Most readers will now most probably have heard of ChatGPT. For some this word may fill us with hope and anticipation. Others may tremble.
Before we describe the potential applications of ChatGPT in relation to dyslexia, let’s start by first defining and explaining the term ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) itself. AI has been defined as ‘the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings’ (Britannica, 2023). However, for individuals with dyslexia some tasks such as searching and extrapolating information from literature sources can be more challenging compared with neurotypical individuals.
AI has now entered what has been deemed as the ‘stage of intelligent cognition’ (Wang et al., 2023). This means that it has potential to mimic brain processes similar to those of humans. This sounds potentially petrifying, but we could think of it from a fresh stance. By way of one example, if we have a class of 30, each with a few different questions related to a topic, does that single teacher have time to answer all of those questions? This is where AI systems such as ChatGPT could come into play. Students can ask questions to the AI portal to deepen their understanding and responses are generated.
It could also be a potentially valuable assistive tool for those with dyslexia. Assistive technology which now encompasses AI has the potential to enhance the learning environment and make it a more pleasant experience for those with dyslexia (Pontikas et al., 2022). There is scope for such approaches to provide another layer of ‘reinforcement’ when used correctly, potentially having a positive impact on learning (Barua et al., 2022).
Gavin Reid (2009) defines dyslexia as: ‘a processing difference, often characterized by difficulties in literacy acquisition affecting reading, writing and spelling. It can also have an impact on cognitive processes such as memory, speed of processing, time management, co-ordination and automaticity. There may be visual and/or phonological difficulties and there is usually some discrepancies in educational performances. There will [be] individual differences and individual variation and it is therefore important to consider learning styles and the learning and work context when planning intervention and accommodations’.
Rather interestingly this definition encompasses learning styles, interventions and accommodations. This is where AI could come into play in this rapidly advancing technological age … as an accommodation and form of intervention to reinforce learning.
‘Giving individuals with dyslexia access to AI could potentially have wider benefits such as improved mental wellbeing, reduced anxiety and improved engagement with academia.’
Research at the University of California conducted with children and young people (7–14 years) with reading disorders (dyslexia) found dyslexia to be linked to increased anxiety, which in turn significantly reduced academic performance (Hossain et al., 2021). Giving individuals with dyslexia access to AI could potentially have wider benefits such as improved mental wellbeing, reduced anxiety and improved engagement with academia. These studies will need to be undertaken but such outcomes seem logical. Some further points for consideration are included below.
Viewpoint 1: Potential offerings of AI from a dyslexia perspective
- Provides a ‘start point’ upon which information can be cross-checked or elaborated on.
- Provides a revision base upon which a deeper understanding can be built.
- Provides an opportunity to obtain information tailored to personalised questions.
- Provides another individualised approach to learning, particularly for those who find reading for information challenging.
- Helps ‘cut to the chase’, providing explanations of concepts in layman’s terms. This could be useful in areas of understanding where there are confusions or information is not yet consolidated.
Viewpoint 2: Potential pitfalls of AI from a dyslexia perspective
- Information should not be directly utilised in a ‘cut and paste’ fashion and portrayed as one’s own.
- AI engines should not be viewed as a ‘one stop shop’ for information.
- AI text generation should not be seen as a replacement of established education pedagogies, including the fundamental concepts behind reading and writing.
Guidance is now needed in relation to how best to utilise and apply AI within education settings. The Joint Council for Qualifications has recently issued guidance about AI use in assessments (JCQ, 2023). They explain that, just like literature, AI sources should be fully cited in assessments to avoid falling into the trap of plagiarism – cited as, for example: ChatGPT 3.5 (https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/), date.
Taken together, further studies and publications related to AI use and dyslexia are momentarily lacking but are anticipated to evolve. In the meantime AI could be viewed as another form of ‘assistive technology’ that has the potential to provide an additional base to learn and understand. If used and cited correctly, AI could benefit individuals with dyslexia and could also be useful to other students.
Barua, P. D., Vicnesh, J., Gururajan, R., Oh, S. L., Palmer, E., Azizan, M. M., Kadri, N. A., & Acharya, U. R. (2022). Artificial intelligence enabled personalised assistive tools to enhance education of children with neurodevelopmental disorders: A review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3), 1192.
Britannica. (2023). Artificial intelligence. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/technology/artificial-intelligence
Hossain, B., Bent, S., & Hendren, R. (2021). The association between anxiety and academic performance in children with reading disorder: A longitudinal cohort study. Dyslexia, 27(3), 342–354.
Joint Council for Qualifications [JCQ]. (2023). AI use in assessments: Protecting the integrity of qualifications. Retrieved September 7, 2023, from https://www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/malpractice/artificial-intelligence
Pontikas, C. M., Tsoukalas, E., & Serdari, A. (2022). A map of assistive technology educative instruments in neurodevelopmental disorders. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 17(7), 738–746.
Reid, G. (2009). Dyslexia: A practitioner’s handbook (4th ed.). Wiley Blackwell.
Wang, X., He, X., Wei, J., Liu, J., Li, Y., & Liu, X. (2023). Application of artificial intelligence to the public health education. Frontiers in Public Health, 10, 1087174.