Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) Preschool Seminar 2018
- Wong Kah Lai, Preschool Programme Manager (Specialised Educational Services), Dyslexia Association of Singapore
- Weng Yiyao, Senior Educational Therapist, Dyslexia Association of Singapore
Questions from Supreme Parents followers:
1. How can we know if child is ready for primary school? And at which age?
There are several ways to do a self-check to benchmark.
One, ask yourself, “What skills does my child need on day one of Primary One?”
The most practical skills that tied to immediate concerns of a young child, such as:
How do I make friends?
- What if I lose my way after going to the toilet from the classroom?
- What if I follow the wrong class by accident while queuing up? What can I do?
- What if I cannot finish copying what is on the board before it is erased?
- What if I cannot understand the teacher and I don’t know what to do?
Two, check out MOE’s website, https://www.nel.sg/, ‘Nurturing Early Learners: A curriculum framework for kindergartens in Singapore’, and see if your child possesses the disposition needed for successful learning at primary school.
Early childhood educators in childcare or kindergarten work towards developing your child holistically through development in the area of physical (gross and fine motor skills and coordination), intellectual (fundamental learning dispositions including early literacy, early math, arts and craft, science), emotional well-being (self-confidence, self-esteem) and social readiness (awareness of social rules and ability to make friends).
Three, if you need professional advice, consider taking a School Readiness Test with a psychologist at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) or at the Child Development Unit of major hospitals such as KKH and NUH.
2. If a child writes mirror letters/alphabets, when or what age will it become a concern?
Writing mirror letters also commonly known as letter reversals is common among young children learning to write. You can help your child correct letter reversals by giving direct and explicit instruction on letter formation. Do note that the child must be able to see an adult writing or forming letters with correct and appropriate directionality for this to work.
This would become a concern if it persists beyond Primary 2 or eight years of age.
3. How can I know if my child is just playing with me/being resilient and not having an academic or social problem? For instance, able to recite 1 to 10 well in school but not at home.
Parents know their child best. Is your child joking about not able to count from 1 to 10?
Find out the context - is the problem with verbal recital of 1 to 10 or pointing to and counting out 10 objects? The challenges and skills required to do so are different.
In the context of having to verbally recite 1 to 10, your child only needs to remember the numbers 1 to 10 and repeat it like singing a song. Familiarity would breed success and itshould be relatively easier to memorise the sequence of numbers, compared to counting from 1 to 10.
Counting requires eye-hand coordination and rote memory. It increases the level of difficulty for your child to count one-to-one with correspondence accurately.
The frequency of performing a particular task also affects your child’s ability to remember.
Our advice would first be to look at the context and then the skills and knowledge needed for the task. DAS Academy offers workshops for parents with many tips and strategies to enhance their child’s learning capability.
Find out more at this website: https://www.dasacademy.edu.sg/
4. How do I know if my child is lazy or that he or she really does not know how to write?
There could be several possible reasons why your child is not engaged in writing. Your child may be tired, thus, resistant to writing. You will need to ensure your child is in the right frame of mind to engage in writing tasks. You may want to incorporate a fun element in the activity to incentivise your child to engage in the act of writing, such as using paint to form letters or words.
As your child is also developing fine motor skills, ensure availability of the correct type of writing tools such as triangular pencils or a pencil grip to help with holding a pencil.
Another tip is to develop a close partnership with your child’s teacher and gather feedback on your child’s performance to better help them in their learning process.
5. If my child practises writing, how to ensure he or she remembers what is being written?
Use multisensory approaches to reinforce spelling. For example, you may get your child to write words or letters in a tray of sand, a tactile activity that taps on their sense of touch and sight. Alternatively, you may also encourage your child to write words in a tray of foam, or use beans, Lego blocks and pipe cleaners to form words to help your child to remember what they spell.
6. Will consistent repeated practising of words help or are there other methods we can use beside writing and more writing?
As mentioned, using multisensory teaching taps on your child’s different senses. This triggers the different multisensory pathways to reinforce their learning in class. If you realise that your child requires repetition to retain what they learn, it will be beneficial to introduce and repeat what your child has learnt.
For example, if you are introducing the sight word ‘the’, besides writing the word out, you can form the word using pipe cleaners.
Remember not to overload your child.
Introduce a few words in one week before proceeding to another list of words. Also, always give immediate and direct feedback. Praise as much as you can! Tell your child what they have gotten right and how for example, a lopsided letter can look even better through demonstration.
Smile, laugh and promote fun as it sets the emotional stage for your child to learn more.
7. How to know if a child has dyslexia? At what age do the signs show?
A child may have dyslexia when there are signs of struggle in early stages of literacy learning in activities related to reading, writing and spelling. In younger children, this may be in the form of struggling to associate objects-to-sounds, such as the sound of knocking on the door to the picture of a door; rhyming words commonly found in nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty; and letter-sound association such as letter b to /b/).
Some children develop coping strategies when they find it difficult to manage reading, writing and spelling activities. Look out for signs such as task avoidance, including changing the topic -”Why don’t we do this instead”. This can be easily confused with “bargaining”, where children drag their feet at doing something but can be persuaded to do so when given certain rewards or incentivising motivators. Genuine task avoidance happens when children really fear, dread, feel anxious about or hate certain tasks. They know that they cannot do it successfully without help.
They also know that the chances of the given piece of work not turning out right or the way it should look like is very high. The chance of being asked to re- do or being criticised for it is almost a given, from the child’s perspective and logic.
Other tell-tale signs may include flipping through a book but only looking at the pictures. While it is normal for children to look at pictures before reading the text, those with literacy difficulty avoid reading text at all costs. Children many also have difficulties remembering instructions with multiple steps and require constant reminders to successfully complete a given task.
A young child may try anything, be it action or words, to derail the adult from handing out the writing or reading task. If they discover that certain task avoidance strategies work well, they will find it worth repeating. While such behaviour is not encouraged, children are innovative problem solvers. Some may actively seek adult assistance, such as, “I can’t do this, can you hold my hand?” “Can you sit next to me?” This is their way of saying if you see me making a mistake, point it out and give me the eraser, or tell me and show me how get it right.
There are many signs to dyslexia.
At the DAS Preschool Seminar on 16 March 2018, Liu Yimei, a senior psychologist from DAS, shared insights into many aspects. Please refer to https://www.das.org.sg/news-events/das-conference/preschool-seminar-2018.html for more information.
DAS also conducts formal assessments and diagnosis of dyslexia for children aged six and above.
8. What is the best method to teach a dyslexic kid?
Use multisensory teaching that taps on multiple senses to reinforce what your child has learnt. Make learning fun and enjoyable, and always remember to engage your child. Remember to review what you have taught, before introducing new concepts to your child. Break down the tasks into bite-sized chunks to make the task manageable for your child.
9. What do they do at Early Intervention (EI) and how different would it be for kids who were referred to DAS much later in primary school?
Preschoolers (K1 and K2 age children) attending DAS’ two-hour weekly programme, outside of regular school hours, are taught specific learning strategies that are phonics-based, guided by Orton-Gillingham (OG) principles and sound early childhood pedagogy.
Inside DAS’ early literacy (EI) intervention classrooms, trained educational therapists first conduct a preliminary literacy assessment to identify specific areas of weaknesses for new students. This relatively short yet comprehensive assessment will provide educational therapists with a snapshot of individual child’s early literacy strengths and weaknesses. It covers the ability (or inability or the level of difficulty demonstrated) to write letters of the alphabet with accuracy, the sequencing of letters in alphabetical order, making correct letter- sound association, penmanship including writing in an age-appropriate manner from the pencil grip to the way letters are written, and so on.
With this, individualised planning such as the choice of words for reading and spelling can be made possible for more effective and differentiated learning. The variety of multi-sensory activities to learning circumvent are due to children’s natural sense of task avoidance when faced with perceived daunting “work” that is often associated with paper pencil activity.
Throughout an intensive two-hour early literacy intervention session, young children will be explicitly taught various strategies and given numerous opportunities for practice of these strategies often away from paper and pencil. This would empower them for better literacy learning back in school. Each session’s content consists of alphabet knowledge, phonogram knowledge, sight word, reading, writing and social-emotional literacy (SEL). The skill sets imparted to children are very practical and complementary to their regular classroom learning. It is also compatible to other literacy intervention programmes such as ProFLAiR and Developmental Support Programme (DSP).
Early intervention is most effective when children get help early. The pace of learning and academic demands between kindergarten and primary school is different. Inherent expectations are also different. Children coming to DAS at the primary school level will definitely need to go through a stage of learning adjustment, just as preschoolers do when they come on board at K1 or K2. For these primary school kids, response to DAS intervention support depends on the severity of dyslexia, the amount of scaffolding to learning that is needed, the skills and strategies that need to be acquired to meet current primary school learning demands, the intensity and regularity of intervention and support and the receptiveness of the primary school age child to efforts in literacy intervention.
FACETS, a publication of DAS, shares numerous success stories of individuals including children and teenagers attending mainstream schools who thrive academically despite their learning difficulties. Check out their stories at https://www.das.org.sg/publications.html
10. Any ways to outgrow dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Individuals, throughout their lifetime, often come up withcoping strategies to overcome their challenges. Many often go through life not knowing they
Photo Credit: Dyslexia Association of Singapore
About the contributors
Wong Kah Lai is the Preschool Programme Manager with the Specialised Educational Services (SES) division at DAS. An enthusiastic and passionate educator with almost 30 years’ experience in the field of early childhood education, Kah Lai taught young children, trained and mentored teachers, supported parents and caregivers in a wide range of setting, from within the classroom to advocating in community outreach. A master at juggling and multi-tasking, she acquired her Diploma in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College and Bachelor of Education in ECCE (University of South Australia) while working full time in Singapore. A problem solver and lover of challenges, she completed her Masters in Teaching English to Young Learners from University of York through distance learning whilst working full time as expatriate principal heading a bilingual kindergarten in China.
Currently managing the Preschool Programme’s team of 17 educational therapists working with about 320 pre-schoolers, across 9 DAS learning centres and 5 satellite centres, Kah Lai spearheaded new initiatives while maintaining her role as a sounding board to teachers, parents and fellow professionals on educational, parenting, administrative and human resource matters. She mentors interns from Ngee Ann Polytechnic annually, does adjunct lecturing with DAS Academy and does Learning Journeys for SEED Institute and early childhood training agencies frequently.
Weng Yiyao is a Senior Educational Therapist with the DAS. Her students range from preschool to secondary school levels. She holds a degree in Psychology, and has obtained a Specialist Diploma in Preschool Education. She has a keen interest in the field of Early Childhood Education and has presented at Early Childhood Conference 2016 organised by Early Childhood Development Agency. She has also conducted workshops at DAS Preschool Seminar 2016 and 2017. She believes the earlier a child’s needs are identified and addressed, the greater the child’s chance of maximising his or her full potential. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Special Educational Needs (MASEN) with the University of South Wales (USW) in UK. She is also a member of Register of Educational Therapists Asia (RETA).