By VICTORIA SEIKETSO SETHIBE
Dyslexia is defined as a learning disability that makes it difficult for a person to decode (read), encode (spell) and comprehend words (Sandman-Hurley, 2016). In that way, dyslexic people experience challenges writing sentences and comprehensive paragraphs.
Unfortunately, dyslexia has is still misunderstood by quite a number of people even up to now, causing a fair share of dyslexics to feel out of place in a world they live in. Quite often a child’s problems with reading, spelling and retention of information results in the mistaken impression that the child is of below average intelligence, and that they will never be able to make any sound decisions in life.
There are those who call children with learning disabilities “mepakwana.” The truth is the word “mopakwana” does not in any way portray a true picture of who dyslexic children really are.
Contrary to the “mopakwana” myth, dyslexia is not a sign of a disease, laziness or lower IQ. Dyslexics are not less valuable than the mainstream learners, they just have a different identity that they need to be proud of, in spite of being a minority group. In fact, some of the world’s most renowed minds such as Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs are said to have been dyslexic.
What should alarm you to suspect your child could be dyslexic?
Quite often, the warning signs of dyslexia do not become obvious until later on when a child is expected to read and write more often. Dyslexia may take time before it can be clearly diagnosed.
If a child has persistently been struggling with reading, spelling and writing comprehensive sentences, despite all the effort to learn those skills, it is a warning that the child could be dyslexic.
It is however, always advisable to take the struggling child to an educational psychologist for assessment and proper diagnosis before reaching a conclusion about dyslexia.
It is through proper diagnosis that appropriate support can be rendered.
It is also important to note that not everyone who is struggling to read and write is dyslexic as there could be other underlying factors contributing to this struggle due to medical problems.
Dyslexia does not discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, race, economic and social status.
What advantages do dyslexic learners have?
Dyslexics are some of the most pleasant people to have around if you are sensitive to their needs because they are great listeners and they generally go an extra mile. They are particularly great at recalling and retelling stories.
They can also critically analyse anything that is read to them.
The downside of being dyslexic in a non-inclusive mainstream environment
Dyslexic children are very sensitive. They ask themselves why their friends seem to learn to read and spell without much struggle, while they do not make much progress in that area no matter how hard they try. Consequently, they begin to question their own intelligence, more especially if they have been mocked by their peers and misunderstood by their caretakers.
Even though dyslexia is not readily detectable, dyslexic children generally tend to feel as if everyone around them is aware of and against their weaknesses. It is for that reason they tend to shy away from participating in activities that they think will easily expose their disability.
Dyslexics can easily under achieve, NOT because they are dull, but because the environment they live in does not have the right structure in place to promote their strengths and help them to thrive in spite of their limitations.
Some of the additional limitations dyslexics have include poor pronounciation of words and a difficult time composing some written work.
Dyslexia occurs in a spectrum, which means it may be mild in one child and severe in another.
When helping dyslexic children, the emphasis should be on promoting self-awareness. It is also critical to help them focus on how their strengths can elevate them rather than how their weaknesses can pull them down.