-By Anish Gokhale.
Understanding the causes and the symptoms portrayed by a child suffering from dyslexia helps in identifying appropriate intervention strategies. Before moving on to intervention, however, the therapist/remedial educator needs to be able to understand the extent of the difficulty faced by the child.
In several cases, the child may only suffer from lack of phoneme awareness, but has a good vocabulary and comprehension capacity; or in some cases the child is able to read and write with a little difficulty but struggles to comprehend the same. Thus, the therapist’s knowledge of appropriate tools that helps diagnose dyslexia is highly essential. The Woodcock-Johnson Test for cognitive abilities, LDRP (Learning Difficulty Research Programme), a test that measures word identification, decoding, and comprehension and SPM (Standard Progressive Matrices) are some tests that can be used in identifying the nature and extent of difficulties in the child upon which an intervention program can be chalked out.
IEPs (Individualised Education Programmes) may differ from child to child, not only on the basis of the severity of the problem but also on the child’s capabilities, attitude towards studies, their motivation, and the rapport the child builds with the remedial teacher. In some instances, a child with severe dyslexia can show very good progress if the child is internally motivated and has a good student-teacher relationship with the instructor. Thus, IEPs are required to be made keeping these factors in mind. A basic intervention program usually involves teaching a child from the basics; phonics/phonic awareness, blending, and introduction to word families, sight words, etc.
The approaches usually used during interventions are mainly more direct with clear, crisp, and repetitive instructions, with a use of more visual than audio aids. A reading programme called Empower Reading Programme has been devised by the SickKids Hospital in Canada which aims to teach reading and spelling by familiarising the child with five strategies of learning. These include decoding, spelling, comprehension, and vocabulary programmes. Other interventions can include teacher-made tests that depend on the child’s needs and areas of struggle. For example, if a child has good phonic awareness and is able to read words with 80% accuracy, but has poor fluency, the remedial teacher could formulate an IEP that targets on improving fluency by giving the child timed reading tasks and visual aids such as graphs that monitor the child’s progress and keeps him/her motivated.
With the current COVID-19 situation and schools having shut down for larger parts of the first semester, educational institutes have begun to adopt virtual learning where students continue with their education virtually. While this is a step in the right direction, it poses a problem for many of our students that suffer from learning difficulties and abnormal behaviour. While intervention programmes for such students involve more individual attention and a direct one-one approach, virtual learning poses many limitations and distractions. A child with dyslexia would not be well equipped to learn with the help of slides and presentations as well as any other student. They require input in the form of videos and audio-books that convert their books and material into audio form.
Poor attention spans and behavioural issues are also a few drawbacks for virtual learning. Parental involvement is highly essential. Parents must be well equipped and well versed with the apps and platforms used for virtual learning so that they can help their child learn a little better. Active participation of parents and their overall awareness of their child’s learning and growth would help their child exponentially.