Collective initiative of parents and teachers can help a child with learning disability to bloom into a complete individual

Actor Aamir Khan’s dialogue in “Taare Zameen Par”, the 2007 Hindi flick dealing with dyslexia, that “every child has his own beauty, ability and aspirations” found an echo among participants at a workshop on “Learning Disability” in the city recently. Organised by the YMCA Services Centre for the Hearing Impaired with experts from fields of education, special needs, medicine and psychiatry, it put to an end matriculation school teachers’ quandary of handling the special kids in their classrooms. .

The workshop threw light on the real reason behind the apparent oddities of these kids: inattentiveness, frequent absence and a general inability to cope with classroom situations. “Often we tend to attribute such animus to the child’s adamant or sloth behaviour and push them to meet the school’s set benchmark”, confessed a participant. “Learning differently is the solution to Learning Disability”, said Mrs. Shanti Bala Sunderraj, Director, TVS Montessori Teacher Training College. Her graphic narration of the circadian classroom drama, took the participants into their own classroom scenarios. Even piercing of erasers, chewing of pencil stubs etc could be indicators of the child’s behavioural issues related with learning disability. “Don’t ignore the symptoms”, she warned. Learning disabilities should not be confused with problems that are primarily the result of intellectual incapacity, emotional disturbance and visual or hearing impairment. Learning Disability is neither a learning difficulty nor a mental illness. It affects the way a person learns new things, understands and communicates information. “There lies a heavy onus on diligent teaching and careful parenting”, she added.

Teachers need to realize that they hold the responsibility of being the child’s role model. Their body language and gestures are indiscriminately imitated by children, she added. A child learns to communicate in the language of its teacher in less than three years. A person who does this commendable feat “is not a dull child but a ‘great’ child!” she pointed out.

“We understand the importance of care and patience towards our children, but sometimes school administrators hinder our outreach by imposing syllabus completion deadlines and increased performance, leaving little time for student-teacher interaction” rued a teacher. “Apply the ‘KISS’ and ‘OLAF’ principle”, said Mrs Shaeen Suvarna, who furnished essential teaching techniques in the form of simple mnemonics: Keep-It-Short-and-Simple, Observe-Listen-Ask-Follow. She also advocated the use of catchy, easy-to-remember limericks to teach vital concepts to the children.

Sharing a list of ‘Do’s and Donts’, she said, patience was vital for a teacher to ensure the comfort of every child. She said teachers should keep evolving without ever feeling complacent. “Appreciate the child for whatever he is good at and ensure he returns home happy.” “When a child is off the grid, why is he not being reached?” queried Mrs. Kausalya Srinivasan, Correspondent, Akshara School. She said it is imperative to accommodate children with special needs in the mainstream. This connotes being in terms with the existing diversity on the part of the learner and working with it. The teachers in turn gain by becoming more observant and learning new ways of handling kids. Demystifying medical jargon, Dr Sabrin Sonjeev Ross provided statistics and cited case studies. The psychiatrist said that five per cent of children, mainly boys, suffered some kind of Learning Disability and attributed the cause to genetic and perinatal factors like foetal alcoholism, drug exposure or poisoning.

Certain disorders are treated medically and certain others by counselling and remedial training. Proper and timely treatment reduces the problem; prevents further complication and also forestalls any possible new disorders “The Doctor’s talk gave us an insight into the child’s psychology and perspective, we will be able to relate better,” said another participant. The experts made it clear that ignorance on part of the teachers or/and parents could cause irreparable harm to the child.