Tennis legend Andre Agassi announced a new venture at the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference in Austin, Texas on Saturday, March 10 to help kids with dyslexia. The new initiative, dubbed Readvolution, will be creating the “first-ever universally free dyslexia assessment game” in partnership with Square Panda, a Silicon-Valley based edtech startup that has invented an award-winning phonics learning system that helps kids of the ages of two and above develop cognitive and reading skills. Readvolution will partner with neuroscientists from leading institutes like the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Weill Institute for Neurosciences, to produce the first scientifically validated technology platform that could help screen and identify dyslexia in children.
Dyslexia is a specific disorder that affects the reading abilities of people, leaving their intelligence and other mental faculties unaffected. It is the most common learning disability in the world, affecting about 3-7 percent of the global population; however, up to 20 percent of the world’s population may display varying degrees of symptoms. Early identification and intervention is the best way to help treat dyslexia, but the condition often goes unnoticed for many years, with the child being labelled simply as a “slow learner”. The effectiveness of intervention measures at later stages in life is greatly reduced, making it imperative to identify dyslexia in children as soon as possible for early treatment. Readvolution aims to solve this problem with its new platform.
Speaking at the announcement, Andy Butler, CEO of Square Panda, said, “We are thrilled to be a part of Readvolution as we recognize the impact democratizing dyslexia assessment will have on today’s children and would like to extend an invitation to have other corporations join us in supporting the initiative...While research has uncovered key principles that drive changes in the brain from quality education, these have not successfully been incorporated into practice. By helping to build educational apps grounded in research, we hope to positively impact this generation of children and to lay the future foundation for our society and economy. The key to all learning is reading, and if a child struggles with reading, most other subjects in school, including STEM, will be greatly compromised. Through this new initiative, we will help parents and teachers intervene early to get each child the help she or he needs.”
Readvolution is part of an effort by the Andre Agassi Early Childhood Neuroscience Foundation, an organisation set up by Andre Agassi to fund research and development of early literacy apps. The Foundation aims to partner with scientists from US institutes to build tools that help aid the treatment of learning disabilities like dyslexia, irrespective of the child’s background. Square Panda is the Foundation’s first corporate partner, and will also donate 10 percent of all the proceeds from sales of its learning system to the Foundation’s research efforts.
On the Indian front too, a wide variety of startups and organisations have set up efforts to fight learning disabilities. These include Mimaansa, a Thane-based NGO creating an inclusive space for learning and personality development for poor students with learning disabilities studying in government schools, Sparsh for Children, a South Delhi-based multidisciplinary therapy centre helping children with autism, dyslexia, and other learning disorders, AAMI, a Bengaluru-based startup that’s built a learning assistant for the visually challenged and those with dyslexia, and many more.