‘90% of Nigerian teachers do not know about dyslexia’
An expert, Dr Adrienne Tikolo has expressed concern over the low awareness of dyslexia among Nigerians, pointing out that about 90 percent of teachers do not know about the disorder, which makes it difficult for children to read and spell.
With a prevalence rate of 20 per cent of any population dyslexic, Tikolo said the only cure is an early intervention.“As it stands now, we worry about children that are out of school, but there are children who are in school but are not learning anything because they are not being taught the way they should. Dyslectic children have good verbal ability but are prone to fail exams and unable to write. It is specific to reading, thinking, writing and spelling. It is also hereditary, most children inherited the condition from one of their parents, which may have developed due to poor teaching, socio-economic status or the environment you live in. When a child is not learning in school, it is most likely to be dyslexia but the teachers are not aware of this; hence, they cannot offer help to the children. The only cure is early intervention, when the condition is detected early enough, we can help programme the brain and help the child learn well.”
She noted that many dyslexic children, whose condition makes them struggle to read, comprehend and follow instructions, underachieve in school and are labelled dullards by teachers who do not know about the condition or how to manage them.Tikolo, who runs a non-governmental organisation, Dyslexia Nigeria said Dyslexic children could be creative, as the condition has nothing to do with intelligence.
“If they are supported they can become successful professionals like renowned physicist, Albert Einstein and top rate actors like Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Aniston, all of whom are Dyslexic. However, if not supported, they may suffer mental health issues, drop out of school or get involved in crime.
“The first danger is that the person cannot achieve his goal and you have different mental health issues that come with that – depression, anxiety and frustration. There are lots of students that have dropped out of school that had Dyslexia. In the United States for instance, and based on research, 60 per cent of those in prison are Dyslexic. I know a number of students that have fallen out of university because they have gone that far but cannot go further, and then they fall into drugs, she added.While lamenting the low level awareness by Nigerians, Tikolo said since its establishment two years ago, the group has made efforts to increase awareness of the condition in Nigeria.
To address the problem of low awareness and late detection, she called on the government to include detection of special needs as part of teacher training curriculum and make it compulsory for schools to conduct regular screening for all pupils.
“One of the things the government can do is to say for a teacher to be promoted, for instance, you need eight hours of training in dyslexia intervention, awareness, and teaching programmes. The government can insist that schools must do the universal screening for students, find out those that are struggling with dyslexia and that policy would work,” she said.
She also expressed concern over the failure by schools to train teachers even when training cost is subsidised.In commemoration of the dyslexia awareness month, Tikolo announced plans to hold a summit tagged, “Unmasking dyslexia” on November 21 where issues around the disorder would be thoroughly discussed by experts.