Be it Bangalore or Mangalore, Delhi or Mumbai, Raipur or Bijapur, every classroom in a school will have at least two children with learning disabilities.
And, the awareness levels of both teachers and parents regarding the recognition or identification of this problem, the less said the better.
Experts opine that inspite of attending frequent awareness programmes, many school teachers in Bangalore are unable to properly assess or understand the problems of learning disabilities as such children are smart, active, see and behave normally and they have average or above average IQ.
In fact, such children are usually branded as lazy and most parents fail to understand the reason behind the bad performance of such children which is reflected in their report cards.
Nearly 7-9 per cent of school going children in Bangalore as well as the country have inherent problems of learning disabilities.
For instance, the problem of dyslexia is more prevalent in boys than girls (4:1).
There is no structured support for such children in the urban conglomerate of Bangalore but only a fractured kind of support here and there which is not enough to address this issue.
Since its inception in 2002, the Prayatna Special Education Centre in Bangalore has been striving to make the lives of these children easier and more meaningful by addressing their specific problems, be it the difficulty in the three Rs, poor memory, problems of concentration, exams and tests’ scare and loosing interest in studies.
Prayatna now has not only special educators for assessment and remediation services but also provides free counselling services to parents with special children.
Apart from this, they have resource rooms in many well known schools of Bangalore where a group of 12 teachers visit these schools in the morning hours to provide necessary support and education.
“Our aim is to keep them in mainstream, teach them normal behaviour and also give them an opportunity which otherwise is denied in the normal course.
We provide counselling which is a continuous process, regular assessment, remedial classes, summer camps, awareness programme in schools, running of resource rooms and lastly training those teachers,” says special education consultant, Sudha Murthy.
“Parental awareness in Bangalore is pretty low when it comes to the issue of learning disabilities unless the teacher herself complains but even then they refuse to accept that their child has a problem.
In fact, parental counselling is more necessary for the child’s remediation.
We do alternative and one to one teaching depending on the child’s specific problem,” says N V Vijayalakshmi, a special educator.
Apart from Prayatna, there are many resource centres in Bangalore that offer coaching to students who take up the syllabus of National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
There are also some schools in Bangalore which teach NIOS syllabus in regular classes from 8th standard onwards.
Depending on the severity of the problem, support and care is provided as a child with mild disability needs help for two years while a child with severe disability will need special support for a longer time, almost till the 10th standard.
According to Sudha Murthy, all the government programmes that promote inclusiveness have better knowledge of learning disabilities and this is clearly visible in the rural schools where training is done for teachers at all levels, especially at the pre-intervention level.
In comparison, although there is a lot of awareness in urban schools, the emphasis is more on getting 100 per cent results rather than supporting such children.
Many schools in Bangalore have resource rooms but they send out these children after the 9th standard just before the first public examination because they do not want to spoil their results.
Even today, most parents burden their children by sending them for ‘normal tuitions’, not recognising their inherent problems.
Despite the implementation of the RTE, the issue of children with learning disabilities is almost a non-issue and one needs to understand this problem in totality and then address the issue meaningfully with counselling, therapy and special teaching especially in areas deprived of special educator