October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, a time to pay attention to children and adults with learning disabilities. During this month, I Can! asks that you teach one person something new about learning disabilities.

Here are some facts from the National Centre for Learning Disabilities:

The most common type of LD is dyslexia (reading problems). Other types of LD include dysgraphia (writing problems) and dyscalculia (math problems). Other conditions such as dyspraxia (motor skills) and ADHD (trouble regulating attention) often co-occur with LD.

Although the exact causes of LD are not clear, it is known that LD sometimes runs in families and that events during fetal development can also play a role. Despite many misconceptions, there is no evidence that vaccinations, diet or watching too much television cause LD.

Learning disabilities are life long and cannot be cured or outgrown.  Dyslexia is not a vision problem that can be corrected with eyewear; it is a problem of language processing in the brain.

With intervention and support, people with LD can succeed in school, work and life. There is no correlation between LD and low IQ. In fact, by definition, people with LD  can have average or above average intelligence. Accomplished individuals with LD include TV and movie star Whoopi Goldberg,  Virgin Airline and Virgin Records owner Richard Branson and South African contemporary artist Ian Marley.


The I Can! Sensitization Workshop features a quiz matching famous people to various disabilities. The exercise is designed to change perceptions about people with disabilities and to see the ‘ability’ in ‘disability.’ Achieving success requires perseverance but is not without its charm.

Refilwe Modiselle, a South African model and entertainer born in Rockville, Soweto, grew up with Albinism. She was taunted and mocked about her appearance.  But despite the odds, she was determined to become a fashion model.  She faced rejection because of the color of her skin color and was told that the South Africa was not ready for an Albino model. She worked diligently, determined to change people’s mind-set.  She is now the face of South African fashion brand LEGiT, a leading SA clothing brand.

You can see her on this video: (Preview)

Another famous African model living with Albinism is the 24 year old Thando Hopa.  She is also a Public Prosecutor. She has said the biggest misconception about Albinism is that persons with this condition are incapable of coping in the real world, especially in the workplace. She believes that schools and employers do not assist in providing facilities that aid certain inadequacies such as eyesight problems.  These attitudes result in diminishing a person’s potential, she added.

September is designated National Albinism Month by the Department of Health. Living with albinism is an ongoing challenge against prejudice, myths and misconceptions.

The medical definition of Albinism is: An inherited condition where a person is unable to produce normal colouring of the skin, hair and eyes. Albinism is caused by defects in the hereditary material that determines skin colour. People who have normal pigmentation could be carriers of the hereditary material that is defective for skin colour. Albinism is associated with a number of vision defects and lack of skin pigmentation makes for more susceptibility to sunburn and skin cancers.

The theme for National Albinism Month this year is ‘Social Equity, a tool towards development and Social Cohesion on Albinism.’

The Albinism Society of South Africa (ASSA) event calendar includes door to door campaigns and road shows in order to reach as many communities as possible, both to educate as well as to change stereotypes, myths, mind-set and cultural beliefs that hinder and pose a threat to human kind and the life of people with albinism in society and in our communities.