According to the Ministry of Education of Singapore (MOE), Professional Practice Guidelines for the Psycho-educational Assessment and Placement of Students with Special Educational Needs (SEN), the definition of Dyslexia refers to “a type of specific learning difficulty identifiable as a developmental difficulty of language learning and cognition It is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved inaccurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory, and processing speed. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration, and personal organization, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.”
Referring to MOE statistics, based on 2016 to 2019 data, about 3.5% of Primary 3 students were reported as having Dyslexia. In Secondary 1, about an additional 1% of the cohort reported diagnosis with Dyslexia. The proportion of students with dyslexia in Singapore is within the international prevalence of between 3% and 10%. This estimates that 20,000 students are diagnosed with Dyslexia. Of course, there are more that went unnoticed with the limited awareness of this condition among Singaporeans.
Dyslexia will be only ‘fully formed’ at the age of 6 or later, and keeping to the international practice, MOE does not diagnose dyslexia at pre-school. Instead, more focus is on supporting preschoolers’ emerging learning needs rather than testing them for reading disabilities. At Primary One, all students are screened so that those with weak language and literacy skills receive early intervention through the Learning Support Programme (LSP). Dyslexia typically shows up as difficulties in reading despite adequate language exposure and good reading instruction. Hence those whose literacy difficulties persist despite LSP receive further screening for dyslexia identification. Singapore has a range of school-based programmes and support, as well as MOE-subsidised remediation by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS).
It is a common scene in Singapore that young Dyslexic learners in Singapore stay later in school for remedial LSP lessons and attend DAS classes over the weekend or after school. As the number of Dyslexics children is quite substantial, the limited number of trained Dyslexia educators in DAS and LSP in Singapore must conduct classes in groups to reach out to as many learners as possible.
Dyslexia is a condition that falls under the umbrella of specific learning differences. They will need to learn differently through explicit techniques taught differently by trained educators, to effectively absorb the teachings. If resources allow, I strongly encourage them to go for effective ways to help them access the literacy skills they deserve. Bring them for professional assessments, learn how to provide emotional support for them, and most importantly, dedicated professional help such as a speech therapist or 1-on-1 Dyslexia Tutor to flatten the learning curve for your child.