Dyslexia screening in Singapore
What is important to understand with dyslexia is that it has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence. Some parents think that if their child has been diagnosed with dyslexia that it is a death sentence, especially in the rigorous academic landscape that is Singapore.
So what is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disability where sufferers have problems processing information when looking at words. Symptoms include; having problems writing, speaking, spelling and doing math. For instance while a five year old who doesn’t suffer from the disability might take 20 minutes to do a group of math question, a dyslexic child could take up to two hours to do the same set of questions.
Dyslexia can range from mild to severe, however like any condition or disability, early detection is crucial. That’s why, according to a Channel News Asia report, there has been a clarion call by both parents and experts to have dyslexic screening start at the pre-school level instead of when the child is already in primary school which is when current screening is.
The earlier, the better
The difference between early screening and later screening is significant as a dyslexic child receiving early intervention could do up to four times better than one receiving help at the age of 11. According to the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), currently most students seek help between the ages of nine and 11.
Its chief operating officer, Lee Siang, said, “Ideally, there should be a large scale programme to identify children at a younger age. MOE has already started this at the P1 and P2 level. [but] If we can work with the preschool fraternity, to identify children at risk of dyslexia, I think that would be very good, and a big step towards helping these children much earlier.”
According to DAS, severe forms of dyslexia that require intervention can affect up to four percent of any population. This means that about 20,000 primary and secondary school students could be suffering from it at any one point of time.
Yet, only 2,400 students are currently supported by DAS which translates to over 15,000 students who might be struggling in school and not quite knowing why.
What you can do to help
Parents too can do their part by understanding the signs and symptoms of dyslexia and refer their children to the Dyslexia Association of Singapore for further testing. After all, if your child is suffering from the learning disability, and doesn’t know how to cope with it, he might get frustrated and stressed unnecessarily. So always remember to be patient, no matter how frustrated you too might be.
Hopes for the future
Moving forward, the DAS aims to have a special school especially for dyslexic children. They have recently re-submitted a proposal for a special school especially for dyslexic children to the Ministry of Education after feedback collected from parents through two surveys it conducted in 2005 and 2011.
Mr Lee added about the proposal, “The feedback is that parents wish for a school that is dedicated to dyslexic children — one with an MOE curriculum, and with teachers who are trained to teach in MOE schools. This has been a constant feedback from parents.”
A good move?
Sheryn Ong, a parent whose child has mild dyslexia, approves of such a school saying, “If there is a school for dyslexic children, you and I are the same — we’re on the same platform. The teacher and student ratio would be a lot less, so the teacher would be able to cope, even though children have different levels of dyslexia.”
Yet there are other parents who feel that there could be some social implications of their child going to a special school instead of a mainstream school, especially that of being thought of as different. A better alternative would be having specially assigned teachers attached to mainstream schools, who could give the dyslexic students extra help in overcoming their learning difficulties.