Make a World of Difference

22nd January 2021

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. When I say ‘we’ I am referring to the worlds population. During this nightmare situation one saying has been proved correct, ‘no man is an island’ (poet John Donne). Each country is part of a whole, we are all in this together. Together to support in hard times but also to share in success whether it’s a scientific break through or a humanitarian story. A small act can make a World of difference!

RobinStyle photos

Now I am not comparing dyslexia to a world pandemic but I would like the philosophy of support and community throughout the world to continue after we emerge from the darkness of Covid. Dyslexia is everywhere but the awareness and support does differ within countries. Lots of individuals out there who think with a difference, imagine what difference they could make to the world in the future if properly supported early on in childhood.

The statistics vary throughout reports from different countries but generally anywhere between 5% and 20% of the population are estimated to have some level of dyslexia (from mild to severe).

I will not mention every country in this post, so apologies from the outset. I would be very pleased to hear from you from any country with comments on how you feel your country supports dyslexics/or not.

As a ‘snapshot’ I will refer you to the link below from January 2020:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338910143_Dyslexia_Around_the_World_A_Snapshot

They find that practices around the world regarding dyslexia are influenced by such things as culture, orthography, policies, dyslexia awareness, teacher training and availability of assessments and interventions. The countries official definition of dyslexia may also influence what Practitioners may assess a child for or not.

There are differences, such as, some languages involve the memorising of characters such as Chinese and Japanese, this would involve assessing visual processing and working memory. Consideration into whether the difficulties or visual, phonological or a bit of both. In Spanish the authors found that rapid naming seemed important to identify dyslexia.

Their conclusions were that the ‘quality and availability of assessments vary from country to country.’ Overall it was considered that more than ‘the phonological deficit’ should be assessed or many struggling children in different countries would not be identified and supported. They noticed controversy still exists from country to country as to the whether systematic phonics should be the preferred intervention.

There still seems to be, in varying degrees, a global difficulty for some in finding teachers in school settings that have the qualifications and awareness required. For some this leads to parents financing outside interventions.

Overall there is a need for a universal understanding and awareness of dyslexia, for teachers, parents, government and society. In some countries the stigma of ‘disability’ still exists.

A positive outlook should be worldwide so that individuals can gain the support they need, develop their strengths and believe in themselves!

India

Indian Prime Minister Modi ‘must apologise to dyslexics’, article in the BBC news on 4/3/19.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-47443043

Within this article it suggests at least 10% – or nearly 35 million – Indian children are dyslexic, although Dr Kumar (clinical psychologist) says she believes the numbers to be much higher because there’s “very little awareness” about the condition. The article also points to how the government reacts to the issue of learning differences.

Dr Chatterjee is a Cognitive Neuroscientist with the National Brain research centre. She has been instrumental in the fight to get better awareness and support for dyslexic children in India.

Dr Chatterjee spent over a decade working in America before she moved back to India to work with the research centre in 2002. Her work has resulted in the development of DALI (Dyslexia assessment for languages of India). It can screen and assess dyslexia in multiple Indian Languages.

Her research found that Indian children who could not read their native tongue also had difficulties learning English.

In India there can be very little understanding and awareness of dyslexia especially in rural areas. Indian children are expected to learn from the outset their own native tongue as well as English.

“Instead of imposing a two-language or three language formula on potentially dyslexic children, let’s teach them the process of reading. Once you learn the process, you can transfer it to learning other languages too. The process of learning how to read is the same across all languages. Instead of teaching complex scripts, it would be advisable to develop visual-spatial skills. Parents and teachers must understand this,” Dr Chatterjee says.

Japan

RobinStyle photos

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271683440_Developmental_Reading_Disorders_in_Japan-Prevalence_Profiles_and_Possible_Mechanisms

This research report starts with “Japan has been considered dyslexia-free because of the nature of the orthography.”

It wasn’t until the work of Stigler et. al in 1982 that this thought process began to change. They now acknowledge dyslexia does exist in their country as it does everywhere. Many people believe dyslexia in Japanese is visuospatial rather than phonological but further research needs to take place.

“Japanese consists of the visually simple kana syllabary and some thousands of visually complex, logographic kanji characters. It is true that few children struggle with learning kana, which provide consistent mappings between symbols and their pronunciation. Many Japanese children struggle with reading the kanji, as the characters can be complex with several pronunciations and multiple meanings depending on context.” 

pic – japan-guide.com

Kanji, non phonetic, characters have to be memorised. The Kanji symbols are introduced gradually whilst learning the Japanese language so although learning the ‘Kana’ initially maybe seen to be simpler it does become more complex. Obviously every dyslexic is different, some do not have a problem with memory and can memorise but for others this would be a challenge.

It still seems that children with learning differences still need to seek help outside of school in Japan rather than teachers receiving the required training to be able to support within the classroom.

Japan Dyslexia Society (Non-profit organization EDGE)

https://www.npo-edge.jp/about/englishpage/

Founders of the organisation are mothers of dyslexic boys who went to study in UK and in USA, had the support there and thanks to the support were able to maximize their ability.

As Dr Chatterjee brought knowledge from the US to India, these boys and parents bring experience back from other countries to Japan. Very much sticking to the ethos of sharing makes us stronger.

Any Japanese readers out there, what are your views and opinions?

Australia funds research into dyslexia in Guyana

A spirit of ‘we are all in this together’, one country helping another in the same cause.

The ‘Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme’ in the Trafalgar/Union Community on the West Coast of Berbice was launched to last 8 weeks in 2013. Research have shown that a large number of students in Guyana are suffering from dyslexia and other learning difficulties.

During the 8 weeks the teachers would receive training and the children would then received weeks of tuition. The intervention was adapted from the education system in Queensland, Australia.

The project was the idea of Sherwin Fraser who was born in Guyana and is an Australian-trained Education Specialist with vast experience in behavioural and other interventions for children with special needs.

Sherwin attended the primary school in which the study was to take place in. He left Guyana to pursue a Master of Educational Studies Degree with specialisations in Behaviour Management and Inclusive and Special Needs from The University of Queensland, Australia.

“This historic programme in Guyana utilized a model in helping students who were underperforming and was a tremendous success. Many students who were unable to identify letters, read and perform basic problem-solving tasks prior to the programme were doing so by the end of the programme.” says Sherwin Fraser.

Hopefully the sharing of resources, information and awareness will continue between countries.

Should dyslexia children learn a foreign language?

Every person is different, every dyslexic has their own difficulties and strengths. I would answer the above question by saying, “If that child has an interest in it and doesn’t find it too overwhelming then why not?”

Some dyslexics may enjoy language learning but may struggle as they go to a higher level of complexity. Others may not be able to cope at all. For those why should we set them up for failure and low self esteem which will just impact on their other studies?

If children have an interest in a foreign language and you are concerned as to whether they would be able to cope think not only about their phonological ability but also other necessary attributes such as attitude, determination, memory skills, visual and auditory processing skills together with the all important confidence.

What are your thoughts?

As we saw in India children are expected to learn their mother tongue as well as English from the beginning. Other countries differ in their policies for delivering of foreign languages. Would love to hear what your experiences are where you live.

Which language to choose, if you have the choice?

English and French are well known for their complexities. When deciding on a language consider the different orthographies, the transparency between sound and symbol and the visual complexity of the written language. Spanish is meant to be more transparent.

Dr Chatterjee thought it important for anyone learning a language (first or second) should be taught about the language first and how to speak it prior to reading and writing. “Reading is built on spoken language. We learn to map sound to letter, not letter to sound because we first learn how to speak.”

We all were able to make sound/talk/communicate before the written symbols were introduced.

There was an interesting article in the Guardian in September 2004:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2004/sep/23/research.highereducation2

Dyslexia has a language barrier:

Readers of Chinese use different parts of the brain from readers of English, write Brian Butterworth and Joey Tang

“Research by US and Chinese scientists (led by Li Hai Tan) challenges our interpretation of how it is possible to be dyslexic in one language but not another. It shows that readers of Chinese use a different part of their brains to readers of English.”

“A European team led by Uta Frith of UCL reported that English, French and Italian dyslexics all showed the same abnormal activity involving the brain system underlying phonemic analysis.”

“The first surprise in Tan’s study was that a key peak in brain activity in Chinese readers fell outside the network typically used by European readers.” 

When you have a bilingual person who excels in one language but struggles with another is the question…

  • Is the same brain network used but has difficulty in only one language? or
  • Does the individual use separate networks for different languages and only one network is experiencing difficulty?

I do not have the answer but do think it’s interesting how the brain works.

A study in Nov 2003 with German and English speaking children showed that the similarities between the dyslexic readers using different orthographies are far bigger than their difference. Although other studies have shown that dyslexia difficulties may be evident in different ways for speakers of different languages.

As always there are differences in opinion but that does make us question and inspire us to find out more. Differences are something to celebrate and those differences can make a world of difference.

Stay Safe and see you next week. I am very interested in how people around the world feel about how their country supports dyslexia and whether or not there is a positive awareness surrounding the issue?

Please comment below or send me an email via by contact page.

2 thoughts on “Make a World of Difference

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