To speed up learning in children with dyslexia, a digital designer at University of Cincinnati (UC) has created a 21st century electronic toolkit.
Renee Seward from College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), developed the toolkit to help educators more effectively assist children with dyslexia.
The online tool creatively employs sight, sound and physical movement to increase the reading and retention abilities of children aged 9 to 11 who have dyslexia.
The project was inspired by the struggles of a friend's child to read.
"In my work. I want to deemphasize the 26 letters of the alphabet and emphasize the 44 common sounds of the English language. I do so by helping educators employ children's senses, from the visual to the kinesthetic," said Seward.
She said that the key is knowing that dyslexia is not rooted in problems with visual perception. It's rooted in memory.
Individuals with dyslexia have difficulty recalling and making a quick connection between a sound and the letter representing that sound.
"The child is able to read the letter 'b.' He or she is unable to quickly recall that we associate that symbol with the sound, 'buh.' That's dyslexia in a nutshell," said Seward.
The graphics in the project help children associate the smallest units of sound with letter forms.
In the toolkit she is developing, Seward begins with the smallest units of sound and helps children associate them with letter forms.
With the touch of a mouse, a teacher working with a child can scroll over the letter "p," and the "p" will then morph to display common items associated with the "puh" sound: (peach, peppermint, pie, pea and piano).
Seward likens her project to a parent holding a child's bike as the child learns to ride. Little by little, the parent is able to forego providing complete support and moves to an occasional steadying hand until, ultimately, the child is riding under his or her own power.
"This electronic toolkit is a scaffold that can be built upon and then taken away," she explained.
She will present her innovative electronic project, titled 'Reading by Design: Visualizing Phonemic Sound for Dyslexic Readers 9-11 Years Old,' at the Southwest International Reading Association Regional Conference in Oklahoma City, Okla.