Thursday January 17, 2013
Reading classes for dyslexic kids
BY ANTHONY THANASAYAN
AMONG the disabled community, people with learning disabilities remain a forgotten lot in society. Just ask anyone who has worked with them or for their cause.
Learning difficulties affect not just children, but adults as well. People with autism and Down syndrome are also learning disabled.
One of the least understood are persons with dyslexia. It has been estimated that there are as many as 400,000 children with dyslexia in Malaysia.
One of the biggest issues that children and young persons with dyslexia face is unfair labelling of their condition.
“They are seen as stupid and lazy in our society,” laments Sariah Amirin, president of the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
“This is a terrible misnomer of who they actually are and what people like them suffer from,” adds Sariah.
“Although people with dyslexia can’t read or write and frequently fail in school because of the lack of proper support, they are an intelligent lot.”
Sariah goes on to explain that students with a mild form of dyslexia may be able to cope if they have a good class teacher.
“These are often caring and understanding teachers who go the extra mile to help a dyslexic child get through his exam despite his spelling disability. Such teachers should be lauded for their exemplary attitude in looking after the interest of every child.”
Students with moderate to profound dyslexia, according to Sariah, will need to undergo remedial programmes such as special reading classes to help them cope with learning. These are currently not available in special education classes in government schools.
However, dyslexia reading classes are available at Dyslexia Association of Malaysia’s nine centres throughout the country. But, getting special children to attend such classes is not easy. Some headmasters stop their students from attending the three-month class as they think it will disrupt the school’s own programme.
“It’s the dyslexic child who loses out. They end up not learning anything as they are not equipped with skills to help them read and learn effectively.
The special reading classes have proven to be effective with dyslexic students. One graduate is now training to become a pilot in Australia. He is scheduled to give a talk to parents of dyslexic children here this week.
“When he came to us at eight years old, he could hardly read anything,” recalls Sariah. “After completing our course, which he extended by another three months, he managed to overcome his difficulties.”
Universities should also consider looking at the individual skills of high-performing dyslexic students as is being done in overseas countries, instead of only looking at academic qualifications, says Sariah.
“We had one brilliant student who excelled in computer animation. He wanted to be admitted to a local university. Although the university was keen to take him in, they finally had to turn him down because of the strict regulations of the Education Ministry which required specific academic qualifications.”
Sariah also cites the case of another dyslexic student who could not get into a local school for actors for the same reason even though she had been performing in Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.
Sariah, who was one of the pioneers of special education in the ministry in the 1980s, calls for a special job placement officer for people with learning disabilities, in the Government.
His role? To help school leavers with disabilities to be gainfully employed so that they can contribute to the country instead of staying at home because of apathy and discrimination.
For more details, please contact the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia at 03-42515618 or visit www.dyslexiamalaysia.org.my