Research Journal

APJDD Vol 8 No 1 (Jan 2021)

1. Editorial Comment

Angela J. Fawcett, Editor-in-Chief

It is a very great pleasure to publish this issue of the Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences, now in its 8th year of publication, which is published by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). The response to the previous issues continues to be extremely gratifying, and we maintain these high standards in this issue and forthcoming issues. We are grateful for the support of the academics and professionals involved in resolving any issues arising, and ensuring our journal maintains high professional and ethical standards.

The seven articles featured in the current issue represent material drawn largely from Singapore, with contributions from as far afield as India and South Africa. We are particularly grateful to those contributors who have managed to revise their contributions despite the constraints of the current lockdowns internationally in response to the pandemic. Topics for the current issue cover a broad range, from articles on positive psychology to autism in twins, with the majority focusing on dyslexia across the age range, specifically in this issue addressing the voice of the participants.

The first article in this issue adopts a rigorous traditional experimental approach, with a study from the DAS team led here by Tuty Elfira Adbul Razak, evaluating the long-term impact of the Exam Skills programme on the achievement of the children involved, comparing outcomes for 96 children, who had participated from between 1 and 3 terms in this support. The results provided clear evidence that the most effective outcomes demand the longer period of registration and continuity of support with some exceptionally strong statistical findings for improvement in scores for English in line with those needed for Primary school-leaving examination for mainstream schools in Singapore.

The next article adopts a questionnaire approach, here working with parents of children in Singapore from the team at Care Corner, KidsBright, who have undertaken a mixed modality intervention based on movement, mental exercise and diet. The parents are united in advocating the strengths of this approach in improving many aspects of behaviour including attention and learning, and the authors suggest that this could be a useful adjunct to more traditional interventions in future studies.

2. Progress monitoring of dyslexic primary school learners enrolled in an English Exam Skills Programme

Tuty Elfira Abdul Razak, Siti Asjamiah Asmuri, Andy Wang and Edmen Leong

Dyslexia Association of Singapore


An English Exam Skills Programme (EESP) was designed and implemented in 2013 with the primary goal of helping primary school students with dyslexia achieve in their school and national examinations, as well as become proficient users of the English language in the long run. The programme was designed to cater to the English examination needs of learners with dyslexia in language and literacy components such as grammar, spelling rules, sentence synthesis and comprehension skills. Previous studies (Leong, 2015; Leong, Asjamiah and Wang, 2017; Razak, See, Tan and Leong, 2018) have demonstrated that the programme is effective in addressing the examination needs of this group of learners through an explicit and systematic teaching methodology. However, a significant limitation in earlier research conducted on the EESP, which was the duration of each study, called for further investigation into the retention of concepts taught in the programme and its impact on students’ performance and progress over time. To address this limitation, the performance of 96 primary school students, between Primary 5 to 6, who enrolled in the programme at different stages was examined using a two-way ANOVA. Progress of students who have been in the programme for 10 weeks was compared with students who have been in the programme for 20 weeks and 30 weeks. Findings of this study suggest that a full impact of support for learners with dyslexia demands longer exposure to skills and concepts in order to consolidate their learning. The results also confirm that students achieved better scores on their termly review tests when they are enrolled in the EESP over a period of 30 weeks.

Keywords: progress monitoring, assessment, literacy and language intervention, effective instruction, self-regulated learning

3. Effectiveness of a Multimodal Intervention using Movement, Mental Exercise and Dietary Approaches on Children with Specific Learning Difficulties

Isaac Tan Chiang Huan1*, Lim Zhong Hao2 and Joyce Ang Yan Ting2

Care Corner Singapore Ltd
National Council of Social Service


Since 2006, Care Corner Educational Therapy Service has been running the KidsBright multimodal intervention programme for children aged 5 – 13 with specific learning difficulties and developmental delays. The programme is a novel integration of mental, movement, and dietary approaches, and is aimed at enhancing the neurodevelopmental, learning and academic abilities of children. In this study, the purported effectiveness and feasibility of the programme is examined through test-retest analysis of 368 parent-rated forms of their child’s ability level on ten outcomes over a six-month period in the programme – (i) Reading; (ii) Spelling; (iii) Handwriting; (iv) Verbal Skill; (v) Concentration; (vi) Ability to Sit Still; (vii) Memory; (viii) Motor Coordination; (ix) Social Interaction; (x) Mathematics. Findings indicated that there was indeed a significant improvement in the average ability level of children enrolled in the programme over time according to parental ratings. Subsequent analyses revealed that while parents’ facilitation of home-based movement exercises were associated with improvements in many ability domains, there were no improvements associated with the child’s consumption of fish oil supplements. The results also suggested that issues of service user attrition and their compliance to programme requirements may also need to be worked on in order for the programme to be more effective.

Keywords: KidsBright, Care Corner, National Council of Social Service, learning difficulties, SpLD, developmental delays, attention-deficit, ADHD, autism, ASD, dyslexia, intervention, movement, motor, mental, mathematics, numeracy, exercise, diet, nutrition, fish oil, parent, educational therapy, neurodevelopment

4. The role of Mindfulness and Positive Psychology interventions in job crafting for educators: A diagnostic and prescriptive approach to supporting educators through Mindfulness and Positive Psychology during a crisis.

Harsheeni H Rajoo1*

1. Dyslexia Association of Singapore


Work is enormously important in our lives, not only because it takes up about half of our waking time, or provides us with a means of existence, but also because of the psychological impact that it has (Boniwell, 2011). As such, well-being at the workplace has become a primary feature in many organisations. The encouraging results from the growing body of research in Mindfulness and positive psychology have been pivotal in encouraging the DAS to enrich their approach towards wellness for Educators significantly, through CalmEd, a well-being initiative. A recent training for Educational Advisors inspired by Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI) and positive psychology, saw the result of 57% who felt that they were starting to develop mindfulness practices more consistently and 43% found themselves to be reaching a good proficiency towards the end of 11 months of training. Additionally, from the latest follow-up survey during the Co-Vid 19 pandemic, 100% were more aware of having to practice Mindfulness during a crisis, and 60% were able to practice composure during this time. The training intended to improve the responsibility towards the well-being of self, and innovatively improve their approach towards work through job crafting.

Keywords: Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Job Crafting, Educational Therapists, Well-being

5. Hyperlexia in 3-year-old twins with and without Autistic Spectrum Disorder Patricia Mui Hoon Ng1*

1. Educational Consultant, Singapore


This article presents a case study on hyperlexia in a pair of non-identical twins of chronological age (CA) 3 years 9 months, with and without Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The aim is to provide a better understanding of the two types of hyperlexia by establishing their profiles using various sources of psycho-educational assessment reports. Results show a word recognition age (WRA) of 5 years 9 months for the ASD male and 8 years 11 months for the neurotypical female. With a verbal functioning estimated at 1 year 6 months, the male twin exhibited an unexpected level of ability that is advanced for his CA in not only literacy skills but in numeracy as well. His hyperlexia is considered a savant ability as his splinter skills are in significant disparity to his overall impairments. Unlike her brother, the female twin has a reading comprehension age (RCA) well above her CA, but her RCA is still lower than her WRA by more than 1.5 years.

Keywords: Word recognition, splinter skills, comprehension, Hyperlexia, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Savant Syndrome

6. Student Voice on Teachers’ Attributes that Resulted in Positive Learning Outcomes for Students with SEN in Mainstream Schools in Singapore

Steven Sim Gek Leng1*

Dyslexia Association of Singapore


The Singapore mainstream classroom is seeing increasingly diverse learning capabilities. Although there is growing involvement of students in educational research, there is little done from the perspectives of students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Singapore. To bridge this gap, this study investigated the perceptions of students with SEN on teacher attributes and student outcomes in mainstream classrooms in Singapore. In a focus group setting, five students (aged between 14 and 16) were asked to share their opinions and thoughts based on their school experiences regarding teacher attributes that led to positive student outcomes in an inclusive mainstream classroom. Pictorial cards and the Diamond 9 ranking approach were used to help the students describe their experiences and rate the teacher attributes and student outcomes. ‘Respect’, ‘caring’ and ‘patience’ were top-ranking teacher attributes that the students felt are important to their learning in school. For student outcomes, self-concept in terms of self-awareness and how they performed in relation to their peers were found to be important benchmarks. These outcomes were more important than ‘praise and rewards by teachers’ and ‘competition with their peers’. The study also raised issues around victimisation and development of reciprocal friendship, and the teacher’s role in helping to overcome or enhance such experiences in an inclusive classroom setting. Teacher training was highlighted too, particularly in developing skills and knowledge to handle a classroom of students with diverse learning abilities.

Keywords: Special Educational Needs (SEN), teacher attributes, learning outcomes, student voice, dyslexia, focus group, Diamond 9

7. Developmental Dyslexia and Compensatory Skills: The man who could not read but learned to fly

Lynn C. Holmes1*, Jean V. Fourie1, Martyn P. Van Der Merwe1, Alban Burke1 and Elzette Fritz1

1. University of Johannesburg


The difficulties that individuals with developmental dyslexia face, makes it challenging to diagnose, to develop appropriate intervention strategies and teach coping and learning skills. However, many individuals with developmental dyslexia develop their own strategies and compensatory skills to cope. An instrumental single case study was used to explore the experiences of a young man, Paul, who had been formally diagnosed with severe developmental dyslexia as a child, with co-morbid difficulties with attention and dyspraxia.

The five dimensions of difficulties or barriers that Paul experienced, and thus where compensation had to take place were explored in this study. These allowed him to develop the strategies, methods and skills necessary to cope with the barriers he faced to become a pilot. Ongoing evidence of difficulties drawn from a screening test, despite the presence of a high IQ level, are also presented to enrich the data, and quotations from interviews included to allow the adult’s voice to be heard.

Keywords: Developmental dyslexia, compensatory skills, barriers to learning, learning difficulties, coping mechanisms, instrumental single case study

8. Phonological Awareness and Phonics Instruction: Inclusive practice that benefits all kinds of learners

Masarrat Khan1* and Rameeza Khan2

Maharashtra Dyslexia Association
B. A. F. Petit Girls’ High School, Mumbai, India


In this article, the importance of knowledge of Phonological Awareness for teaching children in India is highlighted. There is an impressive array of studies showing that a measure of Phonological Awareness in preschool children is a good predictor of their reading achievement in the early elementary grades. Phonological Awareness provides children with skills to become independent readers as well as good spellers. Phonemic Awareness (PA) is the ability to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken words. Phonics instruction is systematic when all of the major letter-sound correspondences are taught and are covered in a clearly defined sequence. Poor Phonological Awareness leads to difficulties with decoding, which is seen as a critical factor in successful literacy development. Structured Literacy, which prepares students to decode words in an explicit and systematic manner, not only helps students with dyslexia, but there is substantial evidence that it is more effective for all readers. As phonological processing deficits are a hallmark of dyslexia, children with dyslexia require direct Phonological Awareness and explicit and systematic phonics instruction to learn to read and spell efficiently. Research shows English as Second Language learners benefit from direct instruction in Phonological Awareness and systematic phonics instruction along with alphabetic knowledge. Studies have also stressed the beneficial role of phonological training on the reading abilities of children who come from low-income families.

Keywords: Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Inclusive practice