Two months ago I attended a workshop organized by the British council to address problems children with dyslexia face in Ghana, to my amazement I realized the turmoil and tantrums my young niece goes through had a simple escape if only I had a preview knowledge on it.

examIt came as a total shock when I realized that her teacher had not even mentioned such a word to us before or given us a clear idea of what that three year old girl was going through and even see that it solutions was not something too hectic to do. There are several other types of specific learning difficulties which include Dyscalculia which deals with difficulty in mathematics, Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder which is also inability to concentrate well, pay attention and control behavior but the one I have realized is alarming in Ghana is Dyslexia, what then is it.

So ‘Dyslexia is a neurologically based condition, which is often hereditary, and it results in problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s usually associated with difficulties in concentration, short-term memory and organization. Dyslexia is not the result of stupidity, it is not caused by poor schooling, poor home background, poor motivation for learning and it does not clinically manifest with poor sight hearing or muscle control although it may occur with these conditions.

So then why do the Ghanaian child end up being treated as dumb, stupid silly and in worse cases retarded? Specific learning difficulties affect many children all over the world but how it is addressed tend to make other kids stand out compared to the majority of children living with it in Ghana, and most especially in our public schools where there is massive pressure on both teacher and infrastructure.

A child with dyslexia may have no particular problems in other areas, he or she may have a normal input towards the other subjects being taught; for example a child having difficulties in English may excel very well in Mathematics. All these children need is extra help to learn and to stay in school but who in question will be able to provide this attention. Could it be the teacher who is under constant pressure to attend to the needs and welfare of every single student who sometimes number up to about 50 in a class.it will be very difficult attending to such or child or children facing these problems in class, thus some teachers make the child pass through the system to avoid the frustrations he or she has had attending to such a child in a period of nine months broken down to a period of three months in every termly session.

There is a lighter burden of promoting such a child than repeating this child and having a little time for him when repeated in class. It is never possible for the only few who have been repeated to even bounce back to a better pace since no proper explanation is given to the child about the situation where the teacher is fully aware of a condition as such but rather the child is made to feel he or she is terrible with academics in class. This weighs down on the child where he feels he is first of all a failure to his or her personality and secondly a disappointment to the family. At other times the child is made to feel he or she is not competent enough to compete or flow with his other mates, constant beatings and public humiliations make them angry, unable to cope with classroom work and sometimes engage in negative activities to get attention from their mates. This include absenteeism, disturbing in class, not participating in classwork, fighting, sleeping in class, stealing but what is the point in proving a point when both a child’s parent and teacher has made the child feel incompetent with names given to them to the extent of calling some “Stupid” and “Retarded”.

I ask myself a simple question, if a teacher who has been trained in the curriculum about children having specific learning difficulties and have been shown the ways to handle, and solve the different types of learning difficulties will not educate the parent and child on the difficulty and will not also have a little patience to address these needs of children having such difficulties what then can a dyslexia ignorant parent do to tackle or solve this issue.

Every single child is unique in his or her own special way, you may be surprised that it will be children with this specific diffultiws in learning that will excel wonderfully in other extra curriculum activities to the amazement of all. Some of this children may be able to skip backwards, draw perfectly, and have command over colours, have special way of decorating places, strong theatrical works to mention a few. An example is Whoopi Goldberg a renowned American actress who lived half of her life feeling retarded only to realize she had excellent skills in acting.
When a child with learning difficulties receives the right help, he or she may grow up and be happy and normal as other children who do not have such problems. Children wants to be loved and not being treated as a failure, they need a sense of belonging despite the challenges they face.

Have you thought for once what a child feels when he sees his or her mates excelling and they lurking behind, they are often frustrated and depressed, only they don’t know how to vent their anger and some channel them into being hyper and throwing tantrums. Children need to feel confident about themselves but we are living in a society where a child’s confidence is termed arrogance and pride. A child may never able to get his message across and may never even be able to given a fair hearing in a situation, but they need this confidence to achieve things in life and a have a fairly meaningful dream.

Children are supposed to be able to discover that they have talents in many areas they can develop but dyslexic children are even deprived of these knowledge at tender ages and cannot even be supported to have sound education. A greater percentage of them often drop out of schools since they could not bear the pressure going through school and receive these constant humiliations and rebukes from their teachers and parents.

Moving forward there is a need for a campaign where full awareness is created to educate Parents, children on what Dyslexia is. There will be a need to bring the teacher to the terms that the even though we know very well how unfriendly our educational system and infrastructure is unfriendly to the school going child there is a call to duty of help to the child. There is also the urgent need to recall to mind teachers that children with specific learning difficulties deserve the right to be informed duly of what they are experiencing and make them fully aware that they are not retarded, stupid or dumb and that they are but having problems in specific areas and always involve parents in such cases so that they may also give extra time, support and care to these children and help tackle it. A little boost to an already frustrated child leaves a great mark about you in the child’s life where he or she may never forget your time and effort you offered in their entire lives.

Ghana has also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that the rights of all children and prohibits discrimination. There is also the inclusive education policy of the Ghana Education Service which provides that all children with various disabilities receive help in their own schools but yet our very public schools infrastructure does not make provision for Dyslexia, Some schools do not even have talents exposition centers which include gymnasiums, recreational centers, theatres, laboratories, to mention a few to host all children and give them a clear picture of their lives.

Teachers are not even motivated well by the government how then will they even have time for a normal child and to even consider extending extra to the dyslexic child. More schools should also be built and more teachers must be employed to reduce the large number of children we house in a single classroom, this will also reduce pressure on the teachers. I call upon all concerned to create this awareness.

Helping children in general Parents should see their children as friends, be willing to talk with them because these children are already frustrated and need someone they can confide in if you as a parent cannot provide this shoulder who can be able to do it and do it so well. Finding out why a child is always misbehaving or unable to learn is better than concluding they are stupid or retarded not all their behavior is intentional they are fighting the urge of being hyperactive and impatient why add up to it, please spare them.

As a parent or teacher, sibling or friend never ever call children with learning difficulties names or humiliate whether in public or enclosed because some of this children may never ever be able to live past these names and scenes they replay them in their minds and live all their lives trying to wipe out the scene. Learning difficulties are also not spiritual so don’t waste your time making a public spectacle of your child in front of different clergies use that time to read more on the particular difficulty and find a solution to address it instead of polluting a young’s child mind about family witchcraft and sorcery’s. I will lastly encourage everybody to have a heart full of patience, time and care to help these children with their classwork, homework and every other activity they may be involved in. keeping track of their learning progress help you rather deal with the process.

Parents and teachers should learn about it so that they can help children who have this difficulties.

Source: Akua Afedziwah Aidoo

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