children with learning disabilities

Learning Disorder FAQs Answered By Dr. Zirak Marker, Child Psychiatrist

Dr. Zirak Marker: Medical Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist (M.B.B.S., D.P.M., D.N.B.)- Dr. Zirak Marker is a renowned child and adult psychiatrist and psychotherapist with clinical training from the Westchester Medical Centre, New York University. Dr. Marker has over fifteen years of experience in Educational Psychology and is currently the CEO of the Aditya Birla Integrated School for children with learning disabilities and psychological/emotional problems.

As parents who are well read and are aware of developmental delays and milestones in children, we are constantly worried about whether our children are on the right track and are meeting all their milestones at the right time. We are constantly looking and questioning and are sometimes never happy with what we see. Dr Zirak Marker answers common queries all parents have about learning disorders.

1.My son is 4.6 years and has mirror imaging of his letters. How can I get him tested for a learning disorder?

This is a Normal development pattern. No evaluation, diagnosis or testing can be done until the age of 6 years. A child's brain is still in development and has not yet neurologically been concretised at this age to make a diagnosis.

2. My child has been diagnosed with Dyslexia but how is he so intelligent and smart in other areas and proficient in technology?

Children diagnosed with LD have an average to superior range of intellect which can be tested through the Weschlers Intelligence Scale. Thus typically there is a discrepancy between a child's innate potential and his academic performance.

3.Why has my son been asked to consult an Occupational Therapist when he's been diagnosed with a Learning Disorder?

After a complete Psychoeducational evaluation which are standardised tests used globally a recommendation for OT/ SI might be made if the child has associated problems with attention, concentration, hand - eye coordination, fine motor skills, organisation skills, auditory or visual processing problems that could contribute to learning.

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4. My daughter's special educator doesn't teach my child from the curriculum or textbooks. What should I do?

Remediation by a Special Educator is not tuitions or subject-based teaching. It is a group of strategies of learning used to bridge the specific lags that a child may have which are mainly language based. E.g.  reading, comprehension or written expression.

5. My child can read very well so I can't understand why he has been diagnosed with Dyslexia which is a disability with reading.

A child with Dyslexia may read proficiently and age appropriately but he may not be able to comprehend what he's reading which greatly impacts his learning or answering questions during an exam. Such children also rely on rote learning, so when a particular question may be twisted in the exams, they may not know what to write.

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6. I can't understand why my child who has been diagnosed with a learning disorder been asked to leave his school.

Sometimes schools are not equipped with teachers or professionals to deal with such cases owing to the sheer large volumes of learners and student-teacher ratios. Also, many children who learn differently need individualised educational goals,  plans and attention with Therapeutic Interventions.

7. When my 12-year-old was struggling with the ICSE board we switched to an IGCSE (International) school and she is now failing. How did this happen?

Sometimes a more structured board with model answers based on rote learning, drill and repetition may benefit a student with a learning disorder. International Curriculums are based on abstract thinking skills, question-based learning and inferential questions. Children with different learning needs may not be able to articulate or put into written content what they are taught or think.

8. My 7 yr old child has problems with balance, coordination, gripping his pencil and is very slow to follow instructions and read. He's poor with puzzles and drawing as well. What should I do?

These are mostly Occupational Therapy concerns which need one on one regular sessions ( at least twice a week ) with professional equipment in a sensory gym and one needs to follow up consistently with a home program as well.

9.When do I make the decision about finding an alternative school for my child with LD?

Intuitively most parents know when this time comes. Certain educational systems fail our children. The most important factor to consider is when your child starts losing the motivation and drive to study, doesn't care about his marks or education, develops a sense of apathy towards his education and starts declining with his self-confidence and esteem.

Most kids with LD have a low sense of self-worth and start questioning most of their abilities.

And lastly when your child just doesn't have any time for other things in life or co-curricular activities and seems completely miserable and unhappy. These factors should make you decide to shift.

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10. How will a Specialised School help my child who has a Learning Disorder?

Specialised schools are not 'special' schools. These institutes are geared in integrating and educating children who learn differently. All teaching staff are Special Educators; counselling and therapeutic interventions ( occupation therapy, sensory integration, speech and language therapy and remediation ) are provided by the school during school hours itself to all the learners. Teacher-student ratios are very small so that students get individualised attention; the emphasis on holistic and experiential learning is provided for and differentiated learning skills are imparted in the classrooms. Most importantly children feel accepted for who they are as confidence is built upon; and the focus is on their abilities rather than their disabilities.

11.  I'm constantly fighting or battling with my child who has a Learning Disorder and ADHD. What should I do ?

The first stage is acceptance of the disorder as a clinical/ neuro- physiological condition that your child is born with.

It is not psychological or behavioural  and it's nobody's fault.

One needs to exert patience- as there are many milestones whilst learning that are not going to be age appropriate.
Reduce the frustration as there is going to be a great lag between what your child's potential is and what his academic performance and results are going to be. A lot of drill, time and repetition is going to be needed during studies owing to the nature of the problem which affects memory.
Tolerance and confidence building is mandatory to enhance self-esteem and confidence in order to overcome their learning challenges. Finding time out and the balance to unwind and rest for both you and your child is extremely vital. Learn to accept and enjoy with your child and the many special gifts that he/she possesses.

Image source: understood.org

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