x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ta’lem Centre to adapt Finnish game to help dyslexic children

A child using the game is able to learn how to read in an interactive way by learning the basic letters of the alphabet and their sounds.

ABU DHABI // Methods in how to treat and prevent dyslexia in Emirati children will become easier through an interactive game being introduced from Finland that teaches basic letters and sounds.

Known as the GraphoGame, it allows specialists, psychologists and teachers to assess the challenges children face and find solutions.

Users of the game are taught how to read in an interactive way by learning the basic letters of the alphabet and their sounds through a series of levels.

As the levels increase, the user moves towards longer words and learns the letters that correspond to the sounds.

The game is to be given to the Ta’leem Training and Skill Development Centre in collaboration with Prof Heikki Lyytinen from Finland’s Niilo Maki Foundation.

GraphoGame was created by a multidisciplinary team of scientists working in the fields of computing, neuroscience and psychology at such top universities as John Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Stanford. It is available in several languages.

Shereen Al Nowais, the Ta’leem founder, said the game was already being used in Finland and had shown good results. “The fact that the Ta’leem Centre is cooperating and collaborating directly with the creators of the game, and is involved in the creation of a version in Arabic, proves a commitment to finding practical and adaptive ways of dealing with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia,” she said.

Prof Lyytinen said the game was available in Finnish and Mandarin, among other languages, but he also planned to develop it in Arabic .

Ms Al Nowais said she wanted to start using the game as soon as possible. She also planned on opening a branch of the Agora Centre for Human Technology, which assisted in creating the GraphoGame, in Abu Dhabi.

Prof Lyytinen is director of the Finland-based centre.

“The programme will be exclusively used by the Ta’leem Centre to help teach students with learning disabilities, but will also help in preventing learning disabilities developing,” Ms Al Nowais said. “We are looking to send local students to study at the university in Finland, and also to absorb the know-how that they have there with 150 years’ experience.”

Prof Lyytinen, who has a background in neuroscience, first researched learning difficulties about 30 years ago.

Along with his team, he studied genetic issues that led to learning difficulties.

“We followed how the child’s brain responds to spoken items,” he said.

“The key problem is compromised speech perception – the brain is not able to accurately [pick up] the differences between the sounds.”

He said this analysis could be observed from an early age in children and was possibly related to the genes, but a child’s environment was also an issue.

“We can help children who have these types of problems, but it requires very intensive training.”

Last Sunday, the Ta’leem Centre signed an agreement with the Niilo Maki Foundation, the Agora Centre for Human Technology and the University of Jivaskyla, which houses the research centre, to provide the GraphoGame.

The centre currently has 52 patients who are receiving treatment in Arabic and English.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae