Understanding Learning Disabilities

Understanding Learning disabilities

Non Verbal Learning Disability ( NVLD).

Roshan is a 12 year old boy. He was hyperactive in his early childhood. He is struggling in the domains of logic and reasoning. He feels frustrated when he is not invited to friend’s birthday, andrest all are.He picks up a fight easily and the teachers think that he is the root of all trouble in the class. In the neighbourhood, he is in the forefront of all pranks and gets caught easily. He has friends but seems they desert him easily. In academics he is struggling in mathematics, a subject considered to require fair logic and reasoning. He has superior language skills and does well comparatively in languages. In short, his social skills and social maturity are grey areas which keep him frustrated, anxious, stressed and a nagging low feeling. 

Dyslexia - a type of reading disability.

Maria is a 10 year old girl. She is struggling in her spellings. She has poor phonological awareness and can never get the blends ( gr/ pr/ pl) right. She avoids reading and does not read books even though the pictures attract her. She has a low vocabulary as compared to other average children of her class. She performs poorly in the spelling tests at school. She needs help to read questions during examinations and struggles to comprehend the questions. As a result even her written expression is affected. 

Dysgraphia - a type of writing difficulty.

Paritosh is a 11 year old boy. He has a poor handwriting. His teachers complain that they are not able to read his answer sheets. During exams, it becomes worse. When evaluated,it was found that he had superior intelligence. His verbal abilities , intelligence did not match his examination scores. His parents reported of poor motivation, self esteem as he is continuously scoring poor marks at school. 

Dyscalculia - a type of learning disability affecting mathematics.

Sonal is a 14 year old girl. She scores well in all subjects at school except Mathematics. She aspires to become an IAS officer, but remain frustrated due to poor scores in the subject. When evaluated, She was weak in calculation.

Everyone has learning strengths and learning weaknesses.  As adults, most of us confess our weaknesses willingly: we were bad at mathematics, for example or terrible at foreign languages.  We could not draw a straight line in art.  We had trouble remembering the dates in history, never got the hang of book reports, had a ‘tin ear’ for music, or tripped over our own feet while playing.  We can afford to be cheerful about our shortcomings, because we managed to succeed in spite of them.  Our weaknesses were either in areas which did not interfere with our progress through school, or not severe enough to prevent us from achieving our most important goals.  Along the way we developed some talents we feel pretty good about, and we use those strengths to define ourselves.

Children with learning disabilities

Chilren suffer from an unlucky combination: not only are their weaknesses more pronounced than usual but they also lie in those areas most likely to interfere with the acquisition of basic skills in reading, writing or mathematics.  As a result their progress in school is repeatedly blocked.  These children are often bright, creative and even gifted in outer spheres, but since they are achieving poorly in the areas most valued by our society, their talents may be judged unimportant or irrelevant. 

They can also be found in all of our schools and at all age levels.  No doubt, the earlier we can detect these problems, the better for the child.  Many learning problems in childhood and even in adolescence go un-noticed, only to become a sudden shock to the parents when finally detected and labeled “poor reading” or “poor spelling disability”.  Often the child is held back one class in order to allow him to catch up with his peers.  But while such a measure might be justifiable from the teacher’s standpoint and tolerated by the parents in the child’s best interest, the youngster usually suffers agony and feels hurt.  Instead of receiving specialized help with his learning problems, he is exposed to the same kind of instructions he already had in the previous class, thus he becomes bored, listless and resentful.

Road Ahead

Regardless of the age of the child at the time he experiences problems with reading, spelling, arithmetic, memory, oral expression, many signs of an impending failure are very characteristic and can be detected early if the  teacher, parents and psychologists are familiar with them. Therefore, it is recommended to begin  with teachers workshop and further empower teachers to identify children with learning difficulties and refer to a specialized team. The team comprises of psychologists, remedial specialists, occupational therapists, speech therapists which then evaluates each child and arrives at a diagnosis.

A customized program called IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) is  then discussed amongst professionals paving the way for a developed plan encompassing all aspects of mental faculties. Fixed sessions involving early  intervention programs  are planned and provided by the remedial therapists during school hours to avoid intrusion into child’s  schedule at home. Teachers are also part of the program and are kept in the loop to enable inclusion in the best possible manner and in providing accommodations. Periodic parents workshops helps in developing  parent’s insight, participation and managing children better at home.

Aftermath

There are many success stories which includes Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic fame, scientist Albert Einstein, Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, world class painter Leonardo Da Vinci, Animator – entrepreuneur Walt Disney to name a few. Key to success is majorly dependant on motivation, self esteem, allowing passion to bloom and unconditional support from all stakeholders.

As per statistics, about 10% of all school going children suffer from Learning Disability. The magnitude is alarming. Therefore it is important to have these types of program at every school which helps in reducing gaps and enhances normal academic and personality development and  facilitates  in helping the child to be an  asset to the school , society and nation.

 

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