Thursday, June 29, 2017

Filling a Gap in special education

Seven-year-old Tejas was confused when his father told him that an infinite number cannot be pinpointed. Nonetheless, he persisted with the question, but got the same answer. Finally, he relented, saying, “Fine, if the infinite number cannot be pointed out, tell me the number just before that.” A logical question indeed!

 Once, Tejas had written a mirror image of ‘6’ instead of six. Obviously, he did not get the expected ‘stars’ from his teachers. He was sad and couldn’t understand where he had gone wrong. When his parents pointed out to him that he had written the mirror image, he asked, “Why can’t the teacher hold the book upside down, then she could have read it as six.’’ The little boy, of course, sounded logical. But his mother had a gut feeling that something was wrong.

 When a child psychologist told them that he had learning disability, they could not fully comprehend what it exactly meant. The panic-stricken parents started searching for institutions that could help out their boy, which landed them at the Child Development Centre (CDC) of Thiruvananthapuram Medical College. There, they came to know that Tejas had dyslexia. “He knows the colours as red, blue, black etc. But he could not pinpoint which is which. We often dismissed such tendencies as laziness. But it was not,” said his mother, Sandhya Prajin.

 It is their frantic efforts to know more about their child’s problem that eventually led them to come up with a school for dyslexic children - Travancore National School - a first of its kind in the state. Within one year of its opening, they could make four dyslexic children pass their tenth standard examination through National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). Flattered by the rare feat achieved, the state government has also extended a helping hand to them.

 “These are good times. But there was a time when everything was topsy-turvy. His father was not ready to accept that he has dyslexia,” reminisced Sandhya.

 “How could you accept that? My daughter is highly competent and is first in everything and the fact did not sink in easily that he had learning disability,” said Prajin Babu, his father.

  What many parents fail to understand is that dyslexia is not a big problem as they think, he explained. “Yes, the child needs proper attention. But it is not something that could brandish their child for life. There are many such children. Once they understand it, their child could be saved,” said Prajin.

 To create awareness in this direction, they made Tejas a little goodwill ambassador. “Our boy has this problem. We are saying it aloud. That could make parents understand it well,” he said.  Singer G Venugopal is the ambassador of their organisation.

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