Monday, March 31, 2014

Child with a Learning Disability: Post 1

These are a series of posts about a boy full of life, a happy child who sees no differences in people. A boy who thinks each and every person out there is a friend. A boy who doesn't see that people are judging him because he is different. It is about a boy who faces the usual challenges of a boy his age and several more challenges than a boy his age. 


The teacher complained that this boy was hitting other children in class. He needed help with his work. He was not interested in doing his work. She said please teach him at home also.

The parents took the role of a teacher at home. But when the parent sat to teach, the child howled and cried and refused to learn. They dreaded opening the school diary to see complaints like 'your son is troubling children of 1st grade.' The son played really well with children in the building. The parents were confused why their child was different in school. 

The parents tried to ask questions to the teacher such as 'what caused the child to lash out?' 'how do you handle it?' 'does he target specific children?' The teacher was vague in her answers, insisting that he just lashes out. On further questioning, she shared that he was not recognizing alphabets and numbers. She advised that the parents should try harder. These things happen because of working parents who don't have time for their children. She advised that the parents should hang alphabets and numbers chart and not to worry about the decor of the house.

Soon, the child got very restless at home also. He came back home and said 'Children say I don't know ABCs; I don't know how to talk; I don't know anything.' The distressed parents spoke to the pediatrician and special educator. They were both supportive and insisted we wait a few more months. An assessment was conducted after six months. The child was diagnosed as being at risk of a learning disability.

The parents shared the information with the teacher. The teacher hinted that these children do well in special schools. The parents had arranged a meeting with the Principal. The teacher calls the parent and says 'Ma'am, can you please tell the Principal that I helped you identify the problem? We are never given credit for anything. Also, the management is pro-parents and therefore insists that we say only nice things to the parents.' Needless to say, the parent already extremely emotional and stressed politely told the teacher to get lost.

The Principal was very supportive and the special educator worked her magic with the child. But things worsened in the classroom. Complaints kept coming in steadily from the class teacher. Her way of 'handling' him was to give simple tasks and then send him out to play. The communication between the teacher and the special educator was extremely poor due to the teacher's ego. The parents requested the teacher to become more sensitive and understand how to handle the child from the special educator. But resistance was evident. 'Why should I focus on one child when I have 29 others?' Every other day, the child would come and tell the parent that he was punished. One day, the child came back and said 'I don't like my teacher. She asked me to get out of the school.' The parents, who had been very patient so far, met the Principal, gave feedback and removed the child from the school. The Principal explained that they are not equipped to handle these children (and by this I guess she meant, we also don't plan to be) and washed her hands off.

What do we expect from the teachers?
  • We expect them to be impartial. Treat all children alike.
  • We expect them to encourage children and provide them a positive environment to learn. 
  • We expect them to have the student's interests at heart. 
  • What is the point in focusing on the so called 'bright' children?
  • We do look for professional behavior. 
Where do we take our children if the school that claims to be inclusive is really not? During a telephonic conversation, the teacher tells the parent 'I am a software engineer, I came into this line after my son was born. I wanted to be with children.' Is this reason enough to hire a teacher? Most schools may think kindergarten is not so critical. But it is equally critical as children that young have mouldable personalities and hearts. The child, in this case especially, has a fragile ego and imagine what kind of risk we are putting him in by exposing him to insensitive and untrained teachers.

The teacher must not judge the child or their parents. Parents always want to do the best for their child. This particular teacher must remember that she is a working mother too. And must understand what causes learning disabilities before making statements that only prove her ignorance in the matter.

Coming back to the boy.... he was sent to The Deens Academy, where the Special Educator has a group of trained teaches, a classroom setting and good infrastructure to support children with mild to moderate difficulties. The Principal, the special ed staff, headmistress and the teacher in the class are all aware of the child's individual plan. The communication is open and therefore, the child is not treated wrongly. The teacher seeks out the special ed teacher incase she wants inputs on how a tantrum or a behavior can be corrected. Where would parents take their children if such schools didn't exist? Scary....  

If your child has a learning disability, ensure that you put him or her in the right environment. These children are very intelligent and learn differently. Put them in a positive environment where teachers and the school actually do the job they are meant to do --- tap the child's potential.