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Awareness of learning disorder improves in Saudi Arabia
Awareness of learning disorder improves in Saudi Arabia

Awareness of learning disorder improves in Saudi Arabia

Dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading, is common but for many years there has been a significant lack of awareness of it in Saudi Arabia.
As a result, people with this condition often did not get the help they needed.

Notably, this has changed dramatically in recent years thanks to community awareness campaigns, through which Saudis have learned more about the condition. This helps with early recognition and intervention but challenges remain.

This month is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and to mark the occasion, advocates and campaign groups in the Kingdom are stepping up efforts to educate the community and show how knowledge is key to changing the narrative about people with learning disabilities.

According to specialists and people with dyslexia, media awareness campaigns in the past few years and the Saudi authorities' decision last September to officially classify it as a learning disorder have helped improve the rights of people with this condition.

They also said that modern diagnostic techniques mean that the official figures for dyslexia in Saudi Arabia are more accurate than they used to be.

The condition was identified in 1881 by Dr. Rudolf Berlin, a German ophthalmologist in Stuttgart. A pioneer in his field, he was the first to describe it, and give it a name, in his article Eine Besondere Art der Wortblindheit: Dyslexie (a special kind of word-blindness: Dyslexia), published in 1887. The basis of all subsequent research, thanks to his systematic description of the condition.

Dr. Muhannad Al-Ali, a neurologist at King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, said that dyslexia is a newly prevalent disorder in the Kingdom,

Which means that until recently it was not classified as a condition. He added that the volume of research conducted worldwide since the 1990s is still modest.

He said that many people with dyslexia are unaware they have the condition, because the amount of time we spend in traditional forms of reading has decreased. As a result, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose.

“People with dyslexia find it difficult to understand what they are reading,” Al-Ali said. “They can read the first line but get tired and lose focus when they read the next line.
"It is possible that a dyslexic person can read WhatsApp messages, for example, but not be able to read a book or articles." He further explained that because there are no clear and consistent medical criteria associated with dyslexia, there is no definitive and definitive test to diagnose it.

Al-Ali added that this can lead to years of suffering for patients who finally discover they have dyslexia.

Al-Ali explained that recent studies have clarified the important role of functional magnetic resonance imaging of brain activity in determining the nature of the condition.

This may be promising because cognitive behavioral therapy - where the therapist models the appropriate behavioral response to a situation and the patient attempts to imitate it,

And receiving feedback about his attempt has had major benefits for some dyslexic people.
Ibtisam Al-Samaly, who suffers from dyslexia and works as an engineer, said that community awareness is still at an early stage, but the situation is improving thanks to the good work of activists.

However, she added, accurate figures for the number of people with dyslexia in Saudi Arabia are not available because the country lacks a unified and approved body to identify and monitor people with this condition.

Al-Samaly said she only learned about dyslexia when she was at university. She described it as an invisible disability, and praised the efforts of civil society organizations and companies to bring about change in people with the condition.

She particularly highlighted the efforts of STC Pay which, as part of a community partnership, is helping to raise awareness of the situation through messages posted on social media.

"There is still a long way to go, as support is needed to establish the Saudi Dyslexia Association in preparation for establishing specialized schools for students with dyslexia in the future, especially since dyslexia can pass on this genetic disability to their children," she said.

Dr. Yahya Al-Qahtani, an expert in special education and learning difficulties in Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City, said:

Dyslexia includes stuttering, difficulty and boredom in reading, keeping track of numbers and letters, and difficulty concentrating, listening and understanding language. A question. It is a disability that can be overcome through innovative educational strategies and methods.”

He added that although the disorder has been widely recognized since the 19th century,
However, it has not been clearly identified and a number of aspects of it have not been addressed, including medical questions related to neurological and behavioral influences.

Al-Qahtani lauded that Saudi Arabia lags behind some other countries in identifying people with dyslexia and that diagnosis and assessment differ between schools, which often rely on old testing methods that are not always effective.

Al-Qahtani said the Intervention Response Assessment Tool is already in use in some schools in Saudi Arabia and has three levels.

The first level includes intensive teaching, to which 80 percent of students respond. The second level uses alternative teaching strategies and methods, helping 15 percent of students.
The third level is the provision of special education services, to which the remaining 5 percent of students respond.

He also highlighted the lack of accurate figures on the number of dyslexic patients in Saudi Arabia. He noted that about 400,000 students in the country have learning difficulties, and dyslexia affects about 40 percent of them.

He added that although the disorder has been widely recognized since the 19th century,
However, it has not been clearly identified and a number of aspects of it have not been addressed, including medical questions related to neurological and behavioral influences.

Al-Qahtani lauded that Saudi Arabia lags behind some other countries in identifying people with dyslexia and that diagnosis and assessment differ between schools, which often rely on old testing methods that are not always effective.

Al-Qahtani said the Intervention Response Assessment Tool is already in use in some schools in Saudi Arabia and has three levels.

The first level includes intensive teaching, to which 80 percent of students respond. The second level uses alternative teaching strategies and methods, helping 15 percent of students.
The third level is the provision of special education services, to which the remaining 5 percent of students respond.

He also highlighted the lack of accurate figures on the number of dyslexic patients in Saudi Arabia. He noted that about 400,000 students in the country have learning difficulties, and dyslexia affects about 40 percent of them.

Mohammad Bahareth, who is dyslexic and the founder of the Saudi-based Dyslexia Initiative, thanked the Human Rights Commission and its president, Awad Al-Awwad, who he credited for the official classification of dyslexia as a learning disorder and obtaining the Ministry of Information’s endorsement of the website www.dyslexia.sa as a source of information for people who want to learn more about the condition. He also said that Arab News was one of the first newspapers to support the initiative.