Profiles of Children

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye…” : The Little Prince 

 About children Anandini has worked with…

 ABOUT KARAN…

Karan was in a school that had supported him throughout his junior and senior-school years. They allowed Karan extra time for exams, were lenient while marking spelling errors and even offered him an alternative question-paper whenever necessary. Despite all this, Karan was only able to score between 35- 40 % in all the papers he was required to take at that level. He was trying his best but there was a limit to what he could do on his own. The feeling of not being able to achieve was being reflected in his personality- which is always sad to see.

What was surprising was that- it was only in class ten that his mother felt the need to come to a special educator…

 About Karan’s Family:

Karan was from a nuclear family that was financially well-off. Coming from a family that had their own business, there was also an inherent tendency to take things a bit easy and not stress so much on academics. Karan passing an exam was sufficient. This also partly explained the fact why they opted for remedial help only in class ten. Karan’s mother was totally involved with his school work and other help that he needed.

The father was not even aware of the difficulties his son faced and what was required to ensure that he was able to do well in his board exams. The word ‘dyslexia’ was just that- a word, without a meaning as far as his father was concerned.

The emotional impact that this had on the mother can well be imagined. Struggling to learn more along the way, she made her efforts to get in touch with other mothers and even join a parent support group. Her time with Karan and his studies left very little time for her to focus on her own needs.

Karan was also going through a tough phase. Class ten bringing its own set of emotions and stress and then to start afresh at that stage.  

Assessment:  A preliminary spelling and reading assessment revealed that Karan was way below grade-appropriate levels. It was extremely challenging to decipher even a single word written in the history note book that he had brought along. Even he could read only a few words – and these were words that he had written himself! Words like ‘the’, ‘is’, ‘and’ – were also spelt in a way that they had no connection to the actual word, making it absolutely impossible to decipher.

 Strategy: Since there were only six months to go before Karan sat for his tenth boards, there was no time to focus on spelling or reading strategies and rules. The time was utilized to build his comprehension and organizing skills to enable him to attempt questions that required descriptive answers.

The sessions were also utilized to prepare Karan for using a scribe for his exams. The text was read out to him and he was asked to dictate his answers.

It must be kept in mind that using a scribe is not a very easy task. The person has to get used to the fact that he has to adjust his flow of thought to the writing-speed of the scribe. It is advisable to practice this procedure if possible much before the exam in order to reach a level of comfort.

 Along with the academic input it was also necessary to build Karan’s confidence and constantly encourage him. Building on his strengths and reinforcing what was taught, helped him focus and start working independently as well.

Result:  Karan was able to get about 60 % a huge jump from the 35- 38% he had been getting. He managed to clear his class twelve boards similarly.

With an interest in the service industry, Karan went to a college abroad and managed to top the class! Today he is doing well for himself – happy and confident!

 What could have been…

One can’t help but think what if Karan had started remedial education earlier? Since he had been identified at junior school level, he would have benefited immensely with input at that stage and would not have suffered the inferiority that he did through his formative years. In the end it is not all about how much he scored at the high school level, it is about looking at the person and the trauma and emotions that he went through that could have so easily been avoided.

  ABOUT ABHINAV …

 Abhinav is in class 3. He was assessed about a year ago.

 Assessment: He has an IQ in the superior range [ Strength ]   but has extreme difficulties with reading, writing and spelling  [Weakness ]. Abhinav is very articulate and has an excellent memory [ Strength ]. He is able to retain whatever is read out to him and manages to answer questions in class relying mainly on his memory.

Abhinav is extremely lucky to have a class teacher who recognizes the child’s potential and sees him as brilliant. Along with the special educator she worked out and implemented the following strategies in class.

 Strategy:   Abhinav is encouraged to actively participate in class discussions. He is allowed to answer some things verbally instead of submitting all work in written. [ To prevent other children from questioning this ‘’preferential treatment’’ – the situation was discussed in class and a solution sought from the children. And you will be surprised how many children were in favour of helping Abhinav through strategies that would make learning easier for him! ]

The teacher has designated another child a ‘buddy’ to help Abhinav with his class work. The buddy is a child who is doing very well and finishes his work well before others. So he is able to help Abhinav with blackboard related tasks and other specific tasks that he needs support with, without it affecting his own work.

The parents of both these children are aware of this arrangement in class. This is an extremely important step.

 Abhinav has also devised his own strategies. When the teacher is reading a chapter in class, he traces along. Since it is difficult for him to keep track of the last word and line read, he marks it with a pencil each time the teacher stops to explain something. He also marks lines and words that he feels are important and will help him answer questions. Small things like that help him cope with his daily class work.

It also reflects the fact that Abhinav is really bright- bright enough to understand his own limitations and to devise strategies appropriate to cope with them[ Strength ].

 About Abhinav’s family: Abhinav’s parents are well- educated and are doing well in their professional fields. They are aware of  Abhinav’s difficulties and are extremely supportive and involved.

 ABOUT ANU…

 Anu came to me when she was in Class 4. She had been assessed as a child with learning disabilities and the school knew about this. The school had a learning centre and had put in place a support-system to help Anu cope with her academic content.

 Anu- the person… Anu was a very quiet child, even during the one-to-one sessions. Her confidence level and self-esteem had touched almost rock-bottom.

 Assessment: 

As far as her reading, writing, spelling, comprehension and other areas were concerned, Anu lagged behind. She was unable to read simple CVC words and sentences like ‘The cat sat on the mat’ – had her in tears. She had no phonic skills and this reflected both in her reading and spelling. Anu’s difficulties were compounded by the fact that she was not very fluent in English – this affected her comprehension abilities and verbal skills. 

 Strategies: The first thing was to bring back her inherent confidence and self-esteem. So tasks were set out that she could achieve on her own and each success that she encountered was pointed out to her. This enabled her to try and learn all the basics of reading and spelling with a positive attitude rather than a feeling of ‘No. I cannot do this.’

We had to start right from scratch- the letters of the alphabet- so it took time; but Anu started learning. The more she learnt -the more her confidence grew – the further she wanted to learn.

A programme that focussed on Reading, Writing, Spelling and Comprehension was worked out for Anu. She did not like doing all that but was aware that it would help her with everything in school.

The special educator at school had extended the following concessions for her:

  • She did not have to read aloud in class like all other children
  • The questions were read out to her during exams
  • For some exams, she was allowed to sit with the special educator in the library and answer part of the paper orally.
  • Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes were not marked

 A constant touch was maintained with the school educator as it helped both of us work together in making a difference.

As Anu started reading, the teacher was asked to encourage Anu to read in class. This proved a turning point for Anu, as once again she felt a part of the class. Besides, it was a tremendous confidence –booster for her!

By the end of year 4,  her parents and the educator felt that if she repeated class 4, it would help her as she was still picking up concepts and reading and writing skills and would not be able to cope with class 5.

Anu was prepared for this and told the reasons for this. She was reassured that she had not ‘failed’- the dreaded word. In the end it was a joint decision and Anu accepted it. Though at times it was tough making new friends and being teased by old ones who had gone on to the next class. Anu needed a lot of emotional support at this time.

She was encouraged to take part in sport and other activities in school so that academics did not become the sole focus. Also it would help her get a much-needed feeling of achievement from some other source.

 Anu today…

 Today, Anu is in class 8. She is a fluent reader, is able to write her answers on her own without any help from the teacher. Her comprehension abilities have also improved considerably….but most of all it is the complete and total transformation of this child. Today she is a confident, pretty young girl who is very popular among her classmates. She is a member of her school athletic team and has even represented her school at athletic meets held in other cities. She is scoring above 70 % in all her subjects and working hard to improve still further.