Thursday, August 31, 2006

Parents of child with dyslexia take on school

Parents and teachers must understand that children with dyslexia need extra help and understanding. But with such insensitive schools around... (see Times of India report below)

Anahita Mukherji TNN
When 12-year-old Shreya Bende, a student of St Mary’s High School, Mulund, failed in class V the second time in a row in May this year, she had little option but to leave school. Her parents got her tested at Sion Hospital on the advice of a coaching class teacher and the little girl was diagnosed with Learning Disability (LD).
LD, which causes a series of neurological disorders such as dyslexia (reading disorder), dysgraphia (writing disorder) and dyscalcula (maths disorder), does not, in any way, signify a low IQ. It simply means the child has difficulty processing information.
The Bombay high court, in a recent ruling, had ordered all schools in its jurisdiction to provide concessions to such students, including a reader, a writer and an extra half-hour during exams. In addition, the state education department had issued circulars over the past 11 years stating that the onus was on schools to identify students with LD and they should ensure that such children are not discriminated against. But Shreya was not provided any of the concessions due to LD children.
Shreya had moved to St Mary’s after studying for four years at St Joseph’s, Vikhroli, where she had managed to clear her exams regularly. At her new school, Shreya had to cope with the added pressure of studying two new languages, Hindi and Marathi.
Shreya’s parents sent her for tuitions. But when her parents approached school authorities, they were told she was incapable of coping with the high standards of the school. Shreya failed in most subjects and had to leave school.
The trauma turned Shreya into a quiet and withdrawn child. “She often stays awake all night. After her exams, she used to wake up crying in the middle of the night because she was afraid she would fail,’’ said her father, Surendra Bende. The Bendes want her re-admitted in the same school.
But the school refused to accept responsibility for Shreya’s condition. “For the past two years, her parents have not informed me that their child suffers from LD. They saw her exam papers and yet they never said anything until she left school,’’ said school principal Sister Lucina C J. When asked if the school had a counsellor to identify and tackle such problems, she said: “The teachers themselves act as counsellors and they did not find anything abnormal in the child’s behaviour.’’
However, as psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty pointed out LD is a learning problem. “This reflects the gross negligence of the school in not picking up simple spelling mistakes, bad handwriting and problems in reading, with which a teacher can easily identify LD. The school has violated the dignity and human rights of the child,’’ Shetty said.
Advocate Sheetal Kumar, who is filing a HC petition on behalf of the Bendes, said the onus of detecting LD lay squarely with the school. Clause 3 of a circular sent by the education department to school principals on May 17, 1997, clearly states, “if any of the symptoms of Learning Disability are observed in class, parents should be personally informed and parents must be guided to ensure that the child has no physiological problems’’.