As participants discussed Vanuatu’s literacy issues during the Literacy Symposium, dyslexia was an issue which was brought up by a team of inclusive education teachers who are based at various schools.
The team gave an interesting presentation on how to identify a child with dyslexia and how to handle the situation shall the need arise anytime.
Kathrin Kaso who teaches at Vila Seventh Day Adventist School says the Ministry of Education has implemented inclusive education policy and schools are meant to focus on the individual learning ability of each child as she says kids are meant to feel welcome for who they are.
Kaso explains dyslexia as a learning disability in children which gives them difficulty in reading writing and spelling. She says they need a lot of help with phonics [word sounds] and they are very slow in memorizing new words.
Kaso however says kids with dyslexia can be good in other areas such as active listening and they also poses a lot of creativity. She says a lot of famous musicians and sports stars grew up with dyslexia.
Kaso says dyslexia is hereditary and kids can have it if it runs in the family. It is a neurological or brain condition which limits the brains capacity to store and this affects the ability to read. Cross wiring is another effect and kids with dyslexia have a problem with telling the time and following instructions.
Kaso says hearing problems form when kids are babies to 5 years of age is also a likely cause as well as brain injury.
Early signs of dyslexia
Christina Simon who teaches at Central School says unfortunately, there are no specialists in Vanuatu who can deal with Dyslexia, however there are some signs which parents and teachers can recognize in kids, such as poor processing of writing and speaking, poor concentration, difficulty to follow instructions, hatred to writing, letter reversals, letter confusion and the fact that the kid cannot seem to find errors.
Simon says they may confuse the letters p, d, q and b or they may reverse the words such as writing was instead of saw, they may also make strange pronunciation of words as well as not getting main ideas in stories.
When it comes to numbers Simon says the kids may put numbers in the wrong order and they may have difficulty in memorizing tables and formulas.
She says they may not enjoy playing with jigsaw puzzles and they may also find it hard to memorize formulas or times tables.
Many children suffering from dyslexia will have no sense of direction and often times lack time management, as Simon says they may find it hard to differentiate between yesterday, today and tomorrow. She says sadly a lot of kids with dyslexia do not complete school.
Managing the situation
Linda Mwele who teaches at Fokona Seventh Day Adventist School says the best thing to do once you have noticed a child with dyslexia is to sit directly in front of the child when speaking to him or her.
Mwele says lessons should be structured accordingly with a clear sequence. She stresses that whoever is conducting the lesson, must have the full attention of the kid and a good way of doing so would be to get them to highlight the main key points of the lesson with a highlighter.
Mwele says the kids with dyslexia should always have positive feedback for their efforts and the smart kids should be encouraged by teachers to assist those kids with learning difficulties as this also builds up the character of other kids as well.
According to the Angela from the Ministry of Education and Training, there is no official data yet on the total number of kids identified with dyslexia since 2013, however she says on average you would find that usually 2 or 3% of kids at any school may show some signs of learning difficulties.