Maha MP bats for children with learning disabilities

The 8-year-old dyslexic child in Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Taare Zameen Par’ earns recognition at the end but such luxury is not at the disposal of children with learning disabilities in India.

They are dubbed “failures” or “lazy” and this has prompted NCP’s Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan to introduce a private member’s bill in Rajya Sabha recently to identify and support children with learning disabilities.

Learning-Disabilities2

Chavan, a former Mayor of Pune and a law graduate, is concerned that there is no adequate research to estimate the number of children with learning disabilities or funds to address the concerns.

To address the concerns of such children, she wants certain concessions given to such children appearing in examinations — from providing 25% extra time for completing the paper to exemption from diagrams, charts and graphs.

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Common forms of Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia: Difficulty in Reading
Dysgraphia: Difficulty in Writing
Dyscalculia: Difficulty in Mathematics

Learning Disability:
** affects the ability to learn and use certain skills like reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, doing mathematical calculations
** may affect a single skill or combination of skills
** distinct from mental retardation
** may have near normal, normal or superior intellectual ability
** but cognition, memory, motor activity and brain function may vary from others

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In her ‘Children with Specific Learning Disabilities (Identification and Support in Education) Bill’, she also suggests that oral tests should be conducted along with written tests till Class X and promotions should be based on an average of both.

Such students should be allowed to use calculators, spelling or grammar errors and inconsistency in sentence construction should be ignored and second and third languages be exempted, according to the Bill.

While standards of arithmetic be relaxed as per the level of the student, it also wants alternative subjects like home science and electronics be made available for them.

“This is a serious issue. The Bombay High Court has earlier issued guidelines but that is being followed in Maharashtra only. Very few people know about it. We need to take it to national level,” Chavan told DH.

“After I introduced the Bill, one of the MPs came to me to offer support. That MP’s child also suffer from learning disabilities and the child was to be sent to the US because there is no school here. Another MP told me that he also had learning disabilities,” she said.

Noting that “great personalities” like Thomas Alwa Edison and Albert Einstein were “once discarded” by school system, Chavan identifies the major challenge in identification of such such children is “invisibility” of their condition.

Taare-Zameen-Par

“The teachers, parents and peers often regard them as slow-learners or a failure, or attribute to them laziness or attitude,” the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill said. It is not the children alone who should get training, it said, the teachers and parents also should be trained to deal with such students.

With no official statistics available and independent research showing that 14% of school children suffer from learning disabilities, the Bill envisages an annual survey to identify such students. Special training should also be given to teachers to identify them.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 4, 2017)

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