Evolving Capacities: Journey of Children
JOURNEY OF CHILDREN :
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye…” : The Little Prince
ABOUT CHILDREN ANANDINI HAS WORKED WITH...
Karan was in a school that had supported him throughout his junior and senior-school years. They allowed Karan extra time for exams, were lenient while marking spelling errors and even offered him an alternative question-paper whenever necessary. Despite all this, Karan was only able to score between 35- 40 % in all the papers he was required to take at that level. He was trying his best but there was a limit to what he could do on his own. The feeling of not being able to achieve was being reflected in his personality. He was developing a low self-esteem and preferred to remain in the background - which is always sad to see in a child.
What was surprising was that- despite early identification and assessment; it was only in class ten that his parents decided to seek support for him.
About the Family:
Karan was from a nuclear family. Coming from a family that had their own business, there was also a tendency to take things a bit easy and not stress so much on academics. For the parents, Karan passing an exam was sufficient. This also partly explained the fact why they opted for remedial support only in class ten. Till then the word ‘dyslexia’ remained just that- a word, without any meaning.
Karan’s mother was totally involved with his schoolwork and other support that he needed. Without an understanding of what dyslexia is, how it was impacting the child; without also, the requisite support systems in place, both the child and the mother struggled. The father was much too busy with his work and left it entirely to the mother to work with the child.
The emotional impact this had on the mother can well be imagined. Struggling to learn more along the way, she made her efforts to get in touch with other mothers and even joined a parent support group. Her time with Karan and his studies left very little time for her to focus on her own needs.
Karan was also going through a tough phase. Class ten bringing its own set of emotions and high levels of stress and then to top it all, he had to start learning afresh at that stage !
Assessment: A preliminary spelling and reading assessment revealed that Karan was way below grade-appropriate levels. Looking at the history notes that he had brought along, it was difficult to decipher even a single word. Even he could read only a few words – words that he had written himself! Words like ‘the’, ‘is’, ‘and’ - were also spelt in a way that they had no connection to the actual word, making it absolutely impossible to decipher.
Strategy: Since there were only six months to go before Karan sat for his tenth boards, there was no time to focus on spelling or reading strategies and rules. The time was utilized to build his comprehension and organizing skills to enable him to attempt questions that required descriptive answers.
The sessions were also utilized to prepare Karan for using a scribe for his exams. The text was read out to him and he was asked to dictate his answers.
It must be kept in mind that using a scribe is not a very easy task. The person has to get used to the fact that he has to adjust his flow of thought to the writing-speed of the scribe. It is advisable to practice this process, much before the exam in order to reach a level of comfort, if possible.
Along with the academic input it was also necessary to build Karan’s confidence and constantly encourage him. Building on his strengths and reinforcing what was taught, helped him focus and start working independently as well.
Result: Karan was able to get about 60 % a huge jump from the 35- 38% he had been getting. He managed to score about 70% in his class twelve boards. That was something even he could not believe.
With an interest in the hospitality sector, Karan went to a college abroad and managed to top the class! Today he is doing well for himself – happy and confident! Most important of all, he as started believing in himself and believes that he has the ability to do well.
What could have been…
One can’t help but think what if Karan had started remedial education earlier? Since he had been identified at junior school level, he would have benefited immensely with input at that stage and would not have grown up with low confidence in his own abilities, especially in his crucial, formative years. In the end it is not all about how much he scored at the high school level, it is about looking at the person and the emotions and not so –pleasant experiences that he went through; something that could have so easily been avoided…
ABOUT ABHINAV …
Abhinav is in class 3. He was assessed about a year ago.
Assessment: He has a level of intelligence in the superior range but has extreme difficulties with reading, writing and spelling. Abhinav is very articulate and has an excellent memory. He is able to retain whatever is read out to him and manages to answer questions in class relying mainly on his memory.
Abhinav is extremely lucky to have a class teacher who recognizes the child’s potential. In order to support Abhinav, various strategies were formulated that could be implemented by the teacher, in class.
Strategy: Abhinav is encouraged to actively participate in class discussions. He is assessed orally and asked to answer a few questions orally instead of submitting all work in written.
The teacher has designated another child a ‘buddy’ to help Abhinav with his class work. The buddy is a child who is doing very well and finishes his/her work well before others. So he is able to help Abhinav with blackboard related tasks and other specific tasks that he needs support with, without it affecting his own work.
To get volunteers to support different children in class [ without naming any child], with different subjects, the situation was discussed in class. Support was sought from the children. And you will be surprised how many children wanted to help- the entire class !! All thirty hands shot up – all thirty, including Abhinav’s. All these children wanted to help their classmates. None of them knew who needed the support and for what but they were all there to support. This is one of the most beautiful examples of moving towards an inclusive world.
The parents of these children were aware of this arrangement in class. It is extremely important to ensure that the parents are on board with this arrangement.
Abhinav has also devised his own strategies. When the teacher is reading a chapter in class – he underlines things that he feels are important. Since it is difficult for him to keep track of the last words and line read, he marks it with a pencil, each time the teacher stops to explain something. He also marks lines and words that he feels are important and asks someone to read them out again, later. This helps him understand the main points and answer questions. Small things like that help him cope with his daily class work.
It also reflects the fact that Abhinav is really bright- bright enough to understand his own limitations and to devise strategies appropriate to cope with them.
About Abhinav’s family: Abhinav’s parents are well-educated and are doing well in their professional fields. They are aware of Abhinav’s difficulties, are extremely supportive and involved. They read to him and ensure that he is well-informed.
Abhinav has a passion to learn about different types of animals and wild life. He is a child with a curious mind and is always seeking information. His parents have invested in a set of encyclopedias and read to him on the topic he selects, each evening. This has resulted in Abhinav having a good command over the English language and has developed an enviable vocabulary.
Anu came to me when she was in Class 4. She had been assessed as a child with learning disabilities and the school knew about this. The school had a learning centre and had put in place a support-system to help Anu cope with her academic content.
Anu- the person…
Anu was a very quiet child, even during the one-to-one sessions that she started with me. Her confidence level and self-esteem had touched almost rock-bottom.
Assessment: As far as her reading, writing, spelling, comprehension and other areas were concerned, Anu lagged behind. She was unable to read simple CVC words and sentences like ‘The cat sat on the mat’ – had her in tears. She had no phonic skills and this reflected both in her reading and spelling. Anu’s difficulties were compounded by the fact that she was not very fluent in English – this affected her comprehension abilities and verbal skills.
Strategies: The first thing was to bring back her inherent confidence and self-esteem. So tasks were set out that she could achieve on her own and each success that she encountered was pointed out to her. This enabled her to try and learn all the basics of reading and spelling with a positive attitude rather than a feeling of ‘No. I cannot do this.’
We had to start right from scratch- the letters of the alphabet- so it took time; but the important thing was that Anu started learning. The more she learnt -the more her confidence grew – the further she wanted to learn.
A programme that focussed on Reading, Writing, Spelling and Comprehension was worked out for Anu. She did not like doing all that but was aware that it would help her with everything in school.
The special educator at school had extended the following concessions for her:
She did not have to read aloud in class like all other children
The questions were read out to her during exams
For some exams, she was allowed to sit with the special educator in the library and answer part of the paper orally.
Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes were not marked- no marks were deducted.
A constant touch was maintained with the school educator as it helped both of us work together in making a difference.
As Anu started reading, the teacher was asked to encourage Anu to read in class. This proved a turning point for Anu, as once again she felt a part of the class. Besides, it was a tremendous confidence –booster for her!
She was encouraged to take part in sport and other activities in school so that academics did not become the sole focus. Also it would help her feel a part of the class and get a sense of achievement from other sources as well. In the process she also discovered that she enjoyed athletic events and was soon she was on the school athletics team representing the school in sports meet all over the country. This proved to be an even bigger confidence booster and did wonders for her.
Today, Anu is in class 11. She ia an independent reader, prefers to write her answers on her own without any help from the teacher. She does need some support and continues to make errors from time to time but she prefers doing things on her own in school. Her comprehension abilities have also improved considerably….but most of all it is the complete and total transformation of this child. Today she is a confident, pretty young girl who is very popular among her classmates. From having not a single friend- she has friends all over, not only from her school but from other schools as well. From being a shy and quiet child she has grown up into a child who loves being with friends and has a rocking social life. She is scoring above 85 % in all her subjects and working hard to improve still further…
Sana*, a student of class eight is a child with Dyslexia. She is being helped with study skills to enable her to cope with the academic demands. She faces difficulties in reading, spelling and comprehension. Sana also seeks support in dealing with other pressures that she has to deal with. Her mother also comes in for sessions separately, that not only help her cope better but also enable her to support her daughter more effectively.
Aparna*, a student of class three has just been diagnosed with Learning Disability. She is struggling with basic reading, maths, writing and spelling. Besides the difficulties in the academic stream, Aparna is also facing other difficulties in school. Since she is not doing well in studies- no child wants to be friends with her. She leads a very lonely existence- which is extremely heartbrreaking. Her parents, especially her mother, also facing challenges of their own. They are struggling to understand what the condition really means and how it impacts their daughter. They are being helped in understanding what learning disabilities are and how children can overcome their difficulties through eduactional and psychological support. In the six months that Aparna has been coming, she has started reading, her spellings have improved, her grasp of the concepts in math have improved and she is far more confident in the way she approaches a task at hand.
Abhay *, a child of eight is in class three. He has a hearing impairment along with a learning disability. Due to the initial years of not being able to hear clearly- Abhay had difficulties in differentiating letter sounds. This impacted his reading and spellings. Abhay has been coming for remedial sessions for the last one year. He has shown a dramatic improvement in his reading, spelling, comprehension and writing abilities. He is far more confident and is even able to attempt comprehension passages –something he would never even look at earlier.
Abhinav*, a child with learning disability is in class four. Abhinav finds spellings and writing activities very difficult to handle. He is not very comfortable with English as a language and that imposes further constraints. Abhinav is learning phonics that is helping him read and spell better. Listening to and Reading stories is helping him develop a sense of the language and develop vocabulary. Abhinav is also being supported in developing grammar concepts and written skills.
Rahul*, a sixteen year old is in class ten. Rahul has cerebral palsy and a learning disability. He was assessed and identified when he was much younger, but sought remedial intervention only this year. He is being supported with study skills- on how to organise and chunk information that will help him learn and retain the information better. Rahul is also being prepared for using a scribe for his exams. For this he needs to be able to collate infomation and be systematic while dictating the information.
Each of these children have taught me more than I ever hoped to teach them… I thank them and their families for trusting me with them and for making me part of their journey.
I believe that every child finds a path and every path has its rough patches…some children prefer the comfort of the path oft-used , while others take the path less trod..eventually they all carve their own paths and find their own special place in the world… the important thing is to believe in the child. Believe that each child has the ability. Believe that children possess strengths that are often unique to them. Encourage and support them. Encourage others to support them when they need that support. Ensure they receive the Rights that are theirs. Stand by your child- Always. Recognise the struggle and challenges the child is facing –respect them for being brave in the face of adversity. Believe, Believe, Believe and let them surprise you…
“A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed, It feels an impulsion…this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons…” Richard Bach