Finland is one of seven countries participating in the international pilot of a new video game environment designed to diagnose and treat children affected by learning disabilities.The Torkinmäki comprehensive school in the western coastal city of Kokkola will supply the pilot with data, which will feature results from over 3,000 children the world over when it is done.
The Dysgraphia Platform is the branchild of Canadian firm, Oppimi. People with dysgraphia have problem writing by hand, as well as coherence. The programme involves asking pupils to complete a series of video games on tabets with electronic pens. The games then use algorithms to evaluate indicators such as pen position and pressure on the screen to identify weaknesses in the individual pupils’ handwriting skills. The system can also produce a detailed report for future therapy, if necessary.
The innovative pilot hopes to make it easier to identify children affected by dysgraphia at an early age.
Luca Lo Lacono, Oppimi’s R&D director, stated: “This marks the first time that writing disorders have been so widely studied. Analysis is based on many different factors, like pen pressure, the angle of the pen while writing, and writing speed. Together they can provide an overall picture of the pupil’s fine motor skills.”
Ten Torkinmäki school children who have no apparent challenges when it comes to writing and reading will participate in the pilot at first.
Hanna Pernu, the school’s rector, explained: “The new application is a playful environment, where pupils can carry out easy writing and drawing tasks. There’s no intention to do anything difficult; more like connecting dots and writing different kinds of text. These are then utilised to discover any reading and writing difficulties.”
Traditionally, dysgraphia has been diagnosed in Finland by observing pupils putting pen to paper, often with the help of a special needs teacher. Pernu says that this will remain the case.
“We will still follow the protocol that a special needs teacher will do testing with pens and paper, as needed. We hope that artificial intelligence will bring a new dimension to the testing and analysis of writing disorders,” she stated.
It is estimated that more than 10% of school children around the world have trouble learning to read and write. Among adults, this share falls to 6%.