Stephen and Mattias join us after their presentation to discuss more about Lexplore Analytics and its huge potential impact on identifying dyslexia. We talked about how the company started, what were their challenges and the future of Lexplore Analytics.
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Show notes: https://mindmapstudio.com/48/
Darius (00:02): Stephen Mathias it’s great to have you here from Lexplore Analytics. I am so looking forward to hearing the next stage. We’ve just heard you talking about the research in the previous podcast episode and we’re here to hear from Steven about what’s next and how this is going to help dyslexics in particular. I know that your scope is much wider than dyslexia of course, and you’re going to talk a bit about that. And obviously here with dyslexia explored, we’re going to talk about the specific dyslexia side of things, but really want to hear your story, the backstory, and the future story as well. So thanks. The first question we always ask is where did the story begin for you guys, you know, before the whole dyslexia, you know, what was life like before you, dyslexia came on your radar
Steven (00:56): I suppose speaking for me personally in my life, dyslexia was one of those words you would just associate with reading difficulties. You hear about it. People say, I’m dyslexic. You hear it in work, you hear it at school, whatever. I suppose then once we get to Lexplore analytics, we then start to hear a little bit more about the impact that can have them on children in school, in life, but not just negatively, which is the connotation I was used to growing up, but actually there’s lots of positives around that as well. So that’s something that we’ve learned I think is really important.
Darius (01:31): So what I’m fascinating by is what switches people on to understanding dyslexia more deeply. Was it a person? Was it, what kind of encounter was it or what happened?
Steven (01:44): So beyond the research that we’d heard about this morning when we first launched in the UK, we had to go through a verification project with the, with Lexplore analytics in a, in a primary school setting. Interestingly, we found a child’s a struggling reader. The teacher had no idea was, was there in their school, they were using coping strategies and there would have been various anxieties around that. And we discovered someone who was having problems with reading. Now initially we thought. Maybe there’s a problem with the machine. Maybe there’s something, something wrong here so we can have a look at that. But actually it turned out a parent came into school to say that actually dyslexia runs in our family and they actually may be a deeper problem here. Since that point that that girl has been on to diagnosis and she’s frustrating progress in her reading. So for me that was a real impact of how long, what if we didn’t do that test, how long does this go on? What impact would that have had on her life? So her life has kind of in a different direction. I’m very positive direction because she gets the support she needs and I think that’s important.
Darius (02:44): Wow, that’s great story. So what age range was she at?
Steven (02:48): So I’m pretty sure she was year four, year five perhaps. So we’re going back a year or so now. But yeah, so that’s quite a journey anyway. Even in a primary that we were not aware of a problem with someone who’s hiding and using strategies and has anxieties around that perhaps that can go on sort of complications.
Darius (03:07): You said hiding there. Did they know they were hiding? Yes. They would have known their hiding.
Steven (03:12): They would have had a fear around reading. They would have been going into class, maybe a fear of reading out loud or maybe it could be copying others when it comes to a piece of work. I think this particular child was using old children’s text from the library and maybe taking those homes to show them, maybe she’s a stronger reader than she is. Little things like that that are quite clever that I think illustrate that this person was quite anxious about that. So they were trying to hide it. I think it, we’re quite proud we were able to find someone who had a problem and then they went on to find out what that problem was.
Darius (03:48): So give us a little bit of an overview of the timeline of Lexplore. So we had in the last podcast you talked about your, your research. So could you tie it all up for us a timeline please?
Steven (04:02): Well, yeah. Mentioned something about the beginning of the Explorer, which was in 2013. Research wise we started working on material and all of the material children’s eye movements during reading and from that project we were able to get quite promising results and we could see that we could differentiate quite well children with a dyslexia diagnosis and children who have not based on their time moving student reading. And for me personally as a researcher, this was the sort of point where we understood that this might be something that we could take out of the lab and actually bring out to the community and nationally maybe. And for a researcher that is is it’s really something that you always strive for. Cause so often you’ve work months and years in your lab and you always strive to get some results that you could actually apply and that could help people in practice.
Darius (05:06): Wonderful. Stephen, you talked about your aha moment in the classroom and could you tell us a little bit more about that aha moment for you? Yeah, it was a person was a moment.
Steven (05:18): For me as a researcher. It was not really a person. I mean, I’ve always been interested in language, how people processed language and how it works in the brain basically. But I’ve also been interested in how computers or computer programs actually can help us understand what is going on in the brain by using computer simulations and that kind of stuff. So for me, I guess the aha moment was actually when we saw that we could get quite high scores of accuracy in predicting children with a future that we knew would have problems later on. For me, that was the moment when I understood this can actually be useful in practice and potentially help manage children out there.
Darius (06:02): So for those who might not have listened to your talk previously, they might go back and listen to after hearing this you had. For the listeners, what you’ve basically done is when a child’s reading you can I track how long they spend on a particular word, where they’re bouncing around on the page and from that extrapolate how well they’re reading or what propensity they might have towards finding reading difficult. And you got some statistical results from that. And you had one case study and then a second big one.
Steven (06:41): So the first pilots that we did, we had an accuracy of around 95% in differentiating between children with dyslexia, children with good reading ability. But that initial project was based on a rather small sample. Well at the time it was a rather big sample, it was 200 kids. But with today’s measurements, it’s not such a big sample. So we wanted to see if we could scale this up to assaults. And so we did a project including 3000 kids and we could show an accuracy of around eight to five eight to 6%, which is still very high. Importantly, we also had a good balance between what we in science called sensitivity and specificity. So we were equally equally good and actually detecting those group with problems as we were in excluding those who did not have problems. Brilliant.
Darius (07:33): And if you want to hear more about that, the last podcast episode is where to go. So we’ve got that timeline for your aha moment. And then what happened? So that was 2013 and we’re at 2019 now. Five years. What’s happened in the five years?
Steven (07:51): Yes. So that point in 2013 and around there, this was still purely research based and that at the university where where I work, we have a good department for innovation that is actually their goal is to help researchers in bringing the research out of the lab and we, so we contacted them and they were really excited about our pilot study results and then the followup research. So via then we got in contact with our then current CEO. And that was when we formed the Lexplore in 2016 who were the people who founded this? So it was me and, and Gustav and [inaudible] our former CEO. Great. In 2016.
Darius (08:43): 16 okay. So it’s only three years since you founded it and now you’re at the point where you’ve got devices that can go into schools. So you’ve got,
Steven (08:54): Yeah, you’ve got devices in good schools today. So essentially what happens is the school can make inquiries about Lexplore we deliver demos, they take the solution on, we train them to use lexical analytics in the school setting as well. It’s really simple to use. It’s just a case of clicking next with a series of screens. While children are having the test, they sit in front of a monitor, two passages of text, they read one in their mind and one out loud, and then we deliver some immediate results. So the whole process is paperless. We know the teachers don’t like paperwork objective and very fast as well.
Darius (09:28): How long, how long does the test? Five minutes, really, two to five minutes. And, and a number of the listeners will be thinking two to five minutes. What can you really achieve in two to five minutes? And that’s really the Marvel of what you’ve done is that behind these two to five minutes, there’s a lot of other work. So what’s happened in two to five minutes? How can you do something meaningful in two to five minutes of reading a passage out loud or inside your head?
Steven (10:02): Well one firsthand to remember that eye tracking is a very powerful technology and you can get very detailed, even if the time span is very short two to five minutes, you can get very detailed, a detailed view of what is happening in the brain when you are processing the texts you’re reading in those two to five minutes. So you get information about what kind of words you get stuck on. How you progress through the text. If you make many regressions, you need to go back into text to put things together to be able to interpret what is actually says. So there is a lot of information there. And also remember that research has opt in now focused around dyslexia. The tests have been focused quite much on oral reading, reading aloud, but eye tracking allows you to actually see what’s happening or a reflection of what’s happening in the brain while you are reading silently. Which is very important and, and driving factor for research on reading difficulties. We want to know not only when you reading aloud what is going on, but also when you’re reading silently to understand the processes. And the mechanisms.
Darius (11:14): So I think you make a distinction that your intention is to become a screening tool rather than a diagnostic tool. And there’s an important distinction there, isn’t there?
Steven (11:25): Yes. It’s a really important distinction for us because we provide a screening assessment, which essentially it tells you where, how your reading ability has developed compared to your peers. And we can say whether you are lagging behind or whether you are going on fairly well in your reading development where you are sort of on the scale and you can get a view of how you reading looks like via the eye movement visualization. So you can also see what kind of words you get stuck on and you are still screening. It’s not a diagnostic assessment. So because of course we will discover reading difficulties, but in some cases these difficulties might not be dyslexia. They can also be other types of difficulties. And we know for instance, that there is a high comorbidity between dyslexia and attention based problems like ADHD, so many things in the eye movement record that could produce the results.
Darius (12:29): That’s fascinating. And I did a little video of your presentation as well as the audio and that slide where you show two different readers and the, there’s small dots over the boards compared to big dots over the covering like four or five different words. You can visually see the difference in people’s attention and movement. I’ll attach that in the show notes below so people can actually see the visuals of this. But for could you give us a verbal description of what people see when they can, what is, what fascinates me? What does the eye tracking pattern of a dyslexic thinker look like compared to a typical thinker?
Steven (13:13): Yeah, that’s a very good question. There are typical sort of markers that we can see in the eye movements during reading that are typical of a struggling reader. So for instance, we will see that fixation time increases on words, which simply means that you need more time to process the words that are in front of you. We will also see actually short the movements between words. So a proficient reader makes fairly large movements from one word or to the next or progressors with fairly large movements. Whereas a struggling reader would make sure to movements and therefore also make more fixations on the words.
Darius (13:54): So it’s kind of like they’re, they’re moving from letter to letter, word to word or cluster of words to cluster of words. Speed readers can read two or three words all at one fixations as it were they say,
Steven (14:08): And in addition to that also how, how sort of view progress through the text in terms of that you might go back and how often you go back to previous material, previous words or sentences and what words or sentences do you go back to a sort of quite a number of sort of indicators in there. But then what makes this really powerful is that we have collected quite a large amount of eye tracking data and we need sort of statistical methods to actually make sense of all that data. Because at some point the eye movement records tend to overlap with each other or look sort of similar and you don’t really know of that. We cannot set manually and inspect the eye tracking record and say this is a person with problems and this isn’t. So therefore we use what is called machine learning or artificial indepth intelligence to build up statistical models from the data, from the eye tracking data we collect.
Darius (15:08): Fabulous. So we’ve got a big picture of what, what you can do, how you can do it in two to five minutes and you’re doing in schools. Yeah. So one of the big questions in people’s dyslexia story is what’s the biggest challenge? What’s been the biggest challenge so far? Are you in that challenge? Are you through that challenge? What’s the challenge at the moment?
Steven (15:29): I would say the existing challenges. Sometimes in the school setting where we were, we were most prominent currently is what, what do we do now? What do we do now that we found a problem? And so we’re on a little bit of a journey at the moment where actually there is no one size fits all model. I think it’d be dangerous to do that and to suggest that as, as an organization. So what we’re doing, where we’ve made friends with the, the British dyslexia association, our hosts is BDA for short. Again, that’s, that’s because our product can identify those difficulties and we can go on perhaps the diagnosis for dyslexia and other difficulties. And then so we can, we can lean on those resources with those experts in the field. So geographically in the UK there’s lots of opinions based around, well, what can we do next if the child has problems? What do teachers have access to? And again, it’s not one size fits all. So we’re on a journey at the moment where we understanding what those interventions are. How can we support children in the classroom or at home? And I’m pleased to say that we’re, we’re making really good progress with that as well with lots of resources. But we’re trying to be as broad as possible as well because there’s lots of things that can work for lots of different children in the class of 30 children, you know, two or three children have, have a problem. There’s no point giving them the same thing. It’s, you know, it’s, it should be tailor made. So we’re, we’re quite keen not to hang our hat anywhere.
Darius (16:51): So tell us more about what’s going to be happening with the rollout of this, you know, in the UK and the U S and what, what are we going to see in the next years to come, do you think? Are our schools taking this up?
Steven (17:06): Yeah, so there are a number of schools in the UK. They’re taking this up. So I’d say that since we’ve been around now for around 18 months, I’d say the last 12 months I’ve been a real sales launch for that around 55 schools using this already. There is now being more interest from more of a private assessment industry as well simply because of how we are able to task pretty much anytime you like. I think in the next say two to three years that we’re going to see the, the AI machine learning elements progress even more. It could be more specific. For example, when children fixate on certain words and what’s common about those words, what’s logically common about those words? And can we list those words and and tell teachers what’s common? Then tailor make those interventions per children even even more so. That’ll be really powerful. Can we use AI to do that there to be questions. AI is a constant narrative here. It’s really important and the text has pointed that out as to the underlying and efficiency around around Lexplore where you can not just determine a difficult a difficulty just by looking at diamond analysis. We need algorithms that run in the background to determine that for us. And, and that’s where we are right now. That’s only going to get stronger.
Darius (18:16): So what are the schools doing? What are you encouraging schools to do? Let’s say you’re a head teacher listening to this or you’re, you’re in the learning support department. We’ve got, we’ve got listeners in America, Australia and UK. So if you could speak all of those, that would be the great,
Steven (18:32): I think the challenges that we experienced in the UK as to where, where we’re based is first of all, time is difficult for teachers. Teachers don’t have time. They have lots of paperwork. We removed those two barriers, so thou test, as we’ve already talked about is two to five minutes long, so there aren’t many tests that do that. They are good examples to illustrate that. As teachers may test reading ability at the moment based on the individual components, it may take them a lot of time. It’s paperwork and subjective as well. What our machine is able to do is allow a child to read spontaneously is the machine that can break those components down for you and that’s where the speed element comes into it. I think as well in terms of the paperwork, you know we’re reducing that because we have an online portal where we can deliver results, we can pull apart right across the school. We can share it up with parents. That’s really important. Over and above all of the analysis we can provide. We give lots of analysis. We did lots of data around reading, age percentile scores, standard scores going forward as well. Actually, sometimes you look at the eye movement analysis. We find children that do require some subjective assessment. Actually this child needs classes, they need an eye test. They’re having to lean into the test and on full. Now we had a, we had a child fairly recently who is in year eight, so it’s in the secondary school and his eyes, he was reading, but actually his eye movement analysis was away from the text ever so slightly. That may be his barrier to reading the, well, how else would you know unless you were using our test? Wow. So he’s been referred to an optometrist and that’s probably another barriers, is reading that he needs to be referred to specialists. So over and above what we’re delivering, we’re just giving a new view on reading that nobody’s ever had before so they can make their own determinations as to what’s going on.
Darius (20:22): So I’m just doing maths here, two to five minutes. What? You can screen a whole class and a couple of hours in the morning. The whole class is done. Yeah.
Steven (20:32): Generally we like to manage school’s expectations. So we usually say around 60 children and the in the school day, you know, we’ve got to get children to, to the test itself, and we have a system for that. The children needs to be comfortable. So the test itself, two to five minutes, so you know, not forward. So it needs to go down the corridor and get somebody else. But yes. Yeah, we can test a lot of children.
Darius (20:54): So 60 in a day. And if you think about what’s the average primary school size at the moment, 250, 150 kids. And so you could test the whole school within two or three days.
Steven (21:07): That’s right. The recent school in the South of England compared what they do now with without a test compared to what they tested before, the components that were testing, they sent using the paper based subjective assessment may take a whole term to do that. They did our test with just a few days, like you said. So
Darius (21:25): They’re looking at, well a whole term that’s 12 weeks and you’re doing it in three days. Yeah. That’s amazing. And so what do schools do? Do, do they just get this just so fascinating. Do schools get someone to come in for three days and they do the whole test or do they train up a teacher to do it or how does it all work?
Steven (21:47): That’s part of the package. You have the eye tracker, you can use monitors in school where children will read from the screen itself. The eye tracker attached. The eye tracker is pretty invisible. If we’re really honest. It’s a small strip of plastic essentially. Extremely powerful. And all we need to do is go in for a day and deliver training to two or three members of staff who will go on to to do the examination with the children.
Darius (22:11): Oh I see. So you don’t necessarily have a specialist going round the country for three days at a time doing the whole school. You train a few teachers, they get this little eye tracker on top. Correct. And then those teachers can just keep doing it every year or every six months and see how things are progressing.
Steven (22:30): One of the Consistent problems we hear from schools is that existing paper-based assessment can sometimes be hard. First of all, you’ve got to get past, well, how do I put this, this, this test in place on this paper based, so we’ve got lots of it. How do we monitor progress monitoring as well? We look at all that organic compare, wants to the next act difficult when inspections happen in school, but our test simply we will go out and we’ll train you how to use the software. It’s you know, series of screens. When you conduct the test it doesn’t take too long a tool and it should be quite proficient within the day.
Darius (23:01): Can we talk money? I bet you there’s parents and teachers and so on listening. Yeah. I’m wondering how much is this all going to cost and things like that?
Steven (23:09): Yeah. I trackers, as you know, are on Amazon or any website and you can see that that pretty relatively inexpensive. You can pick them up for 150 to 200 pounds, but we kind of wrap our services up in a package. The schools need that. They require that training. Schools are obviously vary in size and their needs. We price bond our solutions for per 50 peoples generally. Although we can get the per pupil prices, that’s really what they want. Okay. You mentioned 150 is 200 peoples before as a kind of average school, so maybe around 1500 pounds for that size school it’s to get you trained eye tracker, licensed per pupil in the portal and then in year two because this is would be an ongoing subscription because you have that progress monitoring year on year and half new children you need to test price around the hundred and 50 markers, 995 in year two we provide this council as well. If schools take on the solution for longer term contracts, which they generally do, they want to see the progress over time, so we’ll get this kind of split long term contracts as well.
Darius (24:10): Okay, fascinating. And what’s the future of explore analytics?
Steven (24:17): The future of [inaudible]? I think what, what we need to do now is answer a lot of those questions that teachers and parents as to what do we do now and stick to that narrative that there’s not one size fits all. To bring in those resources in the right areas and make sure that teachers have a lot of choice for our organization as to what what we do now. And then we can show that progress as well. Once those interventions are in place that we can show progress and schools can see that objectively we back up that objective judgment, that professional judgment that teachers have.
Darius (24:50): So it’s kind of like corroboration. Yeah, I’ve got a lot of degree as my background, you know, and any kind of evidence you’re looking for corroboration where one thing supports another bit of evidence, one person supports another bits of person’s evidence and without corroboration you have no evidence and you’re looking for two or three items of cooperation at least. And in a way, it sounds to me like this is another strand in a teacher or a school or a tutor’s bow to say this is where they were at and this is where they are now. I can say that’s clearly myself as a professional with these various different exercises and also with this AI machine objectively looking at it, it’s confirmed it. Is that what you’re talking about?
Steven (25:41): That’s exactly what it is. Yeah. It’s backing up teachers to get, it gives them more confidence to the teachers. Speak to the parents, parents evenings. Sometimes they need to feel confident in what they’re delivering to to a parent when they’re talking about their children. Maybe that’s not always the case sometimes, but we’ve found teachers telling us quite a few times now that being able to deliver this test and then show that objectively to the parent really, really helps. Sometimes there are things happening at home that maybe they’re reading kind of, well, maybe at school they’re not so, so that saying something about school so we can have these discussions with that park.
Darius (26:13): So you give these schools and parents and tutors this chance to kind of see visually on that little screen how their eyes are tracking as well and to see statistically what they’re reading ages and how things are progressed, et cetera, and whether they’re in the red zone or the green zone. I love that little image you showed up in the video, which are put in the link below as well. Just so you’ve that picture too. There’s a few questions that kind of crop up when I see that is first of all, I’d love to see my own tracking video as it were. We can do that. Yeah, it’d be great.
Steven (27:00): Oh probably. I mean the the challenge always and at the moment our solution is covering years to survive. So children six to 11 years old. That being said, I’m about to contradict myself because we will cover year six, seven, eight and nine. Well, what do I mean by that? Well, because the nature of machine learning, we need to train us statistical models, but we still yet to train them in the old year groups. If you like. The only thing that you will not receive in that in those audience groups when we do test those children is the overall percentile score or reading age or whatever. But you will still see reading speed, those fixation times that linked to decoding the eye movement now.
Darius (27:36): Okay. You’ll see all the pictures. Yeah, that’s still, yeah.
Steven (27:40): Interesting for schools, at those levels are still using it because that’s still useful. So that helps in turn about data collection to train those models to be extremely accurate. However, that does beg the question, well what is the ceiling of that test? So where, where do you, how compact can the test get beyond year nine? So we need to understand what the ceiling of the text is. So kinda what we think that possibly could be around the year nine texts that can be used by adults as well. And that opens up a whole number of possibilities for the solution.
Darius (28:10): Have you ever been through a dyslexia test yourself? I would highly recommend doing it, although you might not be dyslexic yourself, but to go through the process is fascinating. Okay. The three hours, it’s well worth the money as research for yourself because in that there’s a comprehension test. You read a little passage and when I read my passage, I was 35 years old. I had done a law degree, I’d been a primary school teacher, I done speaking, I’d done all sorts of things, built businesses, et cetera, gone to university a second time. And that’s why I was getting a dyslexia assessment. And it was a very basic comprehension passage. Okay. And it was strange reading it. It was like being a nine year old again. And I was reading as an adult and I read that passage, one page long, and the assessor said, you can read it as many times as you like a slow as you like. You can do whatever you like, just read it, comprehend it. So I read it three times. I read every single word. I understood the passage. She took the paper away and she gave me 10 questions like in school, you know where it was, John, what did John do? Where did he go after this? And so on. And question four I thought was a trick question, like what was John doing at the Lake? And I was like, there was no leak in this story. Is this a trick question? And she says, no trick questions, just answer what you can. If you can’t leave it out. Don’t worry about it. And once I got through all the questions, I, I couldn’t answer two of the questions. There were two details in the story. Yeah. The, I had read but not clocked. And I then realized that I was reading and comprehension was skipping. That’s when I found out it was moderately dyslexic. And the relevance here is that this was a child’s piece of text with an adult who was, I was reading very detailed academic work and doing very good analysis of it, but I didn’t realize I was skipping certain details. I was filling in those details, which is a trait of dyslexia. You know, when we do the jump, we fill it in and sometimes we fill it in wrong. Yeah. Yeah. So I would be fascinated to see my own, even if it was a nine year old test.
Steven (30:37): of course we may see, did you skip certain areas? So the regression that you have going back, so we can see that subjective as well because we were not necessarily getting the exact dates on that information. But you can watch that. And this is what brings me on to a key part of, we talk about even in this podcast, we talk a lot about the objective element back in our professional judgment that the machine’s delivering this information. But actually just including the eye movement analysis and our portal, there’s a lot of very, very good teachers said in the education sector who had a lot of experience and above all they know their children in school. That’s an Atlantic one. And when they see the eye move analysis they say, aha, I can see why he does. And now I him doing that, but I can see it. And it really fills in a lot of gaps for them. So I suppose with your experience that that may have been picked up a lot earlier in your reading journey.
Darius (31:28): Well I can, I can, I can just feel that the listeners thinking, asking this question, what about the parents coming in and doing the same reading assessment of their kids and you could start identifying some of the adults who weren’t picked up as children. Yeah. Have you considered doing that? So that is the,
Steven (31:49): The moment, the assessment in the text that we have, cause the text gets gradually more difficult in the older year groups because across the distribution curve we know what normal looks like. So that just gets a little bit more difficult. We think the sealing of that text maybe, and this is subject to change, is around about year nine, around the 14-15 years old. The reason I say that is because that’s what might be accessible to adults as well. So we’re looking at the amount of bit of research going on, looking at can we deliver this text to an adult? Well while we can, because we can still look at the eye movement analysis, but can we produce an overall reading score or result? That’s not yet that yet. We need to test over a lot of people, but in answer to the question, we can do that. We could test a parent and we could sit down with analysis and we may see some of those skips that you mentioned as well.
Darius (32:38): Yeah, it would be fascinating for example, because I know in your portal you can open up and you can see the exact recording of those two or three minutes of what they were reading and what their eyes were doing with the blue dots moving around on the page, which is fascinating. Yeah, it would be great to see your child’s one moms one and dads one and see how they’re different and compare a family.
Steven (33:04): Or maybe similar or similar, but yes, obviously some difficulties, so chest, dyslexia, they can really farmers as we know, maybe we’ll see some of the traits, who knows, but that would be interesting. A side by side comparison. And of course we’re, we’re measuring reading speed both allowed on silently as well. And it’s interesting that as children get older so they read a lot or not, that’s a lot faster to reading silently and how that transitions as they move to secondary school and one becomes, so most apples for example, they will be silently much faster. They will be loud and we can measure that as well.
Darius (33:39): So are you saying that children read aloud faster than they read inside their heads at the beginning
Steven (33:47): In primary school? That’s what, that’s what we’ve seen. But over time I’m a senior to secondary school slips and flipped. However, sometimes the keeping there is, it may not because it’s almost anticipated that when a child moves to year seven, which is the first year of secondary school, the well, they’re just going to read silently in their heads. Well why, why would we assume that when they’ve just come from year six and a lot of children do need to still read aloud. I have spoken to a number of secondary schools who have a reading area as much as you can still read aloud when they first enter the secondary school phase. And that’s really important cause there’s anxieties around that as well. That expectation where I’m reading more complex material and being able to read in your head. Yes it can be difficult for some children.
Darius (34:31): So let’s get back to explore analytics and the future. The final question, well there’s four normally nine questions in these podcast interviews, but I’m just restricting it to the first four. We’ve talked about what things were like before dyslexia, what the wake up calls were. The numbers and the experiences in the school and then the challenges and now what do you think are the rewards? What are the future rewards that will come from this?
Steven (35:03): For the individuals being tested? Well that had been identified earlier as having a problem. There are too many children that go through the education system who, I mean you speak to a lot of people now who, when did you have a diagnosis of dyslexia? I never did reading difficulty. Well, a lot of the people I’ve reached adulthood by the time you’ve mentioned yourself, you know, you were 35, that’s pretty common. So what barriers do they have in school around reading and do they, you know, what kind of anxieties is that produce? Well that’s that’s a real problem in schools. If they can’t access reading well how do you access the rest of the curriculum in school when they get to secondary school to they become more disruptive. Do they become more anxious? Do we talking about mental health issues, which is optimal, the hot topic of demand and these things are really important. So identifying children early, getting the right support in place. I think for us as an organization, but more importantly for the children involved, that’s the reward. That’s really important. So we can, we can help children a lot earlier than we used to.
Darius (36:09): What I like the most about this is that it’s, it’s a real encouragement to people when they get screened. Like this to say is going to be worth at the diagnosis, you know, because the diagnosis is expensive. Yeah. You know, it can cost 400, 500, a thousand dollars in the U S it’s expensive. And so a lot of people are like, Hmm, should I, shouldn’t I? Is there really an issue? Is it really worth it? But I suspect if they saw something like this visually and objectively, they might say, do you know what? There might be something in here. It would be worthwhile taking the next step. There is a higher probability that we’re not just making this up. We’re not just imagining things or whatever.
Steven (37:02): Yeah, they are. There are high costs for a diagnosis and that’s not accessible for a lot of people unfortunately. But I think what’s important is, is if we are objectively identifying a difficulty what the child needs first and foremost before a diagnosis, they need support. They need mechanisms in place that can help them with that reading journey, whatever that difficulty. And sometimes you speak to some schools, just be some parents and they’ll say, well, do we really need this tag right now at this stage in learning and you are 35 when you have that, that, that diagnosis. So, well, you were great actually. If you don’t find, and you’ve had that support and you’ve, you’ve, you’ve been able to deal with that. But sometimes maybe we may question do they really need that diagnosis and the portfolio they need support. But it can be really expensive. So that’s what we’ve often tried to say to schools is well, first and foremost, lets help them put something in place.
Darius (38:00): Yeah. I mean, one of the biggest things that you talked about there was what’s next for the teachers because that’s some level of responsibility. You know, once you know, you’re then responsible. You know, but once you know, a child is having difficulty, then there’s no longer that, Oh, well we didn’t know. We didn’t realize for the last 15 years your child was having difficulty. But once you’ve got it in red and green and that red goes, there’s an essential problem here, then the stakes a bit higher because the teachers must, and the schools must feel that responsibility because I know schools are feeling right now that sort of general, more vague. We know there’s issues in there. We know that 10% of them are dyslexic. We know that we’re only identifying 3% of the population with dyslexia. And there’s another 7% that’s probably moderately to mildly dyslexia, but they’re still tripping up and having difficulties. We can pick up the extremes, but we have those moderate and the mild who are like, I’m moderate and it’s challenged me all my life. And the moment I found out I was dyslexic, I could find coping strategies and realize and identify. That’s why I’m doing that. I should double up on that because that will really improve me. So the, this vague sense of 10% could suddenly become, we know who they are and then you’ve got that big challenge you were talking about, well what do we do now?
Steven (39:41): Exactly. And there’s a big decision in that as well. Well, when’s the right time to go for a diagnosis? When, what do teachers tell parents? When do we refer to? We’re trying to support parents and teachers with that, with that as well. I’m pleased to say that our affiliation and partnership with the British decisive association, we have a webinar that’s that’s going to be featured later in 2020 with the all of the heads of assessment at the British successfully associations to answer the questions. When is the right time to go for a diagnosis, what, what are the, what are the signs that we need to make that decision so we can help with that. And that’ll be a resource that we can deliver. But that’s a really big question before the diagnosis, when is the right time? Even beyond our test, you know, we can flag up that there is a problem, but is it dyslexia that we and that, that that hopefully will help.
Darius (40:35): Well, I’d like to, I think we’ve got a few minutes to tackle some of the other questions we ask other, and I haven’t shared this with you yet. Okay. One of them is what, what were your most influential learning moments in this journey? Was it a person? Was it a group? Was it, of course. Could you share one influential learning moment in the last few years?
Steven (40:57): There’s two. What I’ve mentioned already was the was the child in the classroom where I realized that the implications of not being able to read and the advertises associated with that, that a child is thinking creatively enough to go through some coping strategies to get around the fact that they are struggling. One is I say a consultant of, of our organization who is the former head teacher of a dyslexia center in London. And she tried to illustrate me to me to understand dyslexia a little bit more and is when I met her in London over coffee, she said to me, she said that today you’re going to travel back to back to Manchester where I, where I live. And she said, ideally you’ll just, you’ll just go in a straight line and you’ll follow the most way and you’ll go home. That’s simply enough. And she said, that’s your reading journey as well. You read proficiently and that’s what you do. But a dyslexic person, you know, on that same journey, they, they’ll go around the houses, they won’t follow the motorway, they’ll go, but guess what? Dyslexic people are not to be creative. So they see a lot more of the world than you do. And for me that, that really underlying that we talk about this as a difficulty. Yes it is. This is a huge amount of positives as well and understanding that a lot of people in the world, you know, virtual parents, that’s one of the famous ones. He’s dyslexic and a number of others as well who have gone on to great things from the creative side and the thought, that little illustration that I was given really, join the dots in my mind as to what is like serious both positively and negatively as well. That really helped me on the stand. There’s still that little analogy if you like.
Darius (42:33): And because this is a podcast supported by BulletMap Academy and we’re all about organizing your thoughts visually and learning how to bullet map and mind mapping. What’s been your experience of mind-mapping?
Steven (42:45): I have to admit, not much. If I’m really honest, you’d have to fill in the blanks. No problem. But I’m keen, I’m keen to explore more.
Darius (42:55): Okay. And two other questions. What advice would you give your teenage self and another one would be what advice would you give yourself as a parent? Now this is very much for people who are being going through a dyslexia journey. Okay. And are looking back at their teenage years. So why don’t we change it to what advice would you give a teenager with what you know at the moment?
Steven (43:21): With what I know the moment. When I was young, I felt that in school my, I didn’t think that reading was accessible as it is now through libraries. And I think that, and this is something our organization promotes a lot is written for pleasure. Children who read and who enjoy reading generally they will get better, they will improve. And I know now later in life to that reading is, is a journey you can go on, you can get inside a book and and that, that can be wonderful for you. I would tell my younger self that to read a lot more and to, and to and to, because you will see so much of the world through reading. That’s something I wish I did a huge amount more. I felt that in school reading was very prescripted, so a lot of reading happened, but it was so prescriptive and that I didn’t enjoy that. But actually there is a world that you can access and it’s free. Libraries are free. And I would, I would do that a lot more than I would than I had the opportunity to. Advice to parents is patients I ever, I actually, I have three children and I have my, my son for example, we as some challenges around reading that we tried to embrace as much as we can, but my, the biggest thing I’ve had to learn is just to simply be patient and they’re going to find reading quite difficult in some situations. And we had a, I mean it’s quite a difficult question, but we had a course recently, the dyslexia specialist actually, and we had to do a little exercise in writing and every letter E had some be used. So using the very, very difficult to draw shape and every time he needs to write the letter E we had spread the shape and it was really difficult and I cannot stress enough how that emphasizes how much children’s struggle and you can feel yourself. So if anyone can find like forgive me for not remembering what it is now,
Darius (45:17): That’s a great exercise because it involves so much intentionality of that working memory in that processing that dyslexic thinkers are continually facing. Is that what, why that exercise was created?
Steven (45:33): I would, I would really encourage to have a shelf of books. I have a range of topics that your children are interested in that they can choose, it doesn’t matter how difficult they are, those books opening a book and reading information, taking a lot of information from pictures, the children should be free to do that. That’s really important.
Darius (45:52): Thanks. So final question, tools for organizing dyslexic gadgets or apps. I think let’s stick with your app. Let’s wind up with this and that is I bet you there’s parents and tutors who are listening to this right now well they’ll be teachers as well who are thinking, how can I get my hands on this? Now you’ve explained how schools can do it. What if I’m a parent who thinks I’ve got an eye tracking bar or I can get my hands on one and I want to do this for me, my wife and my three kids. Have you done it for your kids by the way? What was it like doing it for your kids before we answer that question?
Steven (46:31): Interesting. it was, we’re going back to the early stages now when we first were in the UK, a little bit older now, so they’re in there all the year groups where we need to play dates. And so the overall results we don’t necessarily get, but it’s interesting to see the eye movement analysis and Adam them is at the same time, which we haven’t seen before. So they were good. They were above average, which I was pleased about. So but interesting nonetheless.
Darius (46:54): Okay, so back to what the listeners will really be interesting as like how can I play with this?
Steven (47:00): Okay. So I think first and foremost you mentioned the tutors and the assessors. So the solution is now available cause we can now task pretty much anytime of the year. So first and foremost you need to have the eye tracking technology, which is the eye tracker, which is relatively inexpensive and we need to train that person as well. And then you need a license per person per test. And we were put in scaffold model at the moment of independence early stages. What we’d like to, there are lots of tutoring agencies out there where we can train lots of people at once. And so there’s enough people interested in using the assessment. Then we can train through the agency and then the solution will be available at a much a much lower cost. Those costs and usually around 10 pounds per test they choose because the math tutors can access, but training prices rather than doing that individually, which may be a barrier. We can do that maybe in groups, which is how much training does it take? Just a day really is a day’s training.
Darius (48:02): I’m just kind of picturing is it not just a case of, sorry to dumb it down. Yeah. Forgive me. Is it not just a case of press play and move to the next thing. Press play, move to the next thing and press play and it’s just a.
Steven (48:13): In a lot of ways, yes. And however in in the training itself, accuracy is important. You know, our child is sat in front of the computer monitor, so give or take a few inches. We need to make sure that the children are comfortable. We need to make sure that you learn how to calibrate the monitor and the eye tracker itself as well. There are some factors that are important and accuracy will be key obviously to an overall result. But then also the results portal. What is the information telling us? What can we access or how can we use progress monitoring? Oh, those are really, really important.
Darius (48:47): How to analyze the information afterwards as part of it. So it’s not just a number and or a red or a green that gives you much more detail. Yeah. What is understandable of that?
Steven (48:59): What is it telling me? What does the analysis tell me as well? Some of that is allowed some of this silently as well as making sure that we’re covered on any technical details that we recording sound, that those, those things were in place. The meet spec, which is generally they do. So those things were ever important.
Darius (49:17): So what I’m hearing then is it’s not necessarily something you might do, but you might be able to in the future go to some sort of dyslexia school because there are dyslexia schools in America a lot more than not schools, dyslexia centers where parents have got together and become dyslexia reading tutors. And there might be eight or 10 of them. Sure. Some people even take over like a house and it becomes a dyslexia reading area and parents come after school and so on, and they have their two hours a week reading tuition on the Barton scheme or oton gillingham and Mr. Wilson or something like that. So potentially centers like that could say, look, come $10 $20 or whatever it costs for, you know, and screen. Obviously it would take time and so on, but you know, five minute screening or whatever.
Steven (50:12): Yeah, I mean we have a separate team in the United States who will will tell you what the costs out of that, but I’m sure they’re very similar to the ones you’ve suggested anyway. But that would be ideal in making this accessible for parents and children, especially in the U S especially in the UK as well. That would be that. I would say that’s what we’re looking for ideally. But if that’s a, so who’s regularly doing home visits? Who does that? So implement the assessment then that’s fine.
Darius (50:43): Yeah. Any plans for it to all go online in the future and yeah, DIY.
Steven (50:49): I think. I think that’s utopia. So I’m at the moment, the barriers to that are the, the eye tracking technology that will be attached to a monitor that’s really simple because it’s a small magnetic strip. Eventually we are relying too a little bit on the, on the hardware providers a little bit and laptop providers put in, eventually get in the eye tracker into, into a laptop. Then it becomes a one screen solution, which is ideal because then we can start to build in a self assessment, which would be, which would be ideal.
Darius (51:22): What about the, all the eye-tracking that’s going on in cell phones, you know, iPhone have got an eye tracker.
Steven (51:29): However, they those eye trackers are, are not remotely as powerful as the ones we’re using. Right. Who our supplier, so you know, they, they are world renowned in terms of their technology. So we record it 90 frames per second, which is which is very powerful in date. Whereas the ones in in laptops or mobile phones don’t really that when we look at that, that those fixation times and movements across the words, it’s really important. Accuracy is so key. Teachers are looking at which works with focusing on more and we can see that we won’t sell that using technology existing in phones. Now.
Darius (52:06): Stephen, thank you so much for sharing.
Darius (52:12): This podcast is brought to you by bullet map Academy. We help children organize their thoughts creatively and unlock their dyslexic potential with the worlds first online dyslexia school for study skills. We have a talk about mind mapping and dyslexia that will help you find ways to help your child keep up with friends at school and overcome that feeling of isolation. If you want to hear this talk and hear about what we do, go to bulletmapacademy.com forward slash webinar or click on the link in the show notes. Thank you for listening. Please like and leave a podcast review so other parents can find it. Visit our website and join our newsletter for email@example.com. Thanks for listening. See you next time.
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