Hugo with a child at the Library

Dyslexia: The hidden problem

There is something wrong with dyslexia, no one is really aware of it nor talks about it: supply versus demand is highly unbalanced in which that there is much more individual with dyslexia then there is individual providing an assessment.

Supply and Demand

Supply and demand is the most basic law in business and in any industry, it’s how people make millions and entrepreneur flourish, but let’s back up for a bit and let us take a broader view of dyslexia.

Dyslexia was identified by Oswald Berkhan in 1881, the term was referring to the case of a young boy who had a severe impairment in learning to read and write, despite showing typical intelligence and physical abilities in all other respects.

Dyslexia is characterised by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees.

Dyslexia is believed to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

Society often makes an assessment based on incomplete information. Before the 1980s, dyslexia was thought to be a consequence of education, rather than a basic disability. As a result, society often misjudges those with the disorder. There is also sometimes a workplace stigma and negative attitude towards those with dyslexia. If a dyslexic’s instructors lack the necessary training to support a child with the condition, there is often a negative effect on the student’s learning participation.

The Situation

Part 1: The Assessment

There are tests that can indicate with high probability whether a person has dyslexia or not. The average time of those assessments are 110 minutes +*.

* Based on a comparison from Dystech of the top 10 clinics and assessment provider in Australia

For children, symptoms need to be apparent for at least 6 months in order for the child to access a full assessment.

The average cost in Australia is over AUD$1,000** and this amount is not refundable by the government.

**Based on a survey from Dystech of 60+ individuals who paid an assessment for dyslexia

Assessment is also reliant on professional being accredited to provide dyslexia assessment. After an official assessment, the individual is then being given a legal document which proves his/her dyslexia.

Child reading

Part 2: The solution

Once you are assessed with dyslexia, you then need to obtain help in order to learn how to read and most of the time how to write.

There are many programs available to support individuals with dyslexia and also help improve reading and writing skills.

The problem

There is an estimated 20% of the general population worldwide with some degree of dyslexia.

As I am writing this article it is 1,506,000,000 (1.5 billion) people on earth with some degree of dyslexia, this is more than the population of China with 1,386,000,000 (1.36 billion) inhabitants, but also twice the population of Europe.

As a co-founder at Dystech, I am really thinking about those problems and trying to figure out how to improve the lives of individuals with dyslexia.

Theory on how to build an accessible and affordable assessment for dyslexia

There are two parameters to fix in order to help million’s of individuals, accessibility and price

Let’s go through those two parameters 1 by 1

Accessibility:

In regards to accessibility, the obvious way to do create a tool accessible is via smartphone and tablet, as I write this article there are about 2.5 billion people with a smartphone. That’s an effective way to reach people, right?

Ok, let’s go with the smartphone idea. This means we have to build an app which people can use to assess dyslexia but hang on a minute… I am not a neuroscientist nor a psychologist with expertise in speech pathology, so the question is: how on earth can we build an app without any of those credentials?

Well, turns out, at Dystech we have experience in artificial intelligence more precisely Machine Learning (ML) and the great thing about ML is the ability to automatically extract patterns from data.

But ML can recognise faces, how are we going to assess dyslexia using the same technology?

Easy, we need to collect millions of audio recording from individuals with and without dyslexia and will train a specific algorithm to recognise the patterns between the two types of audio.

Ok, let’s assume this work. Let’s go to the parameter two

Price:

Ok, well, we are a for-profit company but we need money, every business needs money. So the question is, can this be a win-win deal? Can we help millions of people by being the cheapest and the most accessible? I think so.

If we follow our previous plan of having an app which can be used as an assessment, this completely changes how assessment is being made. With the app, people could do an assessment anywhere anytime for less than the price of a gold class cinema ticket! Far cheaper than the average price of AUD$1,000+.

Dystech

Dystech was founded to rebalance the supply and demand issue, by combining the latest in technology with ML. We are now looking for volunteers to help us collecting data using our mobile app, all the data collected are anonymous.

We, a team of passionate academics and entrepreneurs united by this shared goal, envision a future where dyslexia assessment is available to all children around the world, and we hope you’ll join us on this mission.