EarlyBird: Reading Disability Screening App

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 an early developmental dyslexia and reading disability 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 developing dyslexia. 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.

This app is now being implemented in schools, and Heckscher is supporting the implementation of it in NYC charter schools with a cohort of kindergarten students for the 2021-2022 school year. These students will be assessed through the EarlyBird platform and provided with next step resources, as applicable. EarlyBird is documenting the experiences of the participating NYC charter schools, evaluating the resources and recommendations provided within the EarlyBird dashboard, and developing promotional materials. The tools developed through this partnership will be utilized to help increase the number of kindergarteners and schools served for the 2022-23 school year.

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