Wednesday, 4 November 2009

They overcame dyslexia: Can our children?

I came across this article while surfing on the internet. I would like to express my worries and concern to those children who have learning disabilities especially dyslexic children as current approach and the mainstream education system are not supporting and effective enough, leaving these children struggling.

May Allah gives me the strength to be part of the society and people, to continue giving my effort and support these children (with learning disabilities) and parents as well.

We need to be creative and open to new reading techniques. There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to teaching children with learning disabilities. The teachers must be aware of successful strategies used by other parties.

The phonemic and phonic techniques in my opinion, are among of the best reading techniques. Half of my students with learning disabilities especially dyslexic children are able to read and write as well, now....alhamdulillah.

Please read this article and share with me the concerns. Don't wait for miracles to happen, but efforts have to be done.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009, 11.03 PM

They overcame dyslexia: Can our children?

ALBERT Einstein, Tom Cruise and Walt Disney had it. And so do 314,000 Malaysian schoolchildren. This may translate to just five per cent of the school population but there is potential in these children that can be tapped.

However, the mainstream education system is not structured to support their learning needs, says Malaysian Dyslexia Association president Sariah Amirin.

There is potential in these children that can be tapped, but the mainstream education system is not structured to support their learning needs in a more effective manner, says Malaysian Dyslexia Association president Sariah Amirin.

The Education Ministry acknowledges the needs of this group of learners and has in place some initiatives to support them within the mainstream education, but these are not enough and not implemented in the right manner, says Sariah.

“The school as an institution must be able to manage different behavioural responses to learning, but our schools are failing in this aspect, especially with dyslexic children.”

Children with dyslexia are limited only by their inability to read and write which are the fundamentals in learning. Their reading ability does not match their age and IQ level which is average or above average.

Some of these children might be unable to perform a simple reading task but have good command of the spoken language. They also excel in maths, science, art and music.

“In spite of the language difficulties they face, they are intelligent and capable.

“Children with dyslexia can benefit if their disability is identified early and appropriate help in reading and writing is extended to them.”

Unlike those with Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, children with dyslexia can go to university, work and contribute to the economy and society.

“If we pay more attention to these children, we could have our very own Steve Jobs, Tom Cruise, Walt Disney or Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Alexander Graham Bell or Pablo Picasso — famous personalities who are known to have this learning disability,” Sariah says.

“The Permata Pintar programme initiated by Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the prime minister, is a crucial plan to improve the quality of the nation’s human capital,” says Sariah.

“It aims to identify as many gifted and talented children as possible regardless of race or religion or school. It will be fitting if this programme is extended to children with dyslexia.”,” she says.

Sariah says the current approach in school is not effective, leaving many children with dyslexia struggling. through school with minimal help. When their learning ways are not addressed, it leads to anti-social behaviour.

“Ask any parent who has school-going children with dyslexia and they will tell you about their child’s frustrations. in not being able to cope. with their peers. This could lead to social, emotional as well as behavioural problems. Some refuse to attend school or play truant.”

The ministry launched the Dyslexia Pilot School Programme in 2004. It is conducted to help children with dyslexia better cope with lessons conducted by teachers trained in the field of dyslexia.

Starting with Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Tun Dr Ismail (2), it involved more than 30 primary schools nationwide. And according to plans, some 100 primary schools should have this programme in place by next year.

However, Sariah says, full implementation never took place as planned.

“Although on paper some 60 schools should have this programme by now, in reality, we only know of three schools — SK Taman Tun Dr Ismail (2), SK Jalan Air Panas and SK Taman Maluri — which are actively following the programme.” The reason: the programme has not been well-received by some school principals and teachers.

“As the lead person personnel in the school, a principal must provide the necessary support for teachers to carry out the programme, but this is not happening in many schools,” says Sariah.

“They stand guilty of depriving intellectually capable children of opportunities to learn. Without their support, teachers, although trained in the area, are not able to put their knowledge into practice, for the benefit of the children.”

“Every child, the able as well as the disabled, has a right to education and it is the school’s responsibility to provide opportunities for learning.” without discrimination.Sariah says.

Sariah also claims that not much effort is made to support children with dyslexia in secondary schools or those in rural areas.

Another major concern is the shortage of specialist dyslexia teachers. There are only about 100 such trained teachers, but not all are involved in teaching children with dyslexia as they are given other responsibilities or promoted.

“The ministry needs to ensure teachers with the expertise continue to serve in the field they were trained,” she says.

The association wants a compulsory module on dyslexia to be included in the teacher training courses at colleges and universities as is being done in other countries.

“Only then by this approach can we ensure all teachers know how to help children with this learning disability.”

Sariah, who has more than 40 years’ experience dealing with children with learning disabilities, also suggests that teacher training institutes have a hands-on training approach in dealing with children with learning disabilities.

“All cannot be achieved by sitting in the comfort of a lecture room and learning teaching theories. The more practical knowledge trainee teachers have, the better they will become.”

The teachers need to be creative. There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to teaching children with learning disabilities. They must be aware of successful strategies used by other teachers.

But sadly, most of our teachers, have a preset approach to teaching and refuse to change their ways. It stems, she says, from a lack of passion and dedication to their jobs.

Specialised help at a very early age is another suggestion by the association.

This can prevent long-term-reading problems among children. The ideal window of opportunity for addressing reading difficulties, according to research, is at kindergarten level.

Currently, a Year One pupil is screened with the help of a dyslexia checklist (Instrumen Senarai Semak Disleksia) only after six months into school based on a teacher’s recommendation.

If a child is found to be at risk, he or she will be placed in an Early Intervention Class (Kelas Intervensi Awal) in Year Two.

“Remediation only begins in Year Two and by then, it becomes much more difficult for the child to keep up with schoolwork and their peers. It also becomes much more difficult for teachers.

The right approach is to intervene as early as in kindergarten. where a child begins to learn how to read.

The government must ensure all preschoolers are tested to identify learning disabilities.”

Kindergarten teachers must be trained to look out for early warning signs.

Time is of essence in developing reading skills especially for children with dyslexia.”

The association wants to work closely with the ministry to quickly resolve the many problems. faced by children with dyslexia, their parents and teachers.

“It would be ideal if the association is allowed to set up a dyslexia learning centre in one school in every district.

Together with the ministry, we can extend help and mobilise expertise to teach these children.”

A similar approach is used in Singapore where the move has enabled more children to have access to specialised remediation programmes. It has also made it convenient to train and support parents and teachers.

The association conducts seminars and workshops on dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. It also conducts tests to diagnose dyslexia. The association has trained teachers who run small group tuition classes for children with dyslexia.

Contact the Malaysian Dyslexia Association at www.mydyslexia/persatuan or email:

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