During her early schooling years, Nadia’s* teachers labelled her “lazy” without realising that she had a learning problem. “I wrote letters backwards and sometimes skipped entire sentences while reading,” she says, explaining that rote-learning and understanding concepts took her much longer than other students.
She had been in the ‘slow student’ category. It was not until she was 12 years old that her English teacher suggested that she could be dyslexic.
For 25 years, students like Nadia have been helped by Remedial Education and Assessment of Dyslexics (READ) — an institute established by Shad Moarif, an educational psychologist from Harvard University that caters to children with learning and comprehension difficulties. Nadia’s comprehension skills were assessed at READ where she discovered that she was indeed dyslexic.
On Saturday, celebrating 25 years of the institute, READ CEO Shahina Alvi highlighted the need for funding. She explained that the institute does not refuse students who cannot afford the cost of the remedial lessons and provides sponsorship in such cases.
The event was attended by parents, students, educationists and experts who narrated touching stories about how the institute had helped their children cope with dyslexia. Although the exact cause of dyslexia is still unknown, they say that it is not a condition that can be overcome.
Teachers at READ explain dyslexia as a specific difficulty in learning one of more of the basic literacy skills that are reading, spelling and writing.
Nausheen Saeed, a director, trainer and remedial therapist at the institute, says that a dyslexic child may have problems with number work, short-term memory, sequencing and knowing the difference between right and left.
READ offers the services of professionally trained remedial teachers who encourage children and help them organise their thought process - which they may never receive at school.
Nadia fondly recalls her experience at READ as one of incessant encouragement and fun. She went on to graduate from Curry College in Massachusetts and made the Dean’s list twice - disproving her schoolteachers’ stereotypes.
*The name has been changed to protect privacy
Some things children say can alert adults to certain difficulties:
I think God has put my brain in upside down
The word is coming
I am getting close
The word is near the front of my mouth
Is yesterday the day after tomorrow?
Where is the beginning of the book?
Where does the book start?
This book is stupid
Where is the top of the page?
Which way does it go?
I have dropped it again
What’s that word again?
Important note: This list is a guidepost for parents and professionals. It should not be used in isolation but may lead parents/professionals to seek further assessment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2011.