'Indian teachers still not trained to tackle dyslexia'
By Madhusree Chatterjee--- New Delhi, Sep 5 (IANS) Until 10 years ago, India was not dealing with learning disabilities like dyslexia in school. While the picture has changed somewhat in Delhi, other states have made little progress even now, says teacher-writer Meenakshi Dave.
September 5th. is Teacher's Day in India
"It is easy to understand learning disabilities if you have seen 'Taare Zameen Par'. It shows everything that a dyslexic child has to suffer in school. A teacher has to be sensitive and trained to tackle unhappy children with learning disabilities," Dave told IANS.
She is author of a new book, "Intelligent Otherwise: Identifying, Understanding and Tackling Learning Disabilities in Children". Published by Wisdom Tree, it was released this week by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who has also written the foreword.
"In India, even 10 years ago, we were not dealing with learning disabilities in school. The Bachelor of Education (BEd) training programme for teachers in India does not have any special module to identify learning disabilities in children and address them.
"There are a few schools in the capital now like Educare, Orchid and Action Dyslexia, but the states have no such facilities," Dave said.
The US, in comparison, where nearly 27 percent of children suffer from learning disabilities, have training schools for those who want to teach children with learning flaws.
"In India, researchers say only 10 percent of children suffer from learning disabilities, but the number is growing because of parents' expectations and faster lifestyles.
"In some schools, especially in Maharashtra, the authorities and the state government are making concessions for dyslexic students like reducing the number of examination papers, plying less homework and providing scribes to children with slow writing skills during examination," Dave said.
The relaxations stem from a Bombay High Court order, the writer said.
Awareness about dyslexia was generated to a great degree in India by the film "Taare Zameen Par" by actor Aamir Khan.
The four most common form of learning disabilities among Indian children, according to Dave, are "dyslexia, dysgraphia, attention deficit syndrome and dyscalculia".
Dyslexia, said Dave, was a language communication disability which gave rise to problems in reading, spelling, writing and comprehension.
"Dysgraphia is difficulty in written language when a child mixes up 'p with q' and 'b with d'. It becomes difficult for a child to put his thoughts on paper. Dyscalculia is a problem with numbers when children slip in mathematics and muddle double-digit numbers," Dave said.
But most children with learning disabilities can overcome them if they receive help in the early stages and even develop an IQ above the average.
"A child with learning disabilities usually has unique strengths. Many of them are good in music, arts and sports. It is up to the teacher to identify them and change the methods of teaching," said the writer, who has been a teacher for the better part of her life across the world.
Divided into three segments, the book begins with an introduction to general learning disabilities and subsequently lists their characteristics and causes. It then tries to assess and identify the disorders and probes each one of them separately.
The last section looks at learning disabilities in the Indian context and informs parents, teachers and readers about the government support system for children with special needs.
"I have a degree in teaching children with learning disabilities from the Washington Lab School and have also taught dyslexic children in the US when my husband was posted there," Dave said.
Some of the famous "children" with learning disabilities who grew up to be geniuses, as Dave lists in her book, are "Albert Einstein, the mathematical genius, who did not speak till three, Nelson Rockefeller, who had a serious problem with reading, Thomas Alva Edison, who was mentally addled; and former US president Woodrow Wilson, who did not learn his letters till he was nine years old".
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)