Submission by Vardah Gill. Have an opinion you’d like to share? Write to us here.
A couple of months ago, an article was published shedding light on the expulsion of a student with learning disabilities from a well-reputed private school in Pakistan. The reason given by the school authorities was pointing towards his failing grades and his inability to compete with his fellows. This incident made many question the system.
Learning disabilities refer to the neurobiological and genetic factors that affect the cognitive ability of a child thereby altering their mind. This change in the functioning of the brain results in aberrant perceptions of things, which makes them overall different from the rest of the students. These include dyslexia, non-verbal learning disabilities, dyspraxia, ADHD, etc.
The obscure nature of these disabilities and their subjection to social ignorance make it difficult for the parents or teachers to actually diagnose them, hence making the process of the treatment very arduous.
Students with a short attention span, lethargic attitude, and difficulty following instructions are usually considered careless and ignorant in schools making teachers accountable for their poor performance. The student persists to perform this way and keeps on getting promoted to the next classes. Little do we understand that these students need a diagnostic approach towards their condition. These indications, though appear to be normal, but if persevere, can be a sign of an underlying psychological disorder, demanding the need for accommodations at educational institutions.
When realising that their kids are faced with learning disabilities, parents are thrown into uncertainty which may make it difficult for them to analyse the situation properly. Many parents want their children to be a part of a mainstream school, ignoring the fact that this can have adverse effects on their children’s academic journey. This being said, the needs of the child come first, and parents must take responsibility by putting their own expectations aside.
Special schools have been stigmatized in Pakistan over the course of years because of the disparaging perception of their existence. The association of treatable psychological problems with severe mental illnesses is the main reason why parents turn a blind eye towards this solution. They would rather have their children doing poorly in normal schools than sending them off for special education.
The reluctance comes not only from the parents of the children but from extended family and from friends as well. This negligence of parents results in students jumping from one mainstream school to another, home-tuitions, parents yelling at teachers, all aiming at the long-term problems encountered by students.
Complex problems call for complex solutions; working with the professional, bringing out the strengths of the child, understanding the difficulties they are facing, and learning the strategies to overcome the problem. On top of all this stands the idea of understanding the educational system your child is a part of.
For children with LDs, studying in a normal school can be a nightmare. They might be struggling on daily basis with the idea of them lagging behind their class fellows. The option of integration fails here; to provide them with educational equity once the option of special schools is considered, which can open a way for them to perform better and be excited about learning. This also eliminates negative competition, which usually becomes a part of a student’s psychology and is meant to hamper their growth.
The special education system is designed to understand the needs of children who find it extremely difficult to study on their own. Special strategies- speech pathology, literacy and reading, occupational therapy– are all implemented for making their performance better over the course of time. This goes without saying that teachers, with special training, can also play a vital role in their journey. Students need encouragement, and this coming from their teacher creates a sense of victory for them.
Students often try to make an effort to communicate with their peers who hold a higher degree of dominance over them, which can result in the violation of the self-esteem of students with LDs. Surrounded by fellows subjected to the same challenges can bring a sense of affiliation among students which accumulates their learning process. Children with LDs may not be high achievers, but they still crave recognition, not based on their marks but on their effort.
Needless to say, parents have to be equally involved along with the educators to make progress. It all starts with the development of a strong channel of communication between the child and their parents, presenting a floor to the child for them to gain self-confidence. Rather than the ideology of perfection, directing a child’s mind towards consistency and effort can lead to progressive results. What matters at the end of the day is to provide the children with building blocks to strive and excel.