Dyslexia Association expands programmes to post-secondary students

Siti Hawa Najib, 12 and her mother Mastzainah Jalil at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) Tampines Learning Centre.
Siti Hawa Najib, 12 and her mother Mastzainah Jalil at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) Tampines Learning Centre. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

SINGAPORE - Spelling 'snake' does not come easy for 12-year-old Siti Hawa Najib, who was diagnosed with dyslexia four years ago.

The Pasir Ris Primary School student sometimes gets confused over whether to spell the word with a C or a K, but classes she takes with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) are helping her along.

"My teacher tells us that if we spell snake with a C, it will be pronounced as snace, not snake. So it helps me know which letter to use," said the bubbly Primary 6 student.

The DAS will now be able to help more students like Siti Hawa, with the expansion of its programmes and financial support to post-secondary school students and young adults who are in Institutes of Higher Learning, such as polytechnics and universities.

The association announced this during its 25th Anniversary Charity Dinner held at the Hotel Jen Tanglin on Friday evening (Oct 21).

Previously, only pre-school, primary and secondary school students could attend classes at the association's 13 centres across the island. Dyslexia is a learning difficulty, characterised by difficulty in learning languages and cognition. It affects skills needed for accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. The association helps students cope with this through classes that teach students about phonics, vocabulary and reading comprehension, for instance.

"The funds raised from the DAS 25th Anniversary Charity Dinner will be vital in ensuring that more people with specific learning differences in Singapore can access even more extensive support from DAS, so that they can flourish in schools, institutes of higher learning, their workplaces and their lives," said the association's chief executive, Mr Lee Siang.

The funding for this new post-secondary effort will come from the Jimmy Daruwalla Fund, newly set up by the association in loving memory of its founding president who died in July 2016. Almost $500,000 has been raised to date.

"(The new fund) will also enable DAS to make significant headway towards Jimmy Daruwalla's vision of helping those with dyslexia in Singapore," Mr Lee added.

Singapore's founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had in 1996 revealed that he had dyslexia. He later wrote a book entitled My Lifelong Challenge, which was launched in 2011, on Singapore's bilingual journey and his personal struggles to learn the Chinese language.

An autographed copy of My Lifelong Journey will be auctioned off during the event on Friday, along with another art piece by world renowned artist Shiavax Chavda. Bidding starts at $10,000 for the book, and $6,000 for the painting.

Proceeds from the auction will go to the Jimmy Daruwalla Fund.