Dyslexia can be defined as a difficulty in the acquisition of reading which is not due to any known perceptual impairment or lack of opportunity to learn. Dyslexia symptoms include a lack of fluent reading, poor spelling and difficulty in relating the written form of the letter to the auditory form of the sound. It is estimated that between 10 – 17.5% of the U.S. population have this reading problem. Although diagnostically separate from several other learning disabilities, it is often related in the research literature to dysgraphia, dyscalculia and Specific Language Impairment. The main thrust of the research carried out in the field of dyslexia in recent decades has been to better understand the impairment, as reading is a complex process related to visual and auditory perception and the links between them. To make the matter more complex, cognitive capacities such as attention and memory must also be taken into consideration. As research has focused on learning more about how reading works, relatively few tools with proven impact on reading skills have been designed.
This makes the news all the more welcome that a team of Finnish scientists have developed an exciting tool that may be able to help prevent and treat dyslexia. Scientists at the AGORA Center have been working for years in the area of sound processing in young children and have developed a tool that they hope will not only help children distinguish between sounds, but also help them link these sounds to the written symbols of the alphabet. The tool is a game called GraphoGame and is designed to directly target the problems that dyslexic children grapple with, teaching them the sounds of a language and the written symbols that represent them. The game can be played alone and the child goes through higher levels as their skills increase. A demo of these levels can be access on their website at Graphogame. com.
While conclusive studies regarding the efficacy of GraphoGame have not yet been published in peer-reviewed journals, the very existence of the game reflects a strong trend in current education towards serious gaming which has as its aim to create games whose primary goal is to teach. As the design of the game is meant to produce an enjoyable and engaging atmosphere for the player, instruction is carried out either implicitly or explicitly in the game.
GraphoGame is not the only contender in the field for treating students with language and reading difficulties. Which games ultimately achieve success is yet unknown, but the educational future of serious games for children with signs of dyslexia will be an interesting one to watch.