Programmes by NIOS allow dyslexics to complete studies up to pre-degree level through flexible learning methods.

While S. Vigneshwaran, a B.Com (Bank Management) student in Chennai, might have earned his merit seat in a mainstream college, his schooling took a decisive step out of formal education in the year 2007.

A dyslexic student, Vigneshwaran made the switch in class IX to Ananya, a mainstream school run by the Madras Dyslexic Association (MDA), where school subjects are taught using remedial techniques. In a recent newsletter of the school, his parents retraced their son’s gradual but steady improvement in academics after he pursued his studies through an alternative mode of education.

While Vigneshwaran went on to score a whopping 87 per cent in his Plus Two exams and begin his under-graduation in a reputed city college, there are many other dyslexic students in regular schools who continue to fight unfair battles against this invisible disability.

At a teacher training programme held in the city on Saturday, nearly 300 primary school teachers were trained in spotting dyslexic children among their students.

Finding alternatives

“Besides facilitating early intervention for such children, one of the prime ideas behind such a programme is to raise awareness about alternative modes of education for them,” says V. Jayanthini, paediatric psychiatrist, Government Children’s Hospital, Chennai. She, along with special educators Subha Vaidhyanathan and Geetha Raghavan from MDA, conducted the training programme, organised by the Tiruchi chapter of Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Tamil Nadu, the district Education Department and UNICEF.

A specific learning disorder, dyslexia can be identified in a child as early as six years of age and remedial treatment given depending on its severity: if mild, it can be managed while the child remains in its own school; if moderate, through pull-out programmes (like Ananya) where he or she is equipped with the skills to cope better when they go back to their own schools; and if severe, by making a complete switch to available open education platforms that give them the opportunity to explore other forms of intelligence as well.

“Intelligence, contradictory to popular perception, is not just about academics . A child’s intelligence can be musical, artistic and spiritual and the faster we recognise this, the better are the chances for the child to lead a successful life, according to the doctor.

Open schooling platforms

Rueing the lack of awareness about the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), begun over two decades ago, Dr. Jayanthini says its elementary, secondary, senior secondary and vocational training programmes allow dyslexic students to complete their academics up to the pre-degree level through a channel that places more manageable demands on their capacity for academic learning.

“A student of mine, who chose to complete his schooling through the Open Basic Education programme offered by the NIOS, is now pursuing his higher education in orthopaedics,” says Dr. Jayanthini. Pointing out that it was a field of study that required practical demonstrations of understanding over written answers, the doctor felt this alternative route helped him choose a course that filtered out weaknesses, such as writing cohesive answers to questions in his case. “The students can also choose to complete small portions of the coursework every three months, making it a very flexible form of education as well,” she adds.

Vocations over academics

Besides the academic programmes, the students can also sign up for a variety of standalone vocational courses such as carpentry, furniture and cabinet making, play centre management, hotel front office management; package courses such as diploma in radiography, certificate course for rural health for women, certificate course in care of elderly, certificate course in library science; six-months courses such as plumbing, beauty culture, dress making, computer hardware assembly and maintenance; and one-year courses such as certificate in computer applications, solar energy technician, catering management, electroplating among others.

Once dyslexia is suspected in a child, he or she should be evaluated for the level of development, multiple intelligence and commonly associated conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which require pharmacological intervention. “The response to any intervention varies with each child and a child-specific intervention plan must be charted out in consultation with the child’s significant others such as parents and teachers,” she says.

Some useful links to alternative education platforms: National Institute of Open Schooling (www. nios.ac.in) and www.edexcel.com