When I first returned from Europe in 2005 to teach children with learning disability, I started making the rounds of many schools to find work. To my utter surprise, some schools said that they did not have any learning -disabled children in their school. Baffled, I had no choice but to come back as it was not possible to impart any awareness to an apathetic school.
Later, I started to realize that most schools were most concerned about their bottom lines, namely 100% results. There was no place for a child who could not read and write in their school. As a result, by class IV, the child was out of the school and a generous Transfer Certificate was provided to the child. Where he would go was not really the school’s concern. So much for the school’s role as a mentor, guide and nurturer of values.
So creating awareness of learning disabilities in our country is of paramount importance. First of all the world statistic points out that one in every tenth child has a learning difficulty. And this statistic is only climbing steadily as the social norms have changed and a majority of urban mothers have moved from housewifely and maternal duties to offices and corporate life. The fallout of a busy life is serious lack of time where the parents have to come home and balance many roles in a short evening. Result – a child who spends very little time with its parents ad is constantly on the run. It is only natural that the child will not have the same attention skills that a child reared at home with a parent will have.
Then to exacerbate the problem, the school also does not tackle the deficits that a child may have. So neither the school nor the parent stops to think why a child is unable to read and write as per his chronological age?
So how do we help the child? The first step is to identify the problem and its nature. We must ascertain that the child has a specific learning difficulty or not. An assessment of the child will be able to throw light on his academic attainments like reading skills and spelling skills. It will also give a clear picture of the child’s underlying ability like his working memory and retention etc, which can cause learning difficulties.
At this point, the parent should be aware of what dyslexia is. To put it in a nut shell, Dyslexia is ‘word blindness”, as defined by Dr. Pringle Morgan.
The word ‘dyslexia’ literally means difficulty with words.
The simplest definition by the World Federation of Neurology:
Dyslexia is a disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experience, fail to attain the language skills of reading, writing and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities.
According to the US office of Education, “Dyslexia is a disorder where in spite of average intellectual ability, the child is unable to read, spell and write that is commensurate with his chronological age.”
Therefore early intervention by the age of 6 years is a must because in some cases where there is no disability and its only a phonological gap due to lack of exposure, the problem can be quickly solved by teaching of reading skills and sequencing skills to the child. Such children respond swiftly to remedial measures and manage to catch up and improve fast. If Dyslexia is diagnosed, then too a good long-term remedial program is recommended.
Let us face it, that any phonological deficit in the child’s learning curve can lead to lots of reading and spelling difficulties at school. Simple processes like breaking up of a word, segmentation skills will elude the child and his reading will be consequently halting and inexact and will eventually lead to low comprehension ability as well.
Therefore, the schools must take cognisance of the fact that early identification of reading and spelling difficulties can lead to an overall better result for their schools.
In the end they will be closer to their ultimate goal of being a smart school.