About Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilities

The word ‘ Dyslexia ’ means ‘ Difficulty with words or languages ’  

 Hornsby defines Dyslexia as :

 ‘ The difficulty in learning to read and write – particularly in learning to spell correctly and to express your thoughts on paper- which affects those who have had normal schooling ’

 PRIMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF A PERSON WITH LEARNING DISABILITY

  • Average to above average intelligence
  • A significant difference between achievement in   some areas and child’s overall intelligence.
  • Obvious discrepancy between oral and written skills.

 THE BROAD AREAS AND THE NATURE OF DIFFICULTIES :

 Reading Difficulty

- Hesitant,  laboured reading especially when reading aloud

  Writing and Spelling Difficulty

- Disregard for punctuations

- Poor spellings

- Phonetic spellings of non-phonetic words

 Comprehension

- Inability to recall details of information

- Difficulty in recalling information in sequences

 Math

-  Difficulty in understanding concepts

-  Difficulty in interpreting symbols

Hindi/Language

-  Confusion between similar letters

-  Difficulty in learning complex letters

WHAT  FAMILIES  OUGHT  TO  KNOW

The first thing that families must understand is that having Dyslexia or a  Learning difficulty DOES NOT mean that the child has an Intellectual disability.

Children with Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilities have Average to very High levels of  Intelligence.

As with all other difficulties, the earlier the child’s difficulties are recognized the better it will be. An observant teacher and even parents may be able to recognize the difficulties the child is facing in the early years. If the child is unable to recognize letters and words that he/she has been exposed to in a class, while other children in class seem to be picking up – more focused attention should be given to find out the reasons.  You may even find that the child is unable to see or hear clearly. This will come in the way of the learning process going ahead.

Once that is ruled out and the child seems to face difficulties in reading, writing or learning, a Clinical Psychologist or a Special educator trained in the area of Learning disabilities should be consulted. They will be able to assess the child and find out the reasons and the nature of the difficulties the child is facing.

Once a  diagnosis of Dyslexia or other Learning disabilities is confirmed- the child would require Remedial education sessions to help her/ him overcome the difficulties and learn to read,spell and write better.

All children benefit from remedial education and the earlier this is started, the better it is for the child.

THE CHILD

It is very important to focus on the positives too!!

Remember in this whole process that we are working with a child. There are a lot of difficulties that the child faces and to top it all are the emotional factors that are always there.

 In the twenty years that I have worked with children with dyslexia and other disabilities, I have always seen that the child gets isolated- in school, at home and in all other groups. In school- if the child is not doing well academically or excelling in another area [sports for instance] there is a strong chance that the other children will not include him/her in their group.

At home- the focus is on working hard and doing well. Stress levels are high for parents and this transfers onto the child.

Caught between School , Remedial classes and Revision time with Parents at home- the child finds no time for play and other activities. The combined effect of all this is the child feels frustrated. Every thing seems like a struggle.

Some children vent this through anger and temper outbursts.

Some children react by ‘withdrawing’ -resulting in extremely low self esteem.

This portrayal is not intended to scare – but only to share the ways in which children are impacted and how they may react.

The best way is to talk to the child and help her/him share how they feel and what are the things they find difficult. Constantly reassure the child that the parents, teachers and special educator are there to help and support her/him in any way and at all times.

Encourage the child to participate in other activities and pursue areas of interests – sports / creative activities. It is extremely important for the child to get positive reinforcement, so do encourage the child to participate in activities s/he likes.  Remember academics is just one part of the child’s being.

Focus on the child and what she/he is feeling and always be there to support the child…

 

  Reema is in class three. 

  The first slide shows the sequencing of the letters of the alphabet. 

 The second shows her written attempt at sequencing the letters of the alphabet. 

 You will notice: 

 -The letter ‘B’ has been reversed 

-The sequence is not correct 

-There are two letters- ‘L’ and ‘K’ that have not found a place in the sequence at all! 

 You will notice the following:

  • There are errors in the sequencing
  • There is a mixed use of upper and lower case letters
  • There are letters that are missing

 Reema has extreme difficulties with Spellings as well.

About  Reema…

 Reema is a young, confident child who studies in one of the well-known schools in Delhi. She is finding it difficult to cope with reading and writing tasks. She is able to cope in class because of her comprehension abilities. She understands what is read out to her and is able to answer questions based on the material.

 Reema is getting support from the special educator in school. The Special Educator has ensured that she gets all the benefits a child with reading and spelling difficulties should get in. Reema is not asked to read aloud in class, her work is not marked for spelling and she is allowed to sit with the special educator for class tests and exams. The special educator  reads out the question and writes down the answers Reema gives.

Reema’s parents are worried about her inability to cope. They have recently got her assessed and got a formal report stating that she has a dyslexia.

Her parents are angry that the school did not tell them the specific difficulty their child was facing. They are angry about having lost out on two years of remedial intervention. According to them, if Reema had been assessed earlier, they could have found the appropriate support and it would have helped Reema.

Their inability to understand why Reema found reading and writing difficult resulted in a lot of frustration and confusion. Reema’s parents admit to having resorted to punitive measures that included hitting her frequently. They felt that their child was just being ‘lazy and careless’- a label that was reinforced by school.

Though Reema has lost out on two crucial years and has suffered both physically and psychologically, she still retains a smile on her face.

She has very few friends – a thing that a lot of children not doing well in school face- but tries to make the most of the situation.

She loves painting and is very good at all art and craft activities.

She has just started on a remedial programme and is picking up well. It will take some time before she is able to read and spell at age and grade appropriate levels, but she is working hard and moving towards that…