All Articles Education Educational Leadership How AI can revolutionize dyslexia education, more

How AI can revolutionize dyslexia education, more

Good AI -- which already is helping students with dyslexia -- benefits students, teachers, administrators and taxpayers.

6 min read

EducationEducational LeadershipInsights

Wood letters spelling the word “dyslexia” on a white background for article on AI and dyslexia

(Adrienne Bresnahan/Getty Images)

SmartBrief Education Insights blurb

It’s still not clear how pivotal 2024 will be for education. On the one hand, it faces post-pandemic learning loss and the end of emergency funding. On the other hand, AI promises a new kind of relief that may be more widespread and permanent. This is especially true of the perennial problem of reading difficulty, or dyslexia. AI can offer individually customized evaluations for dyslexia that feed directly into individually customized interventions for all each student all at once. To learn more about the beneficial effects of this technology, let’s first look at dyslexia itself.

The economic and other problems of dyslexia

Dyslexia is not just an educational problem but an economic one. Affecting 1 in 5 people, dyslexia is the largest category in special education. Other special education categories, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism, often come with reading and learning difficulties as well. Collectively, schools across the US spend over $120 billion a year on special ed.

A big part of the problem with dyslexia is that even authorities in the field cannot agree on what it is. Indeed, a comprehensive meta-analytic review highlights the inconclusive nature of dyslexia studies, including the efficacy of commonly used interventions. Similarly in the last decade, rigorously designed dyslexia studies show no significant positive effect of intervention on broad reading achievement for at-risk readers after third grade. The one exception was an intervention that was not scalable due to the intensity of training needed for both teachers and students. 

Due to economic and staffing limitations, interventions currently only serve about half of students with a reading difficulty. Can schools do more for this group? The answer is no if they keep to the current system, but it’s yes if they revamp it.

Special ed. The current system has many friction points. Let me illustrate by putting a student through the system: Alex, a third-grader who has dyslexia. Dyslexia is often called an invisible disability because its symptoms are not often obvious. Alex’s school screens all students for dyslexia, as required in 40 states. Immediately, we run into several friction points. The school has to get teachers trained to administer the screener, pay for this training, and find time in Alex’s schedule to screen him. Alex’s teacher then has to interpret the results and differentiate instruction accordingly. Multiply these efforts 5,000 times for a city school district like Columbus, Ohio.

How AI makes working with dyslexia easier

Next, let us take Chris, a fifth-grader who has dyslexia, ADHD and autism. These conditions often co-exist. Chris’s school intends to use a more elaborate evaluation to classify her disabilities in order to provide appropriate services. Now we see even more friction points. The school has to decide on which test batteries to administer among an alphabet soup of literacy, language and cognitive assessments, and by whom. Since most schools have only a few certified personnel who can administer such assessments, schools have to decide on which students to evaluate and which ones to put on a waiting list. Again, Chris’s team has to interpret the evaluation results one student at a time. But the task is considerably harder because of 20 pages of results to translate into actionable plans. Now multiply these efforts for however many students involved.  A special ed teacher whom I met recently said that she quit her job because of this Herculean task.

AI effects. AI can, and has, erased these friction points. One AI program for evaluating and correcting dyslexia, Dysolve AI, does so by making decisions autonomously without human intervention and customizes automatically for each student on demand. 

The power of AI in this case comes from the technology’s ability to overcome three traditional obstacles:

  • Complexity of the human brain. Dyslexia and other language-based disorders involve processing deficits in the linguistic system that are impossible for humans to locate specifically.
  • Speed of language processing. Human evaluators cannot measure brain processes that occur in hundreds of milliseconds in parallel.
  • Capacity to serve one and all students. Teachers cannot track all errors made by a student throughout their program to locate their sources and correct them. But a computer system can not just for one but for all students.

Simplicity. An AI system that can overcome all three obstacles has to be massively complex in its architecture and operation. But the student only needs to log in to a web-based program and play the AI-generated evaluative-corrective games. Meanwhile, their teacher can attend to other students or monitor all users from the teacher dashboard. The AI then alerts the teacher as to what deficits have been corrected for which student. That student is now receptive to the teacher’s instruction, such as spelling rules. 

AI benefits. The cost of using AI for dyslexia intervention can be less than 10% of current spending on special services per pupil. The AI benefit goes beyond cost savings: For the first time, we can read individual brains to understand neurodivergences at a level of specificity that enables correction. AI does so by using a game interface to map the functional, not the physical, brain. Through its generated games, the AI controls and corrects a user’s linguistic-cognitive outputs (game responses).

Early AI and dyslexia success — what’s next?

AI has already delivered a huge benefit for dyslexia. The AI-generated data shows that key language processes operating below 90% to 100% efficiency hinder reading acquisition, according to Dysolve research. Different dyslexic brains have different processes operating below this level of efficiency. But a game-based program has succeeded in bringing individuals to full efficiency. At that point, students can acquire spelling, reading and written vocabulary effectively.

Before AI was connected with dyslexia assessments and interventions, specialists thought that dyslexia could not be corrected. Now, AI users who were once struggling readers are outscoring many of their peers. The same method is now being used to understand other neurodivergences. We expect even more pleasant surprises ahead. 

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 


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