Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Invention help discover dyslexic early

By  Shahfizal Musa

BANGI, 4 Oct. 2010
 - A screening and diagnostic tool to measure reading performance (MRP) in children has been developed by a UKM team of researchers headed by Dr Rokiah Omar, Senior Lecturer of the Allied Health Sciences Faculty. They specialised in low vision treatment method and techniques.

The MRP consist of a system that will determine whether a child has reading problems as early as 7 years old which often go unnoticed.  With this screening and diagnostic tool, a child who has a reading difficulty can be given help at an early age.

The language that is used for the MRP is Malay, but efforts are underway to produce it in other languages so that it can be marketed internationally. It is now going through the process of commercialisation. It is expected to be available in the next 6 months.

“Reading is something you need to do well, when you can read well, you read faster and understand better. But if a child has a reading problem it will effect his future learning capabilities,” said Dr Rokiah.

When a child is unable to read at a similar pace with other average students, he becomes frustrated for not being able to keep up with the lessons given in school. In the worst case scenario the child starts to believe that he has a lower intelligence capability compared to his peers.

But his problem is really his poor reading performance which may not have anything to do with his intelligence level at all.  A child who faces difficulty in reading cannot be deemed to be having a low IQ.

“This could be due to a lot of factors. One is left and right eye do not work well together rendering the child prone to fatigue and easily becoming tired. Or he may suffer from dyslexia, that is having problems to process the alphabets. Maybe he cannot hear what he is reading. Or Maybe his IQ is low in which case he should not be in a normal class when he needs a different type of teaching,” said Dr Rokiah.

Once the reading problem has been detected further investigations can be carried out to see what is the real cause facing the child. The problem can then be rectified.

“Once the problem is identified we can intervene by ruling out possible causes like eye problems, attention deficit disorder or genuine low I.Q level,” said Dr Rokiah.

It is not rare that a child go through his entire school life with his reading problem undetected.

There had been cases where many people are deemed illiterate then work as manual labours and go through life as uneducated and poor people, just because they have a reading problem and it is undetected at the early age. When it is later discovered that the person is actually dyslexic, half of his life is already gone.

“Imagine if the problem was detected when he was 7 years old, his entire life could have been very different probably leading a life that is better than you and me” said Dr Rokiah.

The beauty of the system developed by Dr Rokiah is that it can be either a diagnostic or a screening tool depending on who is using it.

The reading performance measurement tool can be just a screening tool, used to identify the reasons why a child has reading difficulties.

Teachers can also use this assessment tool, to detect the reading problems of their pupils and then intervene to help them overcome the problem.

“It will help teachers do what is needed for the betterment of the child,” said Dr Rokiah. This is where the system act as screening tools when it is used by the layman.

But for professionals like an optometrist, it can be a diagnostic tool in assessing the reading problem arising from a sight deficiency and then form part of the treatment process.

“We can measure the improvements made arising from the remedial measures taken when the cause is known. The tool can then be used to compare his performance after the therapy is given. This indirectly will tell the professional whether the therapy is working or otherwise, “

The researchers aim is to know why a child have reading difficulties. While developing the MRP the team of researchers wanted to ensure that the tool can be used by any ordinary person.

Thus what has been developed is a tool that can be used by anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence, teachers, Members of health sciences and medical specialist to help overcome the reading difficulties faced by some children. 

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