Parents of children with specific learning disability like ADHD dyslexia and slow learners in India opt for home tuition rather than therapy. Is that the right decision? Read on to find out.
Tutoring Children with Learning Disabilities – The Challenge
An article in Forbes claims that less than 36% of Indians with depression are likely to seek treatment. Of those who do seek treatment, more than 80% choose medication over therapy. Similar statistics are true of almost all psychological disorders including learning disability (LD) in children. This week we decided to look why so many Indian children are deprived of the required intervention that can help correct or at least manage the problem better. So here are the unique challenges that LD poses:
The Problem of Identification
Research shows that teachers in an average sized school identify only about 2 to 3% students in a class as LD. As far as identification by parents is concerned, very little statistics are available.
There exists a general lack of understanding of the problem, both among parents as well as teachers. Add to that the fact that a great many Indian still live below the poverty line and the prevalence of illiteracy, and social barriers and you have a significant number of un-identified cases of LD.
Considering the size of the class in average sized schools – about 50 to 60 students –constrictions such as availability of time, large size of the class, and the multitasking required of teachers, the time devoted to close observation of certain children for specific learning disability is extremely low. The most a teacher can do is advise the parents that a problem exists, and even that, only when the disability is immediately apparent and the parent is highly approachable. As a result children with mild to medium difficulties escape detection altogether.
Of those children that are identified, few come forward to seek help. There are several reasons for this. The first is the reluctance on the part of the parents to admit that a problem exists. One significant cause for this reluctance – particularly in India – is the Indian Culture, which does not encourage individuals to seek help for psychological disorders. Parents opt for home tuition as an alternative rather than seeking professional intervention.
As a cultural group, Indians are less likely to seek help for disorders such as slow learners, math learning disabilities, nonverbal learning disability, and other specific learning disability. Although the level of literacy in India is rising, there is still a lot of stigma attached to psychological conditions among Indians. Moreover, although LD is often of neurological origin, it is clubbed under mental illnesses simply because psychologists provide at least part of the intervention. When it comes to children with learning disabilities, the stigma assumes larger proportions with even educated parents unwilling to accept the existence of LD, let alone actively seek intervention.
Attitude towards Education
Apart from the stigma attached to the issue of neurological disorders and mental conditions, the naturally slow-paced progress of therapy, leads parents who do seek intervention, to believe that the treatment is “not working.” Another major obstacle is the “passing the grade” approach to education, which makes tutoring for children with learning disabilities a bigger challenge. The Indian system of education is result-oriented rather than achievement oriented. This mindset encourages rote learning without much heed to comprehension even in a significant portion of “normal” children.
Belief in faith healing, old customs and rituals, and conservative social norms, coupled with low literacy levels and poverty further serve to limit the number of children identified with LD and those seeking help.
Another factor that limits parents from actively seeking intervention is practical problems of day-to-day life. In India, the system of joint family is still widely prevalent. In addition, the burden of home management and child-care still sits squarely on the shoulders of the woman of the house with little help from the spouse. Growing inflation requires that both spouses work to earn a living. With live-in elderly parents, the burden of the household duties, the increasing demands at work, long commutes, and pressures of “passing exams” intervention for learning disabilities takes a back seat. Where the disability is mild, it is not considered significant enough to merit attention and where the problem is severe – such as Autism – intervention is considered “unproductive” expenditure.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In the few cases where the parents do come forward, the problem of diagnosis arises. The spectrum of learning disorders is wide and differences are subtle. In fact, no two children with LD have identical symptoms, even when the diagnosis is the same. Though psychology is a science, it is highly subjective in nature and the “cure” in each case is different unlike medicine where a standard drug is prescribed to all patients with the same disease. Diagnosis and treatment therefore pose a significant challenge.
Considering the situation in India, professionals endeavor to ensure that the child gets the help he or she needs. This compels them – the professionals – to follow the RtI (Response to Intervention) method for diagnosis. This means that when a parent approaches a professional, he or she will begin tuition for children with specific learning disabilities before proclaiming a diagnosis. This approach, serves to ensure that once a child is suspected LD, he or she is not deprived of treatment. The child remains under close observation of the professional while at the same time avoiding the “labeling” associated with the condition.
The road is long and complex but there have been significant positive changes in the system of education, which point to a better tomorrow for both the children themselves as well as society as a whole. Not the least of these is the New National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 introduced last year and for which implementation is underway.
If you want to know more about learning disabilities, the NEP 2020 or other subjects related to education do ask in the comments. You can also join us on our Facebook Group and drive discussion on the subject close to your heart. Meanwhile do sign up for our weekly newsletter and get the latest from BYN in your inbox.