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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

N I O S website

Those who are interested to know more about the National Institute of Open Schooling may please visit its website at http://www.nos.org/

All details can be had from its pospectus online.

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There are many resource centres in Bangalore that offer coaching to students who take up the syllabus of National Institute of Open Schooling. The list can be had through the Resource Directory published by Banjara Academy, Bangalore. Tel: 2353 5787, 2353 5766.

There are also some schools who teach NIOS syllabus in regular classes from 8th Standard onwards. Here is the list:

Asha Kiran Special Need School (Integrated School), # 15, 7th Main, Indira Nagar 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560038. Tel: 25258159.

Deepika School (Integrated School), 28th Main, 35th Cross, Jayanagar 4th T Block, Bangalore 560011 Principal: Smt Seetha krishnamurthy, Tel: 26645767

Deepika School (Branch), #2805, 14th B Main, 8-E Cross, Attiguppe, Vijayanagar, Bangalore. Smt. Hema Nataraj Tel: 2339 3222

Poorna School, Opposite DPS Bangalore North, Sathnur Village, Bagalur Post, Jalla Hobli, Bangalore 49. Smt Indira Vijayasimha, Tel: 2279 2042

Parijma Learning Centre, BTS Depot Road, Wilson Garden, Bangalore 27. Ms Archana, Tel: 2223 8534, 2224 3634

Kensri School, Mariya Street, Mariyanna Palya, Bangalore 24, Tel: 2353 3528, 2353 7665

Larkspur House of Learning, # 3/4, Berlie Street Cross, Langford Town, Bangalore. Tel: 2272 7183, 98807 11736

Iyer High School, HMT Main Road, Mathikere, Bangalore 54. Tel; 23372714

Nehru Open School, St John’s Chrch Road, Bangalore 05. Tel: 2546 0531

Spastic Society of karnataka, # 31, 5th Cross, Off 5th Main, Indiranagar 1st Stage, Bangalore 38. Tel: 2528 1831, 2527 4633

Cluny Convent High School, 11th Main, 14th Cross, Malleshwaram, Bangalore 03.

Baldwins Girls High School, Richmond Circle, Bangalore

 There may be many other Institutions in Bangalore that are offering NIOS syllabus. Readers may kindly add to the list.

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Many parents have been searching for information on centres that may help children with LD.

Banjara Academy, a counselling centre for emotional issues, chaired by Dr. Ali Khwaja, situated in RT Nagar, Bangalore, has publised a Resource Directory listing out various institutions and individuals in Bangalore who are helping children with Learning Disability. The Directory is available at their office for sale. You may please contact them on phones : 2353 5787 and 2353 5766

Best wishes to all.

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Two days ago we all learnt about a suicide bombing at Baghdad’s two pet markets, in Iraq, that killed nearly 75 people, wounding 150 people and hundreds of birds and other pet animals. Many of you may not even have read it as these days we have all become immune to such suicide bombings and killings as they have become the daily news in all news papers! and we have lost the sensitivity to even grieve over such matters.

But the most horrible fact about these two bombings were the two suicide bombers were girls with Down’s syndrome! and a person with Down’s syndrome does not have normal intellectual capacity and he/she is a mentally challenged person. How can such a person willingly give consent to be a suicide bomber? Surely, the girls here must have been tricked into it! and that is the most tragic part of the whole incident. How can this be an act of “jihadi”? Would Allah praise such an act??

Many of you may have heard of the term “Down’s syndrome”, but may not know what exactly the term refers to. Let me briefly explain.

Down’s syndrome is a life long condition of disability that results in mental retardation. The retardation can be of mild/moderate/severe degree. It is a chromosomal anomaly called “Trisomy 21” in which there occurs                  3 chromosomes in set 21 instead of 2 chromosomes. Human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 in total) in each cell of the body, except in sex cells, eggs and sperms, where only 23 chromosomes are present. These 23 become 46 when the egg and the sperm  get fertilized to procreate and the species continues with 46. These 46 chromosomes are arranged in pairs of two and there are 23 such sets. But in Down syndrome child, the 21st set of chromosomes contain 3 chromosomes instead of the usual two (totalling to 47) and this excess genetic material in each cell results in a dsabling condition called Down’s syndrome, named after the scientist Langer Down who described this anomaly.

I have mentioned Trisomy 21 as the cause of this disability. In a small 2 to 3% of Downs syndrome, the cause is Mosaic Trisomy 21 that appears not in all body cells but only in few of the cells. Whether it is plain Trisomy 21 or mosaic, the features are the same and the degree of disability does not depend on the kind of the cause.

All children born in this condition share very similar facial characteristics that make them all look alike. They generally have a round, flat face with slanted eyes. They slant upwards and they have an extra skin fold on their eye lids that accentuate this slant. But they can have normal vision like anybody else. The babies have poor muscle tone and are floppy at birth. Slowly their muscle tone improves as they grow. It is also observed that these kids have a single crease running on their palm instead of the usual three deep ones that run on our palms (some normal kids also have only one crease on their palm, but not have down’s syndrome). They also have a large gap between their big toe and the second toe that usually grips the sandal. Their tongue usually protrudes outside as they have a smaller oral-cavity and a larger base of the tongue that keeps their mouth slightly open always. This may make them vulnerable to many respiratory infections.

Like in any other condition of mental retardation, these children also show delayed developmental milestones. Their motor (movement), speech and language, social and cognitive development are all slow. The condition can be detected at birth itself by the pediatrician and it is obligatory on their part to inform the baby’s condition to the parents at that time. But unfortunately in India, many Downs Syndrome births go undetected or uninformed to parents that it may jeopardize early interventional strategies that can mitigate the damages to a large extent.

The condition can not be cured. But their abilities can improve to a very large extent by training that is given in special schools. A positive and an accepting attitude on part of parents, siblings and other relatives can help the child to a very large extent to improve its skills. These days many early intervention programmes are taken up at various special centres to children of a much younger age, as soon as it is identified. Physio therapy programmes can improve their muscles’ and joints’ strengths that improve their mobility skills and their gross and fine motor skills (bigger muscles and smaller muscles of the body). Most of them have speech delays and speech problems. They may lack clarity in their speech, articulation problems, language reception and expression problems that can be reduced through speech therapy. Most of these children are friendly by nature and they draw attention from others through their smiling face and readiness to strike friendship with others. This also makes them very vulnerable and children need to be protected from any kind of abuse. Their social skills make them very endearing to all and they are very helpful in nature. Many of them love music and dance. Depending on their intellectual level, they can be taught functional academics that teach them the basic reading and writing skills. They are soon trained in vocations of their interest and later on as adults they can work in sheltered workshops under supervision. Some downs syndrome adults can lead fairly independent life.

As I mentioned earlier, they are prone to many respiratory diseases and many children have congenital (by birth) heart defects too. These children may have to undergo heart surgeries at a later date when they can withstand the surgery.

Coming to the sexuality aspect, they also have normal sexual desires like any other person. But their cognitive deficits may make them vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. And as adults, they get isolated from the mainstream and this loneliness also makes them vulnerable to any kind of affection offered by the abusers. They need to be given sex education like any other person. The fertility rate is reduced in women with Downs syndrome and researchers believe that males may be sterile. But one case of a downs male fathering a child has been cited in journals. Many females with Downs are fertile and there are many instances of them carrying their pregnancy to term and successfully delivering kids – either downs child or a normal child. These are cases from abroad and in India, it is very difficult to get such a person married and expect to carry out the responsibility of a marriage relationship and rearing a child. But it is not impossible with family support. Just because somebody is disabled, we can not deny them their marital and sexual rights. It is purely their family decision.

When such are the abilities/differences in their ability levels of Downs syndrome persons, it is highly condemnable that two downs syndrome girls’ vulnerability was used and abused by the terrorist gang in Iraq and they have now fallen victims to their suicidal bombing pact!

Our heartfelt condolences to the families of these two innocent Down syndrome girls.

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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” !

Series Concluded

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I feel the thread of posts is getting very long and I am afraid I may be putting the reader’s interest off the thread by my elaborate explanations! I think I should conclude it soon.

One or two features that were left out in my earlier posts are included here. The fine motor problems in writing that I have mentioned in previous posts can be sensed much earlier by the indicators, like, lack of firm grip over the objects held in hand, unable to hold writing implements and make lines and circles, unable to tie the shoe lace, difficulty to colour within the boundary, buttoning the garments, difficulty to string beads etc.

These children may exhibit gross motor problems too. Their attainment of gross motor milestones might have been delayed. They would have taken longer months to turn around, creep and crawl, move forward on four limbs, sit upright, stand or walk. They may be clumsy in their running and jumping. They may find it difficult to hop on one leg or skip. They may find it difficult to throw ball at the target or catch the ball. Children hone all their gross motor skills while playing outdoors. But it is very unfortunate that instead of allowing children to play in the evenings, parents are packing them off to tuition classes during this precious hour in the evening!  

Some of these children would have experienced delays in speech acquirement and development. This later on leads to language processing difficulty. Speech problems like stammering, stuttering, articulation difficulties (saying ‘guh’ for ‘kuh’, ‘muh’ for ‘nuh’. ‘luh’ for ‘ruh’ etc). Children who suffer from constant colds and coughs and ear infections may later develop auditory perceptual difficulties.

I have explained most of the markers of dyslexia and I am sure you can now identify those features of dyslexia if you come across them in a child. But what are the causes of dyslexia???

Well, no single cause can explain the Learning Disability that many children experience. However, researchers say that many factors can be linked with this condition.

Genetic: Since LD is seems to run in families, it can be attributed to genes.

Bio-Chemical: Imbalances in chemical productioninside the brain (neuro transmitters)can lead to many problems like ADHD that inturn can lead to LD, or memory problems.

Accidents can lead to brain injuries that can damage certain neural pathways necessary for learning to take place.

Many children who have had epileptic seizures that went unattended or undiagnosed in the earlier stages can develop learning difficulties.

Smoking, alcohol drinking or drug habits of the pregnant mother can lead to developmental anomalies in the foetal brain, which may manifest later on as Learning difficulties. Pregnant mothers who have an addiction to alcohol can give birth to children with Foetal Alcoholic Syndrome or FAS. Excessive smoking can can cause accumulation of nicotine in the pregnant mother that can sometimes lead to mutation of the genes that cause various problems to the growing foetus. Many drugs that are ingested by the pregnant mother to treat infections can also cause distress to the developing brain.

Severe emotional disturbances and depression of the pregnant mothermay affect the developing foetus that may show up later on as LD. 

Problems during delivery of the child, like oxygen deprivation to the brain(anoxia) due to lack of or delayed birth cry that can damage the brain cells. A prolonged labour can cause fetal distressthat sometimes leads to LD.

Environmental causes, like, deprivation of a stimulating environment at critical stages of development of a child that prevents optimal brain functioning, excess of chemicals like mercury, arsenic and lead in the environment can damage a child’s brain.

Since many of these causes are human made, it is in our own hands to take preventive measures that can save children from this affliction.

……………….. to be concluded in the next post

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While constructing a sentence, children with LD may find it hard to structure their sentence grammatically. They commit errors with syntax. They can not string the words in the right order. They may write, “road goes on the car” instead of “car goes on the road”. Passive voice poses problem to them. The sentence “cat chases the rat” in passive voice may become “rat chases the cat”! “Rat is chased by the cat” would be too confusing to understand who is chasing whom! They struggle to express their ideas through writing or through speech. They may fumble for words or stop mid way in a sentence unable to understand how to proceed. Single line answers are easy to understand, but long answers are difficult to comprehend because of their confusion with sequencing of events/ideas. 

Some children who have above average intellectual levels may find writing task very difficult. Their thoughts would be running at such high speed that their writing pace can not match the speed of their thought flow! And many find the repetitive writing tasks very boring and meaningless. Hence a reluctance to write.

Teachers need to be sensitive to their reading and writing difficulties. They should not pick these children and force them to read out a passage from the text book aloud in front of their peers. Anxiety increases their confusion and makes them commit even more mistakes.

Spelling difficulty is once again due to the inability to order the letters in sequence. Some may be good in phonetics and they may spell the word as they hear the sound (auditory speller) – fone for phone, nife for knife, nite for night, lefant for elephant (more like the current day mobile SMS spellings). Some children write bizarre spellings – totally unconnected to the word. To learn spellings, the child should have good visual memory to visualize the whole word in his mind and reproduce it or he must have good phonetic skill to divide the word into different syllables and learn the spelling of each syllable and string it together. This method is called syllabication or syllabification. The word “difficult” can be segmented into dif-fi-cult, the word television into te-le-vi-sion,  construction into con-st-ruc-tion, mansion into man-sion.  Here again there can be confusion between “tion” or “sion” and this portion of the word they need to visually remember.

To learn the spellings, the child also needs to master the sound-letter association. After single letter sounds, child needs to learn consonant blends, like, ‘pl’, ‘br’, ‘sp’, ‘cr’, ‘spr’, ‘spl’, ‘str’, ‘thr’ etc, consonant digraphs, like, ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘wh’ (2 letters making single sound), vowel sounds and many other letter combinations.

Numbers once again may pose problems to many children. While writing they may mirror certain numbers like, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  and 9. They may read the number in reverse order, like, 23 as 32, 12 as 21 etc. Counting one-to-one will be difficult, concept of money can be hard to learn, Clock reading may become difficult. Temporal words like ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘some days ago’, ‘some days later ‘, ‘next month’, ‘last year’ etc would be difficult to conceive.

Simple addition and subtraction may be learnt easily, but graded sums would be difficult. The concept of ‘carry over’ in addition and ‘borrow’ in subtraction would be tough. Learning the multiplication table would be difficult as it requires sequencing ability and hence find multiplication sums difficult. So also the division sum.

Statement sums pose a big problem as the arithmetic language involved would be difficult to understand and they can not comprehend the different operations involved in the sum. Even if they were to understand the operations like addition and subtraction involved, they may get confused with the sequence of these operations.

……………….. to be continued

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