Helping children overcome learning disability

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V.V. Joseph has dedicated his life to help dyslectic children.
V.V. Joseph has dedicated his life to help dyslectic children.

Association of Learning Disabilities India has set up centres in Palakkad, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Kasaragod, Ernakulam and Kottayam

A literature class by V.V. Joseph was not something a student would have liked to miss when he was a remedial teacher at Vimala College in Thrissur. But, a simple letter written by him would make him sound rather uneducated.

That would perhaps sum up a kind of learning disability. And Mr. Joseph is among a few who overcame his disability in writing a language by making use of his other faculties. It is possible that many children overcome some of their disabilities on their own, says Mr. Joseph. But, not all.

Early intervention

Children need to have early intervention and they have to be let loose after giving them some stimulus, said Mr. Joseph. His mantra to tackle the learning disability is "if I cannot learn the way you teach me, will you teach me the way I can learn."

A naval engineer by profession, Mr. Joseph left his job to seek more guidance into how to get a child with learning disability look at life a little differently. With that single thought in mind, Mr. Joseph sought help from psychiatrist N.R. Arun Kishore in Thrissur. Both of them set out in identifying and creating techniques to overcome different types of learning disability.

Mr. Joseph, hailing from an agriculturist family at Nellankara, Thrissur, says that he is lucky to have a childhood without pressures of pursuing a particular profession and got the right support from his teachers at the right time.

He was left on his own to choose his profession. In spite of all the help, Mr. Joseph had felt rather at pains for what he was not able to do.

Identifying a learning disability and finding a remedy for each was not an easy task. It needed dedication.

Now almost two decades down the line working to bringing dignity into people with learning disability, Mr. Joseph can perhaps feel satisfied about creating a group of people who realises the need for taking up the issue in the right manner and implement the corrections in the best possible manner.

The Association of Learning Disabilities India (ALDI) with Dr. Arun Kishore as president was born with such an intention. Mr. Joseph started with helping children at his learning centre and then started his training of teachers at home.

The first batch had 20 people, he said. They were to identify children and implement remedial measures. He later learnt that creating support groups in each district with parents' participation was ideal for sustaining a support centre. Thus, an ALDI Learning Centre in a few districts came about, the latest being Ernakulam.

Now there are learning disability centres set up by the ALDI in Palakkad, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Kasaragod, Ernakulam and Kottayam and one clinic in Mangalore too.

Training of resource persons has started in Thiruvananthapuram too. A coordinator in each centre takes up the responsibility for the district.

"We plan to introduce rehabilitation from next year onwards," said Mr. Joseph. An ALDI foundation for rehabilitation would be coming up in Palakkad near Alathur, where the organisation has acquired 10.5 acres.

When Mr. Joseph started out with the idea of identifying the disadvantaged children by approaching a school principal in 1987, he was almost shooed away for introducing terms like learning disability, which the principal said would only create confusion. The integrated approach in education came about only in 1998, which recognised the need to provide help for dyslectic children.

For many a parent, Mr. Joseph had been a godsend. But for his training methods, their children would still be backward in the class. Learning disability or dyslexia is now a known fact but awareness about it is still lacking. ALDI learning centres will adopt schools which are educationally backward and uplift them academically.

Mr. Joseph has trained about 700 teachers in the community and has created a pool of 72 master trainers for the Integrated Education for Disabled Children programme of the State Government and 50 master trainers for the ALDI.




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