Educator now more equipped to teach dyslexic kids

Ms Aisha Shaik was among 59 newly minted special needs educators to graduate from the Dyslexia Association of Singapore Academy yesterday. She is this year’s valedictorian for her course.
Ms Aisha Shaik was among 59 newly minted special needs educators to graduate from the Dyslexia Association of Singapore Academy yesterday. She is this year’s valedictorian for her course. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

In the five years she worked as a freelance drama educator, Ms Aisha Shaik often came across students with learning difficulties who would struggle to read or participate in her class.

Her teaching experience piqued her interest in educating students outside mainstream schools, and prompted her to take up a specialist diploma in educational therapy last year.

Ms Aisha, 27, was one of 59 newly minted special needs educators to graduate from the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) Academy yesterday.

The ceremony for this batch of students - the seventh to graduate from the academy - was held online for the first time. The school, which is marking its 10th year, has trained more than 500 graduates in master's and diploma programmes in the past decade.

Ms Aisha, who is this year's valedictorian for her course, said the 10-month programme taught her how to follow a structured method of teaching.

She also learnt how to include a focus on phonics in her teaching, and strategies such as regularly reviewing what has been taught and conducting listening or reading comprehensions at the end of class.

She said: "One of the more memorable moments in the classroom was when I was trying to teach a student how to say the word "gorilla", but she said "Godzilla" instead.

"We have our silly moments but I am glad to see students building their confidence. And I always reassure them that their learning difference is something they are learning to cope with, and that it's okay."

The DAS Academy is the training arm of social service agency DAS, which provides services and support for people with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties in Singapore and around the world.

 
 
 

Some graduates from the academy join DAS as educational therapists, while others return to their own educational institutions after completing their course.

DAS yesterday said about 23,000 students from pre-school to secondary school in Singapore have dyslexia that is severe enough to warrant intervention.

About half of these children may also experience learning issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, specific language impairment, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.

Dyscalculia refers to difficulties in learning mathematics, such as counting and understanding the relationship between numbers.

Dyspraxia affects a person's physical coordination, which can affect a student's performance in school, for example, the ability to produce written work.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2020, with the headline 'Educator now more equipped to teach dyslexic kids'. Subscribe