September 15, 2022
Every child is different. Have you ever wondered, while in school, why different children scored differently in tests/exams? There are students who score well in math, some who score well in languages, while others score well in other courses/subjects. There are some who score well in all and a small percentage who in the traditional definition "struggle" to score well in any.
Yes, there can be a debate on how an examination/test/assessment conducted is for the most part favoring those who memorize a lot rather than those who apply what they have learnt. That discussion is like going down a rabbit hole and in tangents, which is not the topic of conversation here. For arguments sake, let us assume the version of assessment is what you intend should be. Even then you will find a distribution of performance varying and in parallel to the current distribution of performance. So, if it’s not the assessment, not the mode of teaching (as both are assumed to be the best optimal versions of themselves) what can be the differentiating factor. In such a situation it often is the learning readiness of the student.
If you are to consider the learning experience of a student as a series of gears, what you see below is a representation of attributes needed for effective learning.
As facilitators, we can have a huge influence on the first two attributes i.e. , Access to quality education and motivation to learn. But the capabilities of a student are built over time and many a times when the student is experiencing challenges at school or at learning in general, which can’t be explained by the lack of other two attributes it is down to the capabilities.
Learning disorder is an information-processing problem that prevents a person from learning a skill and using it effectively. A student who might seem to understand every aspect of what is being taught, would find it difficult to apply or replicate it when asked or when assessed. This situation can occur with any student regardless of the background he/she/they come from.
Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors that alter brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory and attention. It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace.
Learning Gaps can also occur from environmental factors, which make the shortcomings appear as a learning disorder, but once addressed can be rectified without leading to a lifelong challenge.
As per recent stats, in India, 10 to 12 percent of outgoing children do have a certain degree of learning disorder. Considering the scale of the population this amounts to the total population of some nations.
At a broad level, there are majorly three types of learning disorders.
Dyslexia: A specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills.
Dysgraphia: A specific learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills
Dyscalculia: A specific learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts.
There are multiple types which indicate more specific learning disorders, but for the most part they would fall under one of these three or a combination of them.
Another important aspect of learning disorders is that they can occur independently without any comorbid condition or can exist alongside other conditions such as ADHD, Autism etc., which make it a challenge to diagnose an LD.
As with any condition, what as facilitators (parents, teachers, care takers) we can do is keep an eye out for red flags. The sooner the condition is addressed, the lesser would be the effort/time needed to fill the gap and the more equipped will the student/child become in managing the challenges independently.
People with dyslexia often show the following signs:
• Having a hard time understanding what others are saying
• Difficulty organizing written and spoken language
• Delay in being able to speak
• Difficulty expressing thoughts or feelings
• Difficulty learning new words (vocabulary), either while reading or hearing
• Trouble learning foreign languages
• Difficulty learning songs and rhymes
• Slow rate of reading, both silently and out loud
• Giving up on longer reading tasks
• Difficulty understanding questions and following directions
• Poor spelling
• Problems remembering numbers in sequence (for example, telephone numbers and addresses)
• Trouble telling left from right
People with dysgraphia often show the following signs:
• A strong dislike of writing and/or drawing
• Problems with grammar
• Trouble writing down ideas
• Losing energy or interest as soon as they start writing
• Trouble writing down thoughts in a logical sequence
• Saying words out loud while writing
• Leaving words unfinished or omitting them when writing sentences
People with dyscalculia often show the following signs:
• Difficulty with math-related word problems
• Trouble making change in cash transactions
• Messiness in putting math problems on paper
• Trouble with logical sequences (for example, steps in math problems)
• Trouble understanding the time sequence of events
• Trouble describing math processes
Whenever a child shows any of these signs, it is advisable to have an assessment done and an intervention in place, if needed. An assessment can be done formally or informally depending on the need of the outcome. A formal assessment will be needed for a diagnosis. Whereas an informal assessment will suffice for everything but an official diagnosis. This is the first step and where the biggest challenge exists. The lack of trained teachers in the school system makes it difficult to identify high risk and vulnerable students, while the stigma of a diagnosis keeps caretakers away from doing an assessment.
Going back to the attributes of effective learning, no matter the motivation or the access to quality education that one can afford to give to the child, if the child has inherent challenges to make use of all the opportunities, it is a futile exercise that not only impacts the child but also the family and the ecosystem where the child resides. Remember the power to change the future of your child is with you, all you need to do is take the first step for your child to take the leap.
(Certain texts have been extracted from established journals to use facts as a basis for the article)