The Dyslexia Association of Malaysia is conducting training to help teachers identify dyslexics and equip them with the right learning tools.
There are an estimated 600,000 schoolgoing children with dyslexia whose special needs often go unnoticed in our education system. Now, this is set to change, thanks to the efforts of a team of trainers from the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia or Persatuan Dyslexia Malaysia (PDM).
Over the weekend, about 100 teachers attended a special training session to help them identify children with dyslexia and cater to their special needs.
The word dyslexia is derived from the Greek words, dy (meaning impaired) and lexis (meaning word).
Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterised by problems in processing words into meaningful information. This is most strongly reflected in difficulty in learning to read and write.
The teachers’ training session was held in Sungai Petani, Kedah. The PDM is planning to hold more of such sessions in the various states. The next one is scheduled for the end of the month, and it will be held in Sabah.
“The response from the teachers was encouraging and overwhelming,” says Sariah Amirin, president of PDM.
Amirin devised a special teaching technique – in Bahasa Malaysia and English – for children with dyslexia. “The participants we picked were regular teachers from preschool, remedial and Year One classes,” says Sariah. “The goal is to get these teachers to reach out to children with dyslexia as early as possible.”
Early detection would ensure early intervention and help eradicate the problem of dropouts among students with special needs. Currently, children with dyslexia are placed in special classes together with kids with a variety of learning disabilities.
Sariah feels that this is totally wrong. Dyslexics process information differenty from those without dyslexia. This has nothing to do with the intellect as some of them are very bright.
“Children with dyslexia need to be taught the right techniques to read so that they can understand things,” Sariah points out.
“With appropriate teaching methods, many dyslexic kids have gone on to lead successful lives. One even became a pilot.”
The first batch of 100 teachers said the course prepared them to work with students with dyslexia. Before training, they had no idea that dyslexics learn things differently.
Many dyslexics would benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning. For example, the alphabet is best recognised and understood for persons with dyslexia, in terms of similarities of shapes. Anything else makes no sense to them.
“Whilst we are excited by the positive responses we got from our first batch of teachers, what we would really like to see is for the Government to undertake this responsibility instead of leaving it to NGOs like us,” says Sariah.
“However, before they do so, they must understand that dyslexia has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence in the normal sense of the word. It is about understanding their needs and using a different approach to get through to them to unable them to learn and understand things.”
Sariah realises that whilst the task of improving the quality of lives for persons with dyslexia may appear daunting, it is nothing compared to what will happen if we fail in our responsibility as a nation to do the right thing.
The Dyslexia Association of Malaysia was set up in 1993. Sariah has served as president for over 17 years. The association has 10 centres around the country, and its headquarters is in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.