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Sunday, February 2, 2020

How I overcame suicide attempt –Idowu

Oladoyin Idowu, an undergraduate of Redeemers University (RUN), Ede, Osun State is the founder of One Word Africa Foundation, an advocacy body on dyslexia.

In this interview with JOHNSON AYANTUNJI she talks about the disorder, how to deal with it and how she overcame suicide as a result of being dyslectic.

Why the advocacy for dyslexia?

Advocacy for dyslexia is because we are not doing anything about it. The impact is very huge compared to the amount of work required to be done on people with dyslexia. The effect of ignorance is also much. There is no way one can compare the amount of work to be done with the person with dyslexia with the damage it can do to the person out of ignorance. The gap is so wide and the intervention is very simple. Why not learn to do the simple thing and avoid the huge amount of money on rehabilitation for a person with dyslexia.

Also, dyslexia affects 20 percent of the population. That is one in every five people is said to have dyslexia in the world. I even argue that the statistic is higher in Nigeria. It is common but it is not something that you can tell or detect because it is not written on the face unlike any other disability. The effect is very serious when nothing is being done about it. People are resorting to juvenile delinquency; people are frustrated, dropping out of school. They do not know what to do with their lives, they are committing suicide, If we can curb it, the impact will become more and we will help people with dyslexia than leaving them to go through life with difficulties.

Can you share your experience with our readers? A while ago, you did say that you had it and you almost committed suicide. What was it like with you?

I went through formal education like any other person. I went to primary school and it was easy because we did more of pictures in our text books, it was relatively easy. In secondary school, things started getting complicated. We do more of abstract things here, it is hard to connect with pictures, and you do not have a mental picture of whatever it is.

You are locked in that kind of situation. It is difficult to go through secondary school education. I found away to memorise in order to pass my examinations. That got me into A Levels, At A Levels things became more complicated. You cannot memorise to pass A level examinations. It has to be by applications. That was when things started to get complicated. I got stuck. That was when I realized that going forward was more difficult. I have parents both in education, but there did not understand what it was.

Anytime you said you had difficulties in your studies, they get you a lesson teacher or they tell you to pray or to spend more time in your studies. Despite the fact that I read more, I prayed more, there was no actual change. Even you tell an adult I am going for a random malaria check up with the doctor, I am trying to pick in my symptom coupled with the fact that I was finding it hard to understand what I was reading with all those things, I just have to skip it and focus on the major malaria symptom. My parents did not know what was going on. I quickly let them know. It was a very lonely road for a child, not knowing why you were different from other persons of your age. That had effect on my self esteem that was why I began to have difficulties and began to doubt whether I was going to have a future. Since I got to that realization, I considered ending my life since I could not go ahead with it. Let us consider other people who might have the same condition and then go through with it.

How does one recognise a child with dyslexia?

You can have dyslexia from the age of five and nobody expect it to be the same way in every child. Some do not even know what dyslexia is or that you need see a psychiatric to know what to look out for. Not one thing fits in for dyslexia. However, common symptoms associated with it are struggle with reading, struggle with writing, struggle with comprehension, remembering things, issues with difficulty to learn letters.

Most people with dyslexia think in pictures. If you are reading with something that you can relate with psychology are the things you see all the time, but sciences, pure sciences, there is no way you can read chemistry and you will understand. They find it difficult to distinguish their right hand from the left. They cannot tell the time by just looking at the clock.

It is according to age and severity.

What would you tell or advice parents that have children with dyslexia to do in order to ameliorate the difficulties associated with dyslexia?

I like to approach it from the place of denial – they should stop living in denial that they having a child with dyslexia. There is no crime to have a child with disability. The moment they come to the realization that they have a child with dyslexia; they should look for information on how to deal with it. It is important that they stop living in denial. In as much as they have some difficulties, they also have some strength.

Eighty percent of successful people in the world are people with dyslexia. Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, those who have invented one thing or the other entrepreneurs were at one point or the other in their lives dyslectic. They are strong in the sciences. Parents should stop living in denial. Whenever you discover that your child has difficulty in learning, try and find out why, when you find out, accept it and look for ways to get round it. The quicker you accept it, the quicker you find remedy to it.

How prevalent is dyslexia in Nigeria?

There is no statistic about it in Nigeria, let alone trying to do something about it. Statistics around the world show that twenty percent of the population that is one in five people is dyslectic. Through my advocacy, I argue that it is even more in Nigeria. Parents should stop living in denial, accept it and deal with it. You can look for information on your own, start the therapy or look for a body that can offer help. More bodies are coming up now to help provide information or where people with dyslexia can come together share information and provide avenues through which they can get help for their children.

Children with dyslexia are said to be children with special needs and we do not seem to have enough centres or institutions where these needs are provided. How do we ensure that these kind of people get the desired needs?

Issue of special needs is still complicated in Nigeria. Any time we talk about special needs, we think about that child, that person and special needs is beyond that. Special needs simply mean one that needs special attention and support to get by. It boils down to administration and people in charge of policies to make provisions for them in the curriculum. Those in charge of licensing of schools should make it a part of conditions that they provide for them to be able to write WAEC or other examinations with the view to providing for them. When they are accrediting the schools, provisions should be made for different students in their facilities in order to aid or make learning conducive for them. It should not be limited to providing Braille to blind students. They should make it as flexible as possible. There quite a lot of people with special needs. If you are also setting up a school, put this into consideration. When you teach a child in a strategic way, you will get results.

Dyslexia is said to manifest at age five which is the age at which a child starts primary school, and is able to get by, what happens after primary school, and how is the child provided for after this stage?

It is the function of the society. The teacher has a lot to do with his method of communication. What happens when the child needs to write external examinations like the WAEC or the UTME? WAEC should not pose a problem. I was going through WAEC provisions saying that there is provision for those with disability. But what kind of disability are they talking about? They do not even recognize dyslexia to be a disability.

This is despite the fact that they claim that there is a provision for candidate with disability to write examination. They only recognise the blind or the deaf or the crippled. It still boils down to that. Some teachers are ready to help their students with dyslexia, but unable to write external examinations and get admissions into secondary school or go to the university. That is where it ends. It still boils down to those in charge of policy and curriculum to shape the curriculum to accept the dyslectic.

How difficult or easy is it to bring up a child with dyslexia?

It is not complicated. Only issues that might be faced is the spectrum of the dyslexia. It ranges from mild to moderate and severe. People with mild spectrum have often found themselves with the low awareness in Nigeria, have found themselves to survive through school, it might be a struggle. Those moderately dyslectic have been gotten through, but may get stuck. But those with high spectrum can even get stuck from the beginning. It is not complicated once you know the problem a child has; you design a lesson plan to fit that child based on his learning struggle. It is not complicated as long as intervention starts early.

We also know that in Nigeria, there is discrimination against those with dyslexia, how do we prevent or minimize this?

It is true. People discriminate against what they do not know. When you do not know about something, it is better to get information before talking about it. Try and get in touch with a support groups to know more about it. Those who did not know about dyslexia before are getting enlightened. They now have a better understanding. The more we reach out to more people and make them to understand what the situation is the better. We may not be able to eradicate it totally, but we can reduce the discrimination that comes with it.

Is there any association of people with dyslexia can come together, compare notes, share experience to make people understand that after all, I am not the only one with this?

In the NGO which I founded, we have a session called Dyslexia Time, we bring people with Dyslexia together, where we do this. We had a session towards the end of the year, where we allowed not dyslectic to come around, to watch what we do. We hope we can do more than that so that it can be more effective. Advocacy is on the rise in Nigeria.

How many of such organisations do we have in Nigeria currently?

I can count off my finger only four in Nigeria, one in Abuja and three in Lagos. That is the major problem we have. It is a very late development in Nigeria. We have over 100 years research into dyslexia. It is part of our plan for 2020 as an organisation to held a Premier on March 12. We did a Dyslectic movie. We have a campaign called “Know Dyslectic Campaign. It is something on Dyslectic to let people who do not know about it connects with it. It is a Nigerian story about people with dyslexia who have gone ahead to do something great with their lives. We want to get stakeholders in education, legislation, policy makers’ politicians to buy into it and get the film screened in March.


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