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Play Dyslexia Away – How Gamification Is Helping People Learn To Read

April 26, 2017

In my position as administrator at the Reading & Writing Inst., I have always been astounded by the dyslexic children and adults who can play complex video games, remember all types of details and information about them, and yet be unable to read fluently.

Ultimately, this curious state of affairs has led over time to the “Gamification” of educational therapy to provide that therapy to the 50 million dyslexics in the United States who are functionally illiterate.

“Gamification” is the process of transforming something into an entertaining and engaging format without losing the benefit of what the process was to begin with. Outside of education, gamification is widely regarded, as a viable tool to help people acquire and learn information that otherwise would be boring and or difficult. Gamification also has the benefit of being multi-sensory or isosensory as the case may warrant. Gamification has been used for centuries; think about “singing” the alphabet, which is a very basic form of “Gamification”.

With the advent of computers and video games, gamification has exploded and is now being used in most occupations including government and industry. Gamification has not yet become widespread in formal education but is well known to children and parents alike in the form of educational video games.

Some people are reluctant to embrace video games as a tool to help themselves or others learn. The reasons for this bias is usually grounded in preconceived notions and sweeping generalizations about video games. In reality, educational video games are an excellent tool to help dyslexics grasp skills that they cannot acquire in a school system.

Digital educational therapy also has the added advantage of being non-judgmental. Most people who would be embarrassed at being told that they did not do something correctly. These same people readily respond to a computer when it gives a little beep, deducts some point and asks them to try again.

Another reason digital educational therapy is making inroads is that in a very real way it connects people with the educational process. The days when someone has to leave their house to build cognitive and phonological skills are over. With the advent of digital educational therapy, reading therapy is available 24/7 wherever there are internet services.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of digital educational therapy is that it can be completed quickly. This translates into a lower overall cost for therapy and brings the individual into a position to be productive in school or in their career fast.

The lower cost associated with digital educational therapy also translates into making therapy and the resulting reading available to a wider number of people with varying economic circumstances. Gone are the days when office overhead and the per hour cost of therapists are a factor in helping dyslexics.

Gamification can be used to deliver comprehensive digital educational therapy to addresses all of the cognitive and phonological weaknesses associated with dyslexia while at the same time building the skills required for reading and the application of those skills to teach fluent reading. This is very different from a video game that teaches mathematics or the a, b, c’s. The gamification of educational therapy actually promotes the development of specific parts of the dyslexic’s brain so that they can become fluent readers.

This development takes place through the process of building neuro-pathways in the brain that do not exist in dyslexics from birth. This lack of neuro-pathways impedes the dyslexics processing of information and affects their reading. Once the dyslexic has developed all the necessary phonological and cognitive skills needed for reading and is shown how to use those skills they become fluent readers for life.

It is important to remember that even though the technology used in digital educational therapy may look a little “retro” or “old school” the reason for this is that educational therapy games are designed for very specialized purposeses and cannot sacrifice effectiveness for the sake of entertainment. This is the reason that educational therapy games do not look like some of the games you see on your X Box, however they still are engaging and entertaining.

Even though it may seem that the title of this article “Play Dyslexia Away” may sound too good to be true, the truth of the matter is that video game technology and the use of it in the “Gamification” of therapy to help dyslexics is very real and effective and here to stay.

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