In conversation Education

Overcoming the challenge

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Born with high IQ, dyslexic children suffer from learning problems. But institutions like the Madras Dyslexia Association are trying to help, as much as possible.

Neha was in class VII and struggled to study in a mainstream school. She also had a low self-esteem, gradually turned into a recluse, and refused to talk. She was assessed and found to have dyslexia. She came to Madras Dyslexia Association (MDA) for help, and hugely benefited from the therapy. Today, Neha is a designer, photographer and is into digital marketing as well. She is also a confident speaker and often gives talks on topics associated with dyslexia.

While Neha was lucky to have found the right source of help, many students with dyslexia still suffer without proper diagnosis and therapy, mainly owing to lack of awareness.

Discussions and deliberations led to a group of educationists empathetic to this cause to come together, and philanthropists joined them. Thus was born MDA in 1992. D Chandrasekar, Founder and President, sheds light on the learning disorder, and what schools could do to be more inclusive.

Could you throw light on what dyslexia is and what we should be looking out for, in terms of first noticing the signs? How different is it from other learning/developmental disorders?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that occurs in one out of every six school-goers, irrespective of the economic, language and geographic status. These children are intelligent with an IQ of 85 and above, but have difficulty in reading, spelling, writing, and speaking. This can be easily re-mediated using multi-sensory techniques. The earlier one does it, the better it is, as the gap between their achievement and active potential will be minimal in the early stages. Hence, it is important to address this condition as soon as one notices this.

One can start noticing this even at the age group of three to five, by looking at the developmental milestones. Unremediated dyslexic children become social delinquents and cause major social problems. Hence, it is not just an educational problem. Children who come here (to MDA) have learning difficulties due to multiple reasons. If the child has learning difficulty with an IQ of less than 70, it could be due to underdevelopment of the brain. If the child has an IQ between 70-85, it can be due to multiple reasons such as autism, down syndrome, slow learning, and so on. If the child has an IQ above 85, and has learning difficulty, then it is dyslexia.

At what age does it first appear?

One can start suspecting from the age of three to five itself. However, the confirmation that the child is dyslexic will take place only at the age of eight. Dyslexia is a life-long condition. Though this condition does not begin in mid-life, it is possible that this remains unnoticed till the person is an adult.

What does the therapy involve?

Children with dyslexia will be weak in executive functions such as punctuality and tidiness. If they are trained in these areas, they will excel. There are a number of successful people with dyslexia such as industrialists, businessmen, sportspersons, artists, builders and designers. There is no treatment for this; they are given many coping strategies and they must be given more opportunities to work in the area of their strengths. It is not difficult for them to continue with their regular routine.

Does being a dyslexic categorise one as a special student?

The Government of India has brought dyslexia as a disability under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, and hence, whatever special provisions and concessions are available to other disabled people are extended to those with dyslexia too. In this way, these children are considered special. They are offered special provisions while they appear for public exams in the state and central boards, and also in a number of joint entrance exams, and so on.

Are mainstream schools equipped to cater to dyslexic students?

Some time back, most of the mainstream schools had no facilities to cater to them. But due to increasing awareness, many schools have started to come forward to look after these children. MDA has been helping schools to set up resource rooms in the respective campuses. They are also empowering the teachers by providing training. Teachers and parents need to be sensitised, and it would also be beneficial if the identification and re-mediation of dyslexia is a part of the curriculum for B.Ed.

Can dyslexic students pursue regular careers? Also, what extra efforts do they have to put in, compared to others?

Dyslexic children are very intelligent, but their intelligence is focused onto the creative side. If they are supported and encouraged to pursue a regular career in areas of their strength, they can supersede. However, if they are forced to take up careers that are unrelated to their strength, they are bound to fail, much like anybody else. Hence, it is important that they choose careers that suit them.

What are some of the biggest challenges for dyslexic students?

One of the biggest challenges is being accepted by their parents, community and in schools. Once that is taken care of, most challenges can be overcome. Parents need to spend more time with the children and identify their strengths, and use these strengths to help children overcome dyslexia.

Any self-help technique for those having learning disabilities?

Madras Dyslexia Association has developed a reading application called MDA Avaz Reader, an assistive device for dyslexic children. Such devices and applications that help children to read, write and spell, will be the best technique.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:58:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/overcoming-the-challenge/article30229581.ece

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