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Dyslexia in Singapore more prevalent

Increase need for Dyslexia Therapists

SINGAPORE – Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) is sending their therapists to educational trainings to undergo “dual specialization”. This is to meet the requirement of having enough instructors to teach multiple subjects at their centres as the association faces shortage of labour due to the rise of enrolees. DAS explained that this move serves to maximize the potential of their therapists and at the same time save them labour cost.

DAS operating officer Lee Siang further explained that there has been a low count of qualified teachers in the field of specific learning differences in Singapore. Thus, they have to compete in the open market for talents and train them. DAS records a 10% – 15% increase in enrolment per year and they have to keep up with the demand so they can provide better learning for students.

DAS estimates that around 23,000 students that may have dyslexia at present although not all have been diagnosed with the condition.
Dyslexia in Children

It has been a battle for DAS over the years to acquire enough number of teachers as enrolees continues to grow by about 280 annually. In fact, all of the 13 learning centres administered by DAS notice an increase on the number of students.  With the plan to maintain the current class ratio of 1:4, DAS strongly feels the need to bring in additional therapists with flexibility to teach other subjects.

Dual Specialists: What are they For?

According to DAS, all those who are teaching basic literacy reading programmes will take the dual specialization to be able to qualify to teach dyslexic children in mathematics, Chinese or exam skills (to help students understand and pass examinations).

According to Mr. Lee, DAS was able to send 50 dyslexia therapists to complete dual specialization since its introduction last year. This year’s newly hired specialists are required to undergo the same training to accommodate various number of subjects to be taught to students in the centres.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announces its support and help to dyslexia students through expanding its school-based dyslexia remediation programme to more primary schools. MOE further added that 10% of all primary school teachers are also trained in special needs and there will be at least 1 allied educator who understands the symptoms of dyslexia.

DAS has no plans to change its current teacher to student ratio of 1:4 despite the shortage of qualified specialists to train students with dyslexia. The association will continue its efforts to expand teaching capacity no matter what it takes.

1. What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia has been around for decades and has been defined in various ways.

National Centre for Learning Disabilities describes dyslexia as a name for specific learning disabilities in reading. It is neurological and often genetic and is not a result of poor instruction from teachers or upbringing of guardians.  Dyslexia is not limited to children. In fact, adults can also suffer dyslexia with almost similar symptoms to young ones.

According to MNT Knowledge Centre, the problem in dyslexia is a linguistic one and not a visual one. Dyslexia cannot be attributed to lack of intelligence. In fact, people with severe dyslexia can be brilliant. One of the most famous people who suffered from dyslexia is Albert Einstein.

2. What are the symptoms?

National Centre for Learning Disabilities listed more than 5 symptoms that are recognizable in a person with dyslexia.

Young Children
1. Slow in recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds and blending sounds into speech.

2. Trouble pronouncing words

3. Trouble learning and correctly using new vocabulary words

4. Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers and days of the week or similar common word sequences

5. Difficulty in rhyming words

School-Age Children
1. Slow in mastering rules of spelling

2. Trouble with remembering facts and numbers

3. Difficulty in handwriting or with gripping a pencil

4. Trouble with learning and understanding new skills instead of relying on memory

5. Trouble in reading and spelling such as reversing letters

6. Slow in following a sequence of directions

7. Trouble with word problems in Math

Teenagers and Adults
1. Difficulty in reading at the expected level

2. Slow in understanding non-literal language including idioms and jokes

3. Trouble with reading aloud

4. Trouble with organizing and managing time

5. Trouble summarizing a story

6. Slow in learning foreign language

7. Trouble with memorizing

3. What are the treatments?

Dyslexia is not a disease and there is no known cure for this incapability, not even a medicine. However, there are ways on how you can improve your child’s mental functions and limit the negative effects of dyslexia. One is through hiring a private teacher or tutor.

It is important to identify dyslexia in your child at an early stage so you or someone you trust can exclusively work on his or her mental development. Most children with dyslexia are guided by tutor, teacher or other trained professional for their positive mental development.  It is believed that children with dyslexia, if guided properly can become very good readers and writers.  For severe cases of dyslexia, experts advise that the child be moved to a specialist school.

4. What the parents can do?

National Centre for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) advised the following ways to allow your child to recover fast from dyslexia.

1. Allow your child to practise oral reading, writing and drawing more often.  According to NCLD, this will encourage development of print knowledge and basic letter formation as well as recognition skills in your kid.

2. Expose your child to different kinds of texts. Allow him or her to read books, magazines and even newspapers.

3. The use of multi-sensory, structured language instruction is also beneficial. When introducing new ideas, try using sight, sound and touch.

4. Allow your child to be guided with the right professionals. Hire a special tutor or teacher to focus on his or her mental development.

5. Don’t make your child feel that he or she is less than others. Motivate her or him to do well, support all of his or her ambitions and praise him or her for every job well done in school and in home.

The enormous effort of DAS to train their dyslexia specialists is truly heart-warming. Hopefully, with the combined efforts from DAS, MOE and parents, no child with dyslexia in Singapore will ever feel less again.

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