By nature, children respond best to kindness, gentleness, and mercy. Treating children with harshness does more damage in the long run than you can possibly imagine. Parents whose children have difficulty to read and write by a certain age might get so frustrated that they resort to physical and mental abuse, thinking that harshness will humiliate and shame these children into reading and writing better.
When a child is not able to read or write by a certain age, it is likely that he or she is dyslexic. Many dyslexic children, who appear normal and are typically smart are accused of being dumb, lazy, stubborn or stupid when they are in fact struggling so hard to keep up.
If your child is bright but unable to read or recognise numbers by primary school, for example, it doesn’t help to label him. Rather, get him the help he needs.
There will be a Dyslexia Education & Parenting Workshop on Sunday, 20th November 2016 as shown in the poster below.
Go to any parenting programme and chances are the majority of the participants are women, mostly mothers, even if the session is meant for fathers. It was a pleasant surprise indeed when I discovered that two of the champions of the Dyslexia Education & Parenting Workshop [see poster below] in Kuala Lumpur are fathers. Both Dr Aziz Abu Hassan and Encik Ahmad Fitri Isahak have strong reasons to be involved in the cause.
Jamilah: Tell us about yourself – a bit of your personal and professional backgrounds. What drives you to do what you do now with dyslexic children?
Dr Aziz: My education was in agricultural economics but since returning from the United States, I have been in the finance industry professionally spending time at Permodalan Nasional Berhad, Arab-Malaysian Merchant Bank, Rashid Hussain Asset Management Sdn Bhd before setting up my own fund management company with a few partners. I’m driven by what I see as the lack of awareness and commitment to give a fair and equitable education, a basic entitlement of any child, what more with a dyslexic student who learns differently.
I have been with PDM (Persatuan Disleksia Malaysia) since 2008 as an EXCO member in one capacity or another. I feel that not enough has been done for dyslexic students and not enough awareness among the Malaysian public. I created a Facebook page Disleksia Malaysia to create more awareness. This year, the parent support group, Pertubuhan Sokongan Ibubapa Disleksia Malaysia (PSIDM), was formed. The primary objective of this organisation is to push for law legislation in Malaysia for Dyslexia.
Encik Fitri: I came to know that I was dyslexic at age 25, during my final year examination in university. My lecturer called me to see him in his room. He said that based on my project paper, he couldn’t pass my project, and that was the start of my “Life Journey of Discovery”. I did however succeed to complete my studies later.
On what drives me to do what I do now, basically it’s about giving back to society. We know that one in five people are dyslexic. There are too many Malaysians who are dyslexic and have had little to no support from the government and society in general.
For more information about me and my personal struggles, please visit Iamdyslexic. In my family, I believe my mother and a sister are dyslexic.
Jamilah: Watching the video Embracing Dyslexia was an eye opener. Are you dyslexic / a parent of dyslexic child/ren?
Dr Aziz: I am a parent of an almost 16-year-old dyslexic son, Imran, and a 14-year-old dyscalculic daughter, Sara. I probably am a dyslexic as I tend to think in pictures and dislike memorising.
Dr Aziz Abu Hassan
Jamilah: How can we tell if a child/person has dyslexia?
Dr Aziz: It’s difficult to distinguish a dyslexic child physically or mentally as they appear normal. The most obvious sign is that they have difficulty recognising or remembering alphabets or numbers. If they can recognise these, then it is possible that they have difficulty spelling and reading.
Encik Fitri: Dyslexic.org offers good resources on understanding dyslexia and the talents that dyslexics have. It is based on a Masters research project carried out by Sue Bell with a group of dyslexic adults in a Manchester community education centre. It also explores the social and emotional sides of living with dyslexia.
Encik Ahmad Fitri Isahak
Jamilah: What are the a) major and b) minor issues that a dyslexic child faces growing up?
Dr Aziz: The major issue in the long run is not being able to complete their education, either at the primary or secondary school level, leading to difficulty for them to secure any kind of job. In order to survive they may resort to other means of earning a living. A minor issue is recognition of dyslexia and being accommodated at the workplace. Since employers are often unaware and often guided by fixed rules, employers may not be able to provide the accommodations dyslexics need at the job. Dyslexics often work for themselves.
As a student, a major issue that a dyslexic faces is keeping at par with normal children in schools, colleges or universities. They will face difficulties in spelling, reading and comprehension if they are required to read at the same time. Many would not have difficulty understanding if the text or essay is read to them. However, even after comprehension they would have difficulty in expressing what they know in written form although they wouldn’t have too much difficulty expressing themselves orally. Hence this is the main reason why they need the extra time during exams which is mainly to allow them to understand what the questions are and time to write down their answers in proper sentences.
Encik Fitri: In my opinion, the best is to have an early intervention programme for the kids as early as 6-8 years old, because if they cannot access the much-needed assistance in their early years, they may reach a point of frustration in life, resorting to negative behaviors e.g. throwing tantrums, smoking, mixing with the wrong crowd.
The idea is as they grow up, the adults/ parents/ teachers should always encourage them to do things that they like or interest them e.g. arts and craft, fixing things, cooking, reading books with a sense of joy. It will start to open up a new world for them or new possibilities and opportunities.
Jamilah: What are some possible complications that may arise for dyslexic child/ren?
Dr Aziz: The low self-esteem and self-confidence may prevent them from trying or attempting to learn in an environment which is not dyslexia friendly, that is, in a class with normal children, who may tease or bully them.
Lack of self-esteem and self-confidence is usually not just caused by colleagues but also by teachers who have no understanding of dyslexia, the manner or way dyslexics learn.
The success of the PDM remediation program is primarily based on the presence of other dyslexics who invariably would not tease or bully or look down on another who is struggling. Often, they in fact help each other.
Encik Fitri: In my opinion, the key is, once they understand the word “FOCUS”, their world is unstoppable.
Jamilah: Can a dyslexic child easily get the support they need in the current education setting?
Dr Aziz: In the current education setting, children are not getting the proper support they should be getting, even in the schools with dyslexia program. There are only 65 primary schools and 13 secondary schools with dyslexia programs in the whole country when there should be at least 1 class of dyslexia program in every primary school. Even in the 65 primary schools there are no adequate number of teachers with the required training. If a teacher becomes pregnant or is transferred to another school the dyslexia class wouldn’t have a teacher for one of the core subjects. I contend that the same is happening in the secondary schools. The dyslexia programs in any of the schools have never been audited. The normal practice is the teachers tutor or assist the dyslexic students in their learning. Educational equipment are often lacking in the class; it is usually the dedicated teachers who provide the educational tools needed by their students.
Encik Fitri: By right they should have ideally one external class especially catered for dyslexic children. Forget about university, to the best of my knowledge, almost all do not have any support programme for them.
Jamilah: Where can parents of dyslexic children get the support they need?
Dr Aziz: I suspect that the only recourse parents have are our 13 remediation centers which is not enough to support all the potentially one million children who are in need of assistance. Parents are usually at a loss as to where to get assistance. If they have no internet access and are not able to browse the internet to look for help they become helpless. The children in the rural areas are the ones highest at risk of being neglected totally. I created the Facebook page Dyslexia Malaysia specifically to create awareness for those searching on the internet. The newly formed Pertubuhan Sokongan Ibubapa Disleksia (PSIDM) also has a page on Facebook Dyslexia.My Parents Support Group to promote legislation on dyslexia in the country.
Encik Fitri: Persatuan Dyslexia Malaysia (PDM) and Pertubuhan Sokongan Ibubapa Dyslexia Malaysia (PSIDM) and other third party childcare service providers.
Jamilah: Are there success stories of dyslexic children/people? Please also share your personal experiences with them, and success factors.
Dr Aziz: The success stories are: 1) Captain James Tan, one of the first six students taught by Puan Sariah Amirin, current President of PDM. Captain James Tan became a world record holder as a pilot flying round the world in a small plane. 2) Vince Low, now a renowned artist (scribbler) worldwide for his unique style of art. There are also others who prefer to remain anonymous. In all cases, their success is attributed to working four times harder than the normal person and having a determination to succeed.
Encik Fitri: In my facebook page Iamdyslexic, I highlighted my five principles where Life is a Journey of Discovery.[ends]