Learning Disability (LD) in persons signifies specific problems related to Language (Dyslexia), Writing (Dysgraphia) and Mathematics (Dyscalculia) affecting Learning – reading and writing, speaking and listening. In practice, the terms ‘Learning Disability’ and ‘Dyslexia’ are used interchangeably, thus giving the term ‘Dyslexia’ a wider scope.
Learning Disability can be inherited or acquired. A child may be born with this disability or may become so due to external factors such as birth trauma, head injuries, epilepsy etc. It exists in learners of low, average and superior intelligence. Children with LD can come from any social or economic background. Dyslexics are known to have a near normal or above normal IQ, and not having any serious sensory disability, emotional disturbance, brain pathology, social disadvantage etc.
Since Dyslexia is a dysfunction or impairment in the use of words, relations with others and performance in every subject in school can be affected by this disability.
Consequently, most of the Learning Disabled are being misunderstood as slow learners and indifferent children. Teachers fail to identify this problem in the initial stages. Hence, the child with this problem loses interest in studies and in most cases becomes a drop out.
It is important to diagnose the disability and start remedial measures when the child is young. If left unattended, children could get frustrated and lose confidence. They should be helped to deal with the academic and social problems that they may face. Otherwise, behavioural and emotional problems can arise. The earlier in the students’ life that we get at it, the better, but it is never too late and it is always too soon to give up, if the will is there.
In the developed countries they have recognized these disabilities in children and are trying to rehabilitate such children with extensive Psychological Research and suitable changes in their Educational Policies.
Learning Disability is not a rare phenomenon. Statistics in the west and India show that about 10 percent of the schools going to children in a regular classroom are Learning Disabled. With such high occurrence rate, it is a relief to learn that with appropriate intervention, training and support, such children can prove as worthy as any other of their peers. A stamping revelation is a group of dyslexics who have contributed remarkably in their areas of expertise, which is vast and diverse. Thomas Alva Edison, Agatha Christie, Woodrow Wilson, Sir Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Benjamin Franklin and Mozart are few successful person to mention, who are dyslexics. There sure are many more dyslexics, who have made worthy contribution in their own way in their own fields.
Dyslexics commonly have one or more of the following problems.
Difficulty in learning and remembering printed words.
Letter reversal (b for d, p for q) and number reversals (6 for 9) and the changed order of letters in words (tar for rat, quite for quiet) or numbers (12 for 21).
Leaving out or inserting words while reading.
Confusing vowel sounds.
Persistent spelling errors.
Difficulty in writing.
Short-term memory loss.
Inability to reproduce long passages in a cohesive way.
Dyslexics commonly have one or more of the following problems.
Delayed or inadequate speech.
Trouble with picking the right words to fit the meaning desired when speaking.
Problem with direction (up and down) and time (before and after, yesterday and tomorrow).
Generally clumsy, awkward in using hands.
In India, there are factors other than ‘Psychological’ defects that aggravate the deficiency of a child with Learning Disabilities:
Overcrowded classrooms this is due to overpopulation. Hence, inadequate individual attention
Multilingual medium of instruction
First generation learners students from uneducated family background
Neonatal disorders due to poor knowledge and inadequacy of hygiene and health, and poverty
The lack of awareness among parents and teachers about Learning Disabilities has put the suffering child from frying pan to fire. This hinders normal growth of the child and put the parents and teachers in a dilemma.
Society needs to be sensitized to this problem. Until then, it may help the child if the parent and the teacher observe a little discretion. However, the important fact is that the school and the family need to work in close association to get the best out of this child.
The past decade has witnessed a sudden spurt in the recognition of learning disabilities in India. This sensitivity has benefited some children who have to cope with the invisible learning disability. Besides the growing awareness there are still a number of misconceptions that are associated with the term ‘learning disabilities’. The reasons for these misconceptions are manifold learning disabilities are heterogeneous with different manifestations.
Fortunately, most children with LD have only a few of the problems mentioned above but the presence of even one is sufficient to create unique problematic educational needs. Every child with LD is unique. In addition, most of them are talented, so a little encouragement and support will help them go a long way.
Though our policy on Education has successfully framed rehabilitation programmes for the blind, deaf, mute and other physical disabilities, policy related to Learning Disability is yet to see the daylight. In absence of such a policy and incongruous environment, children with LD cannot be rehabilitated in regular schools. Though isolating such children from regular schools for training at Special Schools is not a good precedent, it is the best available option in the prevailing conditions and inevitable too.
The Nation’s commitment towards achieving the goal ‘education for all by 2000 AD’ remains unfulfilled and will remain so if educational opportunities is not extended to all school-going children including children with LD. More attention to these children by extending support to institutions and schools that help children with LD will certainly improve the scene. There are institutions which have trained personnel who could help assess the extent of damage and treat these children accordingly.
‘SAMVEDA Research and Training Centre’, the brainchild of Surendranath P. Nishanimut, an young entrepreneur turned “Special Educational Needs (SEN)” enthusiast, is one such responsible effort in rehabilitating children with Special Educational Needs’.
‘SAMVEDA’ is a Sanskrit word which means ‘ to be conscious of delicate feelings and to understand someone in the right perspective’.
‘SAMVEDA Training and Research Centre ®’, a registered non-profit and non-Government society was instituted in early 1995 under the able guidance of Dr.P.Prakash, Reader, Department of Psychology, University of Mysore, Mysore. Samveda is dedicated to the rehabilitation of children with learning disability, hearing impairment, speech disorders and mild mental retardation. SAMVEDA has been contributing in the field of Special Needs Education keeping in touch with the recent developments in the field of Educational Research in the developed world and keeping “Salamanca Framework (the ultimate guidelines on Special Needs Education declared by UNESCO), as its foundation. “SAMVEDA UNESCO CLUB” started in the year 1997 under the able guidance of Mr. Praveen Fernandes, Director General, INFUCA, Bangalore is active in creating awareness about “Special Educational Needs” through campaigns in rural and semi urban areas, training rural teachers and such other programmes.
SAMVEDA takes up the responsibility of training and rehabilitating 50 children with Special Educational Needs annually.
These children are screened through tests conducted by experienced Clinical Psychologists and are classified as:
Children to continue education in regular schools and
Children who can’t continue education in regular schools
Children under the first category, who are under performers at School are given full time training for a definite period and are sent back to the regular School. Some times, they are prepared for ‘Public Examinations (VII & X grades)’ to appear as private candidates. Children who cannot continue education in regular Schools are trained for ‘Life’ through vocational training programmes. The teaching and training methods are designed in accordance with a “Code of Practice” which is in concurrence to the prevailing Educational System.
Apart from teaching and training, Surendranath P. Nishanimut and his staff are engaged in developing lessons, models, methods, jigs, fixtures, etc. Hence, the research activities are continuous along with teaching and training. These activities are being pursued since Seven years with meager resources (Collection of Fees from students is the only source of funds).
Teachers’ Training Workshops: These Workshops are designed to explore the methodology required to develop a systematic technique to create awareness on Learning Disability among Primary School Teachers. As a result of this, a training model is designed to build LD awareness. SAMVEDA has begun additional activities like Awareness Campaigns on ‘Special Educational needs’ in semi-urban and rural areas, training rural Teachers in Special Education and Counseling Parents providing them with necessary information about Learning Disabilities and Special Education.
In addition to pursuing the ongoing programmes, SAMVEDA is planning to include into its purview:
A self sustained Training and Research centre capable of training 100 children with SEN, annually
Training SEN teachers and providing Research Assistance
Providing Assistance in case based Research programmes
A full-fledged campus with Schools, Libraries, Playgrounds, Hostels, Workshops, Teacher Training Colleges, Research Centres, etc.
Further development of classroom aids, tools, jigs, fixtures, games, models, etc.
Representing problems related to children with SEN to the Educational Policy Makers
Establishing contact/network with all other organizations/institutions engaged in similar work, in India and Abroad
Creating and maintaining a Data Bank related to children with SEN
Publishing books in local languages in SEN and related matters