By Dr. Ali Khwaja, Counsellor, Life Skills Coach and founder of Banjara Academy
Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer. Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, gave up a medical career and wrote in his autobiography “I was considered by all my masters and by my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.” Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. He also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was expelled and was refused admittance to the ZurichPolytechnicSchool.
What do the above examples tell you? If you believe in the child and give him proper guidance, no Learning Disability can stop him from becoming successful. The world, and in particular India, is poised at a technological breakthrough. New ideas and better opportunities are coming up day by day – and it is not only in the IT sector. What is important is that the child’s difficulties need to be identified as early as possible, so that the right remedial teaching can be given.
Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is easily identifiable now with standardized testing procedures. At the first step the teacher herself can use basic tests to identify the possibility of LD, and then if necessary a Special Educator or Psychologist can do detailed testing and give a comprehensive report. Yet it is found that innumerable children suffer as no assessment is done till things go out of control.
Not many teachers are aware that LD leads to emotional disturbance in a child, eventually resulting in unwanted behavior, punishments, and loss of motivation. In many children who are sent to counselors for behavior issues it finally turns out that it was their Learning Disability that made them isolated, frustrated and defensive. It is imperative that all teachers are given orientation to be able to differentiate between a ‘naughty’ child and one who disturbs the class because he cannot connect with academics. When the child knows that he is intelligent and knowledgeable, and yet finds that he cannot write properly in exams or score good marks, it can be an extremely frustrating experience, leading to many unconnected issues. Hence, the earlier a teacher identifies the cause, the easier it is to take remedial action.
It would be even better if schools could create ‘Resource Rooms’ where some trained teachers and a visiting Special Educator can give individual attention to fulfill the specific requirements of the student with special needs. It is not a very expensive proposition, and most parents would be willing to bear the cost in the interest of a good future for the child. What should definitely NOT be done is subjecting the child to more and more coaching or tuition.
It is equally important to explain to the child how he is different, and not inferior to others. Accepting the child with his special needs, giving him unconditional love, praising his other abilities and talents, and then guiding him in study methodology, can work wonders. With Learning Disabilities being estimated anywhere between 10-20% of all students (with greater numbers among boys than in girls), this issue needs to be tackled through team work among parents, teachers and Special Educators. The good news is that today’s generation has wide opportunities as far as careers are concerned, and if the abilities of every child are identified and matched, he or she can go on to make a successful career and future. But if the process is delayed many promising children may wallow in disappointment, failure and frustration. The time to act is now.