This is my second “In Other News” post. I promised to be a voice for other children with special needs, and this time it’s for children with Dyslexia.
I watched “Like Stars on Earth” an Indian movie in 2011, and it kinda brought Dyslexia home for me. I had read an article in a Newspaper in 2009, about a Nobel Prize winner who had Dyslexia.
Carol Greider had won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine with 2 other people. They had discovered Telomerase, an enzyme that plays an important role in the division of cells, and which has a real potential to fight cancer and age-related diseases. The Nobel Prize was not her first award; she had won The Albert Lasker Award in 2006, an award for works in sciences.
Who would have thought that a lady with this much accolade struggled through elementary school because she had a disorder that made reading and speaking difficult? Spelling words, sounding letters, putting letter sounds together to form words were a challenge for her. She had challenges with speaking; sometimes the wrong words will come out of her mouth while she was thinking of another word. Carol Greider had Dyslexia just like that little boy in Like Stars on Earth.
Dyslexia is a type of learning disorder that affects reading, spelling, writing, and sometimes speaking. Children with dyslexia may be able to understand instructions that are verbal, and have difficulty with written information. The child may find it easy answering questions orally, but may not be able to write the answers on paper. They may read and write slowly, write letters the wrong way (e.g confuse “b” for “d”), spell poorly, confuse the order of letters in words. Some children with dyslexia see the words moving on the book (at least they say so). Dyslexia does not only affect the child in writing, reading or spelling; many people with dyslexia struggle with planning and organization, have difficulty with sequence of direction. I remember that the little boy in the movie could not throw ball in a particular direction.
Dyslexia usually becomes obvious when the child starts school and starts writing, about age 5, but it can be noticed earlier in pre-school children. Just like autism, a toddler with dyslexia can have delayed speech (reasons you cannot assume that every child that talks late has autism). These children may have difficulty pronouncing long words, or may jumble up words- for example saying “beddy tear” instead of “Teddy bear”; may not understand rhyming words like “sit” and “hit” especially in Nursery rhymes; learning alphabets can be a challenge for the child.
Just like autism, dyslexia is a lifelong disorder, so the child does not outgrow it. Having a child with these difficulties can be disturbing for a parent, or teaching such a child. Learning disabilities cannot be beaten out of a child; you cannot wait it out and expect learning to get easier. Some people assume that comparing the child to other children will motivate the child to be better, rather it will make the child rebellious. As a parent, you therefore cannot leave your child’s condition to chance.
The first way to help your child is by speaking to the school if they have a Special Education Needs (SEN) Department. In Nigeria, not all schools have a SEN department, so you may have to get the help of a Dyslexia professional. But that is not all; like I always say, the bulk of the work lies on the parents. You have to work to help your child;
- Spend time reading to your child. This will build the child’s interest in books and improve vocabulary and listening skills.
- Read books together with your child. You can discuss the book, to improve comprehension.
- Don’t get bored reading the same book to your child “a thousand times” (that’s just figurative) if he likes it, it will reinforce his understanding and get more familiar with the written text.
- Encourage your child to read alone so he can get more independent and fluent.
- Reward your child’s progress in reading, writing, spelling, speaking. Make learning fun, as it is already harder than it should be for the child.
- As the child grows older, you can introduce the use of computers, as it makes spelling easier; there is usually the spell checker. Computers also usually have text-to-speech apps, helping your child maximize his oral skills.
- Remember to work directly with the professional that is supporting your child. It is all about team-work.
Carol Greider is not the only dyslexic person that has succeeded in her career of choice; Whoopi Goldberg, the actress has dyslexia; Steven Speilberg, the guy that directed many movies including Transformers is said to be dyslexic; Richard Branson of the Virgin Group (you know Virgin Airways na); Anderson Cooper, a News anchor on CNN is said to be dyslexic. The list includes Tom Cruise, Leonardo Da Vinci, Patrick Dempsey, and Jennifer Aniston. On Wikipedia alone, there are so many people and what they do.
A Dyslexia suspicion and diagnosis is not the end of the world. With your support, your child can be successful.
I wish you all the best, and Happy Dyslexia Awareness Week.
Please share this post to create awareness, you don’t know the child or parent you may be helping and giving hope to. Thank you.