Learning Disabilities(LD) falls in a category of special needs that is often misunderstood. Many parents and educators often associate learning difficulties with low intelligence or
label the child as “lazy”. However at least 5% of children of the total school population
have been found to have learning disabilities. Learning disabilities is a neurological
disorder and has no cure and hence activists in India have fought to get legal recognition
to include those with speech and language disability and specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia under the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act. The new law if passed will
enable persons with learning disabilities to get accommodations in school and at work places. Children with LD are encouraged to compensate and shine in areas of their interest such as art,sports, acting etc. thereby enabling them to become productive and responsible citizens.
Types of Learning Disabilities:

  1. Dyslexia
  2. Dyscalculia
  3. Dysgraphia
  1. Dyslexia:
    Dyslexia is a neurological disorder that causes brain to process and interpret information differently from those without the disorder.The child then begins to have difficulties in reading, comprehension, and writing.

    • Warning signs of dyslexia:
      • Pre- school children:
        • Delayed speech. ( A child who does not say a single word by the age of 18 months is said to have a speech delay)
        • Difficulties with recognizing the alphabet and sequencing the alphabet in the correct order. Difficulties in any activity that requires sequencing like days of the week, numbers etc.
        • Difficulties with phonetics and with matching the alphabet to the correct sound.
        • Trouble with pronouncing words.
        • Trouble with rhyming words.
      • School going children:
        • Difficulties that were present during the preschool period continue to be present.Child may speak in short sentences with poor syntax.
        • Difficulties with spelling rules and mastering the art of handwriting. Reversals of simple words such as ‘was’ is written as ‘saw’ and ‘pat’ is written as ‘tap’. Reversals of letters and numbers are also present.
        • Trouble with following more than one command or simple directions.
        • Difficulties in understanding word problems.
        • Confusions with mathematical terms and signs.
        • Difficulty in understanding spatial relationships like left and right, above and under.This is manifested by the child putting the left shoe on the right leg, difficulties in tying his/her shoe laces and buttoning up a shirt.
        • Trouble with memorizing school work.
    • What can you do as a parent?
      • Get an assessment done from a centre recognized by the school and the respective school board.Consulting with the school may be a good idea in order to seek the right help.
      • Don’t underestimate your child’s abilities. Discover his/her strengths and help the child build on them.Encourage them to explore areas that don’t require language, eg: art, dancing, sports, fashion designing, etc.
      • Raising the child’s self-esteem by being a positive parent yourself, taking on challenges with your child and standing by your child always. Don’t be ashamed of your child’s difficulties – understand them.
      • Remedial classes on a one on one basis by a qualified special educator can help to improve writing skills, spellings and comprehension to a considerable extent.

    At Pledge Academy we assist the parent and child to achieve the measures mentioned above. The Academy currently does not carry out detailed assessments however we collect a detailed history and screen the child for potential difficulties and then refer the child to reputed centers for an assessment if required.

  2. Dyscalculia:
    Dyscalculia refer to learning disabilities with reference to Math.Visuo-spatial difficulties accompanied by language challenges contribute to dyscalculia in children.
    Math is a subject which requires a child to perform steps in a certain sequence only. The child also requires a good working memory to solve problems mentally and must also be able to memorize math rules and tables and apply what they have learnt. Children with dyscalculia present with these challenges. However with remedial instructions and practice children can attain success. Most of the schools allow the use of calculators once a child is diagnosed with Dyscalculia.

      • Some of the Warning signs are:
        • Difficulty with counting, this includes counting on the fingers as well.
        • Difficulty in sequencing the numbers, writing and reading numbers.
        • Trouble with sorting out objects on the basis of shapes and sizes.
        • Trouble with matching number of objects to the appropriate number.
        • Difficulty with math related vocabulary and facts.
        • Difficulty learning/ memorizing time tables.
        • Have poor ability to manage money, time and measurements.
        • Avoids doing math homework.
      • What can you do as a parent?

    Teach your child to count anything and everything while playing with your child indoors or outdoors.

      • Repeat steps of instruction on a daily basis if required and encourage and reinforce the child when he or she performs a task alone.
      • Take your child shopping to buy home groceries. Allow the child to weigh what you are buying. Allow them to handle money at the billing counter under your supervision. Concepts like addition and subtraction, and weights become clearer.
      • Use concrete examples to make math concepts more clear.
      • Allow the child to work in a calm and quiet environment so that the child has to deal with fewer distractions.
      • Teach the child to use a calculator if computation difficulties are severe.
  3. Dysgraphia:
    Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing. Writing is a skill which requires a complex set of motor and information
    processing skills. The child must frame the sentence in his or her mind before (commencing to) actually putting it into words. Visio-spatial difficulties make it difficult for the child to write between lines or on the line itself.Dysgraphia can also lead to poor spelling and poor writing. Dysgraphia may be present lifelong however the child gets accommodations in school, eg: the child is allowed a scribe in school and board exams, assignments can be typed and submitted, etc.

    • What are the warning signs?
      Remember Dysgraphia does not mean poor handwriting only, it is a processing disorder.Watch out for the following in young children:

      • Poor pencil grip and poor body position while writing. The child appears to be struggling to write.
      • Difficulties in drawing.
      • Child appears to avoid tasks involving writing and drawing.
      • Difficulty in forming letters in both lower and uppercase letters.
      • Mixes up uppercase and lowercase letters.
      • Most of the words appears as though scribbled.
    • What can you do as a parent?
      • The child should trace lowercase letters and only when confident should begin writing without tracing.
      • The parent may allow the child to sit on his/her lap and assist the child to hold the pencil and write. This helps the child to gain confidence in writing.
      • Encourage fine motor activities like threading beads, separating pulses which are mixed in a bowl, etc.
      • Make the child scribble with crayons on old newspapers to aid in wrist movement.
      • Young children should be encouraged to play with nontoxic clay or dough.
      • The child should first frame a whole sentence in his or her mind before attempting to write it down. After writing a paragraph the child should be taught to review what he/she has written.
      • At Pledge Academy children are given specific exercises to improve both their handwriting and written expression.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD:
ADHD is not a learning disability but can affect learning and behavior.
ADHD is also a neurological disorder which affects how the brain receives, processes, and responds to information.

  • Causes of ADHD:
    • Heredity. ADHD is known to run in families.
    • Exposure to alcohol and other toxic chemicals during the prenatal period.
    • Premature birth.
    • Brain injuries.
  • Cardinal Symptoms of ADHD in a young child between 4 years and 6 years are:
    • Child finds it difficult to pay attention and stay focused.
    • Difficulty in controlling impulses.
    • Hyperactivity.
  • What are the warning signs?
    • Child fidgets with hands and feet, squirms in the seat.
    • Leaves the seat often.
    • Runs and climbs around in excess.
    • Finds it difficult to play board games or any sitting down games.
    • Talks nonstop.
    • Has difficulty awaiting his or her turn.
    • Forgetful in daily activities, loses things.
    • Easily distracted.
  • What can you do as a parent?
    • The child should be encouraged to convert the hyperactivity to his or her advantage. Children with ADHD are known to excel in sports. Michael Phelps struggled with ADHD in school until his mother encouraged him to swim. Today Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time holding a total of 22 medals in the Olympic Games.
    • Put the child in a routine and stick to it. This will make life easier for you and your child as there won’t be angry outbursts and confrontations for simple tasks like taking a bath.
    • Create a quiet place for your child to do his homework. Switch off mobiles and TV’s when the child is doing his homework.
    • Put reminders in your child’s room and in the kitchen in order to improve executive functions.
    • Don’t insist on the child completing tasks completely. Create meaningful expectations that the child understands and can comply with.
    • Remember the child’s behavior is related to the disorder and is not intentional. With appropriate training and use of behavior modification techniques the child’s behavior can improve.
    • Pets are known to help children with ADHD to calm down.
    • Reduce junk foods, and avoid chocolates and foods with sugar.
    • Play relaxing music when the child is not studying.
    • At Pledge Academy we help the child to deal with learning issues if any.We also discuss with parents how to modify behavior of their children in a positive way.