Posts Tagged ‘reading difficulties’

In my last post I was discussing the various forms of Visual and Auditory perceptual difficulties that many children with LD face. And the link provided by Mr. John Heyas in his comment to Post 5 threw much more light upon visual perceptual difficulties. Here we may recall how the little fellow Ishaan Awasthi in the movie “Taare Zameen Par” perceives all the letters and numbers dancing on his page and flying away making it impossible for him to understand what was being asked in the question paper! How numbers and words get mirrored, all jumbled up and the best thing for him at that point of time to do was to go on a dream trip! Yes, many of these children sit day dreaming in the class room as they can not make any sense of the lesson being taught by the teacher! Isn’t the dream world more interesting and more motivating than the drab, repetitive lessons taught by an unenthusiastic teacher in the classroom?!

Children with reading difficulties also make errors in leaving out the prefixes and suffixes in words – they may read unlikely as likely, indifferent as different, or teaching as teach, survived as survive.

Children who have severe writing difficulties often show decline in their academic scores as they come to higher classes. Many parents say that their child was scoring very well in Kindergarten levels, but started showing difficulty to score marks as he came to 2nd and 3rd standard. It declines further by class 5 and is when most parents wake up to the fact that their child might be having some learning problems.

Writing is a fine motor activity,ie, it requires the finger muscles to be skillful to graspthe writing implement (crayons, chalk pieces, pencils, pen etc) and have control over writing. Writing with a pencil/pen, that too within the boundary of two or 4 lines is a very sophisticated action that is at the top of hierarchy of fine motor skills that is attained by the age of 6 or 7. But unfortunately, in India, children as young as 3 or 4 are taught to hold pencils and expected to write inside a book! Many of us may remember writing on a black slate all the class work till 2nd standard! This places undue pressure on a child who may be developmentally still lagging behind. It becomes a very big strain for the young child to continuously hold a pencil and write one full page of letters of the alphabet! Their finger muscles may start aching.

Added to this difficulty may be the establishment of handedness. By three years many children would have established their hand preference to do little tasks. But many are still shifting between the left and the right hands. It is wrong to force a child to use his/her right hand while the child may prefer the left hand. The left or right handedness depends upon the dominance of the left or the right hemisphere of the brain. The left hemisphere of the brain controls the movements of the right side of the body and vice versa. If a child prefers to use his left hand for most of the tasks, forcing a change in his /her handedness can lead to lot of confusion in the brain and may slowly lead to aversion to write. It is wise to leave the decision of using hands to the child itself. Teachers also need to be sensitive to this issue.

Writing poses difficulty initially to left handed childrenas our writing is from left to right. (Other than Urdu/Arabic language, are there any other languages that require writing from right to left? Readers please enlighten me) For a lefthander, the movement of hand from left to right is restricted, whereas for a rightv hander, movement is unrestricted from left to right. This restriction of movement poses difficulty to establish neat handwriting. Also, children using left hand to write do not get an immediate feedback of their written workas their left hand covers what is being written! Not so for a right hander. He/she has full view of what is being written and can even make suitable corrections then and there. All this difficulty makes many left handers take up hooked writing position of the hand so that the movement becomes easier from left to right and also a feedback is visible. But young children who pick up hooked hand position may tire soon as it is an unnatural position to hold for long for the young hand. Teachers and parents need to be aware of the difficulties a left handed child experiences while picking up writing skill. Their understanding and sensitivity can ease the pressure upon the child and can motivate a child to improve his/her writing skill. Otherwise, an insensitive handling of the issue by elders and insensitive teasing and insults by peers about the left handedness can leave an emotional scar in the child’s mind and can lead to low self-esteem and de-motivation!

Also, children require time till the age of 6 or 7 to gain control over the size of the letters that they are expected to write. It takes time for some children to gain the concept of configuration of various letters – the direction of the strokes and curves of letters. If they are forced to limit the size of the letters within certain boundary, they can not make a proper impression in their brain. This leads to confusion about various letters and numbers. These children need large spaces to practice writing, like on the floor or on the wall or on black boards where they need not limit the size of their letters and slowly they get the shapes of letters or numbers well ingrained in their brain. Then they can start reducing the size. In addition to just writing on a plain sheet of paper, children benefit by writing on rough surfaces like sand or a spread of rough powder of ‘rangoli’ where there is an additional input through tactile mode. Tracing with fingers the letter templates on a sand paper or tracing the stencils also provide better impression.

In our schools teachers insist on neat handwriting and cursive style (joining the letters) of writing by 2nd standard when the children would be about 7 years of age. Yes, many children would be able to write according to the teacher’s expectations. But those who fail to write are subjected to severe punishments and insults! This is what puts off many kids from writing and an insensitive treatment can lead to rebellion in them!

……………….. to be continued

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In my last post I had written about the various difficulties that children with LD face while reading. Most of these difficulties occur because of visual and auditory perceptual problems. Let me explain.

Children will have normal vision, normal hearing ability, but may have difficulty in:

visual and auditory discrimination – they may be unable to discriminate between similar looking letters, like, ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘d’, ‘q’ and ‘p’, ‘m’ and ‘n’, ‘n’ and ‘u’, ‘m’ and ‘w’ etc During the developmental phase, young children can recognize the object ‘chair’ as a chair in whatever position it is – upside down, sideways or turned in any other way – it still remains a chair. As they grow up and enter the school age of 2 1/2 to 3 yrs, they start looking at letters in books and are made to understand that certain letters may look similar, but the direction of the strokes and curves differentiate them from each other. Children with visual perceptual problem will not be able to understand this concept and hence unable to discriminate between similar looking letters and confuse one for the other. Reversal of letters, reversal of words – mirror reading and writing occur because of this perceptual issue.

They may have difficulty discriminating the geometrical shapes, between an oval and a circle, between a square and a rectangle and have more confusions with polygons. They may find it extremely difficult to copy drawings from science lessons. The minute differences go unnoticed.

Coming to auditory discrimination, children with LD may have problems perceiving minute differences between sounds, like in words ‘tin’ and ‘thin’, ‘sign’ and ‘shine’, ‘pin’ and ‘bin’. This difficulty is more pronounced in our regional languages where there are ‘mahaa praanaas’ and ‘alpa praanaas’.

They may not be able to understand the nuances of speech like pitch and tone and hence their reading a passage sounds very monotonous.

Children may have visual and auditory memory problems. It becomes difficult to keep in memory the order of letters in a word and hence have spelling problems. When the teacher writes notes on the black board, these children may not have enough short term memory or working memory to keep the words they have seen on the black board in their memory and bend down and transfer it to their notebooks. Their notes always remain incomplete. While writing dictation, they may not have sufficient auditory memory to keep the words in mind and write them. Or while listening to a story, they may have difficulty connecting the various pieces they have heard as they may forget many things inbetween the narration. Also, because of comprehension difficulties, many things that they hear or read or write remain as isolated fragments of information, unconnected and meaningless that they soon forget.

Figure-ground perceptual problem that I have explained in my previous post is another kind of perceptual difficulty that these children may face.

Apart from sequential difficulties mentioned in another post, they may sometimes have difficulty in categorization. This is evident in their writing when they mix up upper case letters with lower case letters. They may find it difficult to sort out pictures of vegetables, fruits and flowers. They find it difficult to write long answers to questions because of their inability to organize matter, categorize them according to themes and present it. In higher classes, it may become difficult for them to classify the elements and compounds, or classify the animal kingdom into reptiles, birds, mammals etc

Visual and auditory closure is another perceptual difficulty many of these children face. We are able to read a word or a sentence even if some letters or words are missing inbetween or the print is hazy. We have the ability to picturize the whole even if parts are missing from a figure or a story. But kids with LD may not. Presented a piece of poem in between, children may find it difficult to know from which poem it is extracted or how to complete it.

………………… to be continued

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