Online dyslexia in everyday Romanian life

Sunday April 11, 2021

In every school class there is likely to be at least one child who is lagging behind in reading or writing. Often mocked by schoolmates, such a child poses great challenges for both the teachers and the family: It is clearly different from the others, but by no means simply “stupid” – so it must be due to a lack of will! In the child, this allegation often leads to feelings of inferiority, depression or psychological problems. However, very few people know that up to 15 percent of the world’s population suffers from dyslexia and that – as with numerous other learning disorders – it is not a disability, but a treatable disease.

In the middle of the 19th century, with the increasingly widespread introduction of school lessons, various learning difficulties were discovered, including the reading disorder originally called “word blindness” and from 1877 by Rudolf Berlin as “dyslexia” (from the Greek “dys” for “incorrect” and lexis “for writing, word). However, it would be almost a century before science was ready to describe dyslexia no longer as a disability, but as a disease in which the brain network is different from the majority. Although dyslexia can also be acquired as a result of shock (accident, stroke, etc.), it often seems to be congenital, i.e. inherited, and appears in children in the first years of school.

Signs of dyslexia

“My son just swallows the letters, he stutters the third time he reads a sentence,” says Maria, the mother of a second grader who twisted the letters completely – both while writing and reading. This applies not only to the usual mirror-image confusion, for example between “d” and “b” – your son seems to form downright anagrams for every word: He does not read the letters one after the other, but rotates their position until he arrives at a familiar word. “Otherwise he is completely normal: He plays, climbs, is good at handicrafts, tells vigorously about his adventures – the only thing that just doesn’t work when you’re reading is”, says Maria.

Parents’ reactions

When faced with such learning problems, the parents often react in a relaxed manner, according to the motto: Every child develops differently. In fact, however, the differences to other people of the same age become increasingly clear within a short period of time.

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On the other hand, it is also difficult to accept that one’s own child has a problem: Parents do not want their child to be labeled “stupid” or “disabled” and accordingly try to ignore the weaknesses, and even cover them up to emphasize the positive aspects of your child even more.

You could also think that teachers, thanks to their studies and their experience, should be able to easily recognize a learning difficulty such as dyslexia – but there still seems to be a lack of specialist knowledge, especially time: with almost 30 children in a class, the teacher often really doesn’t have any Possibility of personal support for each individual.

Thus, the responsibility is thrown back on parents to identify their child’s learning difficulties through their own means and to take further steps to find the right type of therapy. Or ignore the problem …

Reactions of a dyslexic child

It was the same for Maria at first: Her son should have a nice childhood, play and have fun – there would still be time for reading and school, he was only in the second grade. Then came the pandemic. During online lessons, she now watched her son study from the kitchen every day. Not only did she suddenly experience his daily agony while reading up close – she also noticed that he tried to avoid the hours in which he had to read, as he often became calm and thoughtful and lagged behind on almost all homework ; he was even ashamed to read, always found excuses when it came to it and declared more and more often that one or the other school colleague was better and smarter than him.

Tackle the problem

That was the turning point for Maria: her son was not allowed to make himself small in front of other children for no reason! From then on, she spent hours with him doing homework and at first just didn’t understand why he couldn’t – or didn’t want to – read a ten-word text fluently over a single line.

At the same time, she could see that math, an oral retelling, or painting were no problems for her son – as long as he wasn’t just reading a text. She realized that it couldn’t go on like this in the long term – but what should I do?

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Realization: “My child is not stupid!”

A brief search on the Internet on the subject of “reading difficulty” led Maria to the term “dyslexia” and thus to various sources about measures and institutions that deal with this topic. She was amazed to see how many other children struggled with the same problem, but most importantly, that there are solutions too. She was relieved that her son was not disabled – on the contrary: In dyslexics, certain regions of the brain (e.g. those responsible for art or three-dimensional vision) are much better developed and the brain is generally more active around the Compensate for reading difficulty. Accordingly, the IQ of dyslexic people is also above average. “My child is not stupid, it is just sick,” said Maria, relieved.

Diagnose

However, self-diagnosis was only the first step. Although the Romanian school system is insufficiently prepared for children with learning difficulties – except for serious psychological or physical problems, for which there are special schools – Maria followed the official procedure – obtaining forms, applications, school and medical reports to clarify the situation of her son. Among other things, she learned that he would also suffer from attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a common symptom of dyslexia. And that it is a disease that affects between five and 15 percent of the world’s population. Maria then took courage to have her son officially entered in the database of children with learning difficulties (CMBRAE) – and to recognize his learning difficulties in front of herself.

Learning support for dyslexia

Only 15.5 percent of Romanians are even aware of the term dyslexia, according to the only study on the subject from 2012, which was commissioned by OMV and the Romanian Association for Dyslexic Children (ARCD). 80 percent of the children who suffer from learning difficulties are receiving regular therapy, 60 percent of them also showed better school results as a result. Even so, only around 13 percent of these children were officially classified as dyslexics in 2012.

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There are organizations that support children with learning difficulties, but they usually put learning difficulties of different degrees and degrees of severity under the same hat, be it dyslexia or autism – which is why many parents do not register children with milder learning difficulties. Another deterrent is that special schools are often recommended for children with learning difficulties, which are intended for children with special psychological or physical needs.

Just five years ago, the Romanian School Act recognized milder learning difficulties such as dyslexia and created adequate conditions in the regular school system for children suffering from it to receive a normal education. For example, dyslexic children no longer have to read aloud in front of the class, they are given more time during the exams to keep up with reading the problem and, depending on their abilities, can be given other homework or be exempted from certain school tasks.

Living together with dyslexia

There is no general recipe for this type of learning disorder, Maria soon found out. You have to try different methods to see how the child can learn better and more easily, she says. At the same time, reading and writing should be practiced daily, much more than with other children.

Maria’s son is cheerful again and understands that it is not his “reluctance” but an illness that makes reading difficult for him. He also tries to find solutions himself to make learning easier, for example apps that read the texts to him automatically or control his laptop. As a result, he approaches his homework more confidently and is relieved that he can now keep up with his schoolmates better. He has also put together a whole collection of dyslexic personalities – role models, from the physics genius Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, co-founder of the computer company Apple – and visualizes every day that he will certainly achieve something important in life. “It gets better every day, slowly, slowly,” says Maria happily.

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