Wednesday, January 10, 2007

think a little harder...

Do you know anyone, perhaps in your school days, who was always (to be blunt here) a little bit daft? The one who struggled in school and often labelled lembab (slow), bodoh (stupid) or just ultimately out of reach? People who might have laid low when there was a maths problem to solve, ( and you kept showing the straight-forward explanation which never seemed to get into him/her). Or even when you were beginning to lose your temper showing him/her the short-cut to a certain place. Sometimes, we had or still have friends like this, or the person might even be someone very close to you like your brother, cousin, spouse or child. Hey, maybe you are like this??

These may be symptoms of dyslexia. I thought I'd write a little about it today. I wonder how many people out there are familiar with this term and how many others are ignorant of its existence. Dyslexia is a learning difficulty rather common amongst us - about 10% of the population has it. Anyhow, there are degrees of seriousness. And, recent research seem to suggest that it depends on the language you speak. More complex languages (such as English, which is so irregular in pronounciation, spelling, etc), will have a higher percentage of dyslexics. Phillipines, for example, is rated to have less than 10% dyslexics on average. I have a strong suspicion that with BAHASA MALAYSIA the rate is low because BM has a simple structure. However, problems arise when we are forced to be bilingual - learning to be fluent in English as well.

Dyslexia is a processing difference experienced by people of all ages, often characterised by difficulties in literacy, it can affect other cognitive areas such as memory, speed of processing, time management, co-ordination and directional aspects. There may be visual and phonological difficulties and there is usually some discrepancy in performances in different areas of learning. It is important that the individual differences and learning styles are acknowledged since these will affect outcomes of learning and assessment. It is also important to consider the learning and work context as the nature of the difficuties associated with dyslexia may well be more pronounced in some learning situations. (Reid 2003)

Symptoms of dyslexia are:
1. spelling difficulties (especially ENGLISH, as compared to BM)
2. writing disorder - mirror image especially for letters like b,p,d.
3. reading disorder - problems with reading comprehension
4. coordination problems
5. very bad sense of direction (including simple Left and Right)

Let me explain a little bit more about point 3 above. The problem is so crucial that it is the main thing that pulls down one's ability in ALL subjects (except art - haha!). You see, when a dyslexic reads, the words are jumbled up. To be exact, even the LETTERS are jumbled up. Plainly, you may have the letters arranged this way:

There is a small boy asleep in the bed.
but the dyslexic might see and read it as : Then is the all boy please on a deb.

That's probably the more extreme case. still, surely, that sentence DOES NOT make any sense at all! So, the dyslexic becomes confused, perplexed, exhausted and lost by the time he finishes the paragraph or passage (if he even makes it there!!).

To normal people who simply cannot understand why one simply cannot work out LOGIC and use COMMON SENSE to figure out the meaning of something, please understand that this person has a disorder. It isn't really a handicap but it slows down everything. Pause for a moment, and think of people around you who always gets on your nerve. There is a high possibility that you know someone with dyslexia but perhaps at a very minute level. Look at your colleagues, your boss, your neighbour (no, not you, mama sarah!), your peers. Think of how slow the person may have been. You see, some (severe cases or not) may never have the opportunity to succeed. Hence, ending up as a gardener, mechanic, labour. Those may be classical drop-outs and failures in school. Then, there are those cukup-cukup makan or average ones who end up as teachers, or even professionals like accountants, and doctors.

I married one. And some of my off-springs have inherited it from him. They go unnoticed in a crowd, though some suspect that they can be rather difficult in grasping explanations. My spouse inherited it from his father, who also inherited it from his father.

On my part, I have always been one who was pretty quick (tsk.tsk..). I read fluently before I was 4, scored full marks in Maths till Form 5, etc..etc.. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an all As student. I did suffer some F9s in school (boo-hoo!) and some awful borderline passes or mere credits here and there. Still, I was more of a science person. Well, Maths, to be exact. Physics was great but facts in biology was torturous. But I also loved English and I read day and night. I even read the lable on packages or ketchup bottles when we weren't allowed to read at the dining table.

So, it is just natural for me to feel rather annoyed when my off-spring showed very slow progress in reading. Reading is a task very difficult for them. They can jumble up letters and words, omit and add anything to their own desire. Check this out: In BM, tong sampah can even be tolong sampah (what the ....??), whilst in English sleep can be read please. This is only reading aloud. Imagine trying to understand "Setelah selesai minum, Razif membuang bungkusan air itu ke dalam tolong sampah". It simply doesn't make sense. Obviously, dyslexics will fail in reading comprehension.

In a different setting, imagine the whole family in the car heading to a relative's place. You give directions to the driver, "Kat depan ni pusing kiri", and the dyslexic driver turns right!!! Or, if you're behind the wheel at a busy junction, and he's the co-pilot, he shouts, "Right! Right!" with his hands pointing left. Doesn't that kill you?

In short, please be more aware of people like this. Imagine 10% of the population. Could it be 10% of the people you know?? With our education system and mentality, there is a BIG chance that they go unnoticed and unguided. Pause for a while and reflect on what we can do to help them. They don't need sympathy. Only empathy. Hopefully, the person is able to identify that he/she is dyslexic so that he/she won't suffer low-self esteem. Hey, dyslexics are mostly known to be very artistic and creative. They can also be very bright in other areas. Isaac Newton, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, Hans Christian Anderson, Leornado da Vinci, Michael Faraday, Henry Ford, Cher, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, and Presidents and Prime Ministers: Washington, Kennedy, Churchill. On a more realistic note, it doesn't also mean that all dyslexics become 'somebody'. As long as they turn out to be good souls, that's what's important. I ponder, though, what about Malay names or Muslim scholars? Could it even be possible that our prophet (p.b.u.h) was dyslexic as he couldn't read when the angel Gibrael came upon him the first time? Wallahu'alam.


idham said...


ah, in boarding school especially, we boys are so guilty of judging and dismissing 'slow' students in this one boy, never can answer question one...others including the teacher used to tease him, "ah why u always got the hard question".

in the company i am with, we pay for treatment for children with dylexia. And I have seen parents feeling so helpless and frustrated for their child.



Hanie said...

I think I've got one in my class and she finds it hard to sustain standards in spelling. Sometimes, her spelling of the word 'struggle' is with a single 'g'. Yet, other times, it is OK.

Ungku Nor said...

I've posted one long comment regarding on this issue only to find it's not here..
hadoihhhh, hehehe.

D, maleh akak nak taip balik laa..:)

aida said...

kak d,
i've been reading your blog for some time now but i have never daughter mia suffered from dyslexia.i found out quite early on when she was just her case her dyslexia is not only reserved to alphabets but extended to numbers where she would see 10 as 01 and so on.i was a lawyer but quickly quit my job to tutor her and support her learning environment.with all the hard work we put in,she started reading 6 months after that.she is doing well in school(international school as i know local schools would not understand dyslexia) but in numeracy she has a bit of difficulty still.she is going to be 8 in dec.
some parents pointed out that mia is lucky because we can financially support her expensive education be it school or the enrichment classes we send her to.but i must stress the 6 months i personally spent teaching her was the best time we had.early intervention works husband had the same problem when he was in primary school.she must have gotten it from him.
kak d,if u know anyone who is an expert and who can tell me in detail about her dyslexia(numbers),please let me know.she is in year 4 now and i'm beginning to see that she finds it hard to grasp multiplication table and fractions.the numbers just 'swim'(i'm quoting her exact word) in front of her eyes.
thanks in advance kak d.