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Journeys from the sidelines into the spotlight

EducationWorld October 2022 | Magazine Spotlight Feature

It isn’t easy for parents to watch their children struggle with things that most children learn instinctively. It is harder still being the child who watches everyone around him do things with ease, tasks they themselves take twice as much time to figure out while wondering why they aren’t able to do the same. Every day becomes a fight to keep up and succeed, chasing outof-reach or near-impossible expectations without help.

Arjun (name changed), joined Vidyaniketan Academy (VNA) at the age of 14 with a fierce will to prove to his parents that he could study and would do well, despite failing Science and Math lessons at his previous school. It was evident to his teachers from day one that Arjun was exceptionally talented. He was skilled in every activity, particularly sports, and had an unparalleled drive. But he needed much help with spelling, found it difficult to follow structure, could be extremely impulsive and often talked endlessly out of his joy for life.

Such children can be a challenge for teachers with many students to manage. In VNA, the teachers helped Arjun make space for himself in just a couple of months. He has now learnt to take responsibility for his actions, assumes leadership at each opportunity, supports his peers, and thrives in everything he does. Academically, he has pushed himself to reach new heights and enjoys a sense of pride at how well he is doing. For Arjun, this change was not easy but he overcame his challenges steadily.

Karun’s (name changed) journey was different. He enrolled at VNA at age 10. He had been bullied for his stammer and lack of coordination. He was taunted for being unable to do well academically. Unlike Arjun, Karun took time to adapt to VNA. He started every class with the statement, “I don’t know how to do it. It’s too hard.” It was not uncommon to find him hiding under his desk before the next teacher walked in. The teachers worked with him individually, coaxing him to try even if it meant making a mistake and ensuring support if things went wrong. His lessons were simplified and activities scaffolded to give him time to learn at his own pace. Slowly but surely, Karun has grown to excel. He is now working towards his Senior Secondary certificate through the NIOS board — a feat even his family doubted he would ever reach.

Karun and Arjun had different experiences and yet their stories are intertwined at VNA. They are a glimpse into the diverse needs that students have and how the right environment can help them flourish.

Children with Specific Learning Difficulties (SLD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) grapple with issues that range from academic to motor skills to socioemotional development. Often, their struggles are silently borne in a world incapable of comprehending the true nature of their experiences.

At VNA, special educators work intensively with no more than ten students in a class, providing individual attention and academic remediation, alongside socio-emotional support, tailored to the needs of each one. Students are encouraged to explore their potential and celebrated for every accomplishment however trivial it may seem to the world outside. For those whose skills lie outside the academic scope, VNA provides a prevocational programme to build digital, numerical and functional literacy through art and activity-based learning.

The team at VNA works in collaboration with parents and para-professionals, to focus on the overall development of each child. It is always a matter of awe and wonder to watch children grow intellectually, socially and emotionally, and VNA strives to build a safe, loving environment to nurture such growth. No matter the differences in the abilities of children, each one is precious and capable in his or her own way. VNA hopes to exemplify the change and acceptance needed to help children with differing abilities.

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