It was Aamir Khan’s flick Tare Zameen Par that brought out the problem of dyslexia into the open from the closets of Indian parents who like to hide the fact that something is wrong with their child.
It is not just illiterates but even highly educated parents are unable to digest the fact that their child has a common disorder that affects about 80 per cent of children identified with learning disabilities.
This is a condition where children are unable to acquire skills related to reading, writing and spelling despite possessing the required intelligence and being exposed to a conventional classroom curriculum.
Some famous people who were dyslexic in their childhood include Thomas Alva Edison, George Washington, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Bill Gates.
A recent epidemiological study indicates the prevalence rate of dyslexia to be around 9.87 per cent among Indian school children.
If dyslexia remains undetected, then with each passing year, as academic demands increase, the dyslexic child’s limitations prevent him/ her from successfully meeting academic expectations.
The child feels burdened and helpless which often evokes feelings of anger or distress, resulting in low self-esteem, isolation from peers and doubts about his/her abilities.
One in every 10-12 children is at the risk of dyslexia.The present Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) training programmes for teachers across India do not have any special modules to identify learning disabilities in children and address them.
The number of institutes where learning disability can be taken as a specialisation in B Ed institutes is also very small. Therefore, the need for a screening test specific to Indian conditions as well as easier to use becomes imperative.
It is also important for teachers to be empowered to screen children with dyslexia and help them appropriately by creating an inclusive learning environment. So far, most of the tools for assessing dyslexia could be administered only by psychologists and special educators.
However, Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessment has recently introduced the Dyslexia Screening Test-Junior (DST-J), India Edition which can be used by school teachers and special educators as well.
The test has been standardised for Indian school population and helps teachers screen students effectively.
Dr Nitin Anand, who has developed this exclusive screening test for use by school teachers in India says, “In comparison to other assessments, the Dyslexia Screening Test - Junior, India Edition is a powerful screening test designed to identify children who are at risk of dyslexia.
It is a very precise measurement of literary skills at an early age and can be used by all professionals unlike the existing tests.
” Further, it is a quick screening tool which can be done within 30 minutes and and has been customised for use in India.
Before its introduction, it has been tested across five geographic regions and 10 cities including Bangalore.
Dr Anand also says, “Unlike some of the other assessments of dyslexia, the DST-J India not only evaluates accuracy and fluency in reading, writing, and spelling, but also assesses motor coordination, attention span, reasoning ability and vocabulary skill which are vital for attainment of literacy skills.
Even the tasks are child friendly and interesting since they involve identifying pictures, solving puzzles, and answering uncomplicated questions.
The test kit is priced at Rs. 9,700 and the cost for assessing each child, within the school should work out to be reasonable for parents.
“ While developing this test, samples have been collected from eight schools across cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. This study was undertaken to standardise this test for children aged between 6.6 to 11.5 years. “Since this test was launched only in July 2012, we are yet to ascertain how schools are responding to the test.
But, there has been an overwhelming response to the test and schools are making enquiries about how to use the test to help students.
The few schools that have used it so far report that compared to other tests, our test has a shorter administration time and a clear-cut scoring procedure,” explains Dr Anand.
Further, early detection will help the school to create a stimulating yet an inclusive learning environment.
To address this issue, concessions have been given across states and boards, however, the encouraging aspect is that dyslexia is increasingly being recognised as a challenge for academic learning and there is an earnest desire to help such children. For example, the Karnataka Government exempts these students from learning the two additional languages and also allows them to opt for subjects which have less emphasis on language.
Maharashtra was one of the first states to grant provisions to dyslexic children. Now, other state boards and national boards (CBSE and ICSE) also offer similar concessions.
SOME PROVISIONS AVAILABLE ARE
* Exemption from spelling mistakes * Extra time for written tests and exams * Allowing usage of simple calculators * Less subjects in which examination is conducted * Plying less homework * Providing scribes to children with slow writing skills during examinations
WHAT ARE THE COMMON SIGNS OF DYSLEXIA?
Some common signs of dyslexia include
* Difficulty in recognising letters * Difficulty in reading words * Reversals of letters (w/m, b/d) & words (saw/was) * Spelling out words * Difficulty in articulating sounds * Resistance to read in classroom * Written assignments are incomplete * Lack motivation in academics
Why screen a child for dyslexia?
* A common developmental disorder with prevalence rates ranging from 5-10 per cent * 80 per cent of learningdisabled children have poor reading skills (dyslexia) * To prepare the child towards attaining better academic outcomes * Early identifi cation and timely support are cost-effective