It’s a daunting task, but Lilys Amirah Gomes is determined to help her son battle his learning disorder.

“My son has dyslexia”

“When I brought Aniq to a polyclinic for a developmental assessment check-up when he was about 4 years old in 2012, the doctor expressed concerns about his speech development. Unlike his peers, Aniq could only say a few simple words — he couldn’t speak in complete sentences and stuttered whenever he was nervous. Aniq also reversed the letters of the alphabet when he wrote, and couldn’t differentiate right from left. So, the doctor referred him to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital for further examination, which confirmed that Aniq had a speech delay.

Since dyslexia runs in my family — I have it, as do my three younger siblings — I approached the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) for help. DAS experts assessed Aniq and advised me to enrol my son in their preschool programme.

Besides being in full-day childcare, I had to bring Aniq to DAS every week for intervention sessions. He attended sessions — these had a maximum of four students — focusing on phonics, and also underwent speech and language therapy. Now in Primary school, DAS recently diagnosed Aniq with dyslexia.

My initial reaction was one of shock and disbelief, but I have since come to terms with his condition. To complicate matters, my son has Irlen Syndrome. His teachers at school told me that Aniq gets headaches constantly whenever he reads because the words on the whiteboard keep “moving”. These sufferers are sensitive to bright light and also the glare on a white page of text or figures.

A specialist is now monitoring my son’s situation. Soon, he’ll probably require tinted prescription glasses to help him to read and also to minimise his headaches. But such glasses don’t come cheap — the lenses alone cost up to $3,000!

In the meantime, Aniq’s school teachers are very accommodating and use blue or green markers, so that he finds it easier to read the words on the whiteboard. At home, I’ll use coloured highlighters to mark out the words for him to read. While it makes sense for Aniq to use coloured pencils when he writes, he still insists on using normal pencils. He’s willing to endure headaches as he wants to fit in like everyone else — he doesn’t want to be seen as ‘different’ from his peers. I’ve not explained to my child about the conditions he has as I feel he might not fully comprehend what they are all about, but I’ll do so when he’s a little older.

Aniq is still attending DAS sessions to improve his grammar and writing skills. At home, I use visual cues and illustrations. Another activity that I do with my son every day is to get him to recognise as many frequently-used English words as possible within a stipulated time. It’s a time-consuming activity but an extremely important one. Aniq can’t afford to skip lessons, or else he’ll forget the words.

Recently, I received a very nice surprise. Although Aniq’s Maths score was borderline, he scored full marks for his English and Malay language tests in school. His teachers told me how positive and helpful Aniq is in class — he follows instructions well and is always helping his classmates with their homework, especially those who are still struggling to read and write.

It’s heartening to know that Aniq has his teachers’ support and encouragement to help him unlock his potential. They also ensure that he has enough time to revise as well as play.

I’m glad that Aniq received early intervention from DAS as I can see how much he has improved in the last three years. My son has benefited tremendously from the speech and language therapy. He seldom stutters and is turning into a very chatty boy! He now speaks clearly and in complete sentences, too. This has really helped to boost his confidence level!”

Single mum Lilys Amirah Gomes, 28, lives in Yishun with her son Muhammad Aniq Irfan Abdul Malek, 7.

Photo: INGimages


Dyslexia — the facts

Geetha Shantha Ram, director of the DAS Literacy Programme at Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), has details on this learning disorder.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, which impacts a person’s ability to read, spell and write.

Is dyslexia common in Singapore?

About 10 per cent of the population has dyslexia, of which four per cent has severe dyslexia requiring specialised intervention. Also, more boys than girls are dyslexic — the ratio of boys to girls stands at 2.5 to 1 at DAS.

How can parents tell if their child has dyslexia?

The first indication is when the child struggles with reading. Early signs to watch out for include:

· Late speech or difficulty in pronouncing certain common words.

· Difficulties in remembering the right names for objects.

· Trouble in learning the alphabet or numbers.

· Unable to recognise rhymes.

When should parents seek help?

Early identification is key. If parents suspect that their child has dyslexia, send him for an assessment. It also sets the parents’ minds at ease and allows them to pursue different ways to help their child.

How will the diagnosis be made?

To determine the child’s needs for educational support, DAS psychologists integrate the information based on their observations during standardised testing, testing data, as well as feedback from both parents and teachers.

Is a dyslexic child’s self-esteem affected by this condition?

They sometimes suffer from low self-esteem because of the unfair social comparisons to their non-dyslexic peers. Bullying can also contribute to this. But studies have shown that a child’s self-esteem can be nurtured with a supportive school and home environment, quality intervention and a better understanding of his or her own strengths and abilities.

Visit DAS for more information on dyslexia

This story was first published in the January 2015 issue of Mother & Baby Singapore.

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