I have decided to conclude the post today, however lengthy or short it may become !
We have discussed the various LD markers and also the probable causes. OK, Once we have identified a child with these difficulties, what do we do?
The child needs an assessment by an Educational psychologist or a Special Educator who may administer various tests to find out the its abilities in the areas of reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. It is important to rule out any hearing or vision problems before conducting these tests. It is also important to collect information about the family history/background to rule out any serious emotional disturbances. If the child is suspected to be experiencing serious emotional disturbances either at school or at home, those disturbances need to be addressed first before proceeding with the tests.
The tests may be standardized psychological tests where norms have been developed earlier so that our child’s performance may be compared to those norms and its degree of difficulty assessed. Or psychologists can develop their own tests based on the criteria that a child of that particular grade/age needs to be proficient with. Some curriculum based tests can also be administered to find out the child’s grade level. A child is said to be experiencing Learning Disability if its performance is below 2 grade levels.For example, if a child who is in 4th Grade is only able to read and write at 2nd Grade level or even less, he could be having LD. If the child is good in arithmetic but not in languages or if the child is good in languages and is poor in computing the numbers, it could be a case of Specific Learning Disability. These labels are used only to exchange information between professionals and to understand the remedial measures required for the child, but not to demoralize the child or the parent. Professionals need to be extremely sensitive to the feelings of the parents and the child. We need to validate their feelings of shock, disappointment, disillusionment, anger or denial, that they may express when they learn about this condition of their child. Professionals need to offer counselling to the parents to make them understand that their child despite the difficulties, can still be able to come up in life in one or the other area of skill. Even academics can improve to a great extent given one-on-one remedial teaching, depending on the degree of disability – it could be mild, moderate or severe. Earlier the problem identified, earlier the remedial measures could start and better would be the outcome. Parents’ acceptance of the issue is the most important factor in proceeding further to seek help for the child to overcome the difficulties.
Remedial classes can be arranged by the school itself or parents need to identify such facilities in their area and the child can attend the classes 2 or 3 or 4 times a week according to its learning needs. Many schools in Bangalore have Resource Centres now that cater to the learning needs of these students. Their specific problems are addressed in these classes unlike in a regular tuition class. Teachers at school can be requested to reduce the burden of home-work to these students so that extra time can be devoted to the learning needs of the child. Teachers can also be requested to give due credits to the oral expression of these students than to evaluate them based only on their written expression.
Many parents realize that their child is having severe problems only when the child reaches the high school. Suddenly the syllabus also increases, parental and teacher pressure increase and the boy or the girl becomes self-conscious of the difficulties that they are undergoing and the insults that they hear from all sides, that they can get into depression. Their frustrations mount and they may become aggressive. Added to this would be the turbulence of entering puberty and various confusions that ensue. Counselling can help them realize their strengths first and then the weaknesses and how to overcome these weaknesses. It is important to keep in touch with the school teacher too to understand the academic and non-academic behaviour of the child at school. The school teachers who handle the child need to be sensitized of the difficulties the student is facing and how they can cooperate with the professional and the parent to mitigate the problems and boost the confidence of the child.
NIMHANS and St.Johns Hospital are the two places where certificate of LD is issued that can be produced at the State or the Central Board of Education to avail concessions in Languages (the language of medium to continue and the other two languages can be dropped), or substitution of a subject with another(a student I know of selected Music instead of Maths in CBSE) or extra time to write in the exam (for slow writers) or even the services of a scribe(for the severely dysgraphic) can be sought.
The Central Government has also introduced National Institute of Open Schooling System (NIOS) for 10th and 12th Grade level exams, the Certificates of which are considered on par with the Board Certificates, based on which the student can get admission into mainstream college later on. The advantage of NIOS system is that the student can choose 5 or 6 subjects of his choice from a variety of unconventional subject-combinations. The exams are held once in 6 months (April and October), the student is allowed to write exams in as many subjects as he is comfortable with, which he would have studied at his own pace. The student need to get registered in one of the approved institutions of NIOS syllabus, can attend regular school or schools that offer NIOS syllabus and pass the exams at his own pace.
In case of severely learning disabled students, it is very important to recognize their particular skills and start training them in any Vocation of their choice from the High school level itself. Many schools with NIOS syllabus also have in-house vocational training facilities. Parents need to understand that it is important to make the student self-reliant later on with a vocation learnt earlier, than force the student to pursue higher education when the interest and abilities of the student do not permit this.
To conclude the series of posts on Dyslexia or Learning Disability, that started with a mention of the movie Taare Zameen Par by Director and actor Aamir Khan and how the sensitive portrayal and treatment of the subject catch the heart strings of the movie goers, I would like to tell all the parents and teachers (and other readers) that it is of utmost importance to help any child build good emotional health first, then teach the child all the Life skills, like, communication, decision making, inter personal relationship, emotional management etc, and then give due attention to its academic health too. Recognize a child’s hidden potentials/talents, encourage the child to build on those potentials, acknowledge every desirable behaviour and every small achievement that the child scores, correct the undesirable behaviour with support and love and BE THERE EMOTIONALLY WITH YOUR CHILD ALWAYS – IN ITS SUCCESSES and MORE SO IN ITS FAILURES!
I would like to quote here (my favourite) sensitive plea of a child to its parents -
“LOVE ME MOST WHEN I DESERVE IT THE LEAST; FOR IT IS THEN THAT I NEED IT MOST” !