Meenakshi Dave’s new book stresses on the urgent need for the education system to tackle learning difficulties

Had it not been for Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par, dyslexia would have been even less heard of than what it is today. The disease which affected the lively, eight-year old Ishaan in the movie affects thousands of children. This fact needs urgent attention as do the techniques of detection of these disabilities, writes Meenakshi Dave in her new book “Intelligent Otherwise: Identifying, Understanding and Tackling Learning Disabilities in Children

Learning disabilities render a child unable to grasp what he is taught in school with the same ease as his peers. These disabilities can cause them to have severe difficulty in classroom activities like copying down text from the blackboard, writing down dictations, have difficulty in reading and/or be fidgety and inattentive. These children put in equal effort into their work but cannot achieve the desired result because of their handicap.

According to Dave, 10 per cent of school going children in India suffer from learning disabilities. While some might actually be able to struggle through our rigid schooling system, others with a more complex degree of the problem find it downright impossible. Owing to the lack of awareness that such a phenomenon can be explained by medical reasons, parents and teachers dealing with such children often unwittingly end up making matters worse. They label the children as unintelligent and dullard, thereby making them lose motivation.

Dave has been actively working for the cause for almost a decade now. Having obtained a degree from the Washington Lab School in special education, she has incorporated her experience and learning into the book to create a comprehensive guide for teachers and parents to refer to.

At the launch of her book, she highlighted the need to identify such problems in mainstream schools and have a structure in place for the students to be absorbed into the system, instead of being sidelined by it.

It is, however, surprising to see how few schools adopt definitive measures to deal with learning disabled children.

Ashok Chandra, Chairman of the Delhi Public School society, told that all of his schools have psychiatric counsellors in place but only some had hired special educators.

However, according to Dave, psychologists are not very equipped at identifying the issue either. “Neither the psychologists nor the doctors can find any reason for the poor performance (of the affected children)”, she writes in her book.