It always helps to meet others with similar problems who have managed to cope positively with the situation. Whenever possible, both parents should go together to visit the doctor, specialist or therapist. It is better for both to hear what they have to say regarding treatment and management of the child. If one parent goes along, the other parent will get second-hand information, which may not be perfectly accurate, These visits will also provide parents with an opportunity to discuss and obtain advice regarding particular problems which they cannot handle without help.
Very often parents will wait until their child with special needs is a teenager before seeking professional advice. When a child has had no training in self-help skills or has never experienced a school environment before, late-stage intervention may not be able to produce the expected results. However if the disability is detected early in life and is dealt with during childhood, significant improvements in the child’s condition may be possible.
Unfortunately, in some cases the entire responsibility of handling and taking care of the child is entrusted to domestic help. This only results in neglect of the child and a lack of progress in his or her development.
In a situation where the mother has to take on the entire responsibility due to the father’s work schedule outside the home, she may find that she has very little time to herself. It is essential that she set aside time for herself and not neglect her own needs.
During the pre-school years, as soon as the child is ready for group interaction, he or she can be enrolled in a pre-school for a few hours each day. During this time, parents should start looking for a special school to place the child in as early as possible. When the child is older, he or she can either continue in the special school or perhaps be placed in the Special Unit of a regular school. For information regarding these Special Units, contact the Special Education branch of the Ministry of Education. They will direct you to the government school with a Special Unit nearest to where you live.
However, there will be times when other siblings will be embarrassed that they have a disabled brother or sister. They should be encouraged to talk about their feelings and parents should try to solve problems as they arise. Letting them talk about the situation will help them cope with it. For example, they may encounter other parents who will not let their children play with them because of misconceptions about disabilities, including that the condition is contagious.
Also, other children may talk about the disabled sibling in a hurtful manner. Discuss these problems with your children and help them to react in a positive manner in such situations. See a counsellor if necessary too.
It is also important that siblings be given as much information as possible regarding the disability, or else they may form their own conclusions, developing distorted views and misconceptions.
Genetic counselling is still uncommon in Sri Lanka. If your child’s disability is genetic, other children should be made aware of their own risk of having a child with a similar condition. Further information about genetic counselling can be obtained from the Medical College, Colombo.
On the other hand, some may go to the other extreme of spoiling the child, feeling that because of the disability the child cannot be held responsible for his or her own actions. This will only result in complex behaviour problems that will cause difficulties for the child and the parents.
In order to avoid these problems, it is important to provide extended family and friends with as much information as possible regarding the child’s disability. They should be told how they can assist in the training and management of the child.
A learning disability interferes with a person’s ability to store, process or produce information. As a result, a learning disability can affect a child’s ability to read, write, spell, speak, compute numbers or reason effectively. A learning disability can also affect a child’s attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity. Common learning disabilities include:
These children may gain skills in some areas quickly and demonstrate a high-level ability (for example, in speaking), but have significant difficulties in reading or writing which are not typical of their general level of performance.
Students with dyslexia or dysgraphia undergo much hardship within our schools. A lack of awareness on the part of classroom teachers and administrators, large class sizes, and a lack of understanding amongst peers and family members combine to make it extremely difficult for a learning-disabled student to function within a mainstream classroom. In addition, constant failure results in very low self-esteem and long-term difficulties in coping with the challenges of life.
The Chitra Lane Children’s Resource Centre conducts comprehensive diagnostic assessments, remedial education, and counselling programmes for children with learning disabilities currently attending mainstream schools and for their parents. Currently students from government, private, and international schools across the country are being referred to our programmes by paediatricians, psychologists, teachers, and school principals. Early detection of a learning disability during the primary school years and appropriate remedial intervention can provide significant help to enable children to cope with the demands of the mainstream curriculum.
Unfortunately, an alarming number of O-Level students are referred to our Resource Centre due to difficulties in coping with schoolwork. In most cases, these children have never been diagnosed with a learning disability and have never received appropriate help. As a result, many children develop emotional and behavioural problems that can be very difficult and painful to solve. It is vital that a child with a learning disability is diagnosed early and provided with the necessary remedial assistance early in life.