An animated program – backed by hard science – has the potential to help children with learning difficulties, including dyslexia, to better concentrate in class, improving academic performance and life prospects.

TALI is an interactive program co-founded by Professor Kim Cornish and Dr Hannah Kirk and is the only one of its kind based on clinical research.

Professor Cornish, director of the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, says children with developmental disorders, from autism to Down syndrome, share a common challenge – they all have difficulty concentrating for longer than a few moments.

But it is not just children with diagnosed developmental disorders who are affected. One in 10 children who enter school have difficulty maintaining attention, Professor Cornish notes.

This inability to stay focused can hold children back academically, says Professor Cornish, who has been researching children with attention deficits for more than two decades.

“Attention is the absolute fundamental building block for learning,” she says. “If your attention is impaired, the other building blocks such as working memory, numeracy and literacy are unable to develop. That’s when children fall behind.”

Aimed at children aged three to seven and easily downloadable onto everyday tablet devices, TALI leads children through a series of ‘adventures’.  Behind the pretty pictures, TALI exercises some serious cognitive training that continually adapts to each child’s performance, targeting specific concentration skills across multiple levels.

The initiative is achieving some spectacular results. A randomised controlled trial involving 75 children with developmental delays showed that after using the program for 20 minutes, five times a week for five weeks, their concentration and selective attention significantly improved.

Skills such as numeracy also improved. And these results were sustained. The improvements were still evident three months after the children completed the five-week program.

Dr Kirk, Chief Research Officer at Avexa Limited, says that “the brain has great plasticity and is most flexible to change in early childhood. Implementing this type of intervention early in development is likely to promote larger, more sustainable changes.”

View the article on the Monash University news

For more information on TALI, you can read the full story featured in the Monash magazine online.