Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dyslexia Official Definitions translated for the Parent

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's probably a duck. Or is testing for dyslexia really necessary?(from To Teach a Dyslexic, chapter 24)

Official Definition #1. According to the World Federation of Neurology, dyslexia is "a disorder manifested by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and sociocultural opportunity."

Translated into plain English, this means that if a student isn't dumb and he isn't surrounded by people who hate schools and if he goes to school and if he gets the "conventional instruction" (Look-see or whole language) and if he still has problems reading, it must be that he is a dyslexic. The underlying assumption is that the school's reading program is adequate for all students. The fault cannot be theirs. It must belong to the student, therefore the student is "dyslexic." I dont actually buy this description because I see so many cases of aquired LD because the teaching instruction was faulty!

Official Definition #2. According to the International Dyslexia Association's Committee of Members in November, 1994, "Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic. Dyslexia is not a result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment, inadequate instructional or environmental opportunities, or other limiting conditions, but may occur together with these conditions. Although dyslexia is life-long, individuals with dyslexia frequently respond successfully to timely and appropriate intervention."

Translated into plain English, this means that dyslexia has to do with how the brain organizes what the eyes see and the ears hear. The condition is such that traditional methods of teaching reading will not work with a person with dyslexia. However, dyslexics may be taught to read and write with proper instruction. This usually involves multi-sensory approaches

Official Definition #3. According to the International Dyslexia Association's Research Committee in November 1994, "Dyslexia is one of several distinct learning disabilities. It is a specific language-based disorder of constitutional origin characterized by difficulties in single word decoding, usually reflecting insufficient phonological processing abilities. These difficulties in single word decoding are often unexpected in relation to age and other cognitive and academic abilities; they are not the result of generalized developmental disability or sensory impairment. Dyslexia is manifested by variable difficulty with different forms of language, often including, in addition to problems reading, a conspicuous problem with acquiring proficiency in writing and spelling."

Translated into plain English, this means that if someone has normal intelligence but has severe problems learning to read and write despite "conventional" instruction, that person is dyslexic.

Official Definition #4. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Developmental dyslexia is a specific learning disability characterized by difficulty in learning to read. Some dyslexics also may have difficulty learning to write, to spell, and, sometimes, to speak or to work with numbers. We do not know for sure what causes dyslexia, but we do know that it affects children who are physically and emotionally healthy, academically capable, and who come from good home environments. In fact, many dyslexics have the advantages of excellent schools, high mental ability, and parents who are well-educated and value learning.

Translated into plain English, this means that when you can't find a reason for a child not being able to read, it must be he is dyslexic.

Official Definition #5. Dyslexia is a term that has been loosely applied to reading disabilities. Specific definitions for dyslexia vary with disciplines. Those in medicine define dyslexia as a condition resulting from neurological, maturational, and genetic causes, while those in psychology relate dyslexia on the basis of the specific reading problems evidenced and give no reference to causation. All disciplines would probably agree that dyslexia is evidenced by persons of otherwise normal intellectual capacity who have not learned to read despite exposure to adequate instruction.
Translated into plain English, this means that when you can't find a reason for a child not being able to read, it must be he is dyslexic.
courtesy AVKO Educational Research Foundation

Early Intervention

There is no doubt that the first few years of a child’s life are a particularly sensitive period in the process of development. Here a foundation is laid for the childhood and beyond for cognitive functioning; behavioral, social, and self-regulatory capacities; and physical health. During this period, a child's developmental abilities are evaluated and if necessary, the child is guided to receive therapy or other types of early intervention.

Early Intervention is a process of assessment and therapy provided to children, especially those younger than age 6, to facilitate normal cognitive and emotional development and to prevent developmental disability or delay.” It can be both remedial and preventive in nature. The aim is manifold- to enhance the child's development, to provide support and assistance to the family, and to maximize the child's and family's benefit to society

It can result in parents having improved attitudes about themselves and their child, improved information and skills for teaching their child, and more release time for leisure and employment. Parents of intellectually gifted preschoolers also need early services so that they may better provide the supportive and nourishing environment needed by the child.

Major Developmental Areas where Early Intervention helps:

· Physical development -a child's ability to move, see and hear
· Language and speech development -a child's ability to talk and communicate
· Social and emotional development -a child's ability to play, interact and relate to others
· Adaptive development -a child's ability to handle self-care functions, such as feeding and dressing
· Cognitive development -a child's ability to think and learn

Some Professionals that will formulate the Remediation Program
· Developmental teachers/ Special Educators
· Occupational therapists/ Physical therapists
· Psychologists/Psychiatrists
· Speech and language pathologist/audiologists

Diagnosis – The First Step
Identification of children who need and can benefit from early intervention is important.Diagnostic hunting by parents is now on the rise. Schools are also reporting the gaps they see in the child’s development. There are several varieties of diagnostic conditions that can possibly affect children in this age group. However multiple issues can coexist at various levels and within different degrees. Eg. a child with emotional and behavioral disorders might show associated learning and attention disorders.

Thus it becomes important to get an ‘intelligent’ diagnosis that takes into account such overlapping layers and also take appropriate decisions about a primary condition vs. other associated features displayed. An accurate diagnosis is a prelude to planning the right program for intervention. The diagnostic label provides both a target and a direction for the program.

However, parents must guard against getting carried away in finding the ‘right’ label for their child. A search for a diagnostic confirmation will only result in loss of precious time. Schools also must not discount the child’s strengths if he/she has been diagnosed with any disability. Tagging the child with all features of a diagnosis will put the intervention program on a wrong track. A child with hearing impairment may be a loner or shy away from his peers due to his inability to communicate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has impairment in social interaction, a feature of Autism.

Family Involvement - Vital Element of Early Intervention Success
One of the most powerful ways to achieve maximum and quick results is to extend home based training programs from professionals to parents and caregivers.
Parents of children with a disability undergo a variety of psychological reactions like shock, shame, guilt, denial and ambivalence. It is important to accept the disability at the earliest, to embark on an intervention program. While therapists and other specialists who work with your child are considered experts in their fields, they are not the most important elements of early intervention. It’s the parents. Being informed, taking counseling support, joining parent support groups can all give you a clear perspective of the situation you and your child are in. Many of the conditions diagnosed are fairly reversible given early identification and intervention measures, particularly if your child is diagnosed ‘at risk’.

Parents have a greater investment in their child both in terms of time and emotional attachment. While professionals can bring their experience and technical knowledge, parents can provide valuable information about the child’s behavior, interests, temperament etc and also have greater physical and psychological proximity. When parents practice the techniques taught in therapy at home, it aids in the child's ability to improve. Studies have shown that when parents are not involved, therapy takes longer and the child has to work harder.

Schools and Caregivers – Get the basics right!
Helping a child develop an optimistic outlook can be one of the greatest gifts a parent can give. Empowering a child with the required education, independence, increased self esteem and hence ready to face the world is the greatest service schools can provide.

Nowadays infants and children as young as 2 years are being sent to crèches and play homes due to various reasons like parental expectations, nuclear families, and working parents. Many of these play homes are housed in small, diminutive and enclosed spaces giving almost no opportunity to develop their motor skills. Readiness skills for various tasks required in school are also not developed due to untrained staff, ignorance of scientifically proven techniques, lack of a governing body etc.

While infants do not get extensive practice on pre-walking activities, language development etc., children at the tender age of 2.5 yrs are expected to do various fine motor and concentration demanding activities like writing. These children surely do badly on reading and writing tasks and then get diagnosed under various heads. Eg. ‘Motor-coordination disorders’, attention issues, hyperactivity etc.

Therefore it is mandatory that all preschoolers go through a rigorous training on all nursery level motor and pre-academic activities.

Gifted Children and children with developmental delays/disabilities need special educational services and can be held back in school or need more social services later in life. Providing early intervention can not only decrease the chances of this but also increase the chances of completing high school and attending college, increase scores on achievement tests and decrease anti-social and delinquent behaviors
Chetana Keni

Friday, February 19, 2010

Does Dyslexia really exist? Or is it a myth created by us?

Someone asked me this question today... when I posted a writeup about the Remedial School that I have set up in Bangalore.

I am not sure I can agree with your assessment on dyslexia - don't you think dyslexia is problem with parents/elders who think certainperson/kid has a learning disorder? Does the kid/person think they are dyslexic?

What do you intend to 'teach' them?

Apologies if am trying to point fingers at "already accepted" research in this field.

this was my answer
Its great that you ask this question.. becuase I myself stated asking this question 5 years ago when i quit my 10 year long career in IT for this cause. Thats when the world called my gifted child a Dyslexic. I reasearched for a whole year before I could accept that he was actually facing difficulties. Thats when I saw the gift of Dyslexia. These children who seem that they are not able to pick up even basic reading spelling and writing skills are excellent in something or the other. They are able to think in creative and abstract ways that can put even adults to shame. By this time I had quit my career totally and decided to work in the research department of a school to undertand the education system and pedagogy. A year later I was armed with so much information and a couple of diplomas too. But still my child couldnt read, write legibly and spell. He was 2 years beyond his other classmates in everything else!

This is when I started to learn about the Brain and the way the Brain is programmed and how its differnt for a child with Dyslexia. I met and networked with several specialists in India and abroad. The different wiring allows them to do things we cannot but then they cannot do what we can easily do.. the 3 R's!! Some of the reasons are they they are visual spatial, some others have difficulty with auditory perception and others with visual perception.

But working with several children with a mix of all these issues, ADD, ADHD etc. I have understood that these children learn and learn much faster when taught the way they learn My son learnt several times faster when we started homeschooling. And we hardly studied for 2 hours everyday. But I sure did devise several techniques and material to teach him the way he learns. And each and every chld I met had a gift.. If one could remember hundreds of geograpy facts on his finger tips, the other was a born musician, some were good at art, others at drama. My son is good at Science, starting making his own toys when he was as little as 3, then I met a boy just yesterday who can listen to a song just once and play it on the piano. Oh! They are such a joy to work with and believe it or not each one of them has been asked to leave school or are on the verge of being asked to. My son also had been thrown out from 2 schools until we found this really great place for him The Samahita Academy in Bangalore. Still many have repeated each grade twice thrice despite them being way ahead in the concept understanding.

The experience and the success and the celebration of being different is what I am taking out to everyone now. Several bright children who are dyslexic are being thrown out from school I see so many of them everyday. Homeschooling is the best approach that I would suggest but I realise that we on this group have been lucky to be able to do that but there are several others who cant make that call due to several issues like money, single parenting, not qualified enough etc..

Hence this is my way of helping those people find a place for their children where they are accepted , their gifts nurtured. Becuase I want to see the smile that I see on my sons face on every childs face. It really means a lot to me and their parents.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When should you be alarmed?

Everyday I meet several parents with concerns about the difficulties their children face at school. Some of these children are as little as 4 or 5. They always wonder whether the difficulties the child is facing will pass away as the child grows older? Or are they actually the symptoms of any kind of a learning Difficulty? I have tried to outline a few signs that we should look out for and document. If your child scores an yes on more than 50% of this list then you should get a psychologial and an educational assessment done.

 Slow and hesitant reading. Tires easily with reading or complains of sore eyes
 Sounding out when reading
 Failure to recognize familiar irregular words, e.g. “whose”, “right”, “hour”
 Reading words as anagrams, e.g. “was” as “saw”, “on” as “no”
 Confusion between “b” and “d” and sometimes” “p”
 Repeatedly getting stuck on the same words throughout a passage
 Difficulty understanding overall content
 Dislikes reading
 Omission or addition of words or lines
 Poor standard of reading in comparison with oral ability

Slow at learning to spell
 Letters and numbers often reversed
Spelling tends to be bizarre
Incorrectly formed or written letters
Failure to write “p” and “g” or “q” sitting down on line
 Confusion between “b” and “d” and sometimes” “p”
Difficulty in keeping writing on lines of page
Confusion between “b” and “d” or always writing them as capitals
Order of letters within a word frequently incorrect
 Great difficulty in spelling common words.
 Words spelt in different ways in same piece of writing
 Difficulty in reading back what he/she has written
 A dislike or avoidance of writing
 Difficulty in copying from book or blackboard
 Poor standard of written work in comparison with oral ability or drawing

 Confusion between right and left
Difficulty tying shoelaces or remembering which foot to put each shoe on
Difficulty doing up buttons into correct buttonholes
Difficulty in carrying out more than one instruction at a time
 Difficulty in remembering what day/month it is
Difficulty in remembering anything in sequential order, e.g. stories, songs, rhymes, months of
year etc.
Difficulty in learning to tell the time, learning times tables or number sequences
Easily distracted, Poor concentration on reading or writing tasks
 Generally lacking in confidence
A bright child who wants to learn and understand how things work

Monday, February 15, 2010

What do I do

• Identification of Learning Difficulties, Behavioral, Emotional and other issues that interfere in the learning process of children including referral for educational/psychological assessments or any other professional help

• Interventions – Remedial and Counseling for children with learning difficulties, adolescents, gifted and slow learners

• Workshops for parents and teachers in handling different learning needs, cognitive, emotional and behavioral issues in children

• Vocational Guidance for Grade 8-12

• Life Skills workshops for Personality Development in Children

• Counseling Interventions – Psychosocial, Academic, Cognitive, Emotional, Personal and Behavioral Modification Needs

• Group Counseling Interventions

• Setting Up Resource Rooms for Schools

• Setting up Counseling Kiosks at Schools

Purpose of this blog

All children are unique and hence each one has a special need. The world is developing at a fast pace and the concepts of relationships, marriage, parenting, schooling and education are also undergoing a paradigm shift. People all over the world are facing adjustment related issues in all arenas. Children are struggling with the stimulating fast paced media and the boredom in classrooms.

There is an increasing tribe of “special needs” children with ADD/ADHD/Dyslexia and behavioral issues more so due the inadequacies in the educational system, parenting, nuclear setups and several other factors.

There is hence, a need for Special Educators and Counselors to step in and bridge this gap, to enable the psychosocial adjustment of these children and to facilitate learning through tailor-made resources.

Aurinko Academy Pilot