked with me on decoding and I learned to read at the end of the fifth grade.

Although I hope all my dyslexic cousins become good athletes, my mission is to help children with dyslexic characteristics have access to the pre-phonemic awareness that non-dyslexics do. I want to see if this version of the game actually does improve those with dyslexic traits ability to decode phonemes. I want to see if it helps kindergarteners through second grade. Waiting until the end of the fifth grade to learn to read brings unnecessary shame.

The study will be very anonymous. I will conduct it through ASUMH with Professors Matt Franklin, and Robert Shurley. We will use two, five classroom pods, in each of the three grades. One pod will have dyslexics and non-dyslexics in it using the dDragon app the other pod will be of a similar mix and not using the dDragon app. No names will be used because we can identify those with dyslexic traits by their IStation and Dibel scores. With the Istation tests, we can check progress monthly and with the Dibels test, we can check at the beginning middle and end of the year. We hope to see that the children with dyslexic traits in the Pods with the dDragon app improve over those in the pod without the app. We will also be able to see if the non-dyslexics improve in the pod with the dDragon app. To do this we are removing any mention of dyslexia from the app so the children will just think it is for everyone.

I have already allowed some young students and teachers to work with the prototype. The feedback is positive. As an adult, the first thing you will notice is that the game is not fast paced and it has no soundtrack. The reason is these tasks are very hard for those with dyslexic characteristics. These children are working up to five times harder to achieve the same results as the non-dyslexic. It takes more time for them to get the answer. With time and practice, they will improve. Those with dyslexic traits often have an asymptotic learning curve. Meaning they, may start out slow but later take off like a rocket. What is the marine saying?  “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” That is what we are going for.

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