A parent’s role: coping and supporting strategies
- Having a child with learning disabilities requires you to make certain adjustments to your lifestyle. At least one stay-at-home parent or a grandparent is needed to be available to the child at all times. This doesn’t mean you smother him; give him some space and at the same time keep an eye on him and his progress.
- Cut down on socialisation and travel during the initial stages of your child’s remedial treatment. You will have a lot more time on your hands this way, which helps you cope better.
- you have another child who is neurotypical, you will have to spend time with him too to prevent him feeling ignored and neglected. Geetha Narayanaswamy, New Delhi, whose younger son has Sturge-Weber syndrome (a rare disorder characterised by nervous system problems), ensures that she and husband alternate between their children, organising activities that are of interest to both. When her second son was born, her first was still too young to understand why his younger brother needed special attention. The couple inculcated in him a reading habit and soon he became a voracious reader, with his younger brother tailing him whenever he visited the library!
- Modify your expectations; don’t expect something phenomenal from your child. Take baby steps. While you may expect your ‘normal’ child to be a topper or do well in his studies, you will need to recalibrate expectations for a child with learning problems. For example, completing an assignment or writing a paragraph with minimum errors is progress.
- Be involved and stay in touch with what the school and the special educator teach your child. Learn the different learning techniques yourself, so you can reinforce them at home.
- Do not talk negatively about your child. You are constantly being scrutinised by him, and any sign that you think of him as less able will be hurtful and contribute to his low selfesteem.
- Teach him to be an independent learner.
- Encourage him to mingle with his peer group and participate in all peer group activities.
Some intervention centres
- Larkspur Educational Trust, Bangalore www.larkspuredu.in
- Turning Point Centre for Child Guidance, Bangalore http://www.turningpointcentre.com
- V-Excel Educational Trust, Chennai http://www.v-excel.org
- Chettinad Srihari Vikasam, Chennai
- Minds and Souls, Kolkata http://www.mindsandsouls.org
- PACE Resource Centre, Mumbai http://www.tulipchildren.org
- Psyindia, New Delhi http://psyindia.com
Working with schools
A child with a learning disability usually has average to above-average intelligence and can study in a mainstream school — he does not need a special school. While mainstream schools in India are gradually becoming more accepting of children with learning disabilities, and coming to the realisation that such kids can learn well with some additional help, the parents still need to work a lot with the teachers to ensure that their child gets the best attention possible.
- Choose your child’s school carefully — it is better to have him study in a school with small class sizes, where he will get personal attention, and where the management is accepting of children with differing abilities.
- As a parent, you will have to involve yourself deeply in your child’s learning, co-ordinating with the teachers on a regular basis. Update yourself with his performance at school. Re-teach him at home.
- Set learning goals together with your child’s educator and revise strategies. Use the same strategies at home.
- Be a link between the special educator and the class teacher.
- Find out how you can help the teacher with home activities to enforce learning.
- Some schools allow for monthly Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs). Teachers and parents discuss and highlight annual targets and goals, following which monthly sessions are organised to go over what has been done in the past month and to plan what will be done in the following month. These meetings must involve not only the parents and teachers, but also the special educators and therapists, if any.
Parent support groups