Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects one’s ability to read, spell, write and speak. Kids who have it are often smart and hardworking, but they have a hard time connecting the letters they see to the sounds those letters make.

Dyslexia is usually related to genes, which is why the condition often runs in families. One is most likely to have this condition if parents, siblings or other family members have it.

For kids who have dyslexia, the brain has a hard time connecting letters to the sound they make, and then blending those sounds into words. Dyslexia is different for everyone. Some people have a mild form that they eventually learn to manage while others have a little more trouble overcoming it. One needs to understand that even if children aren’t able to fully outgrow dyslexia, they can still complete their education and succeed in life.

According to the Department of Biotechnology, the incidence of dyslexia is estimated at 10% and nearly 35 million children in India are thought to have this learning disability. The label of learning disability is itself new to India. It was officially recognized in 2009 when the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act of 1995 was amended to include the category of Specific Learning Disabilities.

The Bollywood movie ‘Taare Zameen Par’, about a young boy struggling to learn in school, brought the term ‘dyslexia’ into the mainstream, seeking to raise awareness, clarify some misconceptions and reduce the stigma associated with it. There has been a sudden awakening about dyslexia in the popular consciousness after the movie. So many people are hearing the word for the first time. People who lived in denial or who hid it for years are now coming out to talk about it.

Most Indian schools do not have programs to help children with learning disabilities, and teachers are not generally trained to deal with the issue, if not completely ignorant of it. The few private schools that offer special education often charge extortionate fees which aren’t affordable to the general public. Educators and analysts state that as Indian schools have become more competitive, they have put more emphasis on textbook studies and not enough on other skills. Schools simply dismiss children with learning disabilities as badly behaved and hopeless. Unfortunately many in India still think that a learning disability comes under the mental illness category, and this adds to the shame and stigma.

Mr Rajeev Bhatt, the director of Action Dyslexia has suggested some teaching techniques that he has devised to help students, parents as well as teachers:

• The first step is positive reinforcement. One has to communicate with dyslexic kids in a positive manner so it becomes easier for him/her to grasp things. Things might get tricky when you lose patience with them.

• One has to understand that dyslexic kids are more inquisitive by nature and if you can give them logical answers, it will be easier for them to learn. It is important for them to know why a certain thing should be done in a specific manner. They should learn by writing. They should never just listen.

• Bigger subjects like science and social science should be taught in a tabular manner as this would make it easier for them to understand.• The more it is visual, the better it is. Audio-visual teaching is always better for them.

• Use scientific memory techniques with them. Make them repeat a particular paragraph after a point of interval and then ask them random questions. This always works better while teaching.• If a child is young, you can use flash cards.

• Yoga works better for them as they have concentration issues.

• For subjects like history, work with method of cause and effect.

It is time to change the attitudes which Indian society has towards those with learning difficulties including dyslexia. We need to understand that there isn’t one standard way of thinking and we need to appreciate each individual child’s way of understanding and expressing the world surrounding them. People with learning disabilities have gone on to build successful careers and businesses. What they need most is acceptance and opportunities.

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