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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Jet pilot technology for dyslexia
Pilot scheme: Technology to be used to help dyslexics
Technology used by jet pilots is to be used to diagnose children with dyslexia.

Defence researchers have been commissioned by the Department for Education to adapt military aviation technology to help identify dyslexia in young children.

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) has been given 100,000 to build a prototype model, which will make use of equipment which tracks the eye movements of jet pilots.

This cutting-edge technology will be re-versioned into a child friendly system which will track eye movements in a way that is believed to help detect dyslexia.

The system has glass lenses, like a pair of spectacles, which can follow where the wearer is looking.

In its military application, the system has helped pilots to control computers or steer weapons and to show designers how to optimise the layout of instrument panels.

The Department for Education project is seeking to customise this technology to follow the eye movements of young children, to analyse links between dyslexia and abnormal eye movements.

This follows research by Professor John Stein at Oxford University who has worked on how children's eye movement patterns can indicate dyslexia.

"This technology has already been proved in the harsh environment of a jet cockpit. We want to see how this could be used with pre-school children," said Eric Scargill, new business manager at Dera.

Early detection

Early detection is believed to be important in helping to tackle dyslexia and to reduce the amount of learning loss which can occur when undiagnosed dyslexics are left to struggle through school without any specialist help.

The application of military technology is to be announced by the Education Secretary David Blunkett as part of a 25m package of measures to help pupils with special educational needs.

This will involve the screening of three and four year olds in nurseries and playgroups for any learning difficulties.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital and the University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford University will also be taking part in research, alongside the military research scientists.

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See also:

22 Dec 00 | Education
Schools' special needs 'deluge'
16 Mar 01 | Education
Scientists find cause of dyslexia
20 Jan 00 | Education
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