Parent’s Guide to identifying learning disabilities in their children

Learning disabilities are neurological problems which interfere with basic learning skills such as reading, writing, comprehending, calculating and so on. Children with learning disabilities are prone to take longer to learn and may need individual support to develop new skills, understand intricate concepts and interact with other people. 

How common are learning disabilities?
In India, around 13-14 percent of all school children suffer from learning disorders. The past decade has witnessed a sudden increase in the recognition of learning disabilities in India. This sensitivity has benefited some children who have to cope with the invisible learning disability. Discovering your child’s special needs is often a confusing and painful process for parents. Learning difficulties can be subtle, multiple, and difficult to pinpoint, it can be hard for parents to know whether things are normal or not.

Identifying the type of struggle your child may have with learning is also imperative to future success. There is a distinction between a difficulty and a learning disability. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference between the two. Everyone experiences some difficulty when learning something. We are not adept at every skill. A learning disability, on the other hand, refers to a disorder manifested by significant difficulties in acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. 

Types of Learning Disorders:
- Dyslexia: It is a reading disability that causes a child to reverse letters (mirror image).
- Dyscalculia: It is a lesser known disability that affects mathematical calculations.
- Dysgraphia: It is a learning disability resulting from the difficulty in expressing thoughts in writing and graphing. 
- Dyspraxia: It refers to difficulties with fine motor skills such as hand-eye co-ordination, etc.

What are some ‘early warning signs’?
[1] Communication problems: The communication of your child delays, such as the pace of his/her language development slows down with the difficulty in speech. They face problems understanding what is being said and might not be able to communicate their thoughts and have a tough time processing information in one or more several areas of learning.

[2] Memory problems: These might include your child not remembering specifics of daily activities and not understanding or remembering multiple instructions. For example, despite of memorizing a set of words repeatedly, the child might still not remember what he has studied and learnt.
[3] Arithmetic problems: The child might face difficulty with mathematics while computing, remembering and learning time and money concepts. Very young children may struggle with learning to count; school-aged children may reverse numbers and misalign columns. This disability might affect the functional skills of a child such as playing board games, counting money, or measuring things.

[4] Writing problems: Handwriting is a complex process that involves processing information and putting thoughts on paper by coordinating vision and pencil movements to form letters and words. The child might struggle to organise letters, words and organise numbers on a page.

All children need love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with learning disabilities, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough.

In searching for ways to help your children with learning disabilities, remember that you are looking for ways to help them help themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the learning disability, but to give your child the social and emotional tools he or she needs to work through challenges. 
Parents should identify and immediately bring it to the notice of educators and should not hesitate or shy away which in turn affects the student's learning abilities. In the long run, facing and overcoming a challenge such as a learning disability can help your child grow stronger and more resilient.

Why is reading to a child recommended?

For years, pediatricians and child psychologists have recommended reading to children and for all the right reasons, too! It is the most brilliant way to develop their language while also improving their left brain functions, self-confidence, which, inevitably, leads to higher literacy.

Reading to your child from a very young age has multiple benefits, some of which are mentioned below.

Boosts school readiness:
An average child reads for 20 minutes every day and is exposed to about 1.8 million words of text every year. That is 137 new words per minute! They absorb information on how to structure sentences and how to use words effectively in their writing and speaking. When you read to your child, it helps build their vocabulary, literacy skills and language. It also helps to improve concentration, memory and builds curiosity.

Promotes academic success:
It's been proven through scientific studies that children who grow up with lots of books at home become more inquisitive and tend to explore deeper in any field they choose. Furthermore, they do better not only in school academics but also in verbal and nonverbal tests. Books are more than just an additional source of information as they provide information beyond what are taught by parents, teachers and peers. Reading promotes reflection time for young children to analyse their learning and therefore, achieve better across the curriculum.

Cultivates a love for books:
Reading together lazily crouching on the sofa, reading bedtimes stories or visiting the library are just some ways a parent can spend time together with their child. It helps to build a strong relationship with the child. You can cuddle up with your child with a good book and discuss on various fictitious and factual themes. It will help to promote construction of knowledge and in development of critical thinking. It will also help the child realise that reading is not just a part of studies, but something that can be enjoyed and can be taken as a pleasurable hobby.

Develops empathy:
As children grow, they begin to imagine how they would feel in certain situations. If children lack the language to share feelings, it’s hard for them to understand each other and communicate effectively. Neuroscientist and Researchers at Emory University, Atlanta, says that fiction tricks our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people.

Teaching your child to read early has multiple benefits and is the key to your child's academic future. This is exactly why parents must encourage this custom and commence reading to their child right from their birth. If you, as a parent, don’t know where to begin, here’s a list of book selections compiled for you to check out: There are a variety of books for children of different age groups and are full of amazing stories and good morals which can make an impact on their lives.

How Motor Skills help in academic achievements

The relationship between motor skills and academic achievements has been a topic of research in the field of education since time immemorial. According to studies, a complex relationship exists between cognitive and motor skills development in infants and development of motor skills in early life leads to later success in math, science, reading and writing.

The Key Concept of Motor Skills:
Motor Skills are actions/activities that involves your child’s muscular movements. These skills are broadly divided into two types: Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills. Gross Motor Skills are the larger movements that a child makes with their arms, legs, feet or the entire body. For example, running, jumping, dancing, etc. which we popularly name as ‘physical exercise’. Whereas, Fine Motor Skills are the ones that involve precision movements of smaller muscles in the fingers, hands and forearms. For example, drawing within a confined space, lacing shoes, buttoning shirts etc.

Motor Skills and Academic Development:
In the process of child’s holistic development, Motor Skills are of prime importance. Gross Motor Skills help a child in strengthening of the heart and lungs, preventing weight gain, healthy bones, good posture which pump more oxygen to the brain and improve actual brain function by helping nerve cells to multiply, creating more connections for learning (Cotman, 2002; Ferris, 2007). On the other side, development of Fine Motor Skills help improve eye-hand coordination crucial for developing reaching and grasping, moving objects and using tools like crayons, pencils and scissors. These skills help the child to strengthen pincher grip which helps in drawing, writing and all activities that require using of fingers. Children with issues such as dysgraphia or dyspraxia have trouble with their Fine Motor Skills. 

How PICT ensures Motor Skills development in its learners:
At PICT, we understand the importance of development of Motor Skills in our young learners which is why we practice “learning by doing’. The time table has a perfect blend of “hands – on activities” in the classrooms along with gross physical activities in the playground. Throughout the instructional time at school, we challenge the large and small motor movements by reaching, grasping, rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, climbing, throwing, catching, kicking, cooing and talking; whichever developmental stage your child happens to be.

Instilling Critical Thinking in Classroom

Critical Thinking is a term often used by educators which means ‘making reasoned judgements’. Critical Thinking is to promote independent thinking and reasoned judgements which involve logic as well as creativity. Critical Thinking is important in life because it develops the power to evaluate, helps ‘out of the box thinking’ and present your thoughts in a persuasive manner.

Critical Thinking and Education
Education is no longer about producing well-informed individuals. The scope of education has never been wider as we see this day. It is about systematically training the brain to analyse complex concepts, evaluating them in real life context and thereby, modifying into actions. In order to allow Critical Thinking in classroom, educators have to create opportunities for group discussions, debates, cooperative learning (Active Learning Strategies) which will foster free thinking in learners.

How PICT has adopted Critical Thinking in classroom
Educators at PICT encourage Critical Thinking by conducting activities that promote Active Learning. They have come up with strategies which train learners to think critically. It has helped our learners to evaluate and analyse before concluding to a judgement. Designing academic lessons plans that promote critical thinking has not only helped our learners transfer critical thinking skills to other areas of their lives, but it has also improved the effectiveness of the lessons. Some of the strategies that we follow at PICT are:
- Thinking of imaginative ways and solutions while solving a problem
- Allowing sufficient time for students to reflect on the questions asked or problems posed
- Promoting interactions amongst students
- Finding analogies and other kinds of relationships between pieces of information

Educators at PICT know that without critical thinking systematically designed into instruction, learning is transitory and superficial. It is, therefore, essential that learners be prepared for thinking their way through the maze of challenges that life will present independently. This is why, at PICT, we have adopted Critical Thinking in our instructional strategies to empower our learners to think independently, analytically and in an innovative way.

Life is a journey, not a race

PICT Model School's very own Mr. Nehal Singhal, a 6th Grader (Emerald), has some really beautiful and thoughtful information to share with his fellow classmates. Moreover, he also has a message for all educators of PICT. Read on to find out!
I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you thought you could be.
- Ken Venturi
The Term One exams have finished at PICT Model School. Every learner at school must acknowledge their educators for teaching them with all their heart. Once the exams are done, it isn’t the educators who gain something substantial, but it’s us, the learners, who do. The educators could just sit, make us read the textbooks,  ask us a few questions, make us answer them and done, the period over! But, they don’t. They especially teach and make sure we excel with ease in each test because they know it is important for us. And because of all these efforts they take for us, I believe that they deserve a silent reward, a gesture of appreciation, a word, Thank You!
Nonetheless, the learners have also put in a tremendous amount of effort. Without lethargy or complaints, they have concentrated on the very task of excelling in the exams. Though the learners should remember that they should compete with themselves, surpass their own expectations. They shouldn’t compare themselves with others. Life itself is an exam and if we continuously keep comparing our progress with that of others, it will become a race. Yet, life isn’t a race; it shouldn’t be as it wasn’t a race, to begin with.
When we reflect upon these two weeks, we should be happy that we have taken the tests and done well on them. No matter what the score, as long as efforts, determination and a never-ending thirst to perform better was there with us. We should be proud of ourselves from within.

Mst. Nehal Singhal
Grade 6 Emerald

For Knowledge is like a river

PICT Model School is always looking forward to our learners showcasing their skills and is always glad to aid any learner who wants to go the extra mile. One of such learners is Mr. Nehal Singhal of Grade 6 (Emerald) who wanted to share his experience and thoughts on the Science Mela that was organised at PICT.

Science is simply the world we use to describe a method of organizing our curiosity.
                  -   Tim Minchin

The Science Mela at PICT Model School was packed with curiosity, fun, creativity and last but not the least, the answer to curiosity. Students creatively displayed amazing and some truly astonishing science facts and experiments while emphasizing their importance in real-life situations.
People always learn from a science experiment or a fact no matter how old, small, important or unimportant it is. Knowledge is like a river which should be kept flowing. This educational Mela surely boosted all the learners and parents with scientific information alike. Though, no matter how easy the topics, it surely strengthened the understanding of Science of everyone in a fun way.
It helped learners of all age groups learn how to demonstrate scientific concepts by learning from real-life situations. It also aided them to realize practically, how Science is an important aspect of everyday life.
The educators were also excited and wanted the learners to thrive in their work. The Science Mela will, every year, remain an important part of PICT Model School.
Mst. Nehal Singhal
Grade 6 Emerald

Learning Theories - IV


Having talked about Cognitive Learning Theory and Behavioral Learning Theory previously, what remains to be discussed now is type three (and the last one) of learning theories i.e. Constructivism.

Key concept of Constructivism
Constructivism, as the term itself suggests, is characterized by learners constructing information primarily out of their own understanding, experiences and by reflecting on the same. Constructivism implies that whenever there's new information to be assimilated by a learner, he or she might either embrace it by changing their older understanding or they can discard this new information if they think it is peripheral. If one is to adopt Constructivism, it means that they believe that there is no such thing as “knowledge” out there, there is only information and what we construct of it.

Importance of Constructivism in classroom teaching:
The importance of Constructivism in classroom teaching cannot be stressed enough. What makes it important is that it views learning as an active process. Learners discover facts, principles, and concepts by themselves. Constructivism promotes reflective and intuitive thinking in learners. One more characteristic of Constructivism theory is that it facilitates a good relationship between the educator and the learner as both of them are equally willing to learn from each other.

How PICT has adopted Constructivism:

At PICT, educators know the importance of Constructivism and hence, have inculcated it in classroom teaching. Educators realize that even though there are set curriculum objectives, it is essential for them to enforce their own thoughts or beliefs as well as those of the learners in order to make the learning process a shared enterprise. Furthermore, it encourages students to use active learning techniques such as experiments, debates, projects to construct additional knowledge and eventually, to reflect on and express what they are doing and how their understanding is evolving. The educators make sure that they have an understanding of the students' pre-existing thoughts and conceptions and guide the activities to address them and then build on them. Thus, the benefits of adoption of Constructivism at PICT can be summed up as follows.
- Dynamic interaction between the educator and the learner.
- The learning experience is both subjective and objective.
- A hands-on approach is promoted in learning.
- Learners are fostered to make their own conclusions and reasoning.
- Facilitates deeper understanding of concepts by give and take of information.

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