The Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator at Boston Children’s Hospital is developing an Early Developmental Dyslexia Screening App. The predictive dyslexia assessments that the app will include were selected based on previous studies that examined early predictors of developmental dyslexia longitudinally in Dr. Nadine Gaab’s research. The app will be a cost-effective, mobile platform, accessible by parent, teacher, pediatrician or other clinical professional and capable of screening for early indicators of dyslexia in children as young as four years of age giving them the opportunity to reach their full reading potential. The app will be presented in a fun, interactive way to keep the children engaged for the 30-minute screen. Once the screener is complete, parents will receive an overall score that measures the child’s risk for developmental dyslexia along with essential deficit-specific risk resources.
The App will link to resources that offer teaching solutions and intervention programs (e.g. through instructional videos) for teachers and social workers to address the instructional needs of children deemed at-risk. Furthermore, it will link to educational videos for parents that suggest activities that parents can do with their children that have been shown to improve these essential pre-reading skills.
Dyslexia is a common learning disability with neurobiological origins which affects about 10–12% of children. Self-perception of reading failure and negative response from others leave children with dyslexia vulnerable to feelings of shame, failure, inadequacy, helplessness, depression, and loneliness. Children with dyslexia are less likely to complete high school or pursue higher education and are at an increased risk of entering the juvenile justice system. Early identification of dyslexia is therefore critical for improving reading outcomes in children and for preventing and ameliorating the socio-emotional problems that accompany reading failure.
To date, dyslexia is generally diagnosed after the most effective time for intervention has passed, which has been termed the ‘dyslexia paradox’. The ‘dyslexia paradox’ is detrimental to the well-being of children and their families who experience the psychosocial implications of dyslexia for years prior to diagnosis. Despite being diagnosed when a child fails to read (2nd – 4th grade), targeted interventions are most effective when administered in kindergarten and first grade. Dr. Nadine Gaab, of Boston Children’s Hospital, completed a recent study of more than 1,500 kindergartners in New England and identified six independent reading profiles, including three dyslexia risk profiles, and also showed that these reading profiles are remarkably stable over a two-year window – allowing it to be a predictive assessment for a future dyslexia diagnoses.