Around 20,000 primary and secondary school students in Singapore are diagnosed with dyslexia.
An average of one to two students could be dyslexic in a class of 40, according to Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS).
Dyslexia is commonly known as a reading disorder.
People who have dyslexia have trouble reading, spelling and writing words, sounding out words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads despite possessing normal intelligence.
Different people with dyslexia are affected to varying degrees.
The exact cause of dyslexia is uncertain, but according to research findings, dyslexia might be associated with neurological differences which may tend to be hereditary.
Dyslexia is not a sign of mental retardation, low intelligence, poor vision or hearing, or laziness. It is the neurological differences in the brain that influence the way dyslexics think, learn and process written and spoken language.
It is estimated that 15 percent of the world’s population have dyslexia.
People with dyslexia are often very creative. Among the list of famous dyslexics include Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Whoopi Goldberg.
One of the world’s famous film-makers – Steven Spielberg, who has directed many award-winning movies such as Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park – was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 60.
As a student in school, Spielberg has always realised he was a little different from everyone else. Due to a lack of awareness about dyslexia in the 1950s, Spielberg’s learning disability went undetected, and his reading difficulties were often misunderstood as laziness.
“I was not able to read for around two years. I was two years behind my class. I went through what everybody goes through – it is teasing,” he said in an exclusive interview with ‘Friends of Quinn’ website.
Speilberg advised: “It is more common than you ever imagined. You are not alone. There are ways to escalate your reading skill and comprehension. It is something that you have the rest of your life, but you can sort of dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go. And it won’t hold you back.”
Epoch Times looks at the obstacles facing two dyslexic Singaporeans – Lisi Lin, an Accounts Receivable manager who shares with us her own struggles with dyslexia and how she is helping her 11-year-old dyslexic son, Danish Kamal.
Can you share with us some challenges and difficulties you faced growing up with dyslexia?
Lisi: I hardly passed any primary school examinations. The only subject that I managed to obtain a borderline pass was Mathematics. I struggled with reading English. My teachers thought I was lazy and kept pressing me to read more. I was often challenged to stand and read aloud in class. But as I couldn’t read, I would just stand and keep silent with all my classmates staring at me.
My results were so bad that I was expelled from school after primary three and I had to enrol into another school that provided an eight-year extended course.
How did this change your outlook on life?
Lisi: I am a degree holder in Accountancy. I am positive that my language difficulties made me a better person as it was the inferiority and challenges that shaped me into who I am today. I am now a person who is independent, take pride in everything I do and have good planning skills. Without it, I may be complacent as I would lack the willpower to do better.
When did you discover your child’s dyslexia?
Lisi: We noticed that Danish was slow in speaking when he was a small child. In fact, he was still not speaking at the age of three. So we decided to send him for child development observation and followed up with the doctor every six months. When he reached the age of five, the doctor suggested that we put him through a dyslexic test and he was diagnosed at the age of six to have dyslexia.
Can you share with us the challenges and struggles you face coping with a child who has dyslexia?
Lisi: Danish has two older sisters, both of whom are academically sound. His second sister frequently tops her class, and Danish often feels that he is different from his sisters and not as good as them. So the family is cautious about his self-esteem. We always try to be positive towards him and assure him that he has other strengths. We regularly speak about dyslexia at home to let Danish know that it is nothing to be shy or feel bad about. These have worked on building his self-esteem and confidence, making him more sociable and less shy when speaking with adults.
Danish is comfortable with himself, meaning that he does not feel any pressure on him and does not see the need to do well. This poses a challenge for us because, on one hand, we do not want to put pressure on him and measure him by his academic results, but on the other, we have difficulties in teaching him to take responsibility for his school work and examinations.
Do you have any advice for parents with similar experiences?
Be creative and be consistent as these are key in helping your child grow.
– Lisi Lin
Lisi: I would advise parents not to measure their children’s capabilities by their academic results. Being top students in school does not necessary mean success in the future. We should focus on the process of learning, building resilience along the way and learning from one’s mistakes. These are the elements that will help shape our children’s characters. Be creative and be consistent as these are key in helping your child grow.
How has the world become more aware and helpful to dyslexic people?
Lisi: I believe DAS should be credited for the greater awareness of people with dyslexia. Higher awareness of dyslexia enables people with dyslexia to seek help at an early age. When I was in primary school, not many people knew about dyslexia. I was labelled as lazy and playful then, (so I) grew up feeling lousy about myself and believed that I wasn’t going to do well in adulthood.
My son, however, received positive attention and encouragement with the help of intervention programmes from the time he started schooling. With these positive energies, at such a young age, he already has his dreams and aspirations – he wants to be a pilot when he grows up.
Dyslexia is not a disease. Today, early diagnosis and intervention programmes can help students with dyslexia to reach their academic potential.
Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) is a one-stop centre which provides a full range of services to help dyslexics. For more information and resources about dyslexia, visit http://www.das.org.sg/