The problem of dyslexia has not been taken seriously by successive policy makers
By Ashba Kamran
The problem of learning difficulties is rising among children, particularly in rural areas. Parents of these children need timely information about the problem. The prevailing ignorance has dragged many children to the abyss, as parents mix up mental retardation with learning difficulty. The drop-out ratio from public schools, merely due to learning difficulty, is on the rise, as there is no arrangement to understand the strengths and weaknesses behind reading mechanism among children.
A majority of children facing the problem of slow learning are incapable of attending their schools properly because of their lack of abilities. The problem of slow learning seems to be increasing as the latest data shows that two out of ten children are facing such difficulties nowadays.
It is, indeed, becoming a great challenge for many in our society to deal with their offspring passing through the problem of dyslexia. The problem of dyslexia has not been taken seriously by successive governments, as no school, academy or centre is set up in the country to deal with it. Only a few scattered efforts are being made here and there, putting the parents of these children into a difficult situation most of the time.
Inattentiveness, distractibility, and learning disorders interfere with academic progress despite the presence of a normal IQ. If the child does have special learning difficulties, he will have harder time learning than his intellectual peers will. To learn, a child must tolerate frustration, as some subjects are hard to understand and cannot be mastered without stick-to-itiveness. In addition, a child must pay attention to learn, as intelligence is not enough.
If the child cannot pay attention to what is being taught, he is, for all practical purposes, not there. Elementary school requires a good deal of boring repetition, practice, and drill. A child who cannot force himself to complete tedious, disagreeable school tasks will have trouble in learning reading, spelling, and arithmetic. A slow-learner child is highly likely to fall behind and become an underachiever. As the child gets further behind, he will experience more frustration and criticism from teachers, parents, and fellow students. His parents will nag him for not doing his homework. He may be placed in a catch-up class or a special learning difficulty class. He will regard himself as stupid and may be taunted as a “retard” by other children.
The absence of proper schools for training of slow learning children, facing the dyslexia problem is a worrisome situation. The non-availability of proper schools for slow learners in the country is costing the parents heavily, as they have no option but to hire private trainers on high fee. The private schools are not entertaining the slow learners and shunting them out on account of their slow learning pace. Resultantly, these children become ineffective resource of the society because of the neglecting attitude of the schools and finally parents.
Only the well-off families can afford private trainers and consultants to train and up-bring their children. But a large number of children, especially those from the poor families, are left with the ignorance of society. A large number of slow learners are living at the edge of devastating future because of the shortage of proper training facilities in the country.
Parents and teachers should help institutions in identifying slow learners for their proper education and training. Parents should reassess their attitude toward their child’s difficulty and start supporting them with positive behaviour. Psychiatrists should not discourage kids or their patents about their potential to achieve success in school and career. Any discouraging attitude develops negative thinking in children with learning difficulties that there is something horribly wrong with them because parents approach their difficulty with fear… or maybe even anger.
Parents must develop patience to tolerate frustration on the part of children with learning difficulty, as some subjects are hard to understand and cannot be mastered. The elementary school requires a good deal of boring repetition, practice, and drill. A child who cannot force himself to complete tedious, disagreeable school tasks will have trouble in mastering reading, spelling, and arithmetic. This is the area where the role of parents starts for growth of children with learning difficulties.
No doubt, care of special persons is primarily a responsibility of the state and all efforts to this effect are always proved as insufficient. It is an irony that no particular attention is extended to the welfare of special persons in the society and present step of setting up a centre with all the necessary facilities would be a great favour to this highly neglected segment of the society.
Unfortunately, the problem is not being taken seriously either by the parents or the respective governments, as no school, academy or centre is set up in the country to deal with this problem in children. Only a few scattered efforts are being made here and there, putting the parents of these children into a troublesome situation for most of the time.
The Punjab government deserves appreciation for announcing setting up of Rs1 billion state-of-the-art centre for the welfare and rehabilitation of the special persons. It is a right step in the right direction. The need of looking into the problems of slow learners besides considering the plight of mentally retarded children is needed in the society.
The government should set up information centres for parents on the nature, causes, and treatment of Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) in public schools. Standardisation tests are established worldwide to assess the learning strength of children. Most standardised reading tests access competency by comparing actual skill with age-based expected skill. Other tests compare actual skill with expected skill based on a closely related skill.
The government should appoint ADD trained experts in public schools to save children from drop-out. These experts would educate parents on the concept of ADD and advise them to take their children to schools and educational institutions working on rehabilitation of slow learners.
The government should address the problems of slow learners and help out the parents by setting up schools for special children in major cities of the country.