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Does Your Child Have Educational Dyslexia?
Barack Obama is a very intelligent, well-educated President-Elect of the United States. But he stated that the ONE person whose life/works he studies closely in order to succeed in his chosen career is Abraham Lincoln – who paradoxically, boasted a few months of schooling, and spent over 30 years of his life failing BEFORE becoming president of the united states
A check reveals that Lincoln – among other things – was self-taught, and reportedly walked miles to and from the library EVERY DAY to borrow books to read. THAT is what Obama and Lincoln have in common – great learning through reading. In my FREE book and One Hour talk on this topic, I share anecdotes about Thomas Edison, Daley Thompson, Mary Lou Retton and others to help you understand why your child may NOT be the stubborn you (or his/her teachers make you ) to think she is
And if your child is said to be – or appears to be – doing well, what I share in this writing may help you discover early enough why THAT may not mean that you are actually teaching, that you are LEARNING effectively, somehow. that will enable him/her to succeed later in life!
Are you a parent of a school-age child? Have the teachers at your child’s school complained to you about his/her performance? Does the child seem to often struggle to learn things that other children in the same class seem to have no trouble with? For example, does he/she have problems recognizing letters of the alphabet, tends to read/write them backwards (or mixes up similar ones, e.g. b and d)? Does the child tend to “forget” what he learns after a while, even though the teacher has gone through many repetitions?
If any of the above or similar problems are what you find with your child, then you will do well to read this report right to the end.
Self-Learning Is Bad – And Makes People Hate Studying
Our traditional teaching methods are destroying our children’s ability to learn. By traditional methods, I refer specifically to the common practice in most of our schools where teachers emphasize learning on their own instead of teaching children to understand meanings in learning. A graphic example of the negative impact of this method on our children is what happens at School Debates. The fixed looks in the children’s eyes as they recite their debating “arguments” are only broken when the child misses a “line” in the recitation.
Relying on rote discourages THINKING. Thinking requires the use of the brain and the mind. The brain is just like any other muscle in the body. The more it is practiced, the more it develops.
Therefore, teaching anyone to understand meaning will result in making the person one who seeks to understand by thinking. Later, s/he will learn to apply that thinking ability to other uses – and eventually become creative. The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary defined “by rote” as the process of learning by repeated study rather than by understanding the meaning.
So many of us Nigerian adults we taught to learn. And that is also why many of us today are not exactly inclined to think and read. The truth is that rote learning is difficult, unpleasant and for children, it can be especially painful, especially if the child happens to be one of those who lack the ability to cope with this method of learning.
So in our case, as adults because that’s how we were taught to learn, most of our memories of school are unpleasant. And that explains why the average Nigerian adult typically announces that he is done “learning” after graduation. Try to get that person to do any focused studying and you will meet stiff resistance.
The only other time s/he returns to study is for a higher qualification, and there is plenty of evidence to show that very often, s/he is looking for the easiest and fastest way to finish it – sometimes with “shortcuts”. If learning was enjoyable for Nigerian adults, they would not seek to avoid it so much.
Some children are naturally gifted at rote learning, and therefore tend to excel at it. But there are some who do not have the natural tendency to learn by rote, ie children who have been described as Visual, Spatial, Right-Brained, 3D etc Learners. They belong to an elite minority of people who have the unusual ability to learn by seeing things from a multidimensional rather than a linear perspective.
For them rote learning is torture – and when forced makes them hate learning/school, plus they can become withdrawn or introverted or in certain cases, they might rebel and become difficult to control in class. Teachers in developed societies have described many children who have reacted in such a way that they have disorders such as ADD, Dyslexia, etc. It is children like this that I refer to when I talk about “Educational Dyslexia”.
Your child may be one of them – and if you remain insensitive to what I am saying here, s/he may suffer needlessly while learning!
But What Is Dyslexia?
For most parents who are not necessarily familiar with medical terminology, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary offers an easy-to-understand definition: “a small disorder of the brain that causes difficulties in reading and spelling”. There are many Internet resources dedicated to support for children with Dyslexia. Some are maintained by research organizations, government bodies, private institutions and even individuals.
The irony is that many children who failed or refused to learn in these traditional ways often ended up extremely successful later in life – sometimes in fields that required formal schooling or literacy, and in some curious cases, without even having gone on to formal education. . teaching
An example is Albert Einstein, whose teachers described him as “brilliant” and “will never amount to anything”. But we all know that Einstein etched his name in history as one of the greatest scientific minds the world has ever seen.
Thomas Edison’s teachers concluded that he was “affiliated”. Consider this Oxford Advanced Learners dictionary application of this adjective (used pejoratively to mean “confused”): His brain was confused by years of drug abuse. This means that the teachers believed that Edison’s brain was not functioning normally. But luckily his mother refused to accept what they told her. If she had, we probably wouldn’t have his 1091 inventions – including the light bulb and electricity.
Here’s an excerpt from an online bio about Edision: “Edison was a poor student. When a school principal called Edison “addled,” his furious mother took him out of school and continued to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt that I had someone to live for, someone I didn’t have to disappoint.” – Excerpt from “The Life of Thomas Edison” (Online Biography)
Tony Buzan in his Speed Reading Book described some Common Reading Problems, which he said in 90% of cases were due to incorrect methods that were taught to read rather than the “diseases” to which they were attributed. It was also the parents of both Daley Thompson (World/Olympic #1 decathlete for 10 years – smashing all previous world records) and Mary Lou Retton (Los Angeles Olympics gold medalist) who refused to accept what teachers said about the difficulties of their children with learning to read/write at school.
In the case of these two individuals, teachers complained about their inattention and hyperactivity, and recommended the use of sedative drugs so that they would be more subdued like other children. Instead the parents asked the schools to find ways to help the children put their extra energy to productive use. This led to every child being introduced to sports. The rest is history.
Now in all the cases described above, the Parents played a vital and decisive role in influencing the way in which their children received formal education. They did not leave their children at the mercy of teachers who already felt overburdened with the responsibility of caring for many children. Teachers who, due to their workload among other things, would not spare time to try to understand the child and discover why s/he acts differently.
Why YOU Are Your Child’s Best Teacher
It is instructive to note that very often these children who struggle with such learning actually come across as healthy and highly intelligent in all other areas. This makes it even more difficult – for the teacher/others – to understand why they find it difficult to learn like their peers. These kids only have a chance when someone who truly cares takes time to help them.
That is why the parents have a crucial role. They are often their child’s only hope. But unfortunately, many Nigerian parents think that their most important role is to pay for the school and let the teachers do the rest. When the child begins to be beaten with negative comments about his/her performance or ability, the child is unable to have the courage to tell the overworked, too busy and absent parent what s/he is going through (that is if s/he is not too young).
When the parent finds out about the child’s bad performance, the fear of “embarrassment” from friends and relatives learning that the child is doing badly at school makes them put pressure on the child, threaten, etc. Very rarely does that help. Most often, the child struggles through this phase, but emerges with a badly battered self-image, which in adulthood is reflected in a weak, introverted personality, and with few exceptions, poor academic performance.
You MUST stop being afraid of how your child’s supposedly poor performance makes YOU look and focus on HELPING him/her overcome any obstacles s/he encounters in learning effectively.
Children are NOT Poultry Chickens or Baby Catfish
Broilers are hybrid poultry birds that are fed commercial rations by farmers so that they grow together – quickly – from day-old chicks to 2kg market/table bird size in 4-6 weeks. Baby catfish (or fry) are also fed formulated rations with a similar goal of accelerating their growth to physical maturity faster than would normally have occurred if nature had been allowed to take its course.
Unfortunately, our children have different rates of learning, and different “strengths”, which very often tend to determine how quickly they progress in different endeavors. Hence Dr. Bruno Bethlehem’s research findings (mentioned in Robert Kiyosaki’s book titled “If you want to be rich and happy, don’t go to school?”) that some children may not be READY to read until they are twelve (12) years old are quite instructive and worthy of attention – for the wise parent. Stop trying to force your child(ren) to move at the same pace/learn in the same areas as others. Help him/her/them find his/her natural learning style, pace and interest, and BUILD on it in a way that ensures success in adulthood.
How Do Nigerian Schools Teach Reading/Writing? Holistically Or Phonetically?
The teaching methods/techniques used by schools and/or teachers determine to a large extent how well children learn – especially children who are visual-spatial, holistic or 3D learners.
Most Nigerian schools followed the look-say method of associating words with pictures or images. Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of six books on education, including How to Tutor and Alpha-Phonics, widely used by American homeschoolers to teach their children to read phonetically. He also wrote a book about the reading problem, The New Analfabetes, in which he revealed the true origin of the look-saying as Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet’s method of teaching the deaf to read.
It was in Blumenfelds article that I first encountered “educational dyslexia”, that is, dyslexia, or reading disability, caused by the teaching method. And that’s when it hit me that some kids who struggled to learn the way schools teach might be doing poorly more because the teaching method conflicted with their preferred learning style than because they were less intelligent or academically capable than their peers.
Don’t Let Your Child’s School Make Him/her a Visual Reader
It has been said that phonetic readers become good, independent readers because they have developed a phonetic reflex that makes them read/write effortlessly. A holistic, sight reader, on the other hand, must rely on memorizing individual word forms and use all sorts of contextual strategies to get the word right.
I end this by asking you to INVEST plenty of time to help your child(ren) develop a strong phonetic reflex that will make them more effective learners in and out of the classroom.
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