The other day, as I was scrolling through a WhatsApp group of special educators of my city when I suddenly stopped short as I read a sudden declaration by an esteemed member that remediation does not help children with learning disabilities. So I immediately started thinking , okay, if remediation does not help what does?
I started thinking, okay if not remediation, then should we do tutorials? I imagined a scenario where a child who did not read and write well would sit in a class trying to study social studies for instance. How would it work? Will he be expected to absorb the knowledge from the books based on sight word reading strategies? Will he rote learn the answer to regurgitate it on the paper? How would he write it on paper without having learnt spelling strategies, study skills to aid his weak working memory, sentence structure strategies to facilitate his writing skills, mind-mapping strategies to help his ideation etc. etc. etc………
Then I realized that all these questions and doubts that I had were the gamut of symptoms that children with learning difficulties have when they come to us before an assessment. Once we start the remedial programme we start a structured lesson plan targeted to improve their reading, spelling and writing skills. Since the child is demotivated most times, we definitely do not tackle the curriculum as it is a formidable task at school. So instead we pick up text that would interest the child, structured kinaesthetic activites to jog his memory, sequencing worksheets, dictionary skills to improve his sequencing skills, logic and reasoning skills to help his inferential skills, dictation to train his auditory sequential skills etc. The list can go on.
Over the years, we have trained many children, who have improved so considerably that we have bid goodbye to them and they have managed their curriculum without further help. We also have provided ongoing support to many children but we know how important it is to hold their hand as they grapple with their school. Most kids have one thing in common: the desire to attend remedial classes as they feel confident with the support they receive.
So I wonder how on earth a child who cannot read and write well, can plunge straight into curriculum remedial work. It would be quite a messy job as the teacher would not be able to help the child systematically. It would be comparable to taking a leaking boat in the stormy seas and then trying to plug the holes to survive the flood.
Would it not be better to take the boat out of the sea, and lovingly repair it in good working order before taking it to the high seas? Our learning disabled children who are so vulnerable also require sensitive handling and an improvement in their basic literacy skills to help them to tackle the curriculum better.
As no finger in our hands is the same, we have children also with differing abilities amidst us and we need to have a differentiated approach to them. Therefore remedial education is of prime importance. A one-on-one approach works best for the children.
Whether it is Dyslexia, or it is mental retardation, we need to ensure that we have imparted to our students the basic skills of literacy and also the love for reading.
We may not always succeed hundred percent with our goals but if we have succeeded in taking away their anxiety and caused a readiness to tackle their academic tasks we have succeeded in the broad scheme of things.
As educators our duty is to ensure that we produce happy children who are ready to face the world and are capable of exploring various avenues in their life. Remedial teachers are like the gentle breeze that soothes the learning disabled child and inspires him to attain the goals of literacy that suddenly seem more attainable. If only the schools understood this , we would have fewer stressed out children in our midst.