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Dyslexia reported as most prevalent learning disability in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Susan Anderson

Special education expert Dr Susan Anderson has noted that the most prevalent learning disability in Jamaica is dyslexia.

In her recently published book, Climbing Every Mountain: Barriers, Opportunities and Experiences of Jamaican Students with Disabilities in their Pursuit of Personal Excellence, Anderson chronicles the realities of Jamaicans living with disabilities and provides insights on disability policy in Jamaica and around the world.

According to Anderson, who is a lecturer in educational psychology and special education in the School of Education at the University of the West Indies, "dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence or laziness. It's also not due to poor vision. It's a common condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language. Dyslexia is primarily associated with trouble with reading."

While there is no databank which disaggregates data on learning disabilities in Jamaica, Anderson, in responding to questions from The Gleaner, said researchers and special education practitioners point to trends which indicate the prevalence of dyslexia.

The ability of classroom teachers to recognise students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia remains a concern for Anderson.

"Although we have made progress in adequately equipping teachers to recognise when a student has a learning disability, we have a lot more work to do ... . In order to develop the skills, experience and confidence to be inclusive of all children, policymakers and trainers responsible for developing and delivering teacher training and for recruiting teachers, need to understand inclusive education and its importance in any drive for educational improvement," she said.

CHANGE IN PROGRAMMES

Anderson has also called for changes in teacher-training programmes to focus on inclusive education.

"Every teacher needs to learn about inclusive education, from day one of their training. This should be achieved by embedding inclusion, rights and equality throughout all training and not simply covering these issues through stand-alone courses. The teaching workforce needs to be more diverse, and targeted efforts are needed to ensure that people with disabilities can train as teachers, find work and be supported in their jobs," she added.

"I support the implementation of a special education unit in each school. The fact remains that, though Jamaica has pledged for an inclusive approach to education, the sector has actually been developed - and then managed - using an eclectic approach," she argued.