Education ministry to target children with learning disabilities
- Bisnauth
Four per cent of population may suffer from dyslexia

Stabroek News
May 15, 2000

Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth has said that his ministry's record is not so good in helping children with dyslexia, a learning disability, and it would like to do better.

Addressing parents and educators at a session on dyslexia (a great difficulty in learning to read or spell which is unrelated to intellectual competence) at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in Kingston on Friday, Dr Bisnauth said that government is committed to providing all children with access to quality education, including those with physical and neurological disabilities.

He commended the Caribbean Dyslexia Association Centre in Barbados, which is currently working with teachers across the region, for extending its programme to parents to assist them with dyslexic children.

Conducting the workshop in Guyana was British dyslexia consultant Marilyn Monaghan who is attached to the centre and Caribbean educator Vicki Whitehead.

The workshop involved teachers and parents of children attending primary schools which are part of the Ministry of Education Magnet Schools project. These schools are Redeemer, East La Penitence and Smith's Memorial, as well as one representative from each of the three primary schools with which they have been twinned. The representatives came from St Margaret's, West Ruimveldt, St Agnes and Stella Maris.

Observing that it was exciting getting parents and the extended family involved in the education of children, Dr Bisnauth said that what would be more stimulating is what happens in the classroom when the education delivery meets the needs of all children, including those with learning disabilities.

Admitting that the ministry has not done anything much to assist those with problems in learning given their difficulties, he remarked that many adults may have achieved very little and have low self-esteem because they were handicapped as students through learning disabilities and were labelled "stupid". While noting that his understanding of dyslexia was limited, Dr Bisnauth said that the good news is that making parents and teachers aware of how they can assist a dyslexic child will help that child to achieve his or her potential.

The three-day workshop which ended Friday with the last session being held for parents was conducted by Monaghan who told Stabroek News that at least some four per cent of the local population suffers from serious dyslexic problems, while an average 10 percent is affected to a lesser degree and an average 20 per cent has some problems associated with dyslexia. These percentages, she said, make it likely that there will be children with dyslexic problems in a classroom.

Dyslexia, she explained, is basically hereditary and children need to be taught in a multi-sensory way.

The workshop aimed to bring about an awareness of dyslexia, one of a range of specific learning difficulties, which causes otherwise bright, motivated students to have particular problems with literacy skills such as reading, writing and spelling. The long-term objective of the Caribbean Dyslexia Awareness project is to encourage and enable governments to initiate appropriate awareness of dyslexia among teachers and to implement suitable training programmes.

Since the workshops began the Caribbean Dyslexia Centre has covered some 16 Caribbean countries including Guyana. Eighteen are scheduled for visits by personnel from the centre. The project will end mid-year with a formal report to the Caribbean Development Bank which provides significant funding to the project.