Knowledge of Dyslexia within the Nigerian Community

Naturally different people learn to read and write at different paces; however, there are several learning disabilities among people that classifies people on the basis of learning abilities. If anyone by chance realizes that his/her child experiences difficulty in learning to read and write, most probably those must be signs of dyslexia which is not a disease but a condition. Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is a disorder associated with difficulty in learning to read in spite of normal level of intelligence and passion to read (Shaywitz, B.A., 2003).

It is associated with a problem in the brain’s ability to integrate graphic symbols (Wagner, Swim, 2012). It can as well be referred to as a language processing disorder since people with dyslexia often lose content they actually read and may find it difficult to write the words. However, having dyslexia doesn’t imply that the affected won’t read or write all their life time as there are other means that can be used by those with the disorders to learn, to read and write and thus such people can use them all their life time (Ellis, 2016). The Nigerian community based on research conducted by the World Health Organization lacks clear statistical evidence on the exact number of children and adults with dyslexia.

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The lack of clear knowledge is also evident among the many West African states. General research findings precisely those from interviews, indicate that factors leading to the lack of knowledge on dyslexia are located in the societies’ predominant understanding on disability. However the level of knowledge on disability among Nigerian parents is influenced by a variety of factors; these factors include an overall negative perception on disability, illiteracy, lack of specialists learning support offered (Gardeli, Zissis). According to Miss Chineye the director In Helping Hands Special School, 12 million Nigerians live with learning disability, 6 million of whom are children, although there are no clear statistical evidence on the number of Nigerians with learning disabilities, it is impossible to argue that they don’t exist (Gesinde, Adejumo, 2012). Nigerian government should therefore raise the status of such learning disabilities to enable them get equal attention as other crucial sectors in the economy in the national budget. This is because there are varieties to challenges associated with poor literacy skills in childhood. However, this is steered by the fact that most parents lack awareness of the disorder.

According to a survey that was conducted in selected primary schools in Oweri West Local Government area, Imo State, Nigeria, it was discovered that a very small percentage of the teachers (2%) know about dyslexia but lack a clear model of how to properly handle students with dyslexia, 78% were not aware of dyslexia. It was also realized that there is poor knowledge on brain disabilities and individual learning disorders including dyslexia. The same scenario is as well seen among Nigerian parents.

From the percentage of the respondents, included in various researches conducted in schools on dyslexia, there is a clear indication that a lot need to be done to awoken the Nigerian community on behavioral, developmental and neurological disabilities and disorders survey that was conducted in Nigeria on learning disabilities among 122 participants can help give a summary of the general knowledge and awareness on neurological disabilities in Nigeria. The table below gives a summary of the respondents on interviews done across different primary schools in Nigeria, including Oweri west, Imo state Nigeria (Ajoku-Christopher 2012).

 

Over 70% of the respondents agreed that there is little understanding on learning disabilities among educators and the society in Nigeria. (Mustapha, Akande 2013).This is in conjunction with a report by Lang and (Upah, 2008) which highlighted that the Nigerian community, and senior Government officials define disability in terms of charity and welfare and there is scanty knowledge of disability as a human rights issue.

Learning disabilities have great implications on someone’s social status and self-esteem, specifically among school children. This calls for a need to put up appropriate school based program to cater for the needs of children with intellectual disorders, that is, dyslexia. Basing on thematic experiences on participating families ,it is very evident based on various researches conducted that presence of a child with any form of disability pose a tremendous strain on family members at different angles i.e. economically, socially and psychologically.

The different classes of people are specifically hit at different perspectives. Upper class individuals for instance find it more difficult to associate and live with the fact that his/her child has learning disorders, although there is tendency of such individuals to do all the available means to try and cater for the needs of the child with such a learning disability. This is despite the widespread unavailability of enough support measures put by the Nigerian government. The lower class community is the least advantaged. This is because there is high possibility of lack of enough knowledge on learning disabilities and the general scarcity of finances to meet the needs of such children.

In order to effectively handle the issue concerning the level of knowledge about dyslexia and other learning difficulties (Christopher, 2012), it is first very necessary to understand the barriers and factors that influence this status within the Nigerian community. Besides financial constraints that stand as the major barrier, available learning resources and learning environments in many primary schools are not tailored to suit the needs of pupils with disability. The National Education Policy document advocates access to education of children possessing special needs in less restrictive and conducive environments in order for them to achieve self-fulfillment (Ajuwon 2008).Inclusive class room practice can be therefore be a good philosophy and practice for educating pupils with disabilities.

Generally, among the Nigerian community the perceptions of people towards disability as a whole give a summarized overview about the state of disability and its status among the Nigerians. The introduction of special education in Nigeria was steered up by the advent of the Western Education into West Africa; this came with it the need for special introduction of special education (Elftorp, Hearne, 2014).This was particularly pushed up by some missionaries. Although there is an Act in the constitution stating the rights of people living with disability, the issue of disability in Nigeria is yet to be attached the importance it deserves.

Superstitious beliefs on epilepsy for example were frequent among people during research renaissance in the medieval times (Dein, 2016). The same scenario is also seen to be common among Nigerian community perception about disabilities and disorders. Due to ignorance, many parents view it as caused by witchcraft and bad omens. Lack of skilled teachers who can effectively handle students and children with disability also poses a problem. For that case, there is need to develop a new curriculum that will favor learners with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

The government as well needs to get involved in research on learning disorders and finance ongoing research and training of teachers and professionals in the area of learning disabilities (Oyundoyin, Ogunyebi, 2014). According to a research that was conducted among 66 primary schools across Nigeria, among Primary school teachers, 6% of the respondents admitted to know or to have heard about dyslexia but only one of the respondents gave further elaboration on the disorder, 4% of the respondents indicated to have taught pupils with dyslexia, 4% indicated to have undergone some training on specific learning disorders. However quite encouraging is the fact 90% of the respondents showed interests on the need for their training on specific areas of learning disability.

 

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