Junior can’t speak properly — does he need help?

Being able to read and write is essential. Check SP’s warning signs that your child needs help with such skills…

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Is your child having trouble pronouncing words other kids his age have no problem with? Is junior just sticking stubbornly to baby talk or could it be something more sinister? What if he has problems picking up nursery rhymes?

Luckily, you can approach the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) for help. For instance, Specialised Educational Services (SES), one of the outreach programmes under DAS, organises a Preschool Seminar. One of the 2016 seminar’s speakers, Dr Charles Haynes, a leading expert from the US in dyslexia and associated learning difficulties, tells SP how parents can tell if their child has the learning disorder…

1. What warning signs indicate a delay in learning to read and write?

In otherwise typically developing children, a few important very early warning signs in the preschool years are:
(a) A family history of specific reading difficulties in parents and/or siblings.
(b) Speech delays — obvious trouble pronouncing words compared to other children the same age.
(c) Problems with awareness of speech sounds; for example, showing some difficulty learning age-appropriate nursery rhymes.
(d) Low parent literacy levels and limited access to books or other reading materials in the home.
(e) Delays in learning vocabulary and problems in forming longer and more complex sentences.
Your child may have general literacy problems stemming from (d) and (e), but (a), (b) and (c) may indicate more.

2. Then what should I do, as a parent?

If parents see such signs, they should not ignore them. The best course of action is for their child to be screened by a qualified professional. The Dyslexia Association of Singapore is an excellent resource for high-quality professionals. In addition, readers can google the International Dyslexia Association's website for free fact sheets about early detection and assessment of dyslexia and related topics of interest.

3. What’s next if my child has been diagnosed with dyslexia?

If the screening indicates a possible problem, then the child may need an in-depth assessment of speech and language abilities (in English and in their home language, if at all possible), cognitive abilities, pre-reading skills, as well as reading and writing skills. A good evaluator will also make sure that the child’s hearing and vision is tested. In some cases, a child may benefit from also being evaluated by a neurologist or a psychologist.

Photo: INGimage

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