Living with Dyslexia in Malaysia

Diploma for Learning Disorders Mgt and Child Psychology

How this course helped me – Cho Suet Sen

My journey into the learning disabilities started in October 2001 when I discovered that my then 6 year old son has dyslexia. Of course, I have heard, read and seen (rarely) people with learning disabilities before 2001 but when one has a son with special needs one’s life changes.

I became very active in the Dyslexia Association (a Non-Governmental Organization), being voted in as one of the committee members in 2002. Our Association has grown from one Centre to 3 centres now, with me helping out in the Subang Centre which currently has 20 daily students (5 teachers). Saturday classes has 18 students and 3 teachers.

We pushed for the Pilot Dyslexia Programme to be started in June 2004 whereby my son is one of the 8 pioneers then. This Pilot National School now has 34 dyslexics and 4 Special Education teachers taking care of them. To date there are 70 schools nationwide with this Dyslexia Programme in Malaysia.

I took up this course specifically to help my children and along the way, I can also help other children.

COUNSELING

Counseling made me realize that I am the only one who can control my own destiny. Nobody else. This applies to everyone – they know themselves best and they are the best people to solve their own problems. But how do we help them to solve their problems without bringing our own prejudices or advice into it?

Counseling skills are required to probe below the human ‘iceberg’. What is below the iceberg (90%)is hidden. The 10% seen only reflects the person’s behaviour but not their true feelings. To find out the 90% is not easy. One needs practice and patience and the will to help.

In counseling, I learnt that we should only ‘lend’ our ears and not give advice. Giving advice is easy, listening and not interjecting nor giving advice is hard. We must do away with our own prejudices eg if a homosexual person calls or someone who wants an abortion calls, we must not judge them but still give them the respect and lend them a listening ear and give them emotional support so that they can ventilate themselves and relieve their tension.

It also made me realize that there are so many problems faced by people all around us. Their problems are much worse than ours. Everyone will feel that their problems are the worst. It is not what the problems are but how you manage them. Counseling is very useful and can be used in our everyday lives – be it for your friends or relatives. I have been able to practice my counseling skills on my mother and son and also a close friend. Counseling is a lifelong skill, beneficial to all.

CHILD PSYCHOLOGY

Besides counseling, the child psychology module allowed me to understand my children better.

The chapter on Social and emotional development in infants and toddlers was a ‘replay’ of what I went through with my daughter (she is now 14 years old and has ADD). The example given in the textbook –

of the first day of playgroup whereby 2 toddlers and their mothers did puzzles. Daniel (was in anger) and the mother(shouting) reminded me of myself and my daughter. My daughter’s “infant attachment behaviour” as per “The strange situation” defintitely did not fall into the “Secure” Pattern. It was more of the Anxious/Ambivalent and Anxious/Avoidant patterns.

If only I had taken this course ten years ago, I would not have gone through so much ‘heartaches, sweat and tears’ in handling my daughter. As the saying goes, “It is never too late”.

My 2 children are now teenagers, my son is now 13 years old and very stubborn and rebellious. But I am taking all this in good stride as I already know before hand about their stages of development, thanks to Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development. Between ages 12 and 20, their frontal lobe is still not stable and they wo1ld be doing ‘crazy’ things. I am able to calm myself when they are in their rebellious or ‘power struggle’ stage. I will not make a “big” thing out of it and just stay calm and let them cool off.

This module really enhances the saying that “Knowledge is Power” as I am able to use this knowledge in reducing my stress level. Otherwise I would still be like Daniel’s mother –unable to control the situation.

LEARNING DISORDERS

As I have 2 special children, topics in this module were like a revision for me. But I still learnt a lot from this module as one never stops learning, especially topics on autism.

In ADD/ADHD, the symptoms given were really a duplicate of what my daughter has.

Whilst I was studying this topic, I read out loud the symptoms specifically for my daughter to hear. Examples :-is often forgetful in daily activities, often fidgets with hands, feet or squirms in seat,

talks excessively, often has difficulty waiting for her turn etc….

She asked me why I am talking about her. I told her that I am reading out my notes and she came over and looked at my notes to confirm that I was telling the truth. As my daughter does not like to be labeled, I do not label her. My son is okay to being dyslexic as he has his ‘gang’ in his Dyslexia programme.

Here I learnt that my daughter is not doing what she does on purpose, that her frontal lobe is short of certain chemicals – serotonin. It was during this course that I took my daughter to a Child Psychiatrist to confirm her ADD. Even though I knew about her ADD ever since I read up on dyslexia in 2001 but I did not get her confirmed as my husband was not keen on labeling her and felt that she would ‘outgrow’ this ADD? Nobody outgrows such disabilities, one just learns how to manage them better.

With sharing in the class amongst the teachers and parents, I decided to confirm my daughter and help her as I have been spending too much time on my son and neglecting her because she can read so well. No problem whereas my son has been classified as an ‘atypical’ dyslexic. The psychiatrist confirmed that she has acute ADD and prescribed Ritalin which I dreaded.

In the end, I did not allow my daughter to take Ritalin. She is doing well basically because this course helped me to understand her better and opened my eyes that she cannot help what she is. She is still a child and the parent should be the one to change and improve the situation. She is still impulsive and forgetful but I have ‘mellowed’ with this course giving me the insight and patience to be a better and more caring parent.

When the lecturer for Dyspraxia described the symptoms and acted out some of the characteristics of Dyspraxia, it so ‘struck’ me as befitting my daughter who has got gait and posture Problems (hunches and moves with her body shaking all over). From my questions and the answers I received from the lecturer, I realised that my daughter’s dyspraxia is neurological and not of her own doing. One of the co-morbidities of ADD.

Several options were given to help such children. For me, I signed my daughter immediately for gymnastic lessons to improve her gait and posture. This gym school caters to special children and I am glad to note that after 3 months her posture has improved and she is much happier now. Children with ADD needs an outlet to release all their energy and gymnastics is one of them.

LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT

My son, having dyslexia has problems in this area. He went for Speech therapy and also phonics tuition. Having short term memory means they have to be taught regularly otherwise what is learnt is easily forgotten. This module taught me what all those symbols in my Dictionary stands for.

I am now able to confirm the sounds of words using the dictionary.

Having gone through this module, I realized the importance of this module for the learning disabled children. Communication is important, therefore special children (especially dyslexics) should be equipped in this area to help them through the maze of academia which they will be subjected to all their lives. Helping them understand the rules involved in language will reduce their confusion. Dyslexics have normal /above average intelligence so they would be able to master the rules if proper guidance is given.

CONCLUSION

I am one of those who has a penchant for helping others but was never trained in counseling. Overall, my outlook of my children has changed and I am now more equipped to help others who seek my help – either from my blog www.dyslexiainmalaysia.wordpress.com or via the other NGOs that I am involved with.

Word count 1,463

NOTE: due to the numerous comments asking where I took this course I am including this info. I took this course at Linguistic Council in KL. TeL: 03-2078 1616

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February 4, 2009 Posted by | Dyslexia, learning disorders | 5 Comments