The diagnosis of developmental dyslexia in underserved children is primarily based on a “wait to fail” approach. Dyslexia diagnoses are usually not made before the third grade even though studies show that intensive interventions are most effective in kindergarten or first grade, and other studies show that a majority of at-risk beginning readers achieve average reading ability levels when provided with intensive instruction.
Heckscher catalyzed a solution to this problem – we supported the development of a learning differences screening app created by Dr. Nadine Gaab. Dr. Gaab (currently at Harvard University Graduate School of Education) in collaboration with Dr. John Gabrieli of MIT showed that a carefully selected screening can identify children at-risk of having dyslexia or other learning differences. Dr. Gaab partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital’s Digital Health Accelerator, which builds and scales digital technologies, to develop this app – a mobile platform that consists of an engaging game to screen for early dyslexia indicators in approximately thirty minutes. The app is now scientifically validated at Boston Children’s Hospital in partnership with faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research. EarlyBird brings together all the relevant predictors of reading in one easy-to-administer assessment and provides teachers with customized action plans and resources for each student.
Early Bird is the most promising development in the early detection and treatment of learning differences in early childhood, winning major awards including, in 2022, as a finalist in four categories in the Edtech Digest Awards.
EarlyBird is now in use in 17 states and 170 schools nationwide. Heckscher first supported the implementation of it in NYC charter schools with a cohort of kindergarten students for the 2021-2022 school year and is extending its support to over 1,000 students in the 2022-2023 school year.
In 2022 the NYC DOE has announced a new emphasis on dyslexia screening and we expect that EarlyBird will be among the tools used in DOE public schools. Click here to learn more.