A Jaipur-based paediatrician works relentlessly to spread awareness about learning disabilities among children
Long before the film Taare Zameen Par highlighted the much-neglected topic of learning disabilities among children, a Jaipur-based paediatrician has been working relentlessly to spread awareness about the same among parents, teachers and the public at large. Dr. Vivek Sharma’s regular discourses in schools have covered a wide range of topics such as dyslexia, writing and arithmetic problems among children, school phobia, sibling rivalry, thumb sucking, bed-wetting, teenage smoking, obesity and adolescent sleep disorder.
Seventy-four per cent of children who are poor readers in third standard remain the same even in the ninth class and often as adults, says Dr. Sharma, adding that 15 per cent school students in Rajasthan experience a specific learning disability. During his interactions at schools, he emphasises that disabilities such as dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dyslexia should not be allowed to impede natural growth of children or affect their self-image.
“Such children are often gifted in areas which do not require strong linguistic skills, such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, mechanics, music, physics, sales and sports,” says Dr. Sharma. Effective phonological training in kindergarten ensures significantly fewer problems in learning among children at the grade level.
Fifteen per cent schoolchildren suffering from dyspraxia face subtle changes in behaviour and manoeuvres, especially in playground activities of jumping, catching a ball, hopping and skipping, according to Dr. Sharma. These children also face difficulties in tying shoelaces and doing up buttons, drawing and using scissors and could learn only through one-to-one guidance.
Dr. Sharma says the disorder can be mitigated by simple measures such as allowing extra time during teaching, praising the child’s small accomplishments, teaching on one-to-one level and refraining from comparing a dyspraxic with an able child. “At home, parents could make an early identification of the disorder with the help of a child specialist and provide treatment through the therapy provided by occupational, speech and language therapists.”
A poster prepared by Dr. Sharma, titled “Dyspraxia explored: Recognise the disorganised child”, aims at eradicating myths about the disorder. It has been distributed in large numbers among school counsellors, disability centres and health institutions.Another 75-page book authored by him, titled Health is Everything on the problems faced by adolescents has been received with enthusiasm by educationists.