For Middle Eastern Children with Dyslexia, Denial is Costly

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Dr. Rasha Mashmoushi is a senior educational psychologist at the Adult and Child Therapy Center based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She tells us why, when it comes to dyslexia, early intervention is so important.

“I have worked in both the UK and in Lebanon. One difference that I see is that in the ‘West,’ there is less resistance on the part of parents to accept a diagnosis of dyslexia. Fortunately, we are seeing increased awareness in this part of the world and this is leading to earlier diagnosis,” says Dr. Mashoushi. “But there is still a long way to go.”

Dyslexia is a learning disability where an individual has significant difficulties with reading, writing and comprehension of text. It is not an all-or-nothing condition; rather it is on a spectrum, which means that individuals can exhibit varying degrees of severity.

Childhood is a very delicate time. This is a time when we are building our identity, developing self-esteem, and dealing with schoolyard bullies. It’s a tough time and it can be even tougher if you struggle with an undiagnosed learning disability. “Some parents see their child severely struggling in school but are reluctant to face the possibility that a learning disability, such as dyslexia, is at the root of the problem,” says Dr. Mashmoushi. 

This line of thinking can have serious consequences, however, because the longer dyslexia goes unevaluated, the more impact learning differences will have on a child’s sense of self-worth. Without an awareness of dyslexia and its impact, students could mistakenly be characterized as dumb or lazy and that is not the case. 

The good news is that dyslexia can be diagnosed as early as six years old. Around this age, parents can be on the lookout for some early signs such as difficulty with rhyming, learning the alphabet and sounding out words. Significant delay in the onset of speech could also potentially be a warning sign. Dr. Mashmoushi says that a family history of dyslexia makes being attuned to these symptoms especially important.

After the age of six, screening tests such as Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR) and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) can be used by professionals to evaluate your child.

The process of evaluating if a student has dyslexia is multifaceted—it incorporates screening, testing, diagnoses and comprehensive information gathering from the school, family and professionals. “Once you have the proper evaluation, a strategy can be put forward to help the student achieve to their greatest potential,” says Dr. Mashmoushi.

“The sooner that this is done, the better,” she stresses, adding: “Parents shouldn’t be anxious about dyslexia, it is a different way of learning and many successful and highly intelligent people have had dyslexia.”



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