KOCHI: The impact of the pandemic has been felt by all across the globe, both young and old alike. While largely unscathed by the virus as it is, children, however, have been affected the most In many ways. They have had to face educational, psychological and physical issues due to Covid and its fallout. Awareness programmes and usual preventive measures to tackle health-related issues have had to be put on the backburner.
Dyslexia, a learning disorder in children, is one such condition which has not been identified with schools remaining shut. According to experts, it is time to revive awareness campaigns to facilitate early detection of dyslexia by correctly identifying the symptoms to ensure timely treatment.
As per pediatricians, earlier, four-five children with learning disabilities or disorders used to be brought for consultation on a daily basis. However, ever since the Covid outbreak, these numbers have dwindled significantly. Children having dyslexia will often have trouble connecting letters, which affects their speaking and writing abilities. Early identification of signs, including difficulty to read, write and speak words, is important for recovery.
“Due to the pandemic, learning-disabled children have been badly affected. Learning disability is an invisible handicap affecting about 10% of school-going children. They have normal or above-normal intelligence, but are unable to perform in class due to faulty brain signals or nerve connections. It may be due to faulty development or inadequate development of parts of the brain concerned with skills of reading, writing, spelling, language or arithmetic.
This condition often hinders the child from putting what he or she has learnt in writing, resulting in poor grades,” said Dr Abraham K Paul, pediatrician and executive director of Child Care Centre, a multidisciplinary centre involved in evaluating, identifying and remedying such conditions in children.
Struggle with school work and difficulty in reaching at par with classmates are the first indicators.
Teachers would identify such children, since they have the opportunity to compare their students’ behaviour and performance with their peers. These children are intelligent and are generally able to perform exceptionally well in most activities other than studies.
“Any child suspected to have a learning disability needs a comprehensive assessment by a multidisciplinary team, including clinical or educational psychologists, social workers and speech and language pathologists. Once we diagnose the condition, the next step is intervention through remedial teaching and management of comorbid conditions, if any. Early intervention in most cases gives excellent results,” said Dr Abraham, who is also the lead expert of Newborn Hearing Screening South East Asia Region, WHO.
Several workshops, seminars, training, outreach and sensitisation programmes were held before the pandemic for teachers in schools. With schools remaining shut, it became difficult for parents alone to give adequate round-the-clock attention to these children.
“It is definitely good news that schools are going to reopen in November. The educational and psychological issues children are facing at homes are far beyond what adults are facing. Since the pandemic outbreak, only those requiring utmost specialist care are arriving at hospitals. It becomes very challenging for parents alone to identify the early onset of learning disabilities in kids,” said Dr Suma Balan, pediatrician based in Kochi.
Signs to watch for
Difficulty learning to read or write
Missing lines or going back to previously read lines
Difficulty in tying shoelaces, catching a ball or skipping
Difficulty in remembering and learning alphabets, spellings, and multiplication tasks
Difficulty in following instructions in a series
Delay or difficulty in the development of clear speech or persistent tendency to jumble words and phrases
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a developmental disorder that manifests as significant difficulty in acquiring learning and academic skills, including reading, writing, speaking, spelling and arithmetic. It is a major cause of poor school performance among young children.