Wednesday, March 26, 2014
How Much Do You Know About Dyslexia in Singapore? Association Opens 13th Centre in Chua Chu Kang
We've all heard about it, but do we really know what it is? For the longest time, I only had peripheral awareness of it. I just thought it was this thing where people kept confusing mirror images of certain letters (like b-d, or p-q). Well, understandably, it's a lot more than that. And it's fascinating stuff.
Also, it's more common than thought, affecting 10% of Singaporeans. There may be 15-20% of Americans who are dyslexic according to Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity (interesting how the two are together - dyslexics are often very creative).
Famous dyslexics include Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Branson, and Albert Einstein (who didn't speak until he was four). I'm surprised the list includes Orlando Bloom, Steven Spielberg, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, Jamie Oliver (well, OK, not so surprised), Steve Jobs (WHAT?!?), CNN's Anderson Cooper (wow!), Keanu Reeves (whoa), Charles Schwab, Galileo, da Vinci, Thomas Edison and John Lennon.
For me, special needs education and the different ways we learn has been something close to my heart. My older girl Nadine, who has Down Syndrome, has opened up my world to many amazing individuals, and the beautiful souls who are their teachers. My younger girl has just started primary school, so learning to read and write is a great adventure.
It's interesting that we so often associate being smart with being able to read well. But reading is not an innate biological skill, like talking is. Reading's a cultural construct. And not all of us take naturally to it.
Dyslexia is not an intellectual disability; it is a learning difference. Dyslexic people may have difficulty decoding written words or matching sounds to words, so it can be frustrating. MRI scans show dyslexic and regular brains fire up in different zones when tackling the same task.
This summary is from Margie Gillis, from Yale University, who spoke about dyslexia being a blessing and curse. While they struggle with things as basic to us as spelling, dyslexics are often exceptional at spatial analysis, mechanical aptitude, creative problem-solving, visualization, artistic expression and athletics. More signs of dyslexia here from the Yale website.
Early intervention can help individuals cope, but many people go undiagnosed. Worse, they get labelled stupid or become hampered as they struggle along without help. Both teachers and parents need to learn to "teach differently" too. Phonics instruction tends to be more effective, as are other specialised instruction techniques.
The Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) last week opened its 13th Learning Centre at Chua Chu Kang. I was surprised there were so many learning centres across the island, but if you think about it - 10% of the population means that 4 out of typically 40 students in a class might be dyslexic. That's a lot of kids who need targeted assistance.
This Centre is one of DAS's largest, with capacity to hold up to 400 students in 12 classrooms. It will offer services for children with learning difficulties, assessment services, preschool programmes and educational therapy programmes in literacy and math. Currently there are about 2600 students in DAS.
The Chua Chu Kang Learning Centre was constructed with funds from a dedicated donor, Mr Rajesh Malkani in memory of his late mother who believed in giving back to society. He is the Head of Private Bank, South East and North East Asia, Standard Chartered Private Bank.
At the official opening: DAS CEO Mr. Robin Moseley, DAS Assistant Honorary Secretary Mr. Arun Desai, DAS Vice-President Mr. Eric Lee, Chua Chu Kang CCC Chairman Mr. Ng Hock Lye, DAS President Mr. Jimmy Daruwalla, DAS student Rosila Rajan, Minister for Health and Member of Parliament for the Chua Chu Kang GRC Mr. Gan Kim Yong, Special Guests Mr. & Mrs Rajesh Malkani, DAS Honorary Treasurer Mr. Vincent Chen, DAS Senior Educational Therapist Ms. Nur Aisyah Bte Hashim.
There are programs in Singapore that can help dyslexic children from preschool to secondary school levels. There is a very detailed screening test as well. Contact DAS (www.das.org.sg) at their hotline +65 6444-5700 for more information.
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