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A Tablet Game to Target Dyslexia Screening in Pre-readers

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Using serious games to screen dyslexia has been a suc- cessful approach for English, German and Spanish. In a pilot study with a desktop game, we addressed pre-readers screening, that is, younger children who have not acquired reading or writing skills. Based on our results, we have redesigned the game content and new interactions with visual and musical cues. Hence, here we present a tablet game, DGames, which has the potential to predict dyslexia in pre-readers. This could contribute to around 10% of the population that is affected by dyslexia, as children will gain more time to learn to cope with the challenges of learning how to read and write.
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A Tablet Game to Target
Dyslexia Screening in Pre-Readers
Maria Rauschenberger
WSSC Group, DTIC
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
maria.rauschenberger@upf.edu
Luz Rello
HCI Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
luzrello@cs.cmu.edu
Ricardo Baeza-Yates
WSSC Group, DTIC
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
rbaeza@acm.org
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MobileHCI ’18 Adjunct, September 3–6, 2018, Barcelona, Spain
ACM 978-1-4503-5941-2/18/09.
https://doi.org/10.1145/3236112.3236156
Abstract
Using serious games to screen dyslexia has been a suc-
cessful approach for English, German and Spanish. In a
pilot study with a desktop game, we addressed pre-readers
screening, that is, younger children who have not acquired
reading or writing skills. Based on our results, we have
redesigned the game content and new interactions with
visual and musical cues. Hence, here we present a tablet
game, DGames, which has the potential to predict dyslexia
in pre-readers. This could contribute to around 10% of the
population that is affected by dyslexia, as children will gain
more time to learn to cope with the challenges of learning
how to read and write.
Author Keywords
Dyslexia; Screening; Detection; Pre-Readers; Serious
Games; Computer-based Assessment; Universal Screen-
ing; Language-Independent; Visual cues; Musical cues;
Gamification
ACM Classification Keywords
K.4.2 [Computers and Society]: Social Issues—Assistive
technologies for persons with disabilities; K.3 [Computers
in Education]: Computer Uses in Education—Computer
assisted instruction
Introduction
Around 5% to 15% of the world population are affected
by dyslexia: a specific learning disorder [1]. While visual
and auditory difficulties might cause troubles in writing and
reading, the general intelligence of a person with dyslexia
is not affected. Nevertheless, school failure and frustration
is part of the daily routing for children and parents until the
child is finally diagnosed.
Children with dyslexia (CWD) are, until now, mainly distin-
guished by their reading and writing mistakes compared
to their peer group. Hence, screening pre-readers needs
new indicators. Current approaches to screen pre-readers
require expensive personnel (i.e., a professional therapist)
or special hardware (i.e., MRI machines). Our work tries to
simplify the screening of dyslexia for pre-readers.
First, we created a web-based prototype MusVis (mainly
for desktops) and conducted a study which served as a
proof-of-concept with students from 7 to 12 years old (n
=178) [12]. We addressed the participant’s feedback as
well as the game usage data and created a new application
for pre-readers that: (a) simplifies the musical game-play;
(b) provides musical content that is perceivable by pre-
readers; and (c) uses input methods that are adequate for
pre-readers. The major changes were done mostly on the
musical part of the game as well as for the adaptation of the
input method, i.e., for a tablet instead of a desktop.
In this demo, we present the new tablet application DGames,
with new game interactions and new content. We will use
the game to measure the children’s performance to conduct
an online user study to distinguish pre-readers with and
without dyslexia.
Related Work
The phonological skills deficiencies associated with phono-
logical coding deficits are probably the reason for dyslexia
[20]. Therefore, investigations on the visual and auditory
perception of dyslexia in relation to language acquisition of
pre-readers [8], rapid auditory cues with infants, and visual-
spatial attention [3] on kindergarten children are conducted.
Different games [4, 16, 10] or approaches [19] aim to
screen children with dyslexia mainly related to linguistic
knowledge. The AGTB 5 –12 aims to screen pre-readers
but is only available for the age of 5 till 12. The Cronbachs
Alpha is between .58 and .98 for children at the age of five
till eighth [7]. We could not find any other published ac-
curacy of the prediction process for pre-readers. The ap-
proach for pre-readers needs to be simple (e.g., tablet vs.
desktop) and should not assume existing knowledge of
literacy or phonological awareness.
We are combining findings from previous literature, which
are known to cause troubles for CWD, to create a game
environment to find solid differences for predicting dyslexia
in the future. At the same time, the game should be fun
and not too difficult. We expect people with dyslexia to take
more time and interact differently with the game than the
control group.
Game Content
The game DGames is a major revision of the game MusVis
[12]. Both games aim to detect differences in the perception
of children with and without dyslexia while playing with
musical and visual cues. Only the interaction for the visual
part and eighth visual cues are duplicated from MusVis. We
derived the new design of the game DGames from the pilot
study and implementation of MusVis [13, 12]. All changes
are reported below.
Although children (age 8 till 12) and their parents gave very
positive feedback on the game-play and content, parents
of pre-readers reported difficulties in the interaction of the
game. These parents reported, that their children had dif-
ficulties in understanding the game-play and distinguished
the very short and similar sounds of the musical part. Most
of them quit the game because of that. An example quote
from a dad of a boy (4 years): he was overwhelmed by the
game. He could not distinguish the sounds and just touched
randomly on any card. Also, the input method, i.e., com-
puter mouse was not adequate for younger children.
To be able to target pre-readers, we changed from a desk-
top to a tablet device, as well as, recreated completely the
musical content and interaction. Additionally, results from
MusVis and Dytective [16, 17] showed that CWD did not
make more mistakes while playing games, in spite that
CWD are diagnosed by the amount of written errors they
make. Therefore, also non-related linguistic visual and musi-
cal content is added to evaluate the game interaction itself.
Each game part (musical and visual) has 16 rounds which
are counter-balanced with Latin Squares [2].
Content Design with Visual Cues
The main changes from MusVis [12] are (a) adding non-
linguistic content, (b) tablet adaptation (e.g., double click),
and (c) video introduction to the game.
The visual part has 8 stages and 16 rounds. Each stage
is assigned to one visual type:
symbol, z, rectangle, face,
fruit, kitchen, plant & animal
and four visual cues for each
stage are presented (see Figure 1, where the first four vi-
sual types are duplicated from MusVis [12]). One visual cue
is the target which the participants need to find and click
(see Figure 2, a). The other three visual cues are distrac-
tors for the participants. Each stage has two rounds with
first a 4-squared (see Figure 2, b) and then a 9-squared
Figure 1: Overview of the designed visual cues. The figure shows
the target cue (top) and distractor cues (below) for the eight
different stages (symbol, z, rectangle, face, fruit, kitchen, plant,
animal ) of the visual part of the game DGames.
design (see Figure 2, c). The target and all three distractors
are displayed in the 4-squared design. In the 9-squared
design, the target is displayed twice as well as the distractor
two and three. Only distractor one is displayed three times.
Content Design with Musical Cues
The musical part has for each round a new musical type:
substitution, omission, phoneme, structure
(once Span-
ish and German vowel; Spanish consonant),
rhyme
(twice
Spanish and German; four times English),
combinations,
& rhythm
. Each musical type has one musical cue target
and three musical cue distractors. The new musical cues
are designed with the knowledge of previous literature (see
Table 1 and the new analysis of the published German
errors resource [11, 14]). The matrix shows the relations be-
tween our designed musical types and the literature which
provide evidence to distinguish a person with dyslexia.
The children click on the play-button and can listen to the
musical cue target as often as they like (see Figure 3, a).
After that a row of four buttons is displayed (see Figure 3, b)
Features Explanation of the Features Subs. Omiss. Struct. Phon. Rhyme Comb. Rhythm
Beginning
70% of the spelling errors are at the
third position of a word for German and
Spanish [15, 11].
x x x x x
Length
The average word length for German and
Spanish is just above 7 letters [15, 11]. x x x x x x
Simple
For 73.3% of the analyzed words for Span-
ish the Damerau-Levenshtein distance
was 1, which means that only one letter
mistakes were made [15]. For German it
is even 81.3% [11].
x x x x
Substi-
tution
The error category Submission (exchang-
ing a letter for another one) is frequent for
German, English and Spanish [15, 11].
x x x
Omission
The error category Omission (leaving a
letter out) is frequent in German [11]. x x x
Structure
CWD find it more difficult to recall a target
item with a similar prosodic structure [5]. x x x x x x x
Phono-
logical
STM
CWD showed impairments in the phono-
logical short-term memory (STM) [5]. x x x x x x x
Short-
Interval
Perception
Copying and discrimination tasks are used
to predict phonological awareness [9]. x x x
Pitch Mod-
ulation
CWD have difficulties in processing pitch
patterns [18]. x x x x x
Combi-
nations
Discrimination of rise time is related to
language processing [6]. x x
Complexity
CWD have difficulties with the phonolog-
ical similarity effect and the phonological
neighbourhood when long memory spans
are used [5].
x x x
Table 1: Mapping of the evidence from literature to distinguish a person of dyslexia to design the musical type for each stage in the musical
part of the game DGames.
Figure 2: Example of the visual part of the game DGames with
the priming of the target cue animal (a) and then the
fourth-squared (b) and nine-squared design including the
distractors for each animal (c).
and automatically the assigned musical cues for each but-
ton are played one after another. The buttons are disabled
until the auto-play is done to ensure children listen to all mu-
sical cues. The first button/musical cue is never the musical
cue target to force a distraction for the player. The order
of musical cues is randomly assigned and starts always
from left to right and with the Play all sounds again-button
children can listen to all cues as often as they like.
Implementation Details
Both game parts are developed as a web-application using
JavaScript, jQuery, CSS, HTML5 and a backend with a
PHP server and a MySQL database to make the game
easily adaptable for different devices. The visual part is also
implemented with Angular.
Because of the web implementation technique, a double
click on a web-application generally zooms the application
on a tablet. As young children were observed touching the
Figure 3: Example of the musical part of the game DGames with
the priming of the target cue (a) and then the distractors for each
musical cue (b).
application very quickly and triggering the zoom-effect, this
caused interruptions while playing and was not coherent
with the experience of using a native tablet application.
Therefore, we used a viewport meta tag to control the layout
settings for mobile devices.
All instructions within the game are presented with video or
audio media to address pre-readers. Android prevents by
default automatic play of sound or video and asks for a user
interaction. Therefore, we designed the whole game with
a sequence that starts with a user interaction followed by
audio sounds.
Conclusions and Future Work
The main advantages of the new tablet Game DGames
makes it playable for pre-readers and should improve the
current results for screening dyslexia in young children. Ad-
ditionally, the game is playable on different devices and the
device information are taken into account for the analysis
of the differences between the two user groups. To prove
our improvements, we plan to conduct a large-scale study
in different languages e.g. German, Spanish and English.
Acknowledgements
This demo is supported by the fem:talent Scholarship from
the Applied University of Emden/Leer as well as by the
Deutschen Lesepreis 2017 from the Stiftung Lesen and the
Commerzbank-Stiftung. Also, thanks to H. Witzel for his
advice during the development of the visual part and to M.
Blanca, and J. Carrion on the translation for the Spanish
version.
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... Besides simple, the narrative, instruction and gameplay must also be kept short [49,52,59]. Audio/voice/musical cue is also deemed significant in games for the dyslexics [48,51,54]. It serves two functions, i.e., as stimuli to help the dyslexics to focus, and to help them understand the instructions or narrative, as they always have difficulties with text. ...
... Use of animations and symbols are also considered better than the written explanation [43,44]. Characters in a form of cute-creature, funny, animated cartoon, teacher-like and avatar are attractive to the dyslexics, especially when they can make friend with them [47][48][49][50][51][52][53]64] throughout the game. Several previous works suggested that these characters should be unisex, thus it can cater both genders of the dyslexic children [47,52]. ...
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More than 10% of the population has dyslexia, and most are di- agnosed only after they fail in school. This work seeks to change this through early detection via machine learning models that pre- dict dyslexia by observing how people interact with a linguistic computer-based game.We designed items of the game taking into account (i) the empirical linguistic analysis of the errors that peo- ple with dyslexia make, and (ii) specific cognitive skills related to dyslexia: Language Skills, Working Memory, Executive Functions, and Perceptual Processes. . Using measures derived from the game, we conducted an experiment with 267 children and adults in order to train a statistical model that predicts readers with and without dyslexia using measures derived from the game. The model was trained and evaluated in a 10-fold cross experiment, reaching 84.62% accuracy using the most informative features. CCS
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Detecting dyslexia is important because early intervention is key to avoid the negative effects of dyslexia such as school failure. Most of the current approaches to detect dyslexia require expensive personnel (i.e. psychologists) or special hardware (i.e. eye trackers or MRI machines). Also, most of the methods can only be used when children are learning how to read but not before, necessarily delaying needed early intervention. In this work, we present a study with 178 participants speaking different languages (Spanish, German, English, and Catalan) with and without dyslexia using a web-based game built with musical and visual elements that are language independent. The study reveals eighth game measures with significant differences for Spanish children with and without dyslexia, which could be used in future work as a basis for language independent detection. A web- based application like this could have a major impact on children all over the world by easily screening them and suggest the help they need.
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DysList, a list of dyslexic errors annotated with linguistic, phonetic and visual features. Presented 2016 at the LREC conference: Rauschenberger, Maria; Rello, Luz; Füchse, Silke & Thomaschewski, Jörg. 2016. A Language Resource of German Errors Written by Children with Dyslexia. [In Press] Proc. LREC 2016. Portorož (Slovenia), 23-28, May. The Resource and further information are also available at the Web Research Group from UPF at https://www.upf.edu/web/wrg/dyswebxia or from the GitHub.
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Current tools for screening dyslexia use linguistic elements, since most dyslexia manifestations are related to difficulties in reading and writing. These tools can only be used with children that have already acquired some reading skills and; sometimes, this detection comes too late to apply proper remediation. In this paper, we propose a method and present DysMusic, a prototype which aims to predict risk of having dyslexia before acquiring reading skills. The prototype was designed with the help of five children and five parents who tested the game using the think aloud protocol and being observed while playing. The advantages of DysMusic are that the approach is language independent and could be used with younger children, i.e., pre-readers.
Article
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Children with developmental dyslexia are characterized by phonological difficulties across languages. Classically, this ‘phonological deficit’ in dyslexia has been investigated with tasks using single-syllable words. Recently, however, several studies have demonstrated difficulties in prosodic awareness in dyslexia. Potential prosodic effects in short-term memory have not yet been investigated. Here we create a new instrument based on three-syllable words that vary in stress patterns, to investigate whether prosodic similarity (the same prosodic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables) exerts systematic effects on short-term memory. We study participants with dyslexia and age-matched and younger reading-level-matched typically developing controls. We find that all participants, including dyslexic participants, show prosodic similarity effects in short-term memory. All participants exhibited better retention of words that differed in prosodic structure, although participants with dyslexia recalled fewer words accurately overall compared to age-matched controls. Individual differences in prosodic memory were predicted by earlier vocabulary abilities, by earlier sensitivity to syllable stress and by earlier phonological awareness. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of prosodic similarity effects in short-term memory. The implications of a prosodic similarity effect for theories of lexical representation and of dyslexia are discussed. © 2016 The Authors. Dyslexia published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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In this paper we present a language resource for German, composed of a list of 1,021 unique errors extracted from a collection of texts written by people with dyslexia. The errors were annotated with a set of linguistic characteristics as well as visual and phonetic features. We present the compilation and the annotation criteria for the different types of dyslexic errors. This language resource has many potential uses since errors written by people with dyslexia reflect their difficulties. For instance, it has already been used to design language exercises to treat dyslexia in German. To the best of our knowledge, this is first resource of this kind in German.
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In this work we introduce the analysis of DysList, a language resource for Spanish composed of a list of unique spelling errors extracted from a collection of texts written by people with dyslexia. Each of the errors was annotated with a set of characteristics as well as with visual and phonetic features. To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest resource of this kind in Spanish. We also analyzed all the features of Spanish errors and our main finding is that dyslexic errors are phonetically and visually motivated.
Article
Warum haben ca. 5% der Grundschulkinder trotz normaler Begabung und ausreichendem Schulunterricht erhebliche Schwierigkeiten beim Erlernen des Lesens und Schreibens? Wodurch ist eine solche Lese- Rechtschreibstörung gekennzeichnet, wie wirkt sie sich im Schulalltag und im späteren Leben aus? Wie kann man die Lese-Rechtschreibstörung möglichst früh diagnostizieren und wie kann man die betroffenen Kinder optimal fördern? Dies sind zentrale Fragen, die in diesem Buch auf der Basis des aktuellen Standes der internationalen Forschung behandelt werden. Zunächst wird die unbeeinträchtigte Entwicklung der Schriftsprache dargestellt, eine wichtige Grundlage für das Verständnis der Lese-Rechtschreibstörung. Danach wird das Erscheinungsbild der Lese-Rechtschreibstörung ausführlich beschrieben sowie die klinische Klassifikation erläutert und kritisch diskutiert. Im Anschluss werden verschiedene wissenschaftlich begründete Ansätze zu Ursachen der Lese- Rechtschreibstörung besprochen. Das bis dahin vermittelte Wissen bildet das Fundament für die Auseinandersetzung mit eher anwendungsbezogenen Fragen zur Diagnostik und Förderung: Kann man ein Risiko für Lese-Rechtschreibschwierigkeiten bereits im Vorschulalter feststellen? Welche Verfahren werden für die Diagnostik der Lese-Rechtschreibstörung eingesetzt? Kann man der Entstehung von Lese-Rechtschreibschwierigkeiten vorbeugen? Welche Ansätze zur Intervention gibt es und welche sind besonders vielversprechend? Die Zielgruppen Studierende der Fachrichtungen (Schul-)Psychologie, Logopädie und Patholinguistik sowie Lehramtsstudenten und alle, die sich beruflich mit der Thematik auseinandersetzen, insbesondere Lehrer, Schulpsychologen, Psychologen, Lerntherapeuten, Erzieher, Psychotherapeuten, Kinder- und Jugendpsychiater sowie der interessierte Laie. Die Autoren Priv.-Doz. Dr. habil. Claudia Steinbrink ist Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Lehrstuhl für Kognitive und Entwicklungspsychologie der Technischen Universität Kaiserslautern. Schwerpunkte ihrer Lehre sind schulbezogene Themen der Entwicklungs- und Pädagogischen Psychologie. Den Schwerpunkt ihrer Forschung bilden grundlagenwissenschaftliche wie anwendungsbezogene Projekte zu kognitiven Grundlagen der Schriftsprachentwicklung und der Lese-Rechtschreibstörung. Prof. Dr. habil. Thomas Lachmann ist Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Kognitive und Entwicklungspsychologie und Leiter des Fernstudiengangs Psychologie kindlicher Lern- und Entwicklungsauffälligkeiten an der Technischen Universität Kaiserslautern. Zusammen mit seiner Arbeitsgruppe arbeitet er an der experimentellen Erforschung der Entwicklung kognitiver Funktionen, insbesondere der neuro-kognitiven Grundlagen des Schriftspracherwerbs und der Lese- Rechtschreibstörung.
Chapter
DIESEL-X is a computer game that was developed to detect a high risk for developing dyslexia in preschoolers. The game includes three mini-games that test the player on three skills that are considered to yield outcome measures that predict the onset of dyslexia: the detection threshold of frequency modulated tones, a test on phonological awareness in which the player has to identify words that have the same phonetic ending, and a test on letter knowledge. In order to keep the motivation of the player high during testing, these tests are embedded in a computer game. We discuss the participatory design process that was adopted to design and develop the game, the rationale behind the design decisions, and we describe the resulting games. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015. All rights reserved.