'Dyslexic children are falling under the radar': Local clinical psychologist shares nine facts about dyslexia in SA

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People with untreated Dyslexia may be at a greater risk of suffering from depression and anxiety. (Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)
People with untreated Dyslexia may be at a greater risk of suffering from depression and anxiety. (Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)

October is International Dyslexia Awareness Month with 4 October earmarked as World Dyslexia Awareness Day. 

To commemorate the day Kalie Naidoo, a clinical psychologist has provided Parent24 with nine important facts amount the lesser-known learning disability.  

Naidoo is the Head of the Education Resource Centre at Bellavista School in Johannesburg, a school dedicated to teaching Dyslexic children through tailor-made curriculum. 

ALSO SEE Is your child struggling in an English-medium school? It may not be the language barrier

Bellavista also provides training to teachers and health professionals on how to recognise, treat and counsel those living with Dyslexia in SA. 

From common misconceptions to challenges SA faces when it comes to assisting people with Dyslexia, here's a look at 9 facts about dyslexia according to Naidoo. 

1. What is Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is marked by difficulties with word recognition, poor spelling and poor decoding abilities.   

2. How prevalent is Dyslexia?

International data indicates that between 10 – 15% of people have dyslexia, with around 4% of children severely affected by the condition.  

3. How is Dyslexia diagnosed?

Often a paediatrician will make this diagnosis because, in South Africa, only medical practitioners and psychologists can make this diagnosis.  In the UK and USA, teachers with specialist training are able to diagnose.

In my opinion, teachers and parents are in the best position to identify that a child may be presenting with Dyslexia.  As far back as 2013, it was indicated that intelligence assessments are not necessary for this.

I believe we should be using curriculum-based achievement tests to identify reading disorders such as Dyslexia.  

4. What are some of the common misconceptions when it comes to Dyslexia? 

  • Diagnosis can only be made by end of Grade 1

A child can only be diagnosed with Dyslexia by end of Grade 1, or once the child has had time to mature. We are able to pick up risk indicators by age 4 or 5. We know that early intervention yields the best results. It is also more cost-efficient and prevents years of struggle and poor academic results for the child. 

  • Dyslexic children should not learn a second language

Often, in the South African context, the home language is suppressed. We know that Dyslexic children have no problems with oral language, they struggle with written language. The same areas of the brain are used regardless of which language is being engaged.  

  • Dyslexic children are sometimes thought of as being lazy

Their performance within a subject and across subjects varies. Neuroscience evidence shows that extraordinary effort is required for them to read or write and stay engaged in schoolwork. 

  • Dyslexia is a visual difficulty and eye exercises will fix the problem

There are issues of visual stress, but this is not the cause of Dyslexia.

  • Dyslexic children are gifted 

The normal bell curve applies to children with Dyslexia. There might be some gifted children, but most children fall within average abilities. 

5. What interventions are available to assist people with Dyslexia in SA?  

The best intervention is good teacher training to teach literacy. We have sufficient scientific evidence on how to best teach reading to young children. But SA needs more evidence-based training course to be made available to teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists,  psychologists and parents to enable them to better understand the condition and assist children with the condition. 

6. What are the benefits of early intervention?

It yields change quicker for the child and can prevent the child from suffering from low self-esteem, long-term depression, anxiety and early school drop-out.  

7. Can an adult with Dyslexia be assisted or is it then too late? 

Yes, they can, although it might take longer to see progress and it is more difficult for them.  Many adults develop their own compensatory coping mechanisms to manage literacy tasks in the work-place and their everyday life, for example - re-reading, using a Dictaphone, text to speech technology and so on. 

8. What are the risks and disadvantages to a person if Dyslexia is not diagnosed? 

Long term, people with untreated Dyslexia may be at a greater risk of suffering from depression and anxiety. There is a higher likelihood of early school drop-out and the knock-on effect of being poorly educated or uneducated, with poor employment prospects and the associated psychosocial challenges.  

9. What are some of the challenges SA faces when it comes to assisting people with Dyslexia? 

As a country, we are not sensitive to the reading needs and personal struggles of people with Dyslexia. Our reading levels in the general population are so low, that most Dyslexic children fall under the radar at great personal and societal cost. 

Does your child live with Dyslexia? What is the most common misconceptions about the learning disorder have you experienced? 

Chatback:

Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Submitted to Parent24 by Bellavista S.H.A.R.E  Award in Literacy and Dyslexia

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