The Tribune - Spectrum

, August 4, 2002

On learning disabilities
Kuldip Kalia

A Guide to Educating Children with Learning Disabilities
by Anupriya Chadha, New Delhi. Vikas Publishing. Pages viii+157. Rs 225.

LIFE is a challenge and accepting challenges with a smile makes life easy. Any kind of disability which minimises the chances of success has to tackled wisely, tactfully and boldly. What we require most at such critical junctures are courage, confidence and, above all, patience.

About 20 million children are said to be suffering from learning disabilities. Many children drop out of school at primary and secondary levels because of these disabilities. Later such disabilities also result in the loss of monetary and manpower resources.

In simple terms, learning disabilities refer to a group of disorders where a child finds problems in reading, writing, mathematics or paying attention. However, it does not suggest that these disabilities exist only in children. These can occur in all ages, at all the socio-economic levels and races but these may affect individuals differently at different stages of life. The performance of a child with a learning disability is poor as compared to other children of his age. These children are physically normal and have average or above average intelligence.


Genetic, prenatal, perinatal, postnatal factors, such as biological, environmental, developmental are said to be prominent causes of learning disabilities but there is hardly any agreement on this among experts and analysts. These disabilities afflict more boys than girls. Professionals and educational planners are needed to identify these children.

Technically speaking, dyslexia (problems in reading) dysgraphia (problems in writing), dyscalculia (problems in learning maths) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (problems in paying attention) are the major blocks to the learning process.

In dyslexia, many children exhibit an inability to acquire and use word skills. For instance, the letter ‘b’ might be written as ‘d’, the word was might become saw for them or girl might be written as ‘gril’. In dysgraphia, the person’s handwriting becomes the problem. Such children show poor motor skill, faulty visual perception of letters and words, poor memory, lack of muscular coordination, including eye and hand coordination, and a poor grasp of grammar.

Dyscalculia affects the child’s ability to learn mathematics. The child finds it difficult to establish spatial relationships (up-down, high-low, size relationships (big-small, more-less). Apart from this, they also tend to confuse between size, left and right, etc. Such children also fail to follow the sequence in multistep problems. So one must engage such children in play with blocks and puzzles. Mood swings, refusal to eat, breaking toys, getting distracted and a lack of concentration are the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children suffering from this disorder make careless mistakes, often lose things, forget routine chores; never think about the consequences of their action and don’t wait to hear the entire question before answering it. The best way to teach such kids is to use audio-visual aids. They should also be provided with reading material that would interest them. Sometimes such deficiencies can lead to disruptive behaviour.

Children with learning disabilities have varying needs and, hence, teaching strategies need to be different, too. The curriculum needs to be adapted to the needs of each child. Tutoring and cooperative learning can be adopted. The multisensory approach can also be adopted.

Fairness, positive attitude, a sense of humour and ability to establish rapport are some of the qualities which the teacher must possess. Parents should be supportive. Child must not be neglected and should be encouraged to develop a feeling of responsibility.

Timely intervention, assessment and assistance are crucial factors. The child should be helped to develop confidence and a positive self-image. The author has given guidance in this direction.