Get tips on how you can boost your dyslexic child’s confidence and help him do better in school.

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When Lilys Amirah Gomes brought her son, Aniq — who was 4 at that time — for a developmental assessment at a local polyclinic, the doctor expressed concerns about her son’s speech development.

Unlike his peers, Aniq was only able to utter a few simple words instead of speaking complete sentences confidently.

Not only was her son unable to differentiate his right from left, he had the tendency to reverse the letters of the alphabet when he wrote. Aniq was referred to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital for further assessment, where the doctors found that Aniq, now 10, had a speech delay. When Aniq entered Primary school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia.

A speech delay just one of the many signs of dyslexia, a learning disorder. The symptoms can manifest in different ways, such as:

“These estimates suggest that in a class of 40 students, one to two students may have dyslexia that is severe enough to warrant intervention.”

* Makes common errors in reading and spelling This includes confusion over letters ― such as mistaking B’s for D’s or P’s for Q’s. They may also reverse letter sequences such as mistaking “was” for “saw”, as well as mixing up words that start with the same letters such as “there”, “that” and “the”.

* Has difficulties associated with reading Junior is only able to read materials that are below his age or grade level, reads hesitantly and with great effort, or misreads common words such as “a” for “and”, “the” for “a” or “from” for “for”.

* Has difficulties with spelling and writing Your kiddo may confuse similar sounding words when spelling like “one” for “won”, produces messy or badly organised work and has trouble copying from the whiteboard in class.

* Has trouble with short-term or verbal working memory Your young ’un may have learnt and understands how to do something but requires frequent reminders before they can do it. They may also have difficulty remembering instructions involving multiple steps.

* Has difficulties associated with time and maths Your child has problems telling time or counting objects and dealing with money.

* Plus, many other signs

Dyslexia Association of Singapore’s (DAS) registered psychologists, Deborah Tan, Tan Shi Jia and Adelaine Teo, point out that an estimated four to 10 per cent of students in Singapore suffer from dyslexia. “These estimates suggest that in a class of 40 students, one to two students may have dyslexia that is severe enough to warrant intervention.”

If you suspect your child may have dyslexia, you can approach the DAS to do an assessment. Typically these assessments will test your child’s cognition, literacy, language and phonological skills. The last set of skills account for junior’s ability to draw meaning from the sound of words. The three DAS psychologists answer your burning questions about the condition…
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When does dyslexia become more apparent in a child?
Symptoms of dyslexia tend to be more apparent when children start formal schooling, that is, Primary school for Singapore. Although children who are at risk of dyslexia can be identified at the preschool level, it is important to note that the development of younger children can be very dynamic and vary greatly due to differences in learning opportunities and language exposure. As such, some of them who appear to be falling behind academically or struggling may not actually have dyslexia.

Dyslexia can cause a child to have low self-esteem. How can parents help?
Parents would need to first acknowledge their feelings towards their child’s diagnosis, before explaining the situation to their child. They have to understand the need for their dyslexic child to be taught differently and their role in listening to and communicating with their child about their difficulties.

Parents can also help their child set achievable goals, reward effort instead of just results, build their self-esteem and resilience, and work on their strengths, amongst others. Parents can also seek professional help from hospitals, Voluntary Welfare Organisations or Family Service Centres.

How can parents help their dyslexic kids if they are falling behind in class?
Parents can enrol their dyslexic child in a specialised literacy intervention programme as soon as possible. As children diagnosed with dyslexia learn differently from their peers, it is important for parents to identify programmes that are tailored to suit their child’s needs.

The DAS is one such provider. Our main literacy programme integrates essential learning components to support children with dyslexia. At the same time, parents should also help their children at home by encouraging them to read more, starting at age-appropriate levels and by keeping a vocabulary book.

“Parents can also help their child set achievable goals, reward effort instead of just results, build their self-esteem and resilience, and work on their strengths.”

What kind of support are children with dyslexia getting in schools?
The Ministry of Education has implemented several initiatives to support students with special educational needs such as dyslexia, including specialised programmes such as the Learning Support Programme (LSP) and School-based Dyslexia Remediation Programme (SDR). The LSP is made available to students who demonstrate literacy difficulties at the Primary One and Two levels. Students who are formally diagnosed with dyslexia can attend the SDR programme at Primary Three and Four. In addition, there are also specialised personnel in schools, such as Allied Educators. They can offer learning and behavioural support alongside teachers trained in special needs.

Is it true that boys are more likely to suffer from the condition than girls?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and some other research studies have suggested that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with specific learning disorders, compared to girls.

Is the condition hereditary or genetic in nature?
Yes, dyslexia tends to run in the family. However, in some families, dyslexia is not apparent in either parent of the child with dyslexia and the other siblings are also unaffected.

Will my children ever outgrow the condition?
Dyslexia is a lifelong learning difference and not something that one can outgrow. However, children with dyslexia can learn different strategies to cope with the difficulties they face.

Photos: iStock

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