Friday, November 9, 2018

The Star online - Response to 'Transforming Dyslexia one word at a time'

On 4.10.2018 I read an article on Star online written by Dr Mullai A. Ramaiah who is the president of THE National Organisation for Dyslexia Malaysia (NOD)

NOD claims that it is teaching through the phonetic approach.  Upon reading the article I know that neither Dr. Mullai nor NOD knows what they are talking about.

Here is the whole article as published:

THE National Organisation for Dyslexia Malaysia (NOD) marks World Dyslexia Awareness Week with today being World Dyslexia Day.
The theme of NOD’s World Dyslexia Awareness Week is “Need for Transformation”.
NOD has been creating awareness of dyslexia among Malaysians through the media since the organisation’s inception three years ago.
It has also been training teachers to teach language through the phonetic approach, assessing and teaching children who are dyslexic, and counselling parents.
 “Dyslexia is a state in which one finds it extremely challenging to bring a sound to the written letter. One has difficulty in reading, writing and spelling.
“Therefore, sounds of the language or phonics is taught and not the letter names as in the traditional method.
“Where phonics does not work all the way, as in teaching English, the whole word approach is used,” said NOD president Dr Mullai A. Ramaiah.
Dr Mullai said dyslexia was often diagnosed as a disorder.
“NOD believes that children with dyslexia learn differently and need a different approach from the traditional one used in our schools to teach language.
“We have seen from experience that children do respond to multi-sensory, systematic and structured phonetic approach no matter how serious the condition.
“Children with dyslexia have, by definition, an average or high IQ. They are not slow learners as they are mislabelled in schools, whereas slow learners have less than average IQ.
“Dyslexic students understand and grasp concepts faster than slow learners if taught in an appropriate way and show remarkable progress,” she said.
She added that parents need to under-stand that when their children fail to pick up languages like an average student, it may not be their laziness, attitude or even poor teaching in the classroom.
Dyslexia might be the problem.
“Dyslexia can be tormenting for children. They need support both in school and at home. Teachers and parents need to understand the child’s condition and cooperate to help the child overcome the condition. The emotional climate for the child is important,” said Dr Mullai.
She said Malaysia was in dire need of transforming the teaching conditions, especially in primary schools.
“Some selected schools have classrooms for children with special needs. But even there, often a mixed bag of children with various challenges are grouped together in one classroom.
“Autistic, dyslexic, slow-learning and sometimes children with Down Syndrome, children with attention deficits, and hyperactive children are found in the same classroom.
“Each of them need different kinds of attention and instructional approach,” she said.
NOD believes in inclusive education where a child who has dyslexia is part of mainstream education, but they need special time – about 50 minutes a day – during school hours, to be educated according to their needs.
“Teachers trained in handling dyslexia should be in place. In Western countries where this is done, results have been very encouraging. The child is singled out just for 50 minutes and goes back to his/her grade classroom for all other activities.
“Parents too are comfortable with this arrangement because there is no social stigma attached to it. The child preserves his/her self-esteem and tries to use what is learnt in the special classroom in the regular classroom, which ensures continuity and stability in the learning process,” she said. 
Dr Mullai said dyslexia could not be ignored because reading and writing were basic needs for anyone.
As one in six children are affected by some reading problem across the world, where it is generally said 20% of any classroom that is not streamed according to ability has children with some reading problem, it is critical that the Education Ministry takes action as early as possible.
“It is time that Malaysia realises the child could become a problem to himself because of the social pressures within school, the family and outside.
“Having lost confidence in being able to perform the basic skills of reading and writing like most others in school do, he/she loses self-esteem and may wish to drop out of the tormenting environment.
“It is time we took charge of our children and nip the problem in the bud by offering the right kind of education.
“It is the schools’ duty to ensure no dyslexic child leaves school without knowing how to read and write,” Dr Mullai said.

I wrote to Star Online and had to revise my comment deleting what I had written about Astro and its programme on ‘Charlie and the Alphabets’ as the editor claimed that they cannot publish anything that may lead to legal action against them.

Here is my comment published on 3.11.2018.

I have copied it here for easy reference.

It’s confusion that makes kids shut down

I REFER to the article “Transforming dyslexics one word at a time” (StarMetro, Oct 4) and wish to touch on a few points raised with regard to dyslexia.

The National Organisation for Dyslexia Malaysia president Dr Mullai A. Ramaiah had said that “dyslexia is a state in which one finds it extremely challenging to bring a sound to the written letter.”

A majority of children classified as dyslexic shut down when things are confusing to them.

As Thorndike had said in 1913, initial input is vital.
About 30% of children shut down or disengage from learning to read when new teachings are contrary to what they have learned initially.
New learning builds on previous learning. Children who are prone to shutting down cannot transfer what they have newly learned unless they can connect them with what they have learned.

This 30% find it “challenging” to bring a sound to the written letter because sounds of letters are taught wrongly by most schools in Malaysia. Initial input is wrong.

As such, it has nothing to do with dyslexic children being unable to bring “a sound to the written letter”.

A majority of those classified as dyslexic shut down when they are confused and are then wrongly classified as “dyslexic” and “slow learners”.

If we teach children the correct sounds of the alphabet, we will reduce the number of children classified as dyslexic and slow learners drastically.

The article also says sounds of the language or phonics are taught and not the letter names as in the traditional method; I would like to ask why would we not teach children letter names?

If you do not teach letter names, how would you get children to read words beginning with letter names such as bee, deep, eagle, giraffe etc?

The article stated that “where phonics does not work all the way, as in teaching English, the whole word approach is used”.

I feel this is the wrong approach. Whole language method has been rejected a long time ago.

When vowels are taught with extraneous vowel sounds, the children predisposed to shutting down disengage from learning to read. *

These children are then wrongly classified as “dyslexic”.

As such, the problem is with the teaching of phonics and has nothing to do with “dyslexics” being unable to bring a sound to the written letter.
In the book ‘Equipped for Reading Success’ Dr ,David Kilpatrick says; in a large study conducted by scientists from the State University of New York at Albany researchers were able to reduce the number of children who require ongoing remediation from the national average of 30% down to about 2%. In another study by researchers at Florida State University they showed how the most severely reading disabled students could reach grade level – and stay there- using a surprisingly brief intervention programme.*
We have to ask as to how the above was achieved? Why did the children need remediation in the first place?
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

*Note added by me now. What Astro is broadcasting on TV under Charlie and the Alphabets is one of the main causes of children shutting down. You may view the clip here:

* This part was somehow omitted in the newspaper.


Luqman Michel said...

What strikes me as odd is that the editor said that what NOD had written was the view of NOD.
However, when I wrote about Astro airing a programme that is detrimental to students I was asked to amend my article as the papers may face legal action.
Why would the papers face legal action when the letter is a letter to the editor?

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your comment, Vicky Ram.