1) Learning Disabilities – Learning disability, especially in kids is not something we are very familiar with here. Are there any explanations for this?
Learning Disabilities are problems that affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information and these problems can make it difficult for a person to learn. Learning Disabilities can affect a person’s ability in the areas of: listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, and mathematics.
There are certain clues that may mean that a child has a learning disability; he or she:
- may have trouble learning the alphabets, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds
- may learn language late and have a limited vocabulary
- may have trouble remembering the sounds (phonemes) of letters or hearing slight differences between words
- may have trouble following directions
- may make mistakes when reading aloud and repeat and pause often
- may not understand what he or she reads
- may have trouble spelling
- may have messy handwriting or hold the pen awkwardly
- may struggle to express ideas in writing
- may confuse math symbols and misread numbers
- may not be able to retell a story in order
- may not know where to begin a task or how to go on from there
- may not follow the social rules of conversation, such as taking turns
- may mispronounce words or use a wrong word that sounds similar
Specific types of Learning Disabilities and related disorder
- Dyslexia – difficulty processing language
- Dyscalculia – difficulty developing math skills
- Dysgraphia – difficulty with written language
- Dyspraxia – difficulty with fine motor skills
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – difficulty with concentration and focus
If a child has unexpected problems learning to read, write, listen, speak, or do math, then the child needs to be evaluated to see if he or she has a learning disability. The reason why parents don’t give attention to this is often because they have very little contact with the children especially with their homework and revision. If parents become more involved with their children’s education and studies, they will pick up clues early enough and can seek help. There is also ignorance on the part of parents who believe that the child will outgrow the learning disability. It just doesn’t happen unless some intervention is done.
2) What was your level of involvement with kids until before you started the brain development programme?
My wife and I were in the teaching profession for years. My wife taught in a secondary school while I was a lecturer at a University. We also work with children in church. We also have a strong background working in development organizations including those working with street children. Above all, God blessed us with children and as development practitioners; we get involve with our children. It is this last involvement that ultimately led to the establishment of the Brain Training and Development Centre.
3) But for your son, would you ever imagine you’ll one day be helping parents and kids overcome problems associated with learning disability?
God has a plan and purpose for everyone. While we didn’t know or think about working in this area, He used our son to call our attention to His divine purpose for our lives in this area. All things indeed work together for good to those that love God. We were merely seeking a solution to our son’s challenge but God had a bigger mission for us on this. Now this has become a Ministry in its own right because some of the challenges and conditions we come across in the centres, require God’s divine intervention and mercy that is beyond what the programme might do. Only God can and does turn around some of the situations we see often. When we first bought the licence, it was to work with our son but later; by the grace of God we acquired the Master License and Franchise for Nigeria to be in a position to help other parents.
4) What were your major fears; as in the signs you saw before your son was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia?
When we found out our son was struggling with his studies and failing nearly all his subjects in school, we obviously became concerned as parents. Imagine having your first son bright, sharp and winning prizes in schools at all levels including an ivy league university in the US and then having another child who was unable to read or write at age 9. My wife was the first to pick up his learning challenges. She noticed that he was reversing his letters (write d for b, 9 for 6, etc. couldn’t spell three letter words due to his inability to differentiate the sounds of letters) but my response, like the typical one you get from most parents, he would outgrow it. I often told my wife, you are pushing this boy too hard! But when she travelled and I was helping him with homework, I then realised that this wasn’t just an issue to outgrow and we began to look for help. Our greatest worry was that we could not find or identify the problem initially, as we tried everything without success. We then tried every solution we were told about, but none helped him. We became frustrated but didn’t give up.
5) So, at what point did you decide to take your destiny into your own hands?
As parents and educationists, we knew that without an education, we might be limiting our son’s life chances. Therefore we made up our minds from the onset to try anything to help his situation. When we didn’t find a solution in Nigeria, we travelled on holiday to the United States and sought help there also. It was in that process that we heard about cognitive skills and how they affect a person’s learning. Based on our new knowledge and understanding we went to a brain centre and had his cognitive skills tested. When the results came up, I was shocked that he was weak in all seven cognitive skill areas. However, we were happy that at last we understood the causes of his learning struggles. That is why I tell every parent with a child who is struggling in school to have the child do cognitive skills assessment or brain test as it is more commonly called.
6) How is your son doing now academically?
To the glory of God, he is now a “B” average student and this happened within a period of nine months training. You may grade this as low but think about where he is coming from (“Ds &Fs)”. This is what has given us the confidence to encourage all parents not to give up on their children who are struggling due to learning challenges. Our son may not be quite there yet, but we are happy to testify that he now comprehends what he reads and his skills are strengthened in spelling and reading and in extracurricular activities.
He does very well in swimming and Taekwondo (he is a blue belt now) as a result of his improved cognitive skills. Above all, his self-confidence has returned.
7) What would say to any parent seeking help with regards to dyslexia?
Firstly, parents need to know that help is now readily available. Parents seeking help with regards to Dyslexia need to know that reading problems are common and have nothing to do with intelligence. They should make up their minds about trying programs like brain training as quickly as possible because early intervention and therapy is key to a turnaround. In addition, being patient with themselves and the child is important. Spanking, using abusive language on the child only results in stigmatization and low self-esteem. Use of more positive language, consistent support and incentives do work magic.
8) Is there any help in early detection; – at what point should a parent start to worry and suspect dyslexia?
Early detection is very important but seeking help early is even more important. Studies have shown that children are resilient and that the different techniques and therapies to combat Dyslexia are very effective in childhood. When you notice that your child is not reading simple three or four letter words, is unable to spell or pronounce them, then its time to seek help and therapy.
9) Some parents often say, ‘’my child is very smart; he can play the piano and violin very well yet he can’t read’. How do you reconcile that with dyslexia as a problem given that the only claim some kids have to intelligence is just ability to read?
Dyslexia is a disorder of the brain that causes difficulty in reading and spelling but does not affect intelligence because most dyslexics have normal intelligence; most dyslexic people are highly creative thinkers who often solve problems through visual images. So, a child can be very smart and still have dyslexia. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic is dyslexic; Dr. Gibson the founder of the brain-training programme was dyslexic. So being dyslexic doesn’t mean a person isn’t intelligent. It just means the person is unable to read with comprehension and when accompanied with dysgraphia, an inability to write. Dyslexics are very creative and entrepreneurial.
10) Given your experience, would you say there are dyslexic kids who are being tormented for not being able to read but the issue is actually bigger than what their parents are seeing?
Sure! Most dyslexics will also present with ADD or AHDD – that means they are hyperactive, lack concentration and focus. Aside the frustrations from school, peer group, and the strain on the parents schedule and finance, they should also probe further to know if the child presents with other learning disorders because dyslexia often doesn’t come alone.
11) What has a parent’s level of exposure and enlightenment got to do with detecting and finding help for a dyslexic child?
A lot! An enlightened parent recognizes the signs of learning disabilities on time and gets help quickly. Many enlightened parents are also in denial about the condition. Other misplace their priorities. One parent withdrew his only son from the programme because he said he was using the money to complete his house in the village!
12) We often confuse slow learners for dyslexics; can you help draw a line between the two?
A slow learner is a child of below average intelligence, whose processing speed is slow and whose thinking skills are below normal for his/her age. This child will go through the same basic developmental stages as other children, but will do so at a significantly slower rate. With brain training, processing speed can be developed and slow learners can become fast learners again.
On the other hand, a child with dyslexia is one of average or above average intelligence who has specific difficulties in reading that can make learning very difficult.
13) Some parents with dyslexic kids are have become cash cows for some so-called Ivy League schools where they often run to for help. Do schools have what it takes to help dyslexic kids and what should any parent in need of help be concerned about when seeking help from schools?
The commercialization of education has made many so-called Ivy League schools in Nigeria to milk parents. When we were seeking a solution for our son, one school had us pay fees in US Dollars – the same amount as we were paying for my older son in an Ivy League university in America. Many of them advertise that they offer programmes for children with special needs including dyslexia. Unfortunately, most of these claims are false and unproven, as they do not tackle the root of the challenge that is in the brain. When seeking help, find out the type of programme they offer. If it doesn’t start with developing the cognitive skills of the child, then forget it.
14) What constitute your programme for helping kids with learning disability especially dyslexic kids?
Our program for dyslexics and other children with learning challenges come in two parts. One part is digital and the other is one-on-one training. This if offered in 5 hours weekly options to train the brain in the seven cognitive skills of Attention, Processing Speed, Working Memory, Auditory Processing, Logic and Reasoning, Visual Processing and Long Term Memory. For adults with memory loss and stroke rehabilitation, we use all these methods depending on the condition of the individual.