George and Liz admit that coping with their son’s condition has not been easy.
“It has taken the grace of God to be where we are; things are looking bright now,” is how George sums it up.
Liz says a lot needs to be done to educate the public on dyslexia: “If we had known what was affecting our son earlier, we would have done many things differently.
“Dyslexic children are usually talented in various ways and it’s important to nurture these talents. Ryan loves singing and modelling, and I believe there is a lot he can do. My prayer is that the Government builds more schools and trains more teachers to handle children like him.”
Phyllis Kariuki has faced similar challenges. She discovered her 14-year-old son, Felix, was dyslexic when he was in Standard Two.
“He had difficulty reading some words and was lagging behind his classmates. He would interchange letters ‘b’ and ‘d’, and could not figure out what some words meant,” she says.
Like Liz, Phyllis, too, got help from a newspaper article, which tried to explain what dyslexia is, and how to determine if a child is suffering from the condition.
After enrolling for several courses and doing online consultations, she learned how to help her son, whom she now describes as an average performer. He is in Form One and scored 310 marks out of 500 in his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams.
“The secret was to discover his condition early and seek help,” she says.
Phyllis co-founded Dyslexia Kenya, a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to teach individuals with learning difficulties, their families, the public and the Government about dyslexia and other learning difficulties.
Martin Mbugua Kimani, 26, also discovered he was dyslexic while in primary school. He says his condition got worse when he joined a boarding school.
“I had difficulties reading. The teachers were not concerned, apart from one who summoned my parents. She advised them to take me to a special school, where she felt I could get the help and attention I needed. I went there and started afresh on basic learning skills,” says Martin.
The school was exclusively for the dyslexic, and every student received adequate attention.
“Though it took me a while to adjust to the new environment, my learning abilities improved since, unlike in the other school, we were provided with a platform to face and overcome our challenges,” he says.
Martin later joined another school, where he was at par with other students. He could now read and write like his classmates. He credits his success to his parents, who provided him with the support he needed.
After high school, Martin studied 3D animation. He helps his parents run their own school, and is also a passionate farmer.
“Parents need to understand that a child who is dyslexic is not doomed. They need to nurture the child’s talents and know that with some help and a lot of hard work, he or she can learn to read and spell,” he says.
Dyslexics are usually talented in art, drama, music, mechanics, story telling, sales, business, building and designing. The problems that prevent learning can be corrected, not through drilling, but by establishing a mental focusing tool that helps to bring their minds back on track when disorientation occurs.