By: Phil Butler*
According to Dyslexia International, the number of children and adults worldwide who are at risk of lifelong illiteracy because of dyslexia may top 700 million. Some experts say the real number is even higher, and that the amount of lost human potential due to late or undiagnosed dyslexia cannot even be quantified.
A Heraklion, Crete ophthalmologist named Ioannis Aslanides, along with a multidisciplinary team of doctors, engineers, and researchers, believe they have created a “game-changing” diagnostic tool for dyslexia. “Rapid Assessment for Dyslexia and Abnormalities in Reading”, or RADAR, is a tool that uses a simple reading test coupled with highly advanced computer algorithms.
Aslanides, who’s also a professor of Ophthalmology at Cornell University in the United States, began work on RADAR 10 years ago because his son Manolis suffered from the ailment.
Now, after over 7,000 experiments and an ongoing Harvard Medical School evaluation, the dedication of a father to his son may have led to one of the most stunning discoveries in decades. An early version of RADAR helped Dr. Aslanides diagnose his son Minas, who is now 22 and in his third year of medical school.
Early Detection Vital
According to most experts the window for early diagnosis of dyslexia is between the ages of 7 and 10. After this age, children with the condition will have already suffered the frustration and exclusion the disorder causes. Most importantly, they will be years behind in their studies because of the affliction.
According to the RADAR team, screening children with the new system can enable them to get the help they need very early on in the education process. Evaluation and diagnosis can now take place in just a few minutes, rather than hours.
Just as importantly, until now, there has been no objective and quantifiable way to diagnose dyslexia. Aslanides says that in the past, parents had to rely on the subjective opinion of educators and clinicians. In contrast, the RADAR method is mathematically quantifiable.
The RADAR test involves subjects reading sample texts and monitoring their eye movements to differentiate normal reading patterns from atypical ones. The subjects’ eye movements are recorded and analyzed with algorithms developed by the RADAR scientists.
The whole procedure takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Dr. Aslanides says the results in the Greek and English languages have proven so far to be 99+% conclusive in diagnosing dyslexia and other reading disorders. In addition, RADAR can even suggest prescribed individual treatment plans.
A stunning report revealed recently that dyslexia affects 11% or more of primary school students in China, and the education system there does not even recognize it as a learning disorder.
Educator and policymaker Kalman “Buzzy” Hettleman, in his recent report “The Invisible Dyslexics,” showed that dyslexia sufferers in the U.S. were sometimes “dumped” into general special-education programs for lack of a better solution. A U.S. report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 said only seven percent of eighth-graders in special-education classes were proficient in reading. These numbers are mirrored in Europe and throughout the countries of the G20.
Real Hope for the Future
One of the core team members, renowned Harvard neurologist Dr. Stelios Smirnakis, states, “Identifying reading abnormalities early is essential for delivering a timely and ultimately successful intervention. It is an important advance that holds great promise.”
The tool Ioannis Aslanides first developed to help his son may someday reach a billion people. A man on Crete, using his own resources and initiative, has truly “reinvented the wheel” where dyslexia is concerned. The groundbreaking RADAR test may enable 90 percent of children with dyslexia to be educated in regular classroom environments.
More feasibility and clinical studies are needed to certify the new technology. Trials at Harvard university and experiments in Australia will be held in the near future. But perhaps for the first time, there is hope that soon teachers and clinicians will be able to test for dyslexia in an objective, accurate, and affordable way.
*Phil Butler is Editor in Chief of Argophilia Travel News