With an estimated ten percent of the global population suffering from dyslexia, Abu Dhabi Week went along to one facility in the capital that offers support for adults with learning difficulties
A FRIEND of Abu Dhabi Week was recently diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 27 – many moons after he finished secondary school and graduated from university. It got us thinking, and so we went out into the city to look for a place offering support for anyone else suffering from the affliction.
The Dots & Links Skills Development Center, in Al Wahda, is one such place, and director Razan Nabulsi shared her thoughts on combatting learning difficulties.
Tell us about your organisation.
Dots & Links Skills Development Center was founded in February 2012. Our mission is to enhance a learner’s ability to learn faster, easier and better. We are devoted to the idea that learners simply do not need to be pigeonholed by labels or held back by learning or reading difficulties. Our role is to identify the causes of difficulties and then to help them through intensive training. We empower people by unleashing the potential they have within.
What type of learning difficulties do you treat?
We work with children and adults with dyslexia (reading and writing difficulties), dyscalculia (math difficulties), attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, high functioning autism, speech and language disorders and slow learners.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonemic awareness/phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.
Is it common for adults to have dyslexia and be unaware of the fact?
Some cultures have a social stigma in relation to learning difficulties. Most adults who have dyslexia would have identified that they have a difficulty with tasks related to reading and writing. Also it is very common for adults with unidentified learning difficulties to have developed coping skills that enable them to succeed despite their difficulties.
What can be done to help those who have dyslexia?
Cognitive training is one of the most powerful tools to overcome difficulties associated with dyslexia. Through very intensive auditory processing training, children and adults train their brains to automatically blend, segment and manipulate sounds that make up any language. This is one of the key skills for reading and writing.
What services are offered at Dots & Links?
We offer a unique one-on-one training programme called BrainRx. Students come for a screening session and consultation meeting. We identify why the person struggles with a certain skill such as spelling or reading, or they get distracted easily and take a long time to complete tasks.
Next we carefully design an intensive training programme to attack these weak cognitive skills that are causing the learning difficulty. The student is matched with a personal brain trainer who works with them for three months. It is very different to tutoring; it is non-academic, targeted and intensive.
We also offer StepWorks, which is a special education programme for students aged four to ten. The focus is to develop skills needed for school academic success.
Who benefits from brain training?
We work with anyone who wants to learn faster, easier and with more enjoyment. Career-oriented adults would benefit from improved speed, attention, memory and self-confidence. The programme positively affects their efficiency in the work place. However, we require 100 percent commitment to the programme and this could be a challenge for working adults as they may have long working hours that affect their session attendance at the centre.
Tried and Tested
We pop in earphones and listen to the audio instructions guiding us through our computer skills test (The Gibson Test). Tasks include solving picture problems, memorising pictures and answering questions about them, solving puzzles, spelling and pronunciation games.
It takes around thirty minutes and we’re given our results immediately. I scored extremely high in visual processing, which is the ability to store and recall visual images – a trait common in artists and creative writers I’m told. I scored shockingly low on memory; this comes as no surprise as I am regularly caught out forgetting people’s names.
The good news is that no matter what your weaknesses are, your skills can be improved upon with a customised programme offered at the centre.