Hajiya Aisha Indo Mamman, a professor of haematology at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said her daughter had lived with dyslexia for close to 30 years, and she had to adapt to the condition.
The professor, while sharing her experience as a mother of a dyslexic child, urged parents not to wait for the government but establish a support system to train and support their dyslexic children.
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that is neurobiological in origin and characterized by difficulties with fluent and or accurate word recognition, poor spelling and decoding abilities.
It is a language-based difficulty and dyslexics have difficulty connecting letters to sounds.
“I had to set up a strategy and change the mode of learning, instead of using textbooks, we were using entertaining materials like toys, storybooks and sometimes moulded items with a lot of motor engagement, that way the child is motivated to retain the information.
“Textbooks were used for homework, but we used storybooks for home-based lessons, Nigerian themes and translation from English to Hausa and vice versa,” Mamman said.
She said at each stage, the challenge was how to support and motivate the child. She said beating and molestation were out, but the comparison was always there.
“Now that the awareness is gradually building up, identify a support system. If government wants to help, it is welcome but it is better to be ahead of your game because the problem with dyslexia is truancy, they get bullied and harassed by the community. They lose interest and they start refusing to come to school and if they are not monitored, they become truant, criminality follows,” she stressed.
She then disclosed that “a lot of criminals may have been dyslexic because they are extremely intelligent and because their intelligence has not been harnessed in the right direction it becomes an issue.”
Asmau Yusuf, a dyslexia interventionist and literacy specialist, said children living with dyslexia make very good landscape artists, chefs and astrophysicists.
She noted that because of the number of astrophysics that are dyslexic, research was carried out by the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Research.
Yusuf who is also the founder of the Learners’ Den, said children with dyslexia are very creative and excellent storytellers, adding that is why many artists and athletes are dyslexic.
Learners’ Den is a dyslexia tutoring centre and library, and also diagnoses children with dyslexia and offers remediation.
Speaking at a dyslexia awareness exhibition with the theme ‘Mind Aware’ to commemorate the dyslexia month, 2021 in Kaduna, she said, “It was discovered that they were very good at manipulating 3D objects and also good at seeing complex images and different objects.”
She said a child with dyslexia could be identified by looking at the developmental stages of a child.
“There are certain stages at the age of three that a child should be able to say and write their name, and they can say the alphabets sequentially. But a dyslexic usually has problems with that including speech delay, colours, days of the week and anything that goes sequel. At the age of five and a half, you can accurately diagnose if a child has dyslexia,” she said.
The literacy specialist said another thing about dyslexic children is that they have enhanced memory and vocabulary, so they learn very fast.
She advised parents to put in mind that, “dyslexics will be dyslexic for life; they should look into the other abilities the child has that average people do not have to the advantage of the child.”
The event featured art exhibitions, poetry recitation, games, drama and panel discussions. There was also a virtual reality (VR) to have a firsthand experience of what it feels like to be dyslexic.