Hugo with a child at the Library

Dyslexia: The hidden problem

There are hidden problems behind diagnosing Dyslexia that many people are not aware of. There is something wrong with Dyslexia. There is a severe imbalance between supply and demand. This means that there are many more individuals seeking diagnosis of Dyslexia than there are professionals providing assessments.

Supply and demand is the most basic law in business and in any industry, it’s how people make millions and entrepreneur’s flourish. Today we need more professionals than ever on the ground to help diagnose people as early as possible, so they can get the help they need early. But first, let’s back up a bit and look at what we have learned about Dyslexia since it was first acknowledged.

The History

Dyslexia was initially identified by Oswald Berkhan in 1881, when he observed 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 traditionally characterised by trouble with reading despite an individual’s normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees.

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

In the past, society often made an assessment based on incomplete information. Before the 1980s, Dyslexia was thought to be a consequence of education, rather than one of a basic disability. As a result, society often misjudged those with the disorder. Even today, there is sometimes a workplace stigma and negative attitude towards those with Dyslexia. If a young dyslexic’s educational 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 Current Situation

Part 1: The Assessment

There are paper tests that can indicate with high probability whether a person has Dyslexia or not. The average time of those one-on-one assessments with specialists are 110 minutes+

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

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

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

Part 2: The solution

Once you are assessed as having 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 which helps to improve their 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, there are 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, especially when it comes to accessing an effective and low cost initial assessment process.

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

I see that there are two obstacles to overcome in order to help millions of individuals across the whole world, these are accessibility and price.

Let’s go through these two obstacles together.

Accessibility:

As I write this article, there are about 2.5 billion people with a smartphone. For us here at Dystech, the obvious way to help people with Dyslexia is to create a tool accessible via a smartphone or tablet. That’s an effective way to reach people, right?

Ok, so 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, it turns out, here at Dystech we have experience in artificial intelligence, or more precisely Machine Learning (ML). The great thing about ML is its ability to automatically extract patterns from data.

ML can traditionally recognise faces, so how are we going to assess Dyslexia using the same technology?

Easy, instead, we need to collect millions of audio recordings from individuals with and without Dyslexia and then ML will train a specific algorithm to recognise the patterns between the two types of audio.

Ok, so let’s assume this works and we are successful. Let’s go to the second obstacle.

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 assessment app for Dyslexia? I think so.

If we follow our previous plan of creating an app which can be used as an assessment, this completely changes how assessments will be made in the future. With this app, professional educators, specialists and parents could do an assessment anywhere and at any time with an individual 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 with the aim to rebalance Dyslexia’s supply and demand issue, by combining the latest in technology with ML. We are now looking for volunteers to help us to collect data for our algorithm using our mobile app. All the data collected is anonymous.

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