Trouble with words
Success in schools depends on learning the three R's. But what of a child who seems unable to do so?
Create a positive environment: Dyslexic children need special care to help them overcome their disability. Photo: AFP
THOMAS ALVA EDISON, inventor of the telephone, microphone, the phonograph and the electric light bulb, was thought to be a dunce at school. He could never learn the alphabet or math; his spelling and grammar were appalling.
Statistics show that about 10 per cent of school going children experience specific learning disability called Dyslexia (dys meaning difficulty and lexia meaning words) The World Federation of Neurology defines Dyslexia as "a disorder manifested by difficulties in learning to read, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and socio-cultural opportunity".
Runs in families
There is evidence to show that Dyslexia runs in the families and is hereditary. A person can also become dyslexic due to external factors like birth trauma, oxygen deprivation or accidents resulting in brain injuries, epilepsy and drugs prescribed for the control of seizures can also cause dyslexia. The degree of dyslexia can range from mild to severe. Children who are mildly dyslexic learn to cope by themselves.
Children who display symptoms of dyslexia are not dull. Constant criticism and failure can affect the children emotionally. They develop low self-esteem and school becomes a stressful place for them. They may even be prone to depression and outbursts of anger. In many cases, it is not just the child who suffers but also the entire family. Parents are upset and angry at the child's non-performance. The child is pushed from school to tuition teacher and failure becomes a part of life.
Parents should accept the fact that the child has a learning disability and take suitable remedial measures. They should not compare the child with other children. They should consult other parents who have faced such pressures and also find out more about the problem.
Teachers also have a role to play in creating a positive environment. A school must have teachers qualified in remedial education to identify and give them help. A teacher who handles 40-50 children in a class will no doubt find it difficult to give individual help during the regular hours, but he/she can certainly try to meet the special needs of these children by giving them some concessions, especially in the primary classes.
Both parents and teachers must try to create a friendly and cordial atmosphere for the children. They must not criticise the children constantly. These children are not lazy or dull. They need to be taught in a special way to bring out their best. They have several strengths. Adults must not give an impression that they are concentrating on the child's weaknesses alone.
Dyslexia can be identified early by the time the child is five years old. Early identification and intervention is much easier than remedial education in late years. Schools can also adopt appropriate systems of modifications in their evaluation. There is an urgent need to establish learning centres and train more teachers and parents in recognising and dealing with this problem.
What to look for
A student who is dyslexic:
Will answer correctly orally but cannot do so in writing.
Will read "was" as "saw"; "14" as "41"; "91" as "61".
Has difficulty in differentiating the sounds of letters like `p' and `b' or `t' and `d'.
Loses pace while reading and often skips lines.
Draws well but has a very poor handwriting.
Hates spelling and reading
What parents can do
Help the child in the following ways:
To manage time
To put things in their places
To focus attention
To read and do homework
To take the right books to school
Give precise and clear instructions
Do not give punishments for clumsiness, delay in completing work
Give constant positive inputs
Instruct using `do's' rather than `don'ts'
Impart social skills
What teachers can do
Teachers can help in the following ways:
Give less written work
Test children orally
Give marks for content.
Introduce abstract ideas through pictures and objects
Give precise clear, short instructions
Give extra time to finish tests
Do not punish for poor handwriting or messy work
Emphasise quality of work
Avoid punishment for minor misbehaviour
Children with dyslexia may also have problems in areas like organisation, memory, physical coordination, attention and concentration, languages and social behaviour.
Organisation could include find the time, date and year, completing assignments, locating belongings.
Under Memory, the problems could include remembering directions; learning maths, new procedures, alphabets and spellings; identifying letters; remembering names and events.
Physical Coordination includes problems with manipulating small objects; learning self-help skills, cutting, drawing, handwriting, climbing and running and other sports.
Attention and Concentration include problems with completing a task, acting before thinking, restlessness, daydreaming.
Language problems may include pronouncing words, learning new words, following directions, understanding requests, relating stories, responding to questions, reading comprehension.
Social behaviour includes problems with making and keeping friends, impulsive behaviour, accepting changes in routine; interpreting non-verbal clues and working as a team.
Indian Dyslexia Association
290/7, Venkataramiah Layout, Ramamurthy Nagar Main Road, Banaswadi, Bangalore - 43
Dept. Of Child Pyschiatry
Bangalore - 29
Madras Dyslexia Association
15, Sambasivam Street, Chennai - 17
Sankalp The Learning Centre
J14, 13th Main Road Plot No. 1569/1
Anna Nagar West, Chennai - 40.
No. 1, Institutional Area, Nehru Nagar,
New Delhi - 65.
Action Dyslexia Delhi
E 263 Greater Kailash II, New Delhi - 48.
Ph: 011- 26435803; 26223476
Send this article to Friends by