Early intervention for dyslexia (Why it’s important)

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I remember feeling amazed at the progress of my two P4 students early on in my teaching career. They arrived in my classroom not able to spell simple 3-letter words such as “pin” or “top” even at the age of 10. However, with a mere three terms of intervention, were able to spell 5-letter words confidently and were even able to construct simple sentences.

This stood out in contrast to a very hard working Sec 4 student I taught, who no matter how she tried, could never seem to grasp the concepts which came so naturally to the P4 students. And there was limited progress even as I tried to help her to the very best of my abilities.

It was only after reading some research about it that I understood why this was the case. Emilio Ferrer, a UC Davis Professor noted in his paper that:

“If the persistent achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is to be narrowed, even closed, reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition.”

I realise that this was because neuroplasticity is most apparent at a younger age and the child’s brain is able to change and reorganise itself to accommodate the techniques taught to them, which is also a point noted by psychologist Moshe Shtuhl.

Here at The Alternative Education, we offer early intervention for your child from Primary 1 and beyond.

Email us at the.alternative.edu@gmail.com or text us at 8749 2441 to find out more about our services.

2 Simple Tricks to Make Maths Fun

I have had a Primary 6 and Secondary 2 student separately confide in me and say that they hate Maths. This is perhaps due to hours of rote memorisation and repetitive worksheets they had to endure in school.

However, Mathematics can actually be a pretty fun and engaging subject if taught well. For example, to teach the topic of fractions, I would usually buy a loaf of bread, and after checking if the child has any allergies, I would take some jam and spread it on the bread to illustrate one half.

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Subsequently, to teach what equivalent fractions represent, I would take the piece of bread with half of it covered in jam, and cut it into half again, turning it into quarters. I will then explain that one half is equal to two quarters and so on.

Also, I have noticed that some kids with and without learning disabilities find it hard to memorise the times tables. Because of this, I’ve decided to use music to help them learn it. In the process, I’ve created some YouTube videos to enhance their learning. You can check out my 7 Times Table set to Adele’s Hello that I’ve created below.

If you’d like to register your child for our one-to-one tutoring sessions, you can drop us an email at the.alternative.edu@gmail.com or text us at 8749 2441 with your child’s details and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Helping Autistic Kids Using Music & The Radiant Spectrum

The Radiant Spectrum was set up by Samantha Soh, a music teacher with more than 10 years of experience teaching music, with the last 2 years focusing on special needs children.

She’s worked with kids on who are non-verbal, selectively mute, who have attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and also those who are on the autism spectrum.

Due to a gap in the market, she’s specially come up with her own curriculum catered specifically to students on the autism spectrum based on her interactions with her students.

She takes students as young at 4 years old to old as 17 years old and adapts the lesson based on their interests and behaviour patterns.

It might take some time, and persistence on both the teacher’s and student’s part, but her methods have worked brilliantly. Glowing testimonials from parents attest to the good work she has done with their children.

Here’s an example:

“Samantha has been patient with my son and gently guided him on his piano journey. She is accommodating and let’s my son take the lead in the lesson. She pushes him to learn new things and take on new challenges without overwhelming him which causes him to have meltdowns.”

Samantha is now also conducting lessons online.

Do contact her to find out more about her classes or to ask her any questions you might have that was not covered in this article.

Happy playing!

Open-Ended Play and Little Llama

When I need to buy a present for a kid aged 0 – 7 years old, I inevitably end up looking at Little Llama’s website.

Founded by Dave, working in education, and Joan, a Speech and Language Therapist keen on curating the best toys for children, I have been impressed with the concept of open-ended play that the toys offer.

Put simply, open-ended play is when you make an object anything you want it to be. A couple wooden blocks could become building, trees in a forest, a robot, humans in a convention, you get the idea.

That sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it?

However, what Little Llama offers is a more bespoke experience, especially for infants and toddlers where they might be susceptible in swallowing wooden blocks or Lego.

Featured in The Straits Times, and many other parenting blogs and websites are their extensive catalogue of products, ranging from the super fun Moluk series to the Plui Rain Cloud that’s a hit with little ones during bath time.

The Jellycat Read and Play book and soft toy sets, suitable for 2 – 4 year olds, also offers a multi-sensory experience that will make bedtime something to look forward to.

And because this is sounding too much like a sponsored advertorial, which it isn’t, here are some ways you can engage your child in open-ended play.

If you are a parent on a budget, instead of saving up for that Frozen 2 Lego set, why not buy some clay or dough, or just give the kid some coloured pencils and paper?

You’d be surprised what they can come up with.

I know, cos I once had a child where I just gave him A4 paper during break time. And one day it was a gun. One day it was an origami bird we made together. Another time, he drew a house and his family.

The best part of it is?

There are no limitations and you don’t need to give any instructions.

It sounds counterintuitive, but I bet for the majority of us, that’s how we grew up with. With simple toys and lots of fun.

Why don’t you try a little open-ended play together with your child, draw something on that blank sheet of paper side by side with your kid for just 5 minutes and see what incredible things might result?

Reflections on Education

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As we settle into Term 1 of a brand new year, here are 7 questions that I’ve been pondering:

Ultimately, what is the true purpose of education?

10 Questions Parents Frequently Ask About Dyslexia

Here are some questions I frequently get from parents of dyslexic kids or who have children they suspect to have dyslexia.

1. Do I need to send my child for an assessment?

It’s always a good idea to send your child for an assessment if you suspect that they have dyslexia.

This will allow you to rule out possibilities and also figure out intervention options.

Research has shown that early intervention is crucial in helping a weak child catch up with his/her peers in terms of reading, spelling, and writing.

2. How much does an assessment cost?

It all depends on your budget and patience. Here are the three most common routes one can take for assessments:

$0 for MOE (Ministry of Education); wait time: 6-12 months.

$750 for DAS (Dyslexia Association of Singapore); wait time: 4-6 weeks.

$1,500 for a private psychologist; wait time: 1-2 weeks.

3. How do I get a Mother Tongue Exemption?

Parents can apply through the form teacher at the general office of your child’s school.

Do note that MOE is more stingy with Mother Tongue exemptions these days and would generally advise parents to put their child in an easier stream (e.g. Foundation Chinese instead of Standard Chinese), instead of giving a full exemption.

4. What’s the difference between a regular tutor and an educational therapist?

Educational Therapists are well-trained, have a teaching certificate specially catered to teaching students with special needs.

They also have the ability to do an informal assessment to figure out the needs of the child so as to plan lessons commensurate with the child’s cognitive ability.

In addition, they know how to employ multi-sensory methods of teaching that will be most beneficial for the dyslexic student.

5. Can dyslexia be cured?

Nope, but it can be managed and kids can live a fulfilling life.

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was someone who managed to do very well in life despite having dyslexia.

Living examples include Sir Richard Branson, founder, and owner of the Virgin Group.

6. How do I know if my child has dyslexia?

A psychological test only way to be 100% sure.

Do note that proper psychological testing only starts at 7 years of age.

7. How long would educational therapy take before results are seen?

It usually takes 2 – 3 years of intervention to catch up with peers.

However, progress can be made in 3 – 4 terms (in a motivated child) there can be an improvement in spelling if the child is in lower primary and unable to read at all.

8. Is it genetic?

It is very likely. Based on the following research papers, it most likely is.

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2014.3139

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2597981/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545717/

9. How do I get a time extension for National exams (i.e. PSLE, ‘O’ Levels, ‘A’ Levels)?

You can apply through the form teacher at the school’s general office, and you are required to submit a psychological report that’s been done within the past 3 years.

10. Why do I need to do another psychological testing for my child? I’ve already done it once some time back?

Because they expire after 3 years and are neither an accurate reflection of the student’s current abilities and are hence no longer valid.

I hope this has been useful. For more information, feel free to email us at the.alternative.edu@gmail.com or SMS/Whatsapp us at +65 8749 2441.

9 signs that a child has dyslexia

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Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

Dyslexic kids benefit greatly from early intervention. Early detection by parents or school teachers is key. Studies have shown that when a child is given intervention at a younger age, progress is much faster than at a later age. If your child has one or two of the following signs, it does not mean that they have dyslexia. But having several of the signs listed in this article means that you should most probably get an assessment done for your child.

1. Does better at explaining things verbally than in writing

Most of my students are perfectly capable of narrating what happened earlier that day in school, or in recounting their most recent vacation experience. They provide lots of details and make a good storyteller. When I get them to write down what they had just said a minute ago, they stare at the blank paper, unable to write down what they had just described.

2. Failing in school

As children with dyslexia might be unable to read without explicit instruction, they often go through primary school failing test after test because of their inability to read and understand the questions.

Some have even progressed all the way to Primary 4 and beyond because in Singapore, students are simply promoted even if they fail their exams. They usually copy their classmate’s homework to avoid being punished.

These kids would be in for a rude shock come PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) where they might fail, causing them to have to be retained a year in Primary 6.

3. Forgetful (low executive functioning)

Students with dyslexia are often the ones who forget to show their parents the consent forms needed for school excursions, and would also usually forget to hand in their homework.

When questioned, they say that they had genuinely forgotten, and no amount of punishment would help. This is not done on purpose, but occurs because they have low executive functioning skill, causing them to have short-term memory.

4. Reverses letter sequence such as “felt” for “left”

Teachers of dyslexic kids will be highly cognizant of this fact. In any written work, essays or otherwise, words of every sort will be misspelled. The letter sequence reversal is one of the most commonly seen mistakes that these students make. If this keeps occurring even after correction has been done several times, it’s a cause for concern.

5. Avoids reading aloud

As children with dyslexia face trouble reading, they would usually not embarrass themselves by reading passages aloud. At home, they may stare silently into books or homework, and flip the pages accordingly, but when questioned on the content, would be unable to provide any answer.

Some mask this by giving excuses when told to read aloud.

6. Has trouble with word problems for Mathematics

I have noticed that for students with dyslexia, they usually do better in the questions that are straightforward and only require them to do basic arithmetic, such as addition or subtraction. When the same numbers are placed in a lengthy word problem, they would usually leave the question blank. Alternatively, they would provide random calculations, so as not to be scolded for leaving the question blank.

7. Has poor recall of facts

This varies from child to child, but sometimes information-heavy subjects, such as History and Geography, are anathema to them because they find it frustrating to commit the hundreds of facts to memory.

8. Spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing

A word like “disguise” can be spelt “disgiuse”, “desguise”, “digusie” and so on, all in a single essay. This is very common in dyslexic kids and reveals the inability to remember how words are spelt.

9. Word reversals such as “pit” for “tip”

Finally, word reversals that persist are a tell-tale sign of dyslexia. Mistaking “god” for “dog”, “nip” for “pin” whether on paper or in speech are common errors that are frequently made.


I hope these 9 signs have proven useful. However, this does not replace a proper assessment and a child can only be diagnosed to have dyslexia by a qualified educational psychologist.

If you suspect your child has dyslexia, please do not hesitate to engage a clinical psychologist to assist you.

If you’ve already got a diagnosis, you can always engage our services as we provide educational therapy by qualified personnel, dedicated to helping your child achieve their best.

Email us at the.alternative.edu@gmail.com or call us at 8749 2441, or fill up our Contact page for more information.

5 Great Tips to Help a Dyslexic Kid

Here are 5 tips I’ve rounded up to help your dyslexic child learn better.

1. Easy-to-read Font

Open Dyslexic is a new open source font created to help increase readability for users with dyslexia. You can download it and try printing worksheets for your child. Older students may be used to traditional fonts, so it is advised you use this with discretion. It is free and can be used with both Mac, Windows, and for phones, tablets, and computers.

open-dyslexic

https://opendyslexic.org/

2. Text to speech Reader

You can drag and drop files into Natural Readers web application and immediately listen to the text. It can be converted to audio files you can download so that you can listen to it anywhere. It also offers 57 different voices and works with a variety of file formats (PDF, Word, TXT, RTF, EPUP).

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https://www.naturalreaders.com/

3. Request for Extra Time in School Exams

Now known as “access arrangements”, you can request for extra time for examinations for your child via the form teacher. However, this has to be carefully considered. Some kids might feel like they are “different” from the rest or might be made fun of by his/her classmates as they either stay back after the exam ends or are placed in a different room. However, this can be very useful if your child reads very slowly.

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4. Online dyslexia test

Do you suspect your child has dyslexia but are not willing to pay $1,000 for as assessment just yet? You can try this free online assessment tool that uses made-up words to test the phonological awareness of your child.

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Basically, the word flashes on the screen, and your child reads the word. You then click on the button to read the word for you and then click “Correct” if it matches what your child read, and “Incorrect” if it doesn’t.

This is much better than the other assessment tools I found online that uses parents’ observations of their child’s ability as that is more subjective.

5. Online Phoneme Game

Phoneme Pop is a great online game that also has a mobile friendly version to help young children who are unfamiliar with their phonemes to practice it in a non-threatening environment.

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That’s the end of the 5 good tips to help a dyslexic kid. If you’d like to engage a tutor for your dyslexic kid, do email us at the.alternative.edu@gmail.com or text/Whatsapp us at 8749 2441 for more details. You can also find out more about us here.