Learn to recognise and help special children


I REFER to your article, “Checklist for BM teachers to identify dyslexics” (StarEducation, Nov 23). Some school administrators and principals have made dismissive statements like “Dyslexia does not exist,” “I don’t believe in dyslexia”, or “We don’t have such children in our schools.” 

These sweeping generalisations are probably due to the many misconceptions that have, unfortunately, been linked with learning disabilities. 

When the school management takes a stand that is based on misconceptions about learning disabilities, then children with genuine learning impairments are left to struggle on their own.  

Children with learning disabilities are likely to have suffered from minor injuries to the brain, either during birth or through a fall or an accident. Premature children are more likely than full-term babies to have learning problems later on in life. 

Children who have difficulties with fine motor tasks like buttoning their shirts or tying shoelaces are likely to have problems handwriting. Some children with poor visual-spatial skills find handwriting challenging, and are unable to write between the lines or judge spacing between words on a line. There are also those who find copying from the blackboard an arduous task and do not complete written work on time. 

Some children with learning disabilities can’t recognise sight words despite seeing them over and over again. Others, with reading disabilities, are slow in naming sets of numbers, letters and colours, and pictures of common objects, despite knowing their names. A subset of these children also has difficulty with numerical concepts and cannot memorise multiplication tables. 

Thus, the manifestations of learning disabilities are quite varied. If parents and educators keep a look out for these signs, a child may be formally assessed and receive help early. The earlier one intervenes, the greater the chances of the child coping successfully in the mainstream classroom. Instead of focusing on giving a child a label, we need to work on how to help him realise his full potential. 

 

S. SUNDRALINGAM 

Former deputy secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession 

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