It took me a while to decide if I should pen down this post. I was on the fence because it concerned Renee and to a certain extend, it seemed a little sensitive to share about it publicly. I would if I could bubble wrap my kid, but this won’t do her much good. The way I see it now – it’s better to be open and help to raise awareness – cos this would be a better and healthier way to protect the one I love…
22 Nov – A day that was marked up on my calendar. It was a regular Saturday and we took our Cupcake to a regular mall in Chinatown for a not-so-regular purpose – we had an appointment with Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) for a computerised screening test.
On our way there Renee asked where were we going.
“For a check up” I said.
“But I am not sick”, she seemed puzzled, and so was I.
“It’s just a check up, Dear” I assured her.
“Why Jiejie and Chubby don’t need to come along”
“Cos… ” she caught me off guard and I stumbled to find a reason … “They are not 5yo,” even I wasn’t convinced.
“All 5 yos come for check up?”
“Why, yes,” I lied. What else could I say? I know, it was a lousy lousy way to handle the situation, but that was what happened.
It took us about 30 minutes on the road to DAS that day, but the actual journey to finding our way there went way back and down a winding path…
Renee is my second child. Having experience raising my eldest girl, who is just 2 years older, I am more confident and less anxious with Renee, thinking that it would be a similar experience with my eldest. While my experience raising my firstborn did come in handy, but in the whole, growing up with Renee is a brand new encounter for me – the girls are very different.
Learning to read and write was a breeze with my eldest. She could write simple sentences before age 5. She could mix and match phonics sounds to form words and construct sentences to make out a simple story. Because she is my first child, her learning milestones are what I use as a references for her siblings’ development. But I understand that every child is unique and so when Renee seems to progress slower in learning to read and write, I gave her space and allowed her to learn at her own pace. However, when she turned 5, and still couldn’t get her full set of alphabets right, I started to worry.
Renee, though may not be able to read or write very well (yet), is the most creative kid among the 3. She picks up concepts quickly so it seems rather odd that she can’t quite make sense of words and alphabets. But the issue didn’t surface until her preschool started her on weekly spelling last year. Frankly, I’ve never hated spelling so much in my entire life until I am oblige to help Renee with her revisions. It’s a nightmare and we live it week after week.
This being said, I have the preschool to thank because the dragged weekly routine got me uncomfortable and concerned enough to dig further for ways to help Renee learn and find out what could be the underlying issues.
I did what every mum would do – I spoke to her teachers and asked other parents to check if Renee was doing fine for her age. Everyone told me that she was ok and her her academic progression was within her age range. Yet week after week, the struggle persisted. I saw her tears, her struggle to differential the direction of alphabets and matching phonics to form words. I hated my impatience, the many times I screamed at her and wished she could learn faster, only to end the day guilt-ridden, screaming into my pillow and feeling like a total failure. I needed a solution. I needed answers.
I was at my wits end when I shared about Renee’s struggle with spelling with my colleagues over lunch. I wasn’t looking for advise that day, I just needed to talk about it. Yet, life is such – sometimes we find the best advice from the most unlikely sources. After listening to me, a couple of friends in the group advised me to get Renee checked for dyslexia. I swallowed hard, “No. Surely not.”
Yet the idea dwelt a little longer in my mind and after a while it sank it. After discussing with the hubs, we decided to sign Renee up for the free computerised screening test conducted by DAS. “Just in case,” we thought.
Fast forward to the day at DAS, my mind was a whirlpool of doubts and concerns as we walked into DAS that day. I squeezed her little hand a little before handing her over to the person in charge. I was led to another room for an awareness talk. Perhaps it was the weather or the condition of my heart, the room was a little too cold for my liking and I wished I had my sweater with me. I sat through the session feeling overwhelmed as I teared uncontrollably (must be pregger hormones). I took a quick glance around the room. I was the only overly emotional person around (darn).
The session was informative and we learned more about Dyslexia. How the brain learn differently for people with Dyslexia. We were also pleasantly relieved to hear about many successful dyslexics, including our nation’s founding father, Mr Lee Kwan Yew and his daughter, a doctorate. If you are interested to find out more about Dyslexia, here’s an informative video by DAS:
After the session, we saw the education psychologist who assessed Renee. She reported that Renee showed possible signs of dyslexic kids but her literacy performance was (as noted by her teachers previously) within the acceptable range for children her age. This could mean that she has unknowingly found ways to cope and learn on her own – she may be a high-functional dyslexic, but we won’t know for sure until she go through a full assessment for dyslexia. The education psychologist recommended us to start Renee on their early intervention programme before doing a full assessment at the end of next year. We were told that the best age to start early intervention was before the age of 5. If only we had more knowledge about Dyslexia earlier, we wouldn’t have waited till now.
We signed Renee up for the programme right away, but would only know if she would be granted a seat in the class later this year *fingers crossed*. Meanwhile, the hubby and I had agreed to give Renee more time and space to learn at her own pace.
The educational psychologist has recommended phonics and music for Renee, so there are things we can be busy with in between now and the new school year – which is great, cos I’d rather be doing something than worrying. I am also bracing myself for the new year ahead. with a new baby in Jan and Renee starting early intervention class, there are much planning to be down (and plenty for this worry whore to worry about, unfortunately). I am more resolved to hunting down a flexi-work arrangement in the new year to spend more time helping Renee prepare for Primary School. We have one full year to work on it and, dyslexia or not, I want to give my best effort to help her get ready for primary one – it’s the least I could do.
If you are keen to find out more about Dyslexia, DAS’s website has many useful information: http://www.dasacademy.edu.sg/