Globally, the discourse on learning disorders is gaining traction. The issues of learning disorders have become increasingly worrying because it has become widespread amongst children and adults alike in our society but little is still known about learning difficulties in Africa. Researchers have reported that more than a tenth of the global population have learning disabilities. This clearly indicates that learning disabilities are closer to each of us than we actually acknowledge.
It has been reported that an estimated percentage of 80-90 children who struggle with their studies in school could be having one form of learning disorder or another. Some of the common learning disorders in children include; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyslexia and processing deficit. These learning disorders present varying degrees of severity to its suffers. Some students may be suffering from more than one of these.
Among these disorders, Dyslexia is the commonest learning disorder and various research reports indicate that one out of every five kids may have dyslexia. Scientifically and statistically, it affects boy and girls in an equal measure when considered percentage wise.
Most children suffering from dyslexia are undiagnosed and hence struggle in their studies without help. Sadly, most of these students have their academic struggles being attributed to unintelligence, laziness and environmental factors.
But there is more to this than that and help is available when diagnosed early and the right support systems are put in place. This article seeks to bring to your attention what dyslexia is, how it is diagnosed and when and where to access help and the necessary intervention when you get to know your child has dyslexia.
So, What Exactly Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is translated from the Greek words; Dys which means difficulty and ‘lexis’ meaning words or language. Thus, Dyslexia simply has to do with having difficulty with word or language. Dyslexia can therefore be considered as a condition that makes it difficult for people to read and form words. It is a disorder associated with people having trouble reading words, recognizing and using or manipulating the sounds of words in language.
Generally, it is normal for children to have challenging times reading as they learn to read at some point in time of their young lives. But if the struggles persist and puts a particular child behind his or her peers, then there is the possibility of that child having dyslexia.
A dyslexic child would often have a trouble breaking down new words into manageable chunks they can sound out loud. And this is what often causes their inability to read, write and spell. This is also expressed in the difficulty to recognize new words and the slow rate at which such a child retrieves even familiar words.
In short, dyslexia as a disorder is defined as the gap between a child’s learning ability and his or her academic achievement. And this is because dyslexics process information in their minds differently; making it a neuro-cognitive disorder that affects reading comprehension and word formation.
Signs and Symptoms Suggesting Dyslexia
If your child has dyslexia, chances are you would see some of these signs and symptoms exhibited by him or her with regards to school work or studies.
- Have difficulty associating sounds with letters.
- Struggle with sequencing and ordering sounds
- Unable to speak fluently or say words that rhyme
- Struggle to spell common or frequently used words
- Have trouble sounding out newly learnt words
- Reverse letter and numbers when reading them
- Have difficulty taking notes down from the board
- Always frustrated reading and avoid being called to read
- Struggle with knowing and telling the time from a clock
- Have trouble telling left from right and following directions
Photo: Dyslexia Gold
How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?
When you see the above signs and symptoms exhibited by your child, then you should contact and consult a professional to conduct an evaluation for the said child. Some experts propose that a child who shows signs and symptoms of dyslexia should be evaluated at six years of age. But some other professionals argue that the evaluation should be done as soon the gap between intelligence and reading skills become apparent.
The evaluation usually involves testing a child’s learning capacity; focusing specifically on intellectual abilities and reading skills to measure the accomplishment gap per time. The evaluation is often conducted by a child psychologist, an educational psychologist, a neuropsychologist, an educational evaluator, a reading specialist, and a speech and language therapist.
Generally, there are four tests in assessing a child’s condition with regards to dyslexia. The evaluation process often includes assessing skills such as phonological awareness, decoding, reading fluency and comprehension and rapid naming. Once a professional evaluates and confirms dyslexia, he pr she makes recommendations for supporting and helping the child to improve and maximize his or her learning experience.
How To Help A Child With Dyslexia.
Your child being diagnosed with dyslexia does not mean he or she is a dullard. A dyslexic child is not stupid or less smart and unintelligent. Such a child only processes information differently from his or her peers. Being dyslexic does not make a child disadvantaged compared to his peers, it makes him or her different; meaning such a child should be supported to unleash his or her difference in order to level up.
Parents and teachers are very pivotal in bringing the turn around in the learning experience of such children. So, what sort of help or support can a parent and/or teacher offer to a dyslexic child?
- Early intervention is essential in averting long term consequences such as the impairment of a child’s cognitive abilities due to dyslexia.
- Engage the service of a specialist for assessment to know the stage of the disorder and the needed treatment options available in time.
- Employ available innovative education techniques designed to improve the child’s reading and writing skills in school and at home.
- Parents are encouraged to work closely with the schools and teachers of their wards who are dyslexic to fill in any gaps that may arise at home or in school.
- Parents are also encouraged to offer emotional support and perform activities such as reading or painting together with their dyslexic children.
- Enroll dyslexic children into fun and playful extra-curricular activities such as sports, reading classes and competitions to build their confidence.
- Parents, guardians and teachers should join support groups to stay in touch with others who may be facing a similar situation.
- Attending workshops and webinars associated with dyslexia is equally a good idea.
- Be sure to contact relevant organizations such as the Africa Dyslexia Organization that provide the needed help and support for dyslexic people.
As part of efforts to create awareness, the Africa Dyslexia Organization is looking to connect with licensed specialists who conduct assessments; as well as special education teachers who have a passion for teaching children with dyslexia. Interested persons can contact via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp: +233243535553. The organization is also looking for volunteers interested in helping out with its awareness creation campaigns. Please reach out on the same contact details.
Written by Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey