Learning with Disabilities : Dyslexia

Literacy is a gift taken for granted : many often forget that it is not a privilege easily and equally acquired by all. Few really give thought and attention to those who face obstacles in their path of learning to be educated.  Few also give little thought on one’s own privilege of literacy.

A word after a word after a word is power.

 – Margaret Atwood

For an avid writer and reader, words hold unfathomable Power. It is the most benign captor. It provides knowledge, insight and a bridge capable of achieving a dimensional transcendence.

Learning with Disabilities

However, disabilities limit this privilege, making the process of learning, acquiring and applying knowledge a daunting task. Unfamiliar to many, are the several types of learning disabilities, Auditory Procession Disorder(APD), Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia being a few. The unfamiliarity in their names resonate with the fact that they are among the lesser known of learning disabilities.

APD according to the Learning Disabilities Association of America is also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, a condition that adversely affects how sounds that travel unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain. Dyscalculia, is a specific learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts. Dysgraphia affects a person’s writing ability as a symptom of brain damage or a brain disease. However, while these are among the lesser known disabilites in learning and while there are more, Dyslexia is the most common of learning disabilities.


Victims of Dyslexia find it difficult to grasp and understand words that seem ludicrously simple to the privileged majority. This leads to the main conflict in regard to learning disabilities : how can the blessed, having never experienced a famine empathize with the plights of the hungry? For those diagnosed with Dyslexia, it is sometimes a case of not being aware of their own condition until it is pointed by out by others. The following image exemplifies a symptom of the disability to an extent :

Source: upworthy.com

Source: upworthy.com

Jarring, is it not?

The above algorithm was written by Victor Windell, who wanted the world to understand the reality of living with Dyslexia. His open source code on Github can be applied to any paragraph of text to simulate the experience of reading while afflicted with Dyslexia. Windell said that his algorithm selects a word and scrambles up the letters in the middle randomly, giving the impression of words jumping out of place : A phenomenon commonly experienced by Dyslexic individuals.

However, it is hard to grasp the true nature of Dyslexia as challenges in associating the sounds of a text exist as much as seeing the text itself. Manifestation of dyslexia can be present in a variety of ways. Dyslexia International estimates that Dyslexia affects one in 10 people worldwide, this number adds up to 700 million children and adults at risk of life-long illiteracy and social ostracization. Further, based on the definition provided by the Dyslexia Association of Australia, individuals may also have trouble spelling, apart from their difficulties of learning and reading.

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.

– Ludgwig Wittgenstein

Source : bknpk.com

Source : bknpk.com


Busting Myths Around Dyslexia

There is no known cure for Dyslexia as it is a neurological defect which is often hereditary. One common myth  that has been spawned from a lack of awareness is that, dyslexic children are lazy or intellectually challenged. This is incorrect and is evident in dyselxic intellectuals such as Albert Einstein. Individuals with dyslexia can learn, albeit utilizing different methods to compensate for their slow learning curve. It therefore is not related to intelliegence nor does it affect intelligence.

The Yale Center for Research and Creativity states that

Children and adults with dyslexia are highly creative, and have many cognitive and emotional strengths, despite a weakness in decoding words.

A report by KPMG states that the estimated savings that can be made from providing intervention at the age of six to 38,700 pupils with low literacy skills is a whopping amount of £1,369,576,578 — £1,623,374,471. The reason for this is, many dyslexic individuals suffer from depression, while others become convicts. It is imperative therefore that they undergo a specifically tailored intensive learning system from a young age. This is for both individual and national reasons. The systems implemented however, defer from country to country.

Dyslexia in Malaysia and Your Role

According to the Malaysian journal of Society and Space, the country has undergone rapid progress in special education. A Special Education Department was established in 1995, whilst segregated teacher preparation programmes for mainstream and special educators have also been established. A chapter on special education is included in the Education Act of 1996 and the introduction of the Education Rules (Special Education) by the Ministry of Education in 1997 has aslo been formed.

In the Education Rules (in relation to Special Education), there are three special education programmes, namely the Special School, Integrated Programme and Inclusive programme. All students registered with the special education programmes are even eligible to receive a monthly allowance since 2006. Sadly however, efforts are still in its infancy as there are no standardized instruments to identify students suffering from Dyslexia in Malaysia. This is due to insufficient research been conducted around the defect.

In the Non-Governmental Organization sector, the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia aim to promote awareness on the disease and advance the general welfare of children affected by Dyslexia. The association conducts training for teachers in the field of Special Education Needs and offers specialized tutoring to dyselxic children. 10 centres have been established around the country since its inception in 1993. The organization further reaches out to society by allowing volunteers to help out with classroom activities and their awareness campaigns.

As you complete reading this, I urge you to keep in mind those who need your labor to glean the same information as you just conveniently did.

Knowledge is thus a Power earned, not given

and therefore raising social awareness on this issue is essential for the sake of the children affected by Dyselxia. Hence the most we could do as privileged individuals is to navigate them across this churning sea, of mismatched letters. Further, as great changes occur through minute initiatives, a small step towards acheiving this goal could start at being well informed about their predicament and sharing this knowledge with others.


Feature Image Source: ScienceEducation13
Written By: Delyn Choong

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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