Design vs. dyslexia: UC innovation promises new hope for children with dyslexia (w/ Video)

Jan 26, 2010
These graphics, part of Renee Seward's project, help children associate the smallest units of sound with letter forms. Credit: Renee Seward

Reading and retaining information. That's the challenge faced by the one in five children who have some form of dyslexia.

Overcoming that challenge could soon become easier for educators and children thanks to pioneering design research from the University of Cincinnati's internationally ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).

Renee Seward, UC assistant professor of digital design, will present her innovative electronic project, titled "Reading by Design: Visualizing Phonemic Sound for Dyslexic Readers 9-11 Years Old," at the Southwest International Reading Association Regional Conference in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Feb. 5, 2010.

She will likewise present her research project during the March 2010 International Technology, Education and Development Conference in Valencia, Spain. (In Spain, Seward is scheduled to be a virtual presenter.)

In developing this toolkit to help educators more effectively assist children with , Seward has developed an online tool that creatively employs sight, sound and physical movement to increase the reading and retention abilities of children aged 9 to 11 who have dyslexia. (A separate portion of the project employs physical tools and employs touch to aid educators and children.)

The project was inspired by the struggles of a friend's to read.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The University of Cincinnati is employing its design research capabilities to create a 21st century electronic toolkit to speed learning for children with dyslexia. In this video, UC digital designer Renee Seward demonstrates and describes some of the activities in her electronic toolkit to help children with dyslexia. Credit: Renee Seward, U. of Cincinnati

HOW "READING BY DESIGN" WORKS

"In my work," said Seward, "I want to deemphasize the 26 letters of the alphabet and emphasize the 44 common sounds of the English language. I do so by helping educators employ children's senses, from the visual to the kinesthetic."

The key, she added, is knowing that dyslexia is not rooted in problems with . It's rooted in memory. Individuals with dyslexia have difficulty recalling and making a quick connection between a sound and the letter representing that sound.

"The child is able to read the letter 'b.' He or she is unable to quickly recall that we associate that symbol with the sound, 'buh.' That's dyslexia in a nutshell."

So, in the toolkit she is developing, Seward begins with the smallest units of sound and helps children associate them with letter forms. With the touch of a mouse, a teacher working with a child can scroll over the letter "p," and the "p" will then morph to display common items associated with the "puh" sound: (peach, peppermint, pie, pea and piano).

These graphics, part of Renee Seward's project, help children associate the smallest units of sound with letter forms. Credit: Renee Seward

The "Reading by Design" toolkit has a number of other activities:

  • Sound elements and creative visuals working in concert to reinforce reading retention and recall (SEE VIDEO).
  • Common sounds - like the "ooohing" of a crowd following a great basketball play (along with the visual of a basketball player making that play) - depict and reinforce the connections between visual vowel combinations like "oo" and "ew" and their appropriate phonemic sound.
  • Horizontal lengthening of words with long vowels to denote that vowel and the silent "e" (in words like "note"). The child can experience the lengthening word with a sweep of the mouse to the right, thus integrating movement into memory. (SEE VIDEO).
  • Also, when moving the mouse over long vowels, the cursor will not move up or down, only in a horizontal lengthening of the vowel to the right - in order to visualize the phonemic value of that vowel. Again, the rightward sweep of the mouse also incorporates the child's arm movement into memory formation and retention.
  • Silent letters appropriately take on a shadow form or repel the mouse.
  • A cursor that moves just like a finger following the text (common to how most children read during their early years).
TESTING THE TOOLKIT

Seward likens her project to a parent holding a child's bike as the child learns to ride. Little by little, the parent is able to forego providing complete support and moves to an occasional steadying hand until, ultimately, the child is riding under his or her own power.

She explained, "This electronic toolkit is a scaffold that can be built upon and then taken away."

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

Related Stories

Unraveling the roots of dyslexia

Mar 12, 2009

By peering into the brains of people with dyslexia compared to normal readers, a study published online on March 12th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, has shed new light on the roots of the learning disability, which ...

Pre-school age exercises can prevent dyslexia

Aug 27, 2008

A typical characteristics of children's linguistic development are early signs of the risk of developing reading and writing disabilities, or dyslexia. New research points to preventive exercises as an effective means to ...

Dyslexia varies across language barriers

Oct 12, 2009

Chinese-speaking children with dyslexia have a disorder that is distinctly different, and perhaps more complicated and severe, than that of English speakers. Those differences can be seen in the brain and in the performance ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.