Dino lives in space and his mission is to reach a new planet. To do this, however, he needs help: he has to recover the parts of the rocket that will allow him to take off, but which are scattered on different space islands. And on each island, of course, there are little challenges to face. So far it would seem like the description of a normal video game for children, but in reality Dino has another purpose: it is the first video game in Italy designed for early screening – starting from the age of 5 – for Specific Learning Disorders (LD ), which includes dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthography and dyscalculia.
How the idea of the video game was born
Developed by a Turin start-up, Paperbox Health, with the collaboration and patronage of the Italian Dyslexia Association (Aid), Dino is about to enter the clinical validation phase, in which schools and health specialists participate. “The idea – tells a Salute Stefano Found, one of the founders of the start-up – was born from the observation that DSA are very often identified late, beyond the end of the second year of primary school, because there are barriers to accessing the diagnosis. In the case of dyslexia, for example, after a months-long analysis we realized that families employ more resources for the identification of the disorder than for the therapeutic process. Furthermore, the diagnostic delay is not without consequences: it can make recovery less effective and have an impact on the child both from a psychological point of view and on the development of its potential”.
The screening test
Hence the project, which came to life in 2022 at the OGR Tech in Turin, a hub that deals with innovation, business acceleration and scientific research, thanks to the Vento venture building program. And that also takes up another challenge: not to subject the little ones to the stress that having to face the classic assessment tests can entail. Here, then, why Dino looks like a normal video game. Let’s say right away that this is not a method for making a diagnosis of DSA – which requires a series of very complex tests, which can only be accessed from the age of seven – but a pre-screening that identifies the factors of risk. The method used was developed starting from the evidence of scientific reading, and in particular from the 2021 Guidelines on the management of Specific Learning Disorders of the Ministry of Health, where the cognitive signals that could lead to the development of Dsa are identified. And, of course, also with the support of experts in the field, including the child neuropsychiatrist Sergio Messinaformer president of Aid and technical trainer of the association.
Dino’s three levels for dyslexia
At the moment the tool has been developed for the screening of dyslexia, to which screenings for other DSA will be added in the future, starting from dyscalculia. In detail, children can now play on three levels: on the first they will find the “Spatial Sea”, developed to evaluate the recognition of graphemes and visuo-spatial orientation; in the second the “Vulcanolario”, focused on vocabulary and phonological knowledge; in the third the “Pyramid of sounds”, dedicated to short-term memory and working memory. Once the game, which lasts approximately 15 minutes, has been completed, parents will receive an indication of the level of risk and other information on the child’s cognitive profile.
What happens at this point? “Here begins the second part of our project – replies Trovato -. “Paperbox Health, in fact, is a platform that also offers a preliminary teleconsultation service at a very affordable cost and, if necessary, online courses with certified specialists such as speech therapists, psychotherapists specialized in Dsa and neuropsychiatrists. A method that overcomes the problems associated with physical distance from rehabilitation centers and ensures privacy for families. The service – he concludes – is already active and has the aim of facilitating the identification of the most appropriate paths, to intervene in a timely manner on the Dsa”.