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26 Aug 2009
Perspective on Learning Disability


By Shefali R. Shah

Shefali R. Shah is a Consulting Psychologist, School Counsellor and a Remedial Educator currently practicing as a Psychologist and School Counsellor at Manav Mandir School and Child Guidance Centre.

Illustrations :
'Payal reads very slowly, often misses letters and cannot pronounce simple words.'
'Avinash cannot copy from the black-board. His handwriting is illegible, forgets names, cannot identify characters, has limited vocabulary and is poor in spellings.
'Aditya, above intelligent child always ends up getting borderline marks.
When parents are confronted with such situations and they react with predictable dismay and bewilderment or worse they think it to be inattentiveness or some kind of Mental Retardation and refuse to acknowledge the existence of a problem.
However, these are situations that require expert handling as probably they are the first manifest signs of hidden handicaps called 'Learning Disability'.

What is Learning Disability?
Term Learning Disability describes persons having difficulty in understanding or in using spoken or written language. They manifest such difficulty in specific areas of listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling or mathematical calculation. This group of persons differs from those having handicaps such as Mental Retardation, Visual or Hearing impairment emotional / behavioural disorder or environmental Disadvantage.

Highlights Of Significant Dimensions:
i) Learning Disabled Child shows discrepancy between achievement and intelligence.
ii) Learning Disability is not synonymous with Mental Retardation, it is a psychological processing affecting language and numbers.
iii) All underachievers are not L.D. children.
'Learning Disability is not a Disease but a 'Disorder', Individuals with L.D. can learn, but they learn differently. They need to be taught in a way that makes it possible for them to use their abilities to compensate for their weaknesses.

Frequently asked questions are “What are the signs and symptoms that help one recognize whether a person is learning Disabled or simply careless or inattentive?” It is not possible to lay down clear-cut characteristics as the kind of severity of the problem may vary from person to person. The symptoms occur in cluster and not in isolation.

General Characteristics:
- Inconsistent school performance
- Short attention span
- Difficulty in memorization.
- Letters and numbers reversals, inversions, transposition
  (b/d or P, pots/stop, M/W)
- Poor reading, writing, spelling & mathematics.
- Directional and time confusion, (left/right, up/down)
- Speech problems (difficulty expressing ideas, poor recall)
- Poor organizational skills.
- Failure on written tests but high on orals & vice versa.
At certain developmental stages some of these symptoms are found in many children, but if a child has cluster of symptoms which do not disappear as he/she gets older, an expert's guidance is required to rule out the possibility of Learning Disability.

Types of Learning Disability:
Dyslexia - Disorders of Reading
Dysgraphia - Disorders of Writing
Dyscalculia - Disability of Mathematical Calculation.

Identification, Assessment, Remediation:
Early diagnosis and timely intervention by a Psychologist is of prime importance as it can be of great support for the affected person to live normal life both at home and at school. It is also possible to identify L.D. Children from pre-school onwards.
Once Learning Disability is confirmed, the child needs appropriate specialist teaching to overcome the problem. Structured specialized teaching according to the needs of a child is known as Remediation.
Specially trained teachers fully equipped at handling such persons are called Remedial Teachers.
Remediation provides systematic input which is direct and intensive. It helps locate the problem and then addresses that particular problem. It focuses on improving their skills in reading, writing oral expressions etc. Working intensively on these target areas help the child to learn and apply those learned skills in various areas, enhancing academic progress and motor skills.

Final Word:
Some of the most famous personalities are believed to have been Dyslexic including ALBERT EINSTEIN, pablo Picasso, Thomas Edison, Tom Cruise, Walt Disney. Dyslexia didn't stop these famous people from achieving greatness. In some cases it may have fuelled their creative fires.

Food for Thought:
On an ending note, I would like to tell all parents that each child is unique & has untapped potential so it is our prime responsibility to make sure their potential is challenged in right direction. Childhood is the formative part of one's life. It is our prime duty to help children understand themselves and world around them, explore their creativity and encourage their talents. Childhood is not only about studies, it is also about preparing children to face combat of life with all its successes and failures. We should inculcate in them a sense of self-respect, courage and confidence, so that they go ahead in life with dignity.

Negligence on our part will only stagnate their growth, so let us all wish them:
"Courage that endures, survives and never loses hope
 Courage that will sustain through every darkness
 Courage that will turn defeat into victory and
 Courage that will accomplish their dreams & aspiration."

Shefali R. Shah can be contacted at  9820842515





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