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TALK TO DR AMINU MAGASHI Talk to DrAminu Magashi What is dyslexia? I watched an NTA documentary recently about a primary school girl suffering from…


Talk to DrAminu Magashi

What is dyslexia?

I watched an NTA documentary recently about a primary school girl suffering from dyslexia. Please enlighten me about it?

Ekene U.

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. It is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material. It is typically characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling and decoding. People with dyslexia have problems with reading comprehension.

Dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction or upbringing. Dyslexia is not linked to intelligence. The problem of dyslexia is a linguistic one, not a visual one.

Signs and symptoms

• Learning to read – the child, despite having normal intelligence and receiving proper teaching and parental support, has difficulty learning to read.

• Milestones reached later – the child learns to crawl, walk, talk, throw or catch things, ride a bicycle later than the majority of other kids.

• Speech – apart from being slow to learn to speak, the child commonly mispronounces words, finds rhyming extremely challenging, and does not appear to distinguish between different word sounds.

• Slow at learning sets of data – at school the child takes much longer than the other children to learn the letters of the alphabet and how they are pronounced. There may also be problems remembering the days of the week, months of the year, colors, and some arithmetic tables.

• Reversal – numbers and letters may be reversed without realizing.

• Spelling – may not follow a pattern of progression seen in other children. The child may learn how to spell a word today, and completely forget the next day. One word may be spelt in a variety of ways on the same page.

• Phonology problems – phonology refers to the speech sounds in a language. If a word has more than two syllables, phonology processing becomes much more difficult. For example, with the word “unfortunately” a person with dyslexia may be able to process the sounds “un” and “ly”, but not the ones in between.

What causes dyslexia?

1. Some evidence points to a possibility that the condition is inherited, as dyslexia often runs in families.

2. Acquired dyslexia; a small minority of people with dyslexia acquired the condition after they were born. The most common causes of acquired dyslexia are brain injuries, stroke or some other type of trauma.

Diagnosing dyslexia

If a parent, guardian or teacher suspects a child may have dyslexia, a professional evaluation can lead to a better understanding of the problem and will more likely lead to effective treatment.

Other diagnostic test should be done:

• Background information.

• Intelligence.

• Oral language skills.

• Word recognition.

• Decoding – the ability to read new words by using letter-sound knowledge.

• Phonological processing.

• Automaticity/fluency skills.

• Reading comprehension.

• Vocabulary knowledge.

• Family history and early development.

Treatment options

• It is important for family members and the person with dyslexia to remember that DYSLEXIA IS NOT A DISEASE. We live in a society where reading and writing are integral parts of everyday life – interventions that help people with dyslexia are aimed at improving their coping skills.

• Currently no “cure” for dyslexia. There are,however, a range of specialist and well-targeted interventions that can help children and adults improve their reading and writing skills.

• The majority of children diagnosed with dyslexia will only need to miss a few hours of their regular school classes each week to receive specialist educational support, which may consist of one-on-one teaching or small-group classes.

• In some cases, if the dyslexia is severe, moving the child to a specialist school may be advised.

• The sooner a child is diagnosed and receives support, the more likely he or she will achieve long-term improvements.

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Africa and “Unite to End Tuberculosis”

The World Tuberculosis Day is marked on March 24, every year. This year the World Health Organization (WHO) calls on countries and partners to “Unite to End Tuberculosis”. According to WHO, “while there has been significant progress in the fight against TB, with 43 million lives saved since 2000, the battle is only half-won: over 4 000 people lose their lives each day to this leading infectious disease.”

Below are simple facts on Tuberculosis (TB)

• “TB ranks alongside HIV/AIDS the world’s top infectious disease killer.

• In 2014, 9.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died from the disease, including 380, 000 among people living with HIV.

• More than 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and TB is among the top five causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.

• In 2014, an estimated 1 million children became ill with TB and 140 000 children died.

• TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people: in 2014, 1 in 3 HIV deaths was due to TB.

• Globally, in 2014, an estimated 480, 000 people developed Multi Drug Resistant (MDR)-TB.

• The TB death rate dropped by 47% between 1990 and 2015.

• An estimated 43 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2014.”

In line with the Tuberculosis day, the African leaders have also called for collective efforts to end TB in Africa by 2030. This was contained in a press statement as an outcome of the Limpopo meeting in South Africa on 22nd March, 2016 convened by the African Union and the Republic of South Africa with the same theme ‘Unite to end TB in Africa by 2030”.

The statement revealed that “together with our social partners and development agencies, we will continue to remind our people that TB can be detected, treated and cured. We encourage people to get screened for TB. If infected with TB, people need to go on treatment as soon as possible and ensure that they complete their treatment” said Honourable Cyril Ramaphosa, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa.

“The African Union is setting bold targets as outlined in the implementation plan of the African Union Catalytic Framework to end AIDS, TB and Malaria by 2030 that is being finalized for consideration by African Ministers of Health and subsequently for endorsement by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government” said His Excellency, Dr. Mustapha SidikiKaloko, the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission.

Africa still need to ensure that all key populations affected by TB are reached. These include children and women, people living with HIV, people with diabetes, refugees, miners and ex-miners, drug users, prisoners, homeless people, individuals living in densely populated communities and whose access to basic health care services may be limited.

One TB patient can infect 15 to 20 people. Drug resistant TB continues to pose a serious threat to progress achieved so far and can reverse the gains made. Improving detection, finding innovative ways of reducing the prohibitive cost of treatment and lack of adequate diagnostic capacity for detection remain critical.

The meeting emphasized that to address all these challenges Africa will need to step up efforts to mobilize resources. Africa had by far the largest funding gap of US$ 0.4 billion in 2015, equivalent to half of the global total. Increased domestic allocation of resources to TB and health systems strengthening is thus a key priority of many African governments.

Without a clear investment plan and if the world continues with business as usual, TB is unlikely to be eliminated until the end of the 22nd century, and the world will miss the recently announced Sustainable Development Goal to end TB by 2030. The total investment required between 2016 and 2020 is estimated at US$ 56 billion.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal ‘to end TB by 2030,’ the following were proposed:

1. Bolder policies and supportive systems including translating political commitments into action with adequate resources for tuberculosis care and prevention are required.

2. Engagement of communities, civil society organizations, public and private care providers remain critical.

3. More supportive universal health coverage policy, regulatory frameworks for case notification, vital registration; quality and rational use of medicines and infection control should be enhanced by all countries.

4. In addition social protection, poverty alleviation and actions and sustained advocacy for free diagnosis and treatment of TB cases should be sustained.

Finally the Limpopo meeting requires more follow ups and engagement with African leaders to support implementation of framework that will tame tuberculosis in Africa.

All comments to Dr Aminu Magashi, Publisher Health Reporters ([email protected])

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