Table of Contents
1. Introduction: which students are we talking about?
First, let us make a small recap of the different SLDs and their accompanying potential challenges. These include Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Dysphasia and Dyspraxia. All of them are considered as cognitive disorders, meaning they influence the way the brain processes information.
Dyslexia is the most common Specific Learning Disorder. It translates into difficulties in reading and language-based processing skills. The brain takes longer than usual to identify and connect letters and words with other kinds of knowledge.
Dysgraphia usually affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills.
Dyscalculia translates into difficulties to understand numbers and learn math facts.
Dysphasia affects a person’s ability to speak and understand spoken words.
Dyspraxia is characterized by difficulties with fine motor skill such as hand-eye coordination for reading from one line to another or for writing for example. However, this last disorder is generally classified as a Developmental Coordination Disorder and not as a Specific Learning Disorder. However, we will address it nevertheless, as it impacts the learning process and education as well.
- Other difficulties:
An added difficulty can come in the form of co-occurrence of several disorders at the same time. According to the 2014 publication of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), 40% of the children with one “Dys”, a Specific Learning Disorder, also have at least an additional accompanying Dys. ADHD is also one of the additional challenges that can co-occur with SLD and should be addressed as much as possible.
2. Definition of potential challenges
2.1 Identification of ER points to adapt
- Overview of the Escape Room, which points to tackle?
Going over your ER project, what are the areas where potential challenges for SLD can occur?
Main potential challenges of each SLD are:
Dyslexia can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, memorization, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech.
Dysgraphia can come in the form of difficulties with: spelling, spatial planning on paper, sequencing the sentences into words, composing writing, thinking and writing at the same time, and can also show in overlapping letters or words and inconsistent spacing when writing as well.
Dyscalculia can translate into difficulties memorizing and organizing numbers, calculus, or abstract mathematical operations, telling and estimating time.
Dysphasia can translate into a difficulty to sequence sentences into words. When heard, speech can sometimes sound as a foreign language in which they are unable to tell when one word ends and the next begins.
Dyspraxia translates into difficulties with fine motor skills, movement, and coordination, and consequently with language and speech.
In order to see if your escape room can cause any of the previous challenges, it is always good to go over a checklist to see if you haven’t overlooked anything.
- Series of checklist questions:
- Are all your reading materials readable and adapted?
- Are your locks solvable with minimal fine motor skills?
- Is your environment free of unnecessary distractions?
- Are your ER paths clear and logical?
- Are the structure and rules of the escape room clear from the beginning of the ER?
- Is the space allocated to the ER accessible to all pupils?
- Is the way you are going to organise the ER in the classroom going to be efficient and practical?
- Is the time constraint clear to the players?
- Have you tested your ER already?
- Rating the challenges
2.2 Adaptation of those challenges
- Challenges with reading clues or enigmas if written in improper fonts or in overlapping text/words.
Solution: For all written texts, you may follow the pedagogical guide’s chapter on inclusion advice about written texts.
As a reminder: Choose an inclusive font (OpenDys, Arial, …) in a size between 12 to 14, with a spacing of 1.5, and aligned to the left (not justified). Also, avoid using italics or underlined text. Be careful of the contrast of the text to be sufficient. A way to check if the contrast is enough can be on the following link Colors Contrast Checker.
- Challenges with distinguishing sounds when using spoken language.
Solution: Multiplying the mediums of communication. Do not give all clues through a phone for example, but also have small papers to write the clues down. Or, if you do use vocal records, make sure the pronunciation and sound quality is on top.
- Challenges with solving locks due to too many fine motor skills needed
- Challenges with concentrating and moving around the ER due to overload of sensory information or unsuitable room set up: cluttered space, confusing space allocations, etc.
Solution: Prepare a plan of your ER set up beforehand and test it with friends. Take note of any practical problems and of the space needed depending on the number of pupils participating.
- Challenges in solving riddles due to confusing lettering or numbers ensembles.
Solution: rely on logical puzzles and simple yet subtle riddles. If complicated letterings and numbers are required, try to present them in a manner that is as airy and structured as possible.
- Challenges in estimating time
Solution: Reminder of the importance to handle the time management during the Escape Room needs to be made before the Escape Room. A person responsible for the timer can also be named before-hand. Visual reminders of the time remaining (with color-codes for urgency for example) can be used for more efficiency.
- Poor communication
Solution: Reminder of the importance to communicate well with the team before the beginning of the Escape Room. A pupil can be designated as responsible to check that everyone is communicating well during the Escape Room before-hand as well.
Also, additional clues and game master help need to be given in a clear manner as well.
- Shutdown due to overstimulation
Solution:As with the rest of the Escape Room, a test first is a good way of noticing if a background noise for example is setting the ambiance as intended or if it is too distracting. As with any things, while multisensory clues are a good thing, too many sensations will defeat the purpose. The idea is to vary the clues’ sources and mediums, not to give everything at once and to overload the pupils’ senses.
Additional tip: Teamwork is a key component of an Escape Room. It is a very good thing to foster collaboration and to make balanced teams. This way, if one pupil has a weak point, it can be compensated by someone else. Asking the teams to communicate all clues out loud is a good way to help with reading challenges as well for example. Teams need to be diversified and with pupils that complete each other’s set of skills.
- Possible general practical adaptations:
Use minimal fine motor skills to solve locks. This doesn’t mean that easier locks should be found, but that the mechanism used to open them should not require fine motor skills. Making the lock bigger is a way to minimize that for example.
Using the prescribed written materials advice to write the clues is one way to ensure that everyone is able to decipher it properly. This doesn’t mean, again, that the clue should be easier, just legible.
Again, avoiding the need for fine motor skills by making the puzzle pieces bigger or legible (if it’s a cipher puzzle for example) are the most important aspects.
As specified above, written materials inclusion advice should be followed, but another way to circumvent the problem could be to multiply the ways in which riddles or clues are given: oral riddles, images instead of words, etc.
The atmosphere is also key, but as in any good game, it should not be overpowering. There is nothing more frustrating inside a video game for example, than to have repetitive music or sounds that are way too loud throughout the whole game. Atmospheric elements are there to add to the experience, not overpower it. Sensory overload is also something that should be avoided. Discrete ambient music or sounds can be a nice addition, but should stay something that is pleasant.
As with the atmosphere, the props can add some immersive aspects to the ER but it is important not to overload the ER with useless props. Props will allow you to create the atmosphere, but also to hide the clues more efficiently in the ER. However, your ER should not resemble a cluttered second-hand store either. Again, the overflow of information is never good and could even lead, in the case of props at least, to injuries.
- Possible technological adaptations/aids
- Reading device
Another way to circumvent the challenges of the written materials is to equip pupils with marked reading-related learning disorders with a reading device, for example. Perhaps even to remind the whole team that reading clues aloud is also a good way to advance the Escape Room and to allow all team members to participate as well. Communication is after all, key in the solving of ER.
- Auditory help
Another form of help that could come in handy for some pupils is an audio help. That is to say, a device that would read the instructions aloud when given a specific QR code, in the manner of audio guides in museums.
- Visual aids
In the case of specific writing in special fonts that are not dys-friendly (for example, a handwritten letter with Edwardian script), it could be interesting to make a QR code available to a pupil that has a reading disorder, so that they could scan it to access a digital dys-friendly version on their phone.
Some apps will allow dys pupils to decipher written texts more easily if necessary, for example. Some apps can download texts and adapt them to a pre-set format that is chosen as ideal by the pupil.
3. Game-master support
- In-game support and guidance
- In-game observations
3. Debriefing process
- Identification of unexpected challenges
- Positive feedback on adaptations
- Did the pupils (especially with SLD) notice any adaptations and how would they rate their usefulness?
- How did the activities go for the whole group?
- How did the adaptations impact the overall gameplay?
5. Improvement of the creation of an inclusive Escape Room
- Post ER surveys
- Did the path(s) designed to solve the ER work?
- Were the different clues leading to the right answers without problems?
- What were the most difficult moments of the ER?
- Were there enigmas or riddles that were too easy?
- Was the challenge motivating/enough/too much?
- Did they find the final answer? If not, why?
- Do they have comments on how to improve the ER?
- What elements did they prefer?
- Was the experience fun?
- The adaptative diary