Dyslexia Association: 6 in 100 children in Kuching could be affected with dyslexia

Ong (right) showing Dr Annuar (white shirt) the proposed building plan for the new centre.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 20: The prevalence of dyslexia among school-going children in the city was estimated to be at 6 per cent, according to a study conducted by University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) in 2015.

Dyslexia Association of Sarawak president Dr Ong Puay Hoon, who led the study, said it was conducted on Primary Three students from 10 schools in Kuching.

“Six per cent is not a small number, suggesting that it means 6 in 100 and 60 in 1,000 (likely to have a form of dyslexia).

“This year, we have 239,671 primary school students, (and) that will mean 11,000 children (in Sarawak) are at risk of having dyslexia problem,” she addressed the ground breaking ceremony for the Association’s new Learning and Resource Centre in Desa Wira, Batu Kawa here today.

She shared that international statistics suggested that between 5 to 15 per cent of the population have dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to read, write, spell and count, no matter how hard the person tries or how intelligent they are.

Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee represented Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to officiate at the ceremony.

Moreover, Ong said in a press conference that in 2017, the association had assessed 30 children or an average two children a month for learning difficulty conditions.

“But this year, even though December is not over yet, we have already assessed 80 children,” she emphasised.

Looking at the increase in figure, Dr Annuar also pointed out that growing awareness of dyslexia over the years could be a contributing factor in the rising prevalence of dyslexia among school-going children in the city.

Since the inception of the association in 2008, Ong emphasised that they had served and helped more than 500 children and adults from all over Sarawak, and even from Sabah, Labuan, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines and Mongolia.

“The association is committed to bring literacy to dyslexic children because literacy is the right of every child and it is a pathway for their well-being in school and society now and in the future,” she said.

However, she warned that if the dyslexia conditions were not corrected with early intervention, it could escalate into an emotional problem for the individual and then possibly magnified into a borderless social problem of poverty and crime.

“But because the brain of the children with dyslexia functions differently than normal children and are easily distracted with noise and movement, they needed more learning spaces,” she said.

“But it pains me to reject enrolments because our centre with only two classrooms are full to the limit,” she added.

Currently, the association is operating at Banglo Kalaka, a government quarters, in Lorong Maxwell 2.

Ong thus expressed appreciation to be granted the 1.5 acre land at Desa Wira here to build a new centre which was estimated to cost RM3.5 million for phase 1.

It is proposed to have three floors with 10 classrooms, office, staff room and a multipurpose hall, while a hostel will be part of its phase 2 expansion plan to cater to children outside of Kuching.

“However, we are struggling to raise enough funds for the new building even though efforts have been put in since 2014 with organising various fundraising activities. We only managed to raise less than RM1 million,” she said.

“We need to reach out to more children especially in rural and remote areas in Sarawak and we need help in order to help others. We have only taken one big step today with this ground breaking ceremony, we still have 2.5 million steps to take from now,” she added.

Ong thus appealed for greater support from all sectors of the society to help them realise their dream of having a building so to serve more affected children and adults in more effective ways. —DayakDaily