A Learn to read application for children with cognitive disabilities – Observatory of educational innovation

This method is ideal for these children for several reasons. Firstly, it is a visual method preferred by these children to learn any subject because hearing is very complex and takes longer to develop. Therefore, if we were to wait until these children have a sufficiently developed ear canal to read, we would surely start the process too late and waste precious years. Second, it’s a method that consistently makes sense of everything they read. Providing the image with the spelling of the word makes it understandable to them. Third, it is a 100% customizable method which is based on the interests of the child.

Trying to teach a child with dementia to read using standard methodology is a disaster in most cases. These children must first understand what they are doing. Therefore, in the overall method of reading, we never use pseudo-words or meaningless syllables that mean absolutely nothing to them, but it would be the syllabic method taught in schools. In addition, they need the information to capture it through the visual channel without omitting the auditory part. Therefore, in the application, each word read is accompanied by an image and a sound. Finally, the Global Reading Method is personalized to adapt to both the pace and the interests of each student.

O: What are the main differences between the comprehensive reading method and the methodology commonly used in the classroom to learn to read?

GF & MAA: The global reading method begins the learning process with complete words and sentences with meaning, while synthetic systems (syllabic, alphabetic and phonological) begin with the most minor and meaningless parts (syllables, letters or sounds ). By having a visual aid, children understand reading from the first moment.

Another significant difference is the personalization which allows to adapt to each child without following a pre-established pattern. Instead, it is based on the motivation and interests of the child. It is therefore an active, fun, varied method, geared towards success. Another advantage of this method is that it helps the child to expand his vocabulary and to pronounce it better in his spontaneous oral expression.

“Trying to teach a child with dementia to read using standard methodology is a disaster in most cases.

O: Why is the use of articles crucial in the literacy process for children with intellectual disabilities?

GF and MAA: Seeing and listening to the words with their articles from the start of learning to read has two very important advantages: First, the child naturally integrates the articles into the language he is learning. These are usually children who have difficulty speaking orally and tend to omit meaningless sounds. Second, using the article helps them learn that words have a gender and a number. Some professionals prefer to present words without an article at first; for this reason, the Yo también leo the application offers the possibility to choose with or without the article.

O: How did you develop this application? Besides using the Global Reading Method, what other teaching methodologies or learning theories are reflected in this app?

GF & MAA: The app is based on the Global Reading Method, but its development includes instructional guidelines that other apps overlook. These children must internalize certain learning that other children learn more intuitively, for example the meaning of reading. We read from left to right and top to bottom. It may be very obvious to us, but it is not very obvious to them. This is why all activities start at the top left and all activity movements go from left to right.

Another critical point is that although the Global Reading Method is ideo-visual, we must not forget about phonological learning. For this reason, all application activities combine image, text and audio with natural speech. The reference we give to children must have correct diction and intonation.

O: Who is it Yo también leo targeted?

GF & MAA: The app is designed for children with cognitive impairment, ASD or other severe learning disabilities. Its design takes into account ease of interactions, using simple touch-and-drag movements and avoiding complex movements due to children’s difficulties with motor skills and coordination. Buttons and images are literal for ease of understanding. Cognitive accessibility has been built into both the content and the design of the interfaces.

The methodology used is adapted to children with different profiles. For example, children with Down’s syndrome have been educated for years in educational support partnerships using the Troncoso Method, one of the separate variables of the Global Reading Method. Children with ASD are also trained in this method. Whether or not they are carriers of an associated cognitive handicap, meaningful knowledge and a visual basis make it easier for them to understand texts. In addition, this methodology stimulates their oral language and their fluency.

For these reasons, the Yo también leo The app is suitable for children with various intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities. Also, the application is a good tool for any child with neuro-atypical development who is starting to learn to read (between 3 and 6 years old).

O: What are the benefits of including positive reinforcements and image / sound personalization? Why is this important?

GF & MAA: Positive reinforcement is crucial due to the high level of frustration these children experience. They need to be motivated to keep working and know that if they make a mistake nothing happens, we all make mistakes and we just have to try again. Personalization is one of the most exciting points of the overall reading method. Children, like everyone else, are motivated by their interests. So if we focus the learning process on one of their interests, we already have a head start in motivating them.

This focus may just be on objects they use on a daily basis, but we can personalize them in activities so that the child learns to read based on the overall perception of the spelling of words. These could be names of friends or family, words related to the sport they are passionate about, or characters from their favorite series, to name a few examples.

O: It impresses me that using the app does not require an internet connection or links to social networks or other apps. Why this emphasis on disconnection?

GF & MAA: This is something that we are mainly looking for because we don’t want distractions. Although the app is designed in a fun format, it should be remembered that this is an educational app. What we specifically want is that when the child is using it, he does not have any distractions. Additionally, working offline avoids connection issues in schools or areas where the internet connection is not as smooth as we would like.

O: One of its objectives is “to improve the educational and social inclusion of mentally handicapped children”. How does this app contribute to inclusion?

GF & MAA: The app is an ideal tool for real inclusion in the classroom. It can be used by all children in the infant class because the overall reading method is excellent for early learning to read. The design of the application makes it accessible to children with cognitive disabilities, so it is an application accessible to all.

True inclusion means sharing experiences and learning, feeling part of a team, each with their abilities and possibilities. The application allows children with cognitive impairment to learn to read with their peers but adapted to their level and pace of work since the application is fully customizable. Our goal is to make the learning process more and more adaptable to the learner’s profile. This way, the application is the same for all students, although everyone learns at their own pace and level.

“What exists in most schools is integration, which means that they accept the student with special educational needs and integrate them into the classroom, but do not include them.”

O: What failures or areas of opportunity exist in the current education system when it comes to inclusion, especially for children with cognitive diversity?

GF & MAA: The main problem is that there is no inclusion per se, except for the occasional school heavily involved in the subject. What exists in most schools is integration, which means that they accept the student with special educational needs and integrate them into the classroom but do not include them. So the child is in school but usually does different things than the classmates. For example, a teacher usually takes the child out of the classroom to work alone with him. As a result, the child is integrated into the school but is not part of the work team. Therefore, I believe that education policies need to be renewed and changed for the genuine inclusion of these children in the classroom.

Plans and methodologies only consider a portion of children when various methodologies and universal learning systems are to be used. However, the latter objective requires political will, the adaptation of educational programs, the training of teachers and the provision of appropriate resources to schools. Keep in mind that 73% of children with intellectual disabilities in Spain attend regular schools but without the resources or the appropriate methodology to meet their needs. Schools continue to adapt their programs for these children when inclusion should have programs that cater to all students. This need for adaptation and creation of content obliges educators to make great efforts to take care of these children with dignity. However, this should not be the solution without well thought out educational policies designed for every student in the class.

O: Its mission is to help mothers, fathers, families and educators through this tool. Why is it important to involve families?

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