So, you suspect that your child may have dyslexia. But do you know what this learning difficulty is about, and more importantly, how you can support your child? We've got all the deets you need.
As our children grow up, they learn to read, write, and speak. And every child progresses at different paces. But what do you do when your child has difficulty learning to read and write, and begins to fall behind on certain milestones? And what are the next steps you can take to support your child and nurture their dyslexia in the best way possible. Here’s our comprehensive guide to this all-too-common “reading disorder”.
All you need to know about dyslexia
What is dyslexia?
According to the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), dyslexia is a specific learning difference that makes it difficult to read, spell, and write. It is characterised by difficulty identifying speech sounds and decoding letters and words. That is why dyslexic folks take longer to hear sounds in words and have problems repeating new or unfamiliar information.
Dyslexia is not just related to reading and language – it can also be seen in mental calculation and motor coordination. But these do not necessarily indicate that one is dyslexic. Additionally, dyslexia is linked to certain genes that control the brain’s development. So if you have dyslexia in your family, there’s a high chance that your child will have it too.
In Singapore, the condition may affect as many as 10 percent of the population and range from mild to severe.
What are the signs and symptoms of dyslexia?
There are a few prevailing signs that people with dyslexia often exhibit. The most common are difficulties associated with reading, such as reading hesitantly, confusing letters that look alike, and skipping or re-reading a line of words. When it comes to writing, people with dyslexia may have poor handwriting, omit letters and words, and commit numerous spelling errors. DAS has a comprehensive learning checklist that you can refer to to know more about your child’s difficulties.
FYI: If your child does exhibit some of these signs, they may also have other difficulties on top of dyslexia.
Getting tested for dyslexia in Singapore
If you think your child may have dyslexia, it’s vital to confirm it. Detecting the condition early – preferably before primary school – can help ensure your kid gets the support they need to cope in school and life in general. In Singapore, a dyslexia diagnosis can be made at DAS or by psychologists at the Ministry of Education (MOE) and private clinics. After the assessment, you’ll understand the condition a little better and learn how to support your child.
Before getting your little one tested, sit down with them and explain what dyslexia is and why you’re seeking a diagnosis. Let your child know that the condition is manageable, and you’ll always be there to support them.
Can dyslexia be treated?
Dyslexia is not a disease; thus, it cannot be ‘treated’ or cured. Rather, early learning interventions can overcome this learning difference. There are a few places in Singapore that offer intervention programmes:
1. Dyslexia Association of Singapore
This social enterprise offers many services, including speech and language therapy, literacy programmes for English and Chinese languages, and even holiday workshops. These services are subsidised by the MOE, thus making them very affordable.
Dyslexia Association of Singapore, Jurong Point, 1 Jurong West Central 2, #05-01, Singapore 648886
2. Thomson Kids
Part of Thomson Medical Group, this centre caters to children with learning difficulties. They have an experienced team comprising of special needs-trained curriculum writers and teachers as well as a psychologist that develop their programmes and teaching materials. With over 20 years of experience in child psychology as well as child and adolescent development, Thomson Kids is a trusted institution with effective intervention programmes.
Thomson Kids, United Square Shopping Mall, 101 Thomson Road, #02-08, Singapore 307591
3. Singapore Dyslexia Intervention Centre
The founder set up this organisation after her own daughter was diagnosed as dyslexic. It uses the Davis Dyslexia method to empower participants experiencing reading, spelling, and writing difficulties. There are also programmes to master mathematics and ADD/ADHD.
Singapore Dyslexia Intervention Centre, 1 Kaki Bukit Road, #02-44, Singapore 415934
4. Swords & Stationery
If you’re looking for an educational therapy programme that specifically targets children and youths with dyslexia, Swords & Stationery is it. Each session, prepped weeks in advance, combines academics, games, and digital presentations. The institution also provides tips, strategies, and resources for parents.
Swords & Stationery, One Pemimpin, 1 Pemimpin Drive, #12-03, Singapore 576151
5. Singapore Brain Development Centre
This centre offers an array of targeted therapies for children struggling with dyslexia. One such therapy is brain training, which targets weak cognitive skills and gently develops them.
Singapore Brain Development Centre, 1 Goldhill Plaza, #01-11, Singapore 308899
Established by two certified special education needs professionals, this therapy and consultancy firm renders services that help individuals manage and overcome their learning difficulties. It also provides counselling and runs seminars on weekends and during school holidays.
Mind.Space, locations in Novena and One-North
7. Extra•Ordinary People
This Singapore-registered charity supports children with special needs, including dyslexia. It employs unique intervention services such as art psychotherapy and music therapy to communicate their innermost thoughts and feelings.
Extra•Ordinary People, The Plaza, 7500A Beach Road, #01-313, Singapore 199591
8. Therapy Alliance
Here’s another establishment that knows a thing or two about having a kid with special needs. Therapy Alliance aims to unleash your dyslexic child’s potential through speech and occupational therapy. It also provides help in other areas such as school readiness skills and behavioural therapy.
How else can I help my child with dyslexia?
Besides seeking out early intervention treatments, parents can also play a more active role in learning. These can come in the form of simple activities like journaling, pointing out words and getting kiddo to read them, and playing word-related games like charades, Scrabble, and even Wordle. If your child is a visual learner, take them out to the museum!
Is it possible to be dyslexic in other languages?
Almost everyone in Singapore is known to be bilingual. And as mentioned above, dyslexia is known to impact learning languages. However, not much is known about dyslexia in other languages. While the English and Malay languages use similar alphabetic systems, the Chinese language uses logograms (characters), and Tamil uses the Brahmic system. Therefore it may not be as straightforward comparing dyslexia in Chinese or Tamil to dyslexia in English. However, select organisations also provide intervention programmes to assist learners struggling with their second language.
Common misconceptions about dyslexia
Despite extensive research, dyslexia is still widely misunderstood in Singapore. One misconception equates dyslexia to a lack of intelligence. This is, of course, absolutely untrue and a harmful thought. Also, the learning challenge has nothing to do with laziness.
Another misconception is that having dyslexia limits one’s ability to go far in life. Again, this is not true – many well-known dyslexics have excelled far and beyond. Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and Richard Branson are just some examples to look up to!
Resources and avenues of support for dyslexia
There’s a wealth of information about dyslexia out there, but going through it all can be overwhelming. You may feel that you are alone on this journey. Quell that thought, we say! Here are some valuable resources to help both you and your child…
- DAS Parents Support Group – The official support group by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore
- Percival’s Help for Dyslexia – This app is designed specifically for kids with dyslexia. Your littlies can learn to spell and have fun at the same time! Available on both Android and iOS.
- The True Gifts of a Dyslexic Mind – This inspiring Tedx Talk reframes the learning difference as a powerful tool and teaches the concepts of an open mind and heart.
- The Birds in the Balcony by Josephyne Ho – Two kids move into their new home and learn more about olive-backed sunbirds. Keep a lookout for fantastic little details that may or may not be an allusion to dyslexia.
At the end of the day, early assessment and intervention programmes can help your child overcome dyslexia. Ultimately, you play the most prominent role as their support system. You can do this, parents!