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MKU seeks to increase awareness on dyslexia, stop stigma – The Star Kenya

• Phyllis Munyi said the stigma is a major concern not just for the children but their parents.
•Experts estimate that only five per cent of dyslexics are diagnosed, largely due to lack of knowledge on the condition and the stigma associated with it.
Mount Kenya University has called for increased awareness of dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder where learners have difficulties identifying sounds and relating them to words and letters.
This results in learners experiencing challenges such as misspelling or mispronouncing words, difficulties in telling the difference between left and right or up and down.
The university said people living with the condition can still become successful in life.
The university has been running a campaign to reduce social inequalities and create awareness of the condition that affects the confidence of many children and young adults.
Eroded confidence results in many not being able to exploit their talents. Experience shows that dyslectic people can excel across different fields.
“It is key to note that people with dyslexia, more so, learners continue to experience teasing, bullying and feelings of exclusion,” MKU vice chancellor Prof Deogratius Jaganyi  said.
“I am happy to note that there is progress in integrating learners with reading difficulties in higher education where, for instance at Mount Kenya University, we have come up with policies and regulations to support inclusion.” 
He spoke on October 13 at a forum organised by the Dyslexia Organisation of Kenya. October is Global Dyslexia Awareness Month.
Experts estimate that only five per cent of dyslexics are diagnosed, largely due to lack of knowledge on the condition and the stigma associated with it.
“There is still some more effort required before we consider ourselves as having succeeded in the war against discriminating practices targeting members with reading difficulties within society,” Janganyi said.
He said more forums bringing together like-minded people and organisations would expand society’s understanding of dyslexia, including its causes and how to help people living with dyslexia overcome the challenges they face.
Jaganyi said MKU has made efforts to ensure people with learning difficulties, including dyslexic students, are given an opportunity to excel in academia and other areas where they might be talented.
The university has been designated a United Nations hub for reducing inequalities.
“MKU is the United Nations Academic Impact Hub for Sustainable Development Goal No 10 on Reduced Inequalities. Dyslexia may, and indeed, it does bring about a notable element of inequality among some members of society,” Jaganyi said.
“Living with a reading disability occasioned by a discord between speech sound and letters and words affects self-esteem and self-confidence of all people across the spectrum.” 
He said MKU and other partners will play a supportive role in reducing the negative effects of dyslexia by providing learner-friendly services.
The initiatives may include teaching decoding skills using decodable reading materials, using innovative multisensory methods and assistive technology for dyslexia to teach.
Jaganyi said different players partnering to destigmatise challenges such as dyslexia could change perception in communities and create positive awareness without distorting facts.
Dyslexia Organisation of Kenya director Phyllis Munyi said stigma is a major concern in the country not just for children but their parents.
“We do assessments, train teachers, and have a school and have parents’ support group,” she said.
The organisation runs the Rare Gem Talent School in Kitengela that caters to dyslectic children and others with learning difficulties.
“Most of the children identified with this learning difficulty, the parents have moved from one school to another, to the point of becoming desperate and frustrated so we bring them together for emotional support,” Munyi said.
Teachers play a critical role in identifying students with learning difficulties, as most children who have been identified as dyslectic have been in school environments.
Nana Gecaga narrated how she overcame dyslexia to become the chief executive of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).
The condition had in her formative years, bogged her down but she told the audience that with help, she was able to overcome it.
She said she made a living in marketing, an area that requires a lot of public speaking and making presentations in front of big audiences.
“Whatever it is we do in life, we will face challenges. We will have physical, silent disabilities but if you choose to make that an excuse you will not live life to the fullest,” Nana said.
“In life there are no retakes. Whether you have dyslexia, diabetes or any other condition, make your life on this earth count. Celebrate your success, only you have to race with yourself.” 
When diagnosed early, children with dyslexia tend to overcome the challenges in learning.
“People we may have met and had the condition but we never knew it then. When I was in school, there were students who would struggle in class and may have had the condition but was never diagnosed,” Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) chief executive Geoffrey Odundo said.
He said increased awareness would ease life for many people living with the condition.
Odundo said NSE and other players would support people with dyslexia.
“Children have unique talents. The way the world is going, it is looking for disruption and so we should encourage talent when we see it,” Odundo said.
Edited by A.N
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