Kids with dyslexia more prone to social, emotional problems: Study

Dr Sharifah Mariam Aljunied, 50, a chartered educational psychologist, speaking at the the annual Uniting Ideas In Teaching Excellence: Specific Learning Differences 2017 conference.
Dr Sharifah Mariam Aljunied, 50, a chartered educational psychologist, speaking at the the annual Uniting Ideas In Teaching Excellence: Specific Learning Differences 2017 conference.PHOTO: DYSLEXIA ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Children with dyslexia are more likely to encounter a range of social and emotional difficulties - such as feelings of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem - than their peers.

And having strong social support networks may help to buffer them against such negative outcomes.

These were the main findings of a study by the University College London (UCL), based on responses of 99 Primary 3 pupils with dyslexia across 13 primary schools here.

The results of the study, conducted by psychologists Vivien Yang and Sandra Dunsmuir, were presented yesterday at the annual Uniting Ideas In Teaching Excellence: Specific Learning Differences 2017 conference, which was organised by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS).

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Dr Yang, who did the study in 2011 as part of her doctoral thesis at UCL, said that it aimed to explore the social and emotional well-being of children with dyslexia, an area that was not widely studied then.

In dealing with emotional difficulties, Dr Yang said that parents and teachers should focus on creating positive relationships and a supportive climate for the child, both at home and in school.

"It is important to ensure that your child knows that having dyslexia or reading difficulties is not something to be ashamed of and that he or she is not alone."

Children with dyslexia often have difficulty reading, writing and spelling. The condition often occurs alongside other learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder. According to the DAS, about 20,000 primary and secondary school students here have dyslexia.

Parents and teachers of children with dyslexia noted that such children are also more likely to experience conduct problems and hyperactivity issues.

Administrative assistant Haslindah Mohamed, 45, a mother of a Primary 3 boy who has dyslexia, agreed with the findings. "When my son was younger, he isolated himself a bit, due to his difficulty in talking and understanding others."

Dr Sharifah Mariam Aljunied, 50, a chartered educational psychologist, said it was important for parents to listen to their children and acknowledge their fears and concerns.

The three-day DAS conference started on Monday and will host more than 400 practitioners, parents and caregivers of children with special learning needs at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub Convention Centre. A panel of 44 international and local professionals was also invited to share new research and best industry practices.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Kids with dyslexia more prone to social, emotional problems: Study'. Print Edition | Subscribe