Learning to Live with Dyslexia

Oct 18, 2009

The film ‘Taare Zameen Par’ might have for the first time created some responsiveness in public mind in India about dyslexia also known as Specific Learning Disorder. Apart from creating some awareness the movie could not do much to dispel the doubts and ignorance that still prevails in public mind about this learning disability.  People still shy away from accepting to live with this disability.  It is estimated that in India about 3 crore school going children suffering from dyslexia. It is however distressing to note that our country still lacks the basic criterion to identify these children and give them the required attention to enable them to come to terms with their disability. It is disheartening to note that the parents, the teachers or pediatricians are aware of the seriousness of the condition or problem of dyslexia thus leaving the children to fend for them and many of them suffer from, low self esteem, depression and suicidal tendencies. 

Dyslexia is a type of learning disability and not a disease as is generally believed to be. It's a condition that one is born with, and it often runs in families. People with dyslexia are not stupid or lazy. Most have average or above-average intelligence and they work very hard to overcome their learning problems.  Dr Elizabeth Daniel, Senior Associate Professor of Clinical Science Psychology at K M C, Mangalore, says “about 10 to 20 per cent children suffer from this learning disability.  In a literate district like Dakshina Kannada also parents or teachers are not able to identify the disorder among the children or are ignorant about the disorder.  Most of these children are intelligent but don’t do well in reading, writing or mathematics. Very often because of their intelligence parents term these children as lazy rather than realizing their child is suffering from the learning disorder”.   

It is said that there are several kinds of disabilities and dyslexia is one of them.  The term is used when people have difficulty learning to read, even though they are smart enough and are motivate to learn.  As Dr Elizabeth Daniel says “these children may learn to spell the word correctly at home trying their best to remember by writing hundred times but may not be able to repeat it while writing the next day as their brain is not able to remember and reproduce it what they have learnt.

Dyslexia is not a disease and hence has no medical cure.  It is a disorder that offers challenges which needs to be fought on a daily basis.  Children suffering from this disorder are of average or above average intelligence.  Counseling might be helpful only to the parents as they are required to understand their children’s disorder and respond humanely in dealing with them says Dr Daniel.  Experts feel that since dyslexic children find it difficult to learn at the pace that is used in the normal classrooms the focus should be on providing individualized education depending on their specific needs at a slow pace.  Dr Daniel feels “individualized educational programme (IEP) is the only solution that can help these children to cope with this disorder.  Every school should have a specialized teacher trained to deal with such students which will go a long way in helping them to cope with their disorder”. 

Of course there is some ray of for these children and present and future does not look as gloomy as it was a few years back.  School authorities, the general public and the governments are slowly waking up to the needs of dyslexic students, a move that would go a long way in helping these children.  In a major move Government of Karnataka, department of Public Instruction has  allowed dyslexic candidates to drop mathematics and general science and take up optional subjects such as Indian Political Science, Indian Economics, Indian History, Hindustani or Carnatic Music.  From the academic year 2009-10 the Secondary School Leaving (SSLC) examination marks cards of dyslexic candidates will recognize them as having Specific Learning Disability.  It would be a great boon for the children as until now the marks cards of such students used to be marked as “Dyslexia/Spastic”. 

These concessions have come as a great relief for children suffering from this disorder and their anxious parents.  According to K S Gopalan, President of Malleswaram Dyslexia Association, Bangalore, who has been working tirelessly for these concessions, says “now the children can opt for arts subjects instead of science.  Many parents are not aware of these concessions now available for dyslexic students.  We want the education department to be more considerate and include Home Science also as an optional subject”.

The education department of Karnataka state had allowed many concessions to these students.  In government recognized schools students suffering from this learning disability are allowed to use simple calculators during exams and the department has instructed evaluators to condone small and minor spelling mistakes.  The pattern of examination is also changed for these students.  While students of classes 1 and 2 can have only oral examination those in 3rd and 4th standard will have 75% oral assessment.  In 5th, 6th and 7th they have to answer 50:50 oral and written exam while those in 8th and 9th will have 30:70 ratio of oral and written examination.  But in 10th standard the students are required to answer written exam entirely. 

The efforts of Gopalan and his association have done tremendous work in ensuring maximum concessions from the education department.  Earlier it was required that a district surgeon certify the child suffers from dyslexia.  With many district surgeons refusing to do so the association once again impressed upon the government to name a few certifying agencies.  Now leading hospitals like NIMHANS, AIISH in Bangalore or any psychiatrist working in a government hospital, a clinical psychologist with a minimum M.Phil degree are authorized to issue these certificates.  Students appearing for SSLC exam next year are required to submit original certificates on the first day of admission to class 9 along with application for the SSLC examination. 

Dr Daniel feels the problem manifests in full when the child reaches 7 or eight years.  When the child is in 3rd or 4th standard it is unable cope with the load of studies.  The child with dyslexia can be identified if it is

weak in recognizing numbers, letters & words
has difficulty remembering numbers & letters in sequence
poor in manipulation of numbers & letters
Poor in spellings.
However, in order to suspect dyslexia, it is said that a cluster of symptoms must be evident and not just one symptom.  The disorder can result in loss of self confidence, limited interaction and friendship, depression, and failure in school and career. However, these stages can be prevented by early diagnosis, special remedial measures and teaching of skills to cope with the disorder.  

The disorder varies from person to person from mild to moderate and severe.  It is said that the only common trait among people with dyslexia is that they read at levels significantly lower than typical for people of their age and intelligence.  Experts believe that the disorder occurs in up to 15% of the general population.  Though one has to live with the problem through out his life it is believed that the problem can be dealt with effectively to enable those having the disorder  reach greater heights of glory.  Those who suffer from this can take heart from the fact that famous personalities like Nelson Rockefeller, singer-actor Cher, Thomas Alva Edison, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Woodrow Wilson etc., suffered from this order and have successfully overcome it to leave an indelible mark in their respective fields.    If they can do so can others having similar learning disorder. 

Prof Gopalan, who heads the Malleswaram Dyslexia Association is a retired Prof from St Josephs Bangalore and can be contacted on email id  gopalan08@hotmail.com or 0091-80 23446058, 0091- 9341919101

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by Florine Roche - Daijiworld Media Network Mangalore
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Comment on this article

  • Pradeep, Bangalore

    Tue, Sep 22 2015

    The best center to go to is the Spastics society. I know that it is in Bangalore, not sure about other cities

  • sarita hood, aurangabad

    Wed, Jul 22 2015

    excellent article.i work with children with learning disability and often find it very frustrating to get parents to assess their children. i try and do my best but at times i feel at a dead end. i dont give up and try new things.

  • NAGARAJ, bangalore

    Fri, Nov 19 2010

    My son suffereing with dyslexia and now he is 14 years old and studying in 6 th std . He is very difficult to read and write properly. He is physically normal and he could not able to understand quickly. and pls help me how to improve him in studies and have any medicine for this or how to we improve him in studies.If anybody have solution pls mail me to nagrajn@rediffmail.com

  • devendra kumar sharma, andaman and nicobar

    Tue, Jan 19 2010

    I am 23 year old I think I m suffring from Dyslexia. Is there any hospital in bangalore to check Dyslexia

  • learning to live with Dyslexia, madhu varshney

    Thu, Dec 10 2009

    nice article. My 18 yr old son is dyslexic and not even 10th pass. he can not co-operate in exam. But learning multimedia and web designing very well. I am worried about his future. Please guide me. Do u know any school where I can put him to learn about life independently.

  • Prithvi, Mumbai

    Wed, Oct 21 2009

    Could you pl enlighten us on concessions available to children with physical disability too


    Tue, Oct 20 2009


  • siddik,treat/puttur, badagannur

    Tue, Oct 20 2009

    Excellent and very informative article. Thanks Florine.

  • Shobha, Mangalore

    Tue, Oct 20 2009

    My sincere thanx to Walter of Daijiworld and to Florine for highlighting this issue. Having faced this situation first hand, I know how difficult it is to come to terms with recognising and accepting this condition . I would also like to thank school authorities of my childs school who have helped us go ahead in life and recognise the hidden potential in our child.

  • Veena Pinto, Shirva / Goa

    Mon, Oct 19 2009

    Thanks Florine for such an excellent article. Schools must have at least half day's training for the teachers every acadamic year to identify students with dyslexia and also other learning disabilities. Many times such students suffer a lot in school. Teachers think that the child is not taking his studies very seriously, therefore he does not perform well acadamically. Even his classmates do not treat him well. The child gets frustrated. Awareness about dyslexia is very important.

  • Roopa, Mangalore/Dubai/Australia

    Mon, Oct 19 2009

    Excellent and very informative article. Thanks Florine.

  • Fr. Melwin Pinto S.J., Mangalore

    Mon, Oct 19 2009

    Thanks Florine for enlightening the DAIJIWORLD readers. As a school principal I am aware of the importance of this issue. There is a lot more that the schools can do with dyslexic students. The heads of schools and teachers need to be enlightened about this problem. Unfortunately we have failed to discover the talents of the dyslexic children. May this article set the ball rolling....

  • Fr. Melwin Pinto S.J., Mangalore

    Mon, Oct 19 2009

    Thanks Florine for enlightening the DAIJIWORLD readers. As a school principal I am aware of the importance of this issue. There is a lot more that the schools can do with dyslexic students. The heads of schools and teachers need to be enlightened about this problem. Unfortunately we have failed to discover the talents of the dyslexic children. May this article set the ball rolling....

  • Anil, Halealve/Cardiff

    Sun, Oct 18 2009

    That was indeed a great article. Not many know about Dylexia. In fact here in my university, there are special classes along with the main course just to help these guys. Thanks For writing about this and yea shed more light on stammering too.

  • M P Bhat, Mangalore

    Sun, Oct 18 2009

    Thanks,Daijiworld and Florine for the excellent article on learning disability. I hope this will help many such inidviduals who are facing this problem and dont know how to go about it. The Governments support to such students is to be appreciated and so also Prof Gopalans work.

  • wilfred, london

    Sun, Oct 18 2009

    Very good article Florine Roche Kindly write some articles on Asperger syndrome, autism, epilepsy,learning disbility(mild,moderate,severe)dementia . it would bring more awareness among our readers . God bless you

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