updated 9 Dec 2011, 12:26
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Thu, Oct 06, 2011
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Dyslexic children can do well
by Alvin Lim

THEIR children were to be photographed for the newly-formed association, and this was enough to get the parents concerned.

Their reason: Their kids were dyslexic, and they were afraid that the children might be targeted because of their condition.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it difficult for a person to read, write, spell and articulate his or her thoughts.

Dr Jimmy Daruwalla, who set up the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) in 1991 with a small group of friends, recalled the early days of the group.

"The parents didn't want photographs to be taken because they were afraid their kids would be marginalised at school," he said.

But that was then, and the public's perception of dyslexia has since much changed, thanks to people like Dr Daruwalla.

For his contribution, he received the tabla! Community Champion award at a ceremony held at the Singapore Press Holdings News Centre Auditorium in Toa Payoh yesterday.

The event was attended by over 200 members of the Indian community, including business leaders and professionals.

Dr Daruwalla's award was presented by the guest-of-honour, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah.

He said he was "greatly honoured" by the recognition from the Indian community.

"The biggest misconception is that people feel that these children are stupid and lazy, because they don't concentrate on their work," he said.

"But dyslexic children have the potential to do well if taught well.

"They do not like to read, they do not like to write. But if they are taught in a multi-sensory way - which we are doing - then they can make a remarkable improvement...and they can go right up to university."

Bright kids

An orthopaedic surgeon by profession, Dr Daruwalla recognised that dyslexic patients have learning difficulties, "but they are all bright kids".

Today, DAS operates nine learning centres in Singapore that cater to the needs of almost 2,000 students.

Dr Daruwalla was born and raised in Mumbai, India, where he did his MBBS and master's degree before going to Glasgow in 1969 to further his studies.

After getting his fellowship from Edinburgh, he came to Singapore in 1976 and worked as a senior lecturer and consultant at the National University Hospital. Two years later, he returned to Mumbai to care for his ailing mother.

In 1980, Dr Daruwalla returned to Singapore as a senior lecturer and consultant.

He became a member of the Rotary Club of Raffles City in 1989 and headed its community service programme, which organised a forum on dyslexia to create awareness about the condition.

He set up his own private practice - Daruwalla Orthopaedic, Spine and Hand Surgery - in 1990.

Dr Daruwalla's award was launched in conjunction with tabla!'s third anniversary.

The inaugural award is presented to a member of the Indian community who has a distinguished record of working with the less fortunate in Singapore.

The award came with a donation of $10,000 from the State Bank of India and tabla!, an English free sheet launched in 2008 and targeted at the Indian community here.

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