A special education classes for children with learning disabilities. Image used for representational purpose.
A special education classes for children with learning disabilities. Image used for representational purpose.

Unravel talent under learning disabilities

These symptoms can be diagnosed using medical and educational assessments.

Learning disabilities (LDs) are a matter of grave concern in India. Despite being aware of its existence, several educational institutions—urban or rural, government or private—have failed to tackle the problem effectively. It results in the potential of students with LDs remaining untapped, despite many among them capable of being achievers.

Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Ludwig van Beethoven, Agatha Christie and Tom Cruise are counted among millions who suffered from LD and yet succeeded in their fields.

LD is a neurological condition which affects the brain’s functions to receive, send or process information, due to which an affected person’s ability to read, write, speak, listen, understand mathematical concepts and general comprehension gets compromised. But it does not compromise the intelligence of the affected individual.

There are five specific LDs of concern: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in which a person’s brain development and activity impacts attention, the ability to sit still, and self control; dyslexia, a reading and writing disability due to differences in the areas of the brain that process language; dyscalculia, the inability to understand number-based information and maths; dysgraphia, a writing disability; and dyspraxia, which affects movement and coordination.

These symptoms can be diagnosed using medical and educational assessments. But in the absence of systematic screening for LDs in India, many affected students miss out on the special education tools required for them. They are viewed as mediocre or poor students, without realising that they have LD. There has been no comprehensive study in India to determine the spread of LD.

But according to UNESCO estimates, it is likely to be between 10 and 12 percent of the school-going population. A 2019 UNESCO report says that out of 78.64 lakh children with LDs in India, three-fourths of those aged five do not attend schools.

In an education system known for stressing high marks, institutional reputation and revenues, tapping the immense potential and intelligence of students with LDs is largely ignored. We end up missing out on a huge potential talent pool because of that.

It is time the central and state governments with non-governmental entities and mental health experts put in place an end-to-end holistic system, from screening kids for LDs to employing appropriate special education tools to tap this immense pool. It is time to unravel talents hiding under a ‘disability’.

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The New Indian Express
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