Help! My son is a slow learner

My son (11) has always been a slow learner. All his development stage markers have been delayed. He has considerable difficulty in putting down his thoughts on paper to write essays. Because of extreme stress, of late he has started throwing violent tantrums when writing. He tears up the paper and starts throwing things. I am so confused as to how to react to this! Should I inflict small punishments while trying to make him understand his condition? Please advise!
— Frustrated Mom, Pune

All of us experience frustration when forced to perform difficult tasks that seem impossible to achieve. Refusal to write is common and understandable phenomenon. Break the task into smaller parts and help him gradually write longer essays. If the focus is on creative writing or ideation, avoid correcting and highlighting legibility, form or spelling errors and praise his ideation capability. This will build motivation and reduce frustration. Your son doesn’t need to know details of his diagnosis. He needs to know that you are there to help him overcome his weakness.

My son (10) has been diagnosed with learning disability. The mainstream school that he is attending doesn’t consider it an issue and has asked us to continue his schooling. But I wonder whether this is good advice. Should I send him to a specialised school? I am confused, please advise.
— Anonymous, Chennai

It is very progressive of your child’s school that it doesn’t regard it an issue. It’s very likely that your child requires supportive remediation therapy. Every diagnosis is a culmination of signs, symptoms and provides evidence of lagging areas in a child’s development. A remedial programme will be based on these diagnoses. All the best!

My daughter (8) is exhibiting some signs of a learning disability. Are there online therapy classes available on the Internet for this problem? If so, can you suggest some websites?
— Ritu Sharma, Mumbai

Therapy for children with learning disabilities ranges from remediation to occupational therapy and sensory integration. To ascertain the correct course of treatment, I would recommend a psycho-educational assessment to begin with. This will be your guide and chart out the course of treatment. However, please note that therapy is most effective for children when it is hands-on.

My daughter, a class X student who has dreams of becoming a doctor, is experiencing learning difficulties. Will she be able to compete with the student preparing for tough entrance exams? Will the exam writing time restrictions prove too difficult for her?
— Sushma B, Delhi

Every child’s learning difficulties are unique to her. Understanding her areas of difficulty and their severity will enable you to advise and influence her academic pathway. Qualifying as a medical practitioner is not impossible for persons with minor learning difficulties. Depending on the severity of the learning disability, you could jointly make a suitable career choice.

(Piya Marker is a special needs education postgraduate of SNDT University, Mumbai and head of school at The Aditya Birla Integrated School, Mumbai)

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