I AM SMART, BUT YOU CAN'T PROVE IT ON PAPER
Specific Learning Disorder is a neurological condition and as the name suggests it is a learning disorder. SLD is a group term that shelters many specific areas of deficits that some human minds harbour. The rate with which SLD is prevailing in India and the rest of the world is rather an alarming situation and also alarming that the term SLD is not gaining its awareness with its increasing rate. The child that lives with such a condition is unable to cope with the traditional and ancient learning methods that the children are introduced in the education system. A child with this condition requires alternative styles of learning in order to make sense of something that other’s find normal to understand. Not only some concepts are challenging for such a child, along with it making the social adjustments, keeping up with the expectations of the parents, teachers, but friends and rest of the society also gets challenging every single day. As a result, the pressure builds up in a child’s mind, feels stressed, anxious and his self-efficacy goes down dramatically. The child facing Multifood challenges in the school and academics, not being able to figure out why things are so complicated for him /her when everyone else seems to understand things just fine, eventually loses self-confidence and might develop a sense of worthlessness. With the increasing pressure, the child finds himself lost and alone and it all becomes so overwhelming for the child that now the only option the child sees is dropping out of school because he/she can no longer bear the pressure. The world has witnessed many such unfortunate dropout cases.
It is true that this neurological conditioned may not be cured completely at least as of now as per the current medical standing, however, a child with a specific learning disability should not have to face such an unbearable living condition that they see no alternative other than giving up the whole idea of studying or learning new things. The truth is that the world has gained drastic understanding and knowledge through studies, interventions and observations etc., and now there is so much of help available for the children suffering from SLD, their parents and teachers that this condition can definitely be managed with proper care, understanding, little support and alternative teaching approach.
Why a particular child is born with such neurological condition can not medically be suggested with the highest precision, however certain factors have been identified that may cause this condition. These cause can be biological and/or environmental. For instance premature birth, diabetes, meningitis or due to hereditary reasons. Other factors may include teratogenic factors (like consumption of alcohol or cocaine during pregnancy) and environmental factors like malnutrition or poor prenatal health care. It is recommended for parents during pregnancy to take proper care should be taken of the mother and of the unborn child.
Specific Learning Disorder is an umbrella term that shelters more than one condition or deficits in the area of learning. Dyslexia is the most popular type of learning disorder that people might have heard of because it has gained the attention of media lately. Dyslexia refers to a condition when the child is not able to read or comprehend alphabets correctly. Imagine if you are unable to visually perceive the alphabets correctly how do u expect yourself to read or comprehend what is written correctly. It's a challenging situation that the child faces because the data their mind is receiving is corrupt. Now imagine the frustrations any young mind would go through because it is not their fault that their machinery is faulty. The troubles for such SLD children do not end with not being able to read the letters, rather it marks the beginning of their troubles. They are cognitively not mature enough to explain their situation to anyone, either they try harder fighting against all odds or they just give up. What would you do in such a situation, when you are unable to perform a task because it is beyond your existing potential? And yet you are expected to get it done as others think that you are simply making an excuse, taking the heat from parents, teachers and the burden of societal expectations, especially when ironically the loved ones and close ones should be extending the warmth of their love, support and understanding.
Apart from dyslexia other types of learning disorders are dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dyspraxia. Dyscalculia is a condition where the child faces difficulty in the area of calculations or mathematics. Some child may be able to learn to add the numbers properly but might not be able to multiply or divide. It is obvious that not being able to do something basic hampers the ability to acquire more complex skills. Dysgraphia refers to the inability of the mind to be able to write properly, that is lack coordination between mind and sensorimotor abilities. Not being able to write neatly, or between the given lines or space, unable to draw even basic shapes properly or copy something simply by looking at it becomes a challenging task which may seem impossible to overcome for the young untrained mind. Dyspraxia is a deficit which refers to a condition when the mind is unable to perform the tasks properly that requires movement and coordination, such as holding and gripping the pencil, running in a straight line or jumping etc., these may include gross motor and fine motor actives.
Children with specific learning disability although have certain areas of deficit but on the contrary, the beauty is that such children possess either normal or above the normal level of IQ, their perceptual reasoning and working memory are rather strong in many cases. The world has seen many geniuses who suffered from such learning difficulties in their early life but that did not stop them from achieving their worth and fulfilling their destiny. This fact is implied to any and every child with a specific learning disability is that with some support they too can learn to manage their challenges and turn it all around to achieve the success they deserve.
Now the question is how do you find out which child is suffering from SLD. There are formal methods of assessment for the diagnosis of SLD which is only to be performed by a clinical psychologist. However when and why would any parent take their child to a clinical psychologist to have them assessed? The ideal procedure should be somewhat like this, such children who had certain delays in reaching their developmental milestones, following multiple-step instructions, improper hand-eye coordination, carrying of simple gross motor activities like walking in straight line, fine motor activities such as tying shoelaces, buttoning up or gripping a pencil properly and many others. Parents should keep a close watch on their child's learning behaviour and learning patterns. SLD is only assessed formally at or after the age of 6-8 years. The clinical psychologist runs a series of tests depending upon the areas of concerns, as deemed necessary. Based on the formal assessment done by a licenced professional should a child be regarded or disregarded to have SLD. Also based upon the areas of concerns, a proper intervention is planned for the child. Parents should know that every child with a specific learning disability has an equal right to study in a normal school or normal educational setting, however, they require additional educational support at school and at home. Other help available for SLD children or any children with special needs is special education school, occupational therapists and home programs such as individualised educational plan, etc.
In many countries as well as our own, SLD is now recognised as a medical condition that demands special provisions and care. The government has set many guidelines and provisions that are to be followed in the formal educational environment like any normal school. With the help of teachers, little understanding from peers and unconditional love from parents this neurological disorder called SLD can very well be managed. It is the foremost duty of any teacher and parents or caregivers to understand the normal as well as special needs of children they are responsible for because it is in their hands that the life of such tiny souls depends on!