When your child cannot read

Dyslexia is a condition that is intricate and hard to diagnose without expert help. Even the medical fraternity does not speak with one voice on what dyslexia is.

The common definition of what dyslexia is the one given by World-Federation of Neurology, which defines it as a reading disability resulting from the inability to process graphic symbols. This is regardless of whether they are of high, average or low Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

Educationists have been more practical in dealing with dyslexia, recognising it as a learning disability that requires attention. Dyslexia is difficult to diagnose before a child goes to school-for obvious reasons-it’s about reading. However, there are early signs which include: delayed speech, slow learning of new words, low letter knowledge, letter reversal or mirror writing. The latter is the most widely known sign of the condition. Dyslexic children read a little slower or sometimes guess words based on the first and last letter, and the context. Many will not read out loud or answer/ask questions in class. They can actually get all the way to high school without ever having being diagnosed as dyslexic. But keen teachers will notice that the student’s written assignments are poorly put together and does not seem to reflect their ability, which be picked from conversation.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Though dyslexia is not curable, it is very manageable The child is able to go through normal schooling although with a little more attention from the instructors.

Dyslexia Kenya is an organisation that works towards a dyslexia-friendly society by working to fulfill the potential of dyslexic people. The organisation seeks to set general standards and support. The website, www.dyslexiakenya.org has it that 10 per cent of the Kenyan population is dyslexic with 4 per cent being severely so.

Some schools have incorporated syllabuses in their teaching to cater for dyslexic children in order to identify and tackle the problem early enough. Sadly though, it is only the high cost schools that have done this, the likes of Hillcrest Preparatory, St. Andrew’s Turi Imani School among others. Government run and owned institutions are yet to formally recognise dyslexia.

Experts believe that it is less a medical concern than it is a social one. Dyslexic children and adults do not necessarily have more or less health problems than other people. There is no drug that you can prescribe that will make one able to read. So the best place to deal with this is at the learning institutions rather than the hospitals.

Teaching style, myths and living with dyslexia
Teaching methods
Since dyslexia is incurable the next best thing is to ensure that dyslexic children are given as normal an environment as possible. www.dyslexia-teacher.com suggests that teaching ought to be multi-sensory. More than just reading and writing methods should be used.

Teachers should encourage the children and build their confidence because when these children are challenged in class they think of themselves as stupid. Yet, interesting reading material and word games can go a long way in helping them gain confidence which will aid learning and boost their esteem.

Myths associated with dyslexia

Myth – Children outgrow dyslexia
Fact – Dyslexia is not outgrown, only managed.
Myth- Gifted people cannot be dyslexic
Fact – It is possible to have a high IQ and still be dyslexic just as one can be of average and low IQ and be dyslexic. As mentioned in the main article, there is no connection between dyslexia and IQ.

Myth – Dyslexics see things in reverse
Fact – This is a common misconception borne off the fact that dyslexics have problems distinguishing ‘b’ and ‘d’. No, they do not see things in reverse.

Living with dyslexia
The condition does not render a child’s life ‘mission impossible’ and here is why. Tom Cruise (famous for his hit movie Mission Impossible), Whoopi Goldberg and Orlando Bloom, three very successful Hollywood personalities, are dyslexic not to mention Richard Branson. As the founder of the Virgin group of companies, Branson has proved over and over that ambition and passion can overcome the limitations of dyslexia .

Giving dyslexia the ‘half-full’ view of life because of the limitations of the condition, dyslexics tend to be creative and have vivid imagination. They are said to think using all their senses as if to compensate for their one weakness.

END: BL 38/38

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