- What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia?
- Does Early Dyslexia Diagnosis Impact Development and Education?
- Where Should You Test Your Child for Dyslexia in Singapore?
- How Do Specialised Schools Help Children With Dyslexia?
- Thomson Kids’ Unique Approach to Teaching Children With Dyslexia
- Helping Your Child Overcome Dyslexia-related Learning Difficulties
All children learn to read and write at different paces. But sometimes learning to read and write is a persistent challenge for even the most hard-working and intelligent child. If this sounds like your child, then there’s a chance that they may be dyslexic.
Fortunately, there are learning solutions that ensure your child doesn’t fall behind their peers. In this guide, we discuss what dyslexia is, how it impacts children, and what Singaporean parents can do to help their children overcome dyslexia-related learning challenges.
The Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) defines dyslexia as “a type of specific learning difficulty identifiable as a developmental difficulty of language learning and cognition.”
While dyslexia affects everyone differently, children with dyslexia struggle to decode words, leading to difficulties with spelling and writing sentences. But having dyslexia doesn’t mean that a child is unintelligent — it just means that they learn differently. In fact, many children with undiagnosed dyslexia can excel in their first years of school by putting in more effort than their peers. This is often short-lived; the older children get, the more they’re expected to write and read fluently. As children with dyslexia face increasing learning difficulties, they may lose interest in education.
As is the case in many countries, dyslexia isn’t widely understood in Singapore, even though more than 10% of Singaporeans have dyslexia. While the Singaporean education system has taken great strides to accommodate dyslexic learners, a recent doctoral thesis published by the University of London reveals that mainstream schools aren’t able to offer the support that children with dyslexia need to overcome their challenges.
Another issue this study found is that many parents and early learners fear the stigma that comes with having dyslexia. Fears around stigma can lead to delayed diagnosis, along with prolonging the negative impact that dyslexia has on your child’s learning ability.
While often seen as a disability, dyslexia can be more accurately viewed as a learning difference. After all, having dyslexia is linked to stronger causal reasoning and abstract thinking. And there are many successful people with dyslexia, such as billionaire Richard Branson, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and famed director Steven Spielberg.
Dyslexia often runs in families and symptoms can appear before a child enters school and becomes most obvious when children learn to read and write. But dyslexia may affect a child’s speech as well, due to difficulties with language processing.
In Singapore, dyslexia is largely diagnosed based on the learner’s performance in English. Despite this, children may experience dyslexia in some languages and not in others. Chinese dyslexia, for example, is extremely common among Singaporean students.
If you suspect your child might have dyslexia, here are common symptoms to look out for.
Types of diagnostic assessments we do at Thomson Kids
- Trouble learning nursery rhymes
- Late talking
- Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers, and colours
- Persistent baby talk and mispronouncing familiar words
- Difficulty learning new words
- Reading well below the expected level for their age or grade
- Difficulties in finding the right word or forming answers to questions
- Does not understand that words come apart
- Does not associate letters with sounds
- The inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
- Reading and writing is slow and labour-intensive
- They avoid reading out loud
- Need extra time to respond to questions
- Many spelling errors when completing essay compositions
- Difficulty structuring ideas in essays and essays are not succinct
- Problems remembering significant details of what they've read
Helping your child succeed requires giving them the right tools to unlock their learning potential. If your child displays dyslexia symptoms, that means getting the earliest possible dyslexia diagnosis. By getting an early diagnosis, you eliminate guesswork and can start putting together tools to help your child flourish.
An early diagnosis is especially important due to the impact that undiagnosed dyslexia can have on early development and education. In mainstream Singaporean schools, learning a subject requires high proficiency in reading and writing. But without early learning interventions, children with dyslexia are at a disadvantage. By Primary 3, for example, children with undiagnosed dyslexia know 10,000 fewer words than their peers.
Eliminating this disadvantage is critical to help your child thrive in school. As a study of Singaporean students with dyslexia discovered, the pressures of having to both catch-up and keep up with their peers can lead to a range of social and emotional difficulties, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Getting an early diagnosis is the first step toward preventing these issues.
WHERE SHOULD YOU TEST YOUR CHILD FOR DYSLEXIA IN SINGAPORE?
In Singapore, dyslexia can only be diagnosed by qualified educational specialists and clinical psychologists. Generally, parents looking for a dyslexia diagnosis have three options:
- Schools can refer parents to a Ministry of Education psychologist
- Parents can access a specialist through the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS)
- Diagnosis can be performed by educational psychologists at private clinics and specialised learning centres
To get the most accurate diagnosis, parents should look to staff expertise, qualifications, and the range of testing procedures used in their diagnosis. At Thomson Kids, for example, we use a battery of standardised tests such as the latest edition of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition (WPPSI-IV), NEPSY-II, and the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing-II. Our assessments also profile your child’s cognitive, learning, academic, emotional, and social skills needs.
After receiving a diagnosis, you’ll be better positioned to understand your child’s condition and to learn how to support them.
Before taking your child to a dyslexia testing centre, it’s important to talk to them about what dyslexia is and why you’re seeking a diagnosis.
When opening up a conversation, many parents find that their children are aware of their dyslexia symptoms and that they’ve already started to manifest low self-esteem. But knowing that there is a reason for their learning difficulties and being told that you’re there to help them find a solution is crucial in making your child feel safe and supported.
Remember: talking about dyslexia should be an ongoing conversation and your child should feel free to ask you questions in the future. With that in mind, here are three tips for discussing dyslexia with your child:
1. Explain what dyslexia means
Children with learning challenges deserve to know that there may be a reason for their difficulties — and that they aren’t the only children who struggle to learn. For inspiration, you can say something like this:
“While you’re as clever as other kids, I know that reading can be a struggle and that words don’t always make sense. There’s a chance that your brain works a little differently and that you could have dyslexia. That’s a big word for adults and kids who find it difficult to learn how to read and write."
2. Be careful, clear, and accurate with your language
When speaking about dyslexia, try to show that learning conditions are manageable and commonly experienced. Try saying something like this:
“After visiting a doctor, then we’ll know if you have dyslexia. But don’t worry. There are lots of other clever kids who have dyslexia. And if that’s what you have, then we’ll work with teachers to help you catch up with your reading and writing.”
3. Explain your role in your child’s learning journey
Your child may question your understanding about what they’re going through. As dyslexia can impact their day-to-day lives, showing your child constant support can help them the strength to keep learning, despite how difficult it can be. You can explain your role like this:
“I can see that dyslexia affects many things in your life, like reading words in games or when trying to get through a school book. I’m proud that you try so hard even though dyslexia can make it difficult. I’m always here to help with anything you need.”
How Do Specialised Schools Help With Dyslexia?
Choosing the right early intervention strategies is key in helping your child overcome dyslexia-related symptoms and learning challenges. One of the most effective strategies is to enrol your child in a specialist school that offers early intervention programmes. That’s because these programmes are designed by experts to maximise the learning potential of children with dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a complex learning condition that requires specialised learning interventions to overcome. Children with dyslexia, for example, struggle to identify and manipulate individual sounds and spoken words. To tackle this issue, many dyslexia intervention programmes use a multisensory approach that combines sight, hearing, touch, and movement into everyday instruction — a level of instruction that isn’t available in mainstream schools.
Unlike traditional schools, intervention programmes teach using specialised materials and dyslexia-specific teaching methods such as the Orton-Gillingham Approach. These schools also tend to teach in small group settings and offer the personalised attention that children with dyslexia need to overcome their symptoms.
When searching for a school, consider the following:
- Teacher qualifications and training — teaching for dyslexia is complex. To handle this complexity, teachers need to be highly qualified and have dyslexia-specific teaching training.
- Teacher–student ratio — with large class sizes, your child’s needs are likely to fade into the background. Small classes and personalised instruction is key in overcoming learning difficulties.
- Teaching philosophy — children with dyslexia often experience low self-esteem. To counter this, specialist schools should be empathy-led and focus on building learner confidence.
- Curriculum and learning approaches — curricula should be based on established and evidence-based learning methods.
- Flexibility in instruction — every child has their own learning needs. To provide the best possible instruction, teachers should be able to adjust lessons and materials to meet your child’s needs.
Thomson Kids’ Unique Approach to Teaching Children With Dyslexia
A member of Thomson Medical Group, Thomson Kids is a Singapore-based centre for children with learning difficulties. Along with dyslexia assessments, we offer tailored Chinese and English programmes based on the MOE syllabus — taught using specialised material and teaching methods.
We understand that every child has different learning needs. That’s why we employ a team of child psychologists, curriculum writers and special needs teachers to develop our programme and to create our own teaching materials. This allows our teachers to adapt lessons to your child’s needs and to create educational material that feels relevant to their interests.
From our years of working with children with dyslexia, we have seen how learners can thrive with an instructional approach based on these key principles:
Our first step is to accurately diagnose each child’s learning challenges. Only then can we enrol the student with the right learning programmes and adapt teaching methods to their specific needs.
Compared to traditional teaching methods, scaffolding breaks learning into chunks to make skills easier for children with dyslexia to master. This requires that the teacher has a comprehensive understanding of the student’s learning needs and abilities.
Our teachers are trained on the latest evidence-based instructional methods and are supported by our specially developed teaching materials to help students overcome their particular challenges.
We focus on helping students build up confidence and instil a sense of independent inquiry by breaking down learning into manageable parts that challenge but do not overwhelm.
Helping Your Child Overcome Dyslexia-related Learning Difficulties
If your child displays dyslexia symptoms, seeking a professional assessment is the first step in helping them overcome their learning difficulties. As we’ve discussed, these assessments are provided by private centres like Thomson Kids, the Dyslexia Association of Singapore, and psychologists associated with the Ministry of Education.
After confirming a diagnosis, you’ll be well-positioned to pursue learning tailored interventions, like those offered by specialist schools.
As a member of the Thomson Medical Group, Thomson Kids leverages over 40 years in childcare to provide accurate dyslexia assessments and effective instruction for children with dyslexia.
If you’d like to learn more about our assessment process or teaching curriculum, then fill out the form below and one of our team members will get in touch. We can also chat about the learning challenges your child is facing.