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11.05.2019 Academic Article

Your Child Is Not Dumb; He’s Only Dyslexic

By Maxine Bentum-Ahiadekey 
Your Child Is Not Dumb; He’s Only Dyslexic

In Ghana, by the time a child gets to class one, that’s about age six, he’s supposed to be able to read simple sentences and compute simple math problems. Any child who is not able to do this is usually considered dumb. Unknown to most Ghanaians is a condition known as dyslexia. As stated in the New Zealand Ministry of Education, if a child’s difficulty with reading could not be explained by low intelligence, poor eyesight, poor hearing, inadequate educational opportunities, or any other problem, then the child must be dyslexic. ‘Dyslexia is defined as a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge’ (NICHD, 2003).

In Ghana, most teacher training and government service efforts have been towards accommodating traditional disabilities. This could be an indication that teachers’ understanding of dyslexia and awareness of other forms of learning disabilities is limited. This would affect their assessment of the needs of the children and the quality of instruction children with dyslexia receive in Ghanaian classrooms. Such children are branded as slack or dumb and teachers find teaching them quite hectic and don’t exercise the required patience needed to train these children. The relevance of literacy to the acquisition of other essential competencies and to the effective participation in modern life is undeniable. However, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia reduce the ease with which such competencies are attained and because training such children increases the work load of the teachers and may draw the class back, these children are not able to acquire the competencies they need to be at par with their peers.

A study conducted by Diana Abraham in April 2014, found sufficient information to support that all categories of teachers need in-depth training and education on dyslexia. Although the teachers indicated they had undergone special needs education training, this did not appear to correlate with their level of awareness about the causes and characteristics of the disability. They mostly believed that by simply repeating the things they teach, the dyslexic children should be able to get what is being taught. Meanwhile that alone doesn’t help them. There is some evidence that the use of specially-tailored fonts may help with dyslexia. These fonts, which include Dyslexie, OpenDyslexic, and Lexie Readable, were created based on the idea that many of the letters of the Latin alphabet are visually similar and may, therefore, confuse people with dyslexia. Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic both put emphasis on making each letter more distinctive in order to be more easily identified. The benefits, however, might simply be due to the added spacing between words. Using this method in tandem with building the confidence of the child, having patience and spending as much time as need with the child, I believe that dyslexic children will be able to compete with their peers in the modern world with little to no difficulty. The short-term nature of the training received by teachers also plays a role in their attitude towards such children. The overall impact of the training is not as significant as intended. It is therefore recommended that teachers receive more intensive, continuous professional development courses, during which teachers would be given the opportunity to simulate what they have learned. I believe too that the parents of dyslexic children play a major role in helping their children. They need to keep encouraging their children since the condition could be quite frustrating for them and also not compare them to others or treat them as dumb.

Dyslexia is only a learning disability and it can be properly managed such that people with this disability will be able to live very successful and accomplished lives with little to no difficulty or deficits. Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Jennifer Aniston, a well-known American actress and Nana Ansah Kwao IV the Chief of Akwamu Adumasa among others have dyslexia and through the help of people who noticed their disabilities and did not write them off but rather helped them have become well accomplished and are doing great exploits.

Written by;
Maxine Bentum-Ahiadekey
University of Cape Coast.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."