Studies dealing with dyslexia in the Arab states are in their infancy. Typically, dyslexia is not recognized as a specific reading difficulty despite efforts by various Arabic educational authorities to raise awareness of learning difficulties and special educational needs throughout the region. According to a UNESCO-DITT report in 2010, dyslexia was not officially recognised across Arabic states.
Currently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there are no specific pan-Arabic methods of identification, assessment, or diagnosis for dyslexia available to either educational psychologists or SEN teachers.
However, an overview of the King Salman Center for Disability Research scientific outcomes shows the following conclusions:
➼ dyslexic subjects are characterized by “incompetence” in many behavioural characteristics and basic reading skills “compared with their ordinary peers”.
➼ dyslexic subjects “suffer from clear incompetence” in auditory perception, word analysis, word meaning, sentence comprehension, paragraph, and text understanding “compared with their ordinary peers”.
In 2010, a study by UNESCO and Dyslexia International asked Arabic and North African states about “good practice” relating to dyslexia. Of the twenty countries asked, only eight reponded.
In 2002 in Kuwait – where anyone who is partly or wholly unable to independently fulfil their average lifestyle needs (due to incapacity or failure of physical or mental faculties) is categorised as disabled – the Kuwait Dyslexia Association conducted a two-year survey on Kuwaiti primary, intermediate and secondary students. They found that 6.29% of them had developmental dyslexia.
In one study, two groups of non learning-difficulty children (grades 2–5) and one group of children with learning disabilities (grades 3–5), all Arabic speaking children in Kuwait, were given measures of reading comprehension fluency and orthographic discrimination to assess the relationship between the two.
Additional measures of phonological processing (decoding and awareness), speed of processing (rapid naming) and memory (visual as well as phonological / verbal tasks) were included either because these have been found to be predictive of Arabic literacy or to provide an assessment of alternative interpretations of any influence of the orthographic task.
The findings indicated that the orthographic measure predicted variability in the comprehension fluency over-and-above that predicted by the other measures in the study.
It should also be said that as the Arabic language is technically non-alphabetic (its script is Abjad – see the map of writing systems here), the measurement of dyslexia against phonological competence will be more complex than simply looking at the language’s orthography. Similarly, interventions may require different strategies. Phonology and morphology will each play subtly different roles from those they play in alphabetic scripts. See the study, below.
A large-scale survey of about 3,000 Saudi elementary pupils (9 to 12 year-old) from 5 different regions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia found that the occurrence of dyslexia differs according to the region and the students’ grades. The results showed that the largest ratio of dyslexia spread was in Riyadh region (30.6%) and in the sixth grade (14.2%).
See for instance: