The right to qualitative, equitable and inclusive education is a human right. Every student, irrespective of their origin or abilities, should be able to achieve their education goals. Yet, significant differences and challenges persist, especially when it comes to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). SEND students should have access to adequate support, key tools and resources, enabling them to succeed in their education path. Speech-language pathologists put significant effort into reducing progressively their difficulties in their daily job. These specialists support SEND students through the use of ad hoc games and personalised therapies.
Nevertheless, significant challenges still exist across countries and social contexts. Consequently, “quality education” was added to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be reached by 2030. Moreover, during Covid-19, the discontinuation of non-emergency care, including speech and language therapy, had a substantial impact and forced the transition to online therapy practices. With few speech therapy centers offering online alternatives, people with learning disabilities remained even more isolated. This has highlighted the importance for speech and language therapists to have computer resources available to maintain the same standards of therapy at a distance.
At Sony CSL Paris, we investigate how NLP tools can help achieve sustainability in education for SEND children. We first implement, as proof of concept, an artificial intelligence-powered tool that helps children affected by dyslexia to process information found in written text. In particular, the software will assist students in the analysis and understanding of language constructs such as morph-syntactic structures (e.g. pronouns or passive forms) and semantic relations (e.g. as cause and effect), which are fundamental in text comprehension.
Moreover, in this framework, we are setting up different collaborations with research entities and other organisations. One of these is the one we are launching with the CRC Research Center, a speech and language therapists center located in Rome.