Giving Wings to Dreams – The Enablers of Success
Beginning in September 2011, this section in ParentEdge has covered Slow Learners, Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the Autism Spectrum and Gifted Children. We, the ParentEdge editorial team, have met many educationists, parents, special educators and therapists who have shared inspiring stories. In this First Anniversary Issue, we would like to tell you one such story, and discuss some aspects that are relevant to children who have different needs from the ‘normal’ – be it a learning disability, a physical disability or a developmental disorder.
Twenty years ago, Renuka Shah, a Chennai-based interior decorator, was told by the school her son Aditya attended, that he seemed to have some problems in coordination between the mind and the hand. She was completely taken aback. Her thoughts ran, “What are they saying? He is only five years old. I have been so good at studies, how can my son have such a problem?” It was her association with Jaishri Ramakrishnan (Consultant Psychologist, Specialist in different needs of children and a member of the ParentEdge Panel of Experts) that helped her understand that dyslexia is a condition and not a disease. This in turn, enabled her to accept the reality and deal with it.
“When Aditya came to me as a five-year-old, he was a diffident and reticent child. Schooling was terrorising and an uphill task for him. However, we worked together as a team and were able to see him through the 10+2+3, and he got a distinction as well,” shares Jaishri.
After acquiring a college degree, Aditya is pursuing a successful career in professional photography; he has worked as an assistant in camera work for two commercial feature films. He runs his own company, and is a happy, self-assured person.
What were the factors that helped Aditya realise his potential? It is useful to examine these, especially since he grew up in a time and age when the knowledge or awareness of any kind of different need was almost absent.
Jaishri continues to be closely associated with Aditya and Renuka even today, after twenty years. “Aditya is like Jaishri’s son, even today he goes to her for counsel or just to sound out ideas and feelings. I too call her for day-to-day issues that crop up. We have a relationship that is beyond the educator–client connection,” describes Renuka.
It is this long term association of a therapist/special educator with the child and his family that is called the cohort experience in the context of special education. Many disabilities/conditions/ disorders unfold over the child’s growing years and manifest differently. The strengths, weaknesses and learning abilities of the child also change as the child develops intellectually and physically. The cohort therapist/special educator is able to closely monitor these developments and identify the lacunae. Another important area where a cohort experience helps is in the transference of the remedial teaching or intervention to the mainstream classroom that the child may go to. Rapport and confidence building with the child take a significant amount of a special educator’s time and energy. Once this foundation is laid, there is freedom and flexibility for the special educator to explore, experiment and wait patiently for the intervention to yield results along with normal, physical growth. If parents keep changing special educators, impatient to see short term results, then this process of unfolding is aborted and the child is affected.
Looking back on his schooling and growing years, a confident Aditya states, “Actually, I did not find anything very different or difficult. I had my mother and Ms. Jaishri and all credit goes to them.” So it is important that a special educator who has struck a chord with the family continues the association, at least throughout the schooling process.