Dealing with dyslexia

Dyslexia is a serious reading problem which can stunt learners’ progress

EDUCATIONAL psychologists estimate that 15% of learners have serious reading problems. Dyslexics are among them.

Dyslexic children will reverse words, write letters back to front, get the letter sequences of words wrong and continually lose their place when reading aloud.
In spelling tests they spell phonetically and inconsistently.

Dyslexia is a frustrating communication difficulty, making a child insecure with reading or writing material. A reading disorder such as dyslexia impacts seriously on a child’s development. Learning disability specialists say the majority of affected children do not make the desired progress, despite concerted efforts at early intervention.

Yet, to argue that dyslexics are of inferior intelligence is a misconception. Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison were all dyslexic. Ronald Davis, an American educational researcher, found dyslexic children often to be high in IQ. They may not test well when writing, but they test well orally.

There are many opposing theories about dyslexia: what it is, its causes and its possible correction. Most educationists agree that other causes for poor reading and writing should first be ruled out before labelling a child as a dyslexic.

There are a number of programmes for dyslexics, all developed to rectify the problem. Helping the child to cope with the problem instead of eradicating its cause is the focus of many remedies.

Jan Strydom of the Centre for Dyslexia in Pretoria has developed a programme called Audiblox, which concentrates on basic skills such as concentration, visual discrimination and accurate observation using simple exercises. Scores of dyslexics have improved their school work dramatically using Audioblox.

André Coetzee, headmaster of the Standerton Primary school, started Strydom’s system in his school four years ago. Gradually the number referred for this remedial programme was reduced as children improved. Today Audiblox is integrated into the curriculum for grade 1 learners.

To build sound reading skills, Willem Fourie, a reading therapist, developed a computer programme called Lector. This programme is aimed at the 60% of children in primary school whose reading ability is impaired—it is not aimed at correcting dyslexia, though such children do benefit. Lector builds reading capacity in terms of comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and eye movement exercises.

Arnold Wilken, a British psychologist, proved that tinted spectacle lenses benefit children with a minor brain dysfunction. Such a dysfunction results in typical dyslexic reading and writing symptoms.

Susan du Plessis, a dyslexia specialist from Pretoria says, “Most people in our country—I would say 80% of those from disadvantaged communities—have a reading ability weaker than a grade 7 learner. They are not necessarily dyslexic, but do not get enough opportunities to improve their reading ability.”

It should be remembered that for most school-going learners in South Africa, English is at best a second language, at worst, a foreign language. Are poor reading skills the basis of our educational ills?

Centre for Dyslexia (012) 332-3734; www.audiblox2000.com

Lector Reading Development: (014) 743-0238

Reading Disabilities: www.readbygrade3.com

Dyslexia Website: www.dyslexia.com

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, September 22, 2000.

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