There are children who obediently follow teacher’s instructions. There are others, who are distracted, yet come out with flying colours. A few others are distracted, always. These children are either lost in their own thoughts, or are continuously poking the ones around them. These are also the same ones who are labelled as problem children, a subject of constant worry to their parents. They are not dumb, but only have different learning needs.
Breaking widely known stereotypes – like people don’t change or that they are not intelligent enough and that some concepts cannot be understood by a few – Israeli psychologist, Reuven Feuerstein came up with the theory of intelligence that defines intelligence as something that is modifiable. This implies that nothing in a person’s mind is fixed, but can be continuously change and be modified. Following this theory, Lalitha Ramanujan, director of Alpha to Omega Learning Centre, Chennai conducted a five-day workshop in the city. “We work with children who have learning difficulties and cognitive deficiences keeping in mind that all kinds of thinking can be modified,” says Lalitha who has been working with parents and special educators for the past 26 years.
The workshop, titled The Instrument Enrichment Basic programme, also focused on these two groups working with the underlying concept that explains intelligence is not a trait, but a state. For parents dealing with children who have disorders or learning difficulties, understanding the concept and opening up to the idea takes time. Lalitha agrees. “Over the years, we have been stressing on how this kind of learning is a slow process. It does not happen over night. Parents generally are apprehensive about how it can happen, but eventually they understand,” she explains.
Reuven’s programme is tailor-made for two different age groups -- children below nine years and nine years and above. “The workshop has a series of activities which aid retention and focus of children and also improve their life skills – thinking ability, comparison, comprehension, orientation, grammar when it comes to language and communication” explains Lalitha adding that, “it is specific to every child. We try to identify their needs and then work with them accordingly. The quality of intervention, the time of mediation also matters. So those factors also need to be considered while working with children.”
Steps of the programme
■ Recognise cognitive function a particular child needs to use
■ Identify the deficit areas – a number of factors work on a child’s mind – intrapersonal, interpersonal, and also the environment he or she has grown up in
■ Design activities accordingly