Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘learning disability’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

We will continue with the identification features of Learning Disability in Children. Many of these features may be present in a child below the age of 8 as part of their developmental phase. There are developmental norms in various domains of child development and children differ in their pace of attaining these norms. If they persist beyond the age of 8, then special assessments for LD need to be done. Below the age of 8 if these problems are seen, it may indicate that the child is  ‘at risk’ of developing LD and suitable remedial measures are taken to alleviate the problem earlier.

We will now see what are the various errors that a child with “Reading Difficulty” or “Dyslexia” may commit:

Children with reading difficulty generally show a reluctance when suggested to read a book. They may give excuses like, “these are not taught to us in the school” or “we will first do some other activity and then do this”.

They may struggle so much to read that the pace of reading becomes very slow.

They may need to finger-point each and every word in order not to miss the position in the text while reading. They may skip words or skip sentences.

They may make errors like omitting words, adding words not in the text, guessing the words (team as time, clock as cloth, paper as pepper), calling out each letter and unable to blend them, reversal of letters in a word – on as no, was as saw, dog as god, tap as pat, pin as nip.

They may jumble up the soundsin a word, like, saying aminal for animal, pheletone for telephone.

They may find it difficult to ‘attack’ an unfamiliar word and get it right.

They may read a whole passage in a monotone and also pay no regard to the punctuations. This can be due to lack of comprehension.

Reading comprehension may be poor. They may find it difficult to understand what they read. Most of these children would be struggling to blend letters into words or join words together to make a sentence that it becomes difficult for them to give attention and grasp the meaning of what they are reading. The same children, if they are read to, can listen well and understand what has been read out as they are spared of the struggle to read! That is the reason why many of these children insist that their mother read out the question and answers of lessons while they sit and listen and understand.

Reading is a process of de-coding. The letters that go into the formation of words are nothing but symbolic representation of sounds that we produce through speech. Each language has its own coding in the form of letters of alphabet. The difficulty to read arises because of an inability to decode the letters or associate the sounds (phonemes) with the respective letters (graphemes) and blend these sounds to make meaningful words. This difficulty is more evident in English language where the phonemes and the graphemes have no connection at all. The letters b-a-g that make the word ‘bag’ are in no way connected to the sound that we make as ‘buh’ – ‘aah’- and ‘guh’ that blend together to make the word ‘bag’! The words ‘put’ and ‘but’ have different sounds associated with the letter ‘u’. Some letters make more than one sound. For ex: the letter ‘a’ makes different sounds in different words like apple, car, lake, again. Letter ‘g’ has a soft sound as in the word ‘gem’ and a hard sound in the word ‘gate’. Letter ‘c’ also has two different sounds as in ‘cinema’ and candy’. And there are many words where certain letters become ‘silent’. This leads to lot of confusion in a child’s mind who has difficulty in understanding a new language that he has not been previously exposed. Many of the regional languages of India, like Hindi, Kannada and others have their grapheme and phoneme the same. The letters we write represent the same sound and become easy to blend together to make a word. Though the grapheme-phoneme confusion is not there in these languages, the enormity of ‘kaagunithas’ and ‘ottaksharas’ make these languages difficult to learn for these children. 

We need to understand that dyslexia is not just a difficulty to decode letters and words. It is a whole problem of processing language to make sense out of it.

Children learn reading through sight first. They just look at whole word, listen to the sound of the word, associate it with a picture of an object or the real object that they see and understand their meaning. When you gradually remove the picture, they are still able to recognize the word as their brains would have stored these words and sounds like photographic memories. You can see young children reading out big billboards of advertisements that have been made familiar to them through advertisements on Television. Later when they enter school, letters are taught and they automatically recollect the earlier sight-reading and slowly pick up the skill of decoding the words. In many schools, the sounds of english letters are taught first – “phonetic way of teaching reading” – instead of A B C D they are taught ‘aah’, ‘buh’, ‘kah’, ‘duh’ etc. They believe that this is a better way of teaching letters of the alphabet as children can easily decode the words at a later stage. There is also the other school of thought that says “whole word approach” is a better way to start off where children blindly pick up whole words, sounds and their meanings. In fact this was the way we were all taught reading long long ago. But children who have been taught reading through phonetic way find it easier to attack unfamiliar words, however long they are.

Many children with LD have the problem of “figure-ground perception”. In any picture or music or a story, there is a fore-ground and a back-ground. Generally we all pay attention to the foreground and ignore the background thus able to grasp the main theme running through it. But these children are unable to distinguish between the important and the unimportant or the relevant and the irrelevant details. Hence when they read a long passage or listen to a long narration or look at a picture, they may miss out on important points and give attention to the irrelevant. They may not be able to sustain their attention and concentration for long to catch the main theme. Hence reproduction of a task becomes difficult for them.

…………………… to be continued

Read Full Post »

Let me once again make it very clear to all that the intention of my posts on Learning Disability is early identification and early intervention so that most of these kids will come out of the problem or the damages are minimized or intelligent kids are helped to make their own strategies to overcome the issues bogging them down. Please do not be hasty in labelling a child as dyslexic just because he/she shows some of the features of LD. There can be other reasons too as I have explained earlier.

Some children have very specific problem in the area of spellings or in writing or in one particular subject. The problem is then referred to as Specific Learning Disability or SLD.

Let us see what may be the indicators of LD in a child. And parents, please do not get unduly perturbed if your child shows any of these symptoms. The child may not yet have acquired these skills and given exposure and practice, it would surely catch up.

Many parents complain that the child is able to narrate the full dialogue of his/her favourite hero of a particular movie, but unable to learn three stanzas of a poemin the text book! Here we need to understand that there is no pressure upon the child to narrate the dialogues of a hero nor will the child be evaluated by anybody for at the end of this task! And the child has learnt it of his/her own free will because saying those dialogues gives the child satisfaction and he/she loves to identify with that actor that in-turn may boost his/her self-image. Whereas, the text book poem is not meaningful to the child’s life in any way, nor does it serve any personal satisfaction. Teacher has assigned this task and she is going to evaluate each child by the rendition of the poem. That may spell doom for the child for anxiety can create havoc in its mind!

Come to think of it, which are the most remembered events in our lives? I am sure each one of us have many memorable events that may or may not be significant to others! And I am sure each of those remembered event is associated with a wide variety of emotions! Yes, moments that have impacting emotions are remembered best! Some times you do not even remember what you had eaten for the morning breakfast, but would recollect with ease which coloured shirt you had worn when you dated your ‘would-be wife’ 15 years ago or even 50 years ago! or what words were exchanged between you and your girl friend in a fit of rage on that fateful evening!

Now make a story of that poem and narrate it interestingly to your child. Use many of the words that are present in the poem and in a similar sequence. Once you are able to hold your child’s attention and interest through this story, the child will soon be able to narrate the poem very well.

Some children who have LD may have problem understanding the emotionsprevailing in a situation. They will not be able to assess a situation as per the expected norm for that age. For ex: A 12 year old boy may start telling jokes to others when people may have gathered to mourn the death of somebody. or a child of 15 may not be able to gauge the intensity of his father’s anger and may wrongly place a demand for a toy at that time. This can happen because of a developmental lag in emotional maturity. This lag may persist even in adulthood. Parents may need to teach the intricacies of emotions and consequences to these children like how they would teach a lesson from a text book.

Many of these children have problems in sequencing information. For ex: they may not be able to list out the names of months in a year in their correct order. If they listen to a story, later they may not be able to narrate the happenings in the story in the right sequence. If you show them a calender and ask them to take out the page in which their Birthday would fall, they may aimlessly turn the pages without knowing where their birth month would occur.

Some of them have difficulty with directionality – the positioning in space, like confusion with up- down, next to, above-under, inside-outside etc. Most of them may have difficulty deciding the ‘right’ from the ‘left’ (laterality), reading a simple map and locating some body’s house. If the school building is very huge and students have to change classrooms for different subjects, some of them will have a tough time locating their class. They may be poor in ‘spatial ability’, ie, ‘what-fits-where‘ kind of problem in arranging puzzle pieces.

Children with LD may have poor temporal concept. They may be unable to gauge the period of time that needs to elapse between two events. Suppose their Birthday falls in the month of May, from January they start asking their mother when May would come? If they are having their tests in a week’s time, they may not have the concept of how long or short they have to wait to write the test.  They may have difficulty reading a clock, understanding the time concept and managing the time available to them.

…………….. to be continued

Read Full Post »

In my first post on Dyslexia, I had mentioned that some children will have difficulties in the psychological processes of acquiring language, understanding and using it. Let me mention which are those psychological processes:

  • Attention
  • Sensory input or sensation
  • Perception (integration of all the sensory inputs inside the brain and making sense of them)
  • Cognition (understanding the information and associating it with the earlier information/experience and expanding the knowledge bank)
  • Memory and retrieval when required
  • Expressing this knowledge – either orally, through reading or speech, or in writing

The above steps are involved in any learning. If a child has problem in any of the above mentioned steps, learning becomes difficult. Many children have problem in focussing their attention and sustaining that attention for the required amount of time to understand it. Some of them may have a problem called “Attention deficit Disorder” (ADD) or “Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD). They will be unable to focus their attention and they will not be able to sit in a place for long. They are very distractible, fidgety and impulsive. They impulsively act without thinking of the consequences that can be dangerous sometimes, like, suddenly crossing the road to fetch a ball or jumping from heights during play etc. Inattentivity, hyperactivity and impulsivity are the hallmarks of ADHD. Any one, two or all the three can be present in a child with ADHD. More on ADHD here. Because of their attention deficit children will not be able to pay attention and learn the expected task.

Once attention is paid, sensory inputs reach the brain and perception occurs. We can make sense of what we have seen or heard or touched or smelt or tasted. This sensation gets associated with the memory of earlier experiences and our knowledge expands. This is the cognition stage. This once again is assimilated with other information and gets stored as memory in different areas of brain. When the information is required to be put to use, our brain retrieves the information.

For all this to happen, the necessary neural pathways in the brain need to be well connected or wired. If there is any problem at any stage of the wiring, learning may not take place properly or what has been learnt may not be recalled when needed.

Since our whole education system demands children to express whatever they have learnt through writing in an exam, many of these children would find it extremely hard to pass. And we readily label them as “dull”, “dumb”, “useless”, “good for nothing” “lazy” and what not? Does any parent or teacher these days have patience to look for the cause of this difficulty? Do they ever wonder why a child, who is otherwise intelligent and smart in other activities, fail to perform in academics? Does any child purposely want to earn the wrath of its parents or teachers? No, definitely not. Not without a strong reason behind it.

Here it is very important for us to distinguish between learning disability per se and learning difficulties that can be due to factors like, any impairment in the functioning of the sensory organs ( blindness, deaf and muteness), due to intellectual impairment or mental retardation, due to emotional deprivation because of family problems, or due to non availability of learning environment at school or at home (lack of infrastructure or facilities, poor teaching, lack of learning support from parents who are illiterates themselves etc), lack of stimulating environment etc. Sometimes vision problems, like, short sight, in young children go unnoticed by elders and children may have lot of problem reading a book or copying from the board because of poor vision. It is important to rule out all these conditions first and then check the child for learning disability.

Children with learning disability typically have average or above average intelligence, but there are glaring discrepancies between their apparent capacity and achievement levels. Since everybody sees ‘smartness’ in these children in their oral expression, in the way they collect information about something that interests them (they can reel out the cricket scores of various teams or list all kinds of dinosaurs or all models of motor cars) elders conclude that their low academic achievement is due to their disinterest in the subject or due to sheer laziness. But it is not so.

………………. to be continued

Read Full Post »

By now most of you readers would have seen the movie “Taare Zamin Par”, directed by Aamir Khan. I am sure it has touched the viewers’ hearts and has been successful in bringing awareness about a condition called “dyslexia“. But many cinema goers forget the whole message once they get back to their other pressing commitments. But I would like to make use of this forum to explain this condition in detail to all of you so that many parents and teachers  can be sensitized to this issue faced by number of school going children

The word Dyslexia means difficulty with lexicon or words. “Learning disability” is a much broader term that explains the difficulties that many children face in the areas of reading, writing, spelling, calculating, thinking and reasoning and memorizing. A child can experience the difficulty in one or two or more of the above mentioned areas of learning.

These children may experience difficulty in acquiring, understanding and using the language to express their thoughts through speech or writing. Learning disability is also known as developmental dyslexia (as it typically occurs during the child’s developmental years). Difficulty in reading and understanding the words is referred to as dyslexia, difficulty in writing is referred to as dysgraphia and difficulty in understanding the concept of numbers and calculation is referred to as dyscalculia. And the latest phrase coined to explain the child’s difficulty experienced at school is “academically abused”! A very strong term that can make all of us sit up and think over deeply.

Because of the learning difficulties that bog down a child, many secondary difficulties may arise in the form of poor motivation, poor interest in activities, loss of self-worth, low self-esteem, social withdrawal and occasionally speech difficulties too. All this frustrates a child to such a level that it can lead to anger and rage and aggression or it can be the other extreme of depression and suicidal ideations!

……………. to be continued

Read Full Post »