Monday, June 23, 2014

The joys of being dyslexic

As a young psychology student, I remember reading about Dyslexia and going for an observation in a clinical set up to see the cases first hand. I remember looking at the child's parents and wondering how they felt about their child being academically challenged. Having grown up in a family where education was regarded as the highest value, I felt a twinge of pity for them. I came back from that observation feeling pretty sad for the child and his guardians.

It was years and many clients later that I realized how immature I had been, in coming to this conclusion. A client helped me realize this. She was a 14 year old girl studying in an International school. She was the most innocent child I had met. She was trusting and naive.......very easily accepting of her diagnosis and ready to work hard to compensate for it. Remedial classes, additional hours poring over prescribed study material, practicing social skills till she got it right...nothing tired her out. And, she was always cheerful, forever ready to help classmates and assist teachers. She always brought a smile to my face when she walked in into the session. She managed to take away my mental fatigue by her very presence. The lack of awareness of social pragmatics made her a very easy person to get along with. She did not compete to get attention. Her capacity to stay positive while learning in a competitive study environment and her drive to overcome her disability was very inspiring to me. Her ability to come up with out of the box solutions was amazing and motivating to someone like me who had undergone a very traditional rote learning education. She managed to teach me far more than my teachers ever could.

If this is what learning disability did to a person, I wanted to be learning disabled. Till date, when I diagnose a new client with dyslexia, I think of her. And, I always share the story with the parents.


Over protection and segregation

I was talking to the coordinator at an Indian school where I conduct once a week Sexuality and Personal Safety group sessions, for children. I was there to give them an idea of what the content of the sessions would be? While I was briefing them about it, I could see their discomfort about using medical terms for our body parts, during my group sessions. One of the coordinators said that we have raised our children in a protective environment and do not wish to expose them to this terminology. I explained my perspective to her and we found a workable compromise.

Another incident which stood out for me happened only a few days later. A European friend told me about her Indian neighbours who did not allow their kids to mingle with the Americans, because they did not want their kids exposed to western influences!!

Both of these conversations got me thinking. I have lived in India for the most part of my life and have seen similar attitudes being fostered in families around me. But, is this the right way of bringing up our children? Is holding on to our traditional thoughts and deeds, the only way to inculcate good values in our child.

Underexposing and (over)protecting the child from matters of sexual safety, in the name of protecting them from dirty and pornographic expression that is incongruent with our ancient traditions, could mean exposing them to far more harm than any parent could ever be prepared for.

Will racial segregation help our kids or really prove detrimental to being global citizens......because like it or not, that is the way forward. Even if I ignore this almost blatant discrimination policy of raising our children, this kind of segregation will make our children unaware of what other cultures and ways of living have to teach us. We can benefit from different values inculcated by different cultures, just by being open to their views. If only we spend time with our non Indian friends, will we realize that they are so vastly different from the debaucherous stereotypical westener potrayed on screen and accepted as the norm by most of us. They, too, have strong family ties and religious rituals and their lives revolve around their children, just like ours do. Their ways may be different but the same drives, desires and goals motivate them.

I am ready to concede that not everything is right about the western point of view but then not everything is perfect with the eastern way of living, either.   

By segregating our children from the mainstream and not allowing them (and us) another perspective, can prove to be detrimental to their growth. Most modern thinkers as well as spiritual leaders advocate acceptance and tolerance while walking down the path of growth. Mingling with people from different races, backgrounds, genders and taking a more pragmatic view of the different approaches to life, will help us find our way forward far more efficiently, not to mention raise our level of conciousness.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I was talking to a fellow counselor about how the school policy dictates that all kids at elementary/primary level be promoted, irrespective of their performance. Often, the deadline for an assignment/homework to be turned in is extended for a few kids who aren't able to submit it.

While I agree with the school's good intention of giving students a second chance, I am not sure, this is the right way to do it. By extending a deadline for a few students, we are being unfair to a majority of the kids who were organised enough to get their work done on time. More importantly, we are teaching the students who have been given another chance that life will give them second chances to make good on their mistakes. Often, as we all know, this is seldom true in real life. Your boss is not going to pat you on the back and say, " Its alright", for missing the last date for tender submission.

Far more worse, is promoting a child who clearly does not fulfill the criteria to move to the next grade. This child is going to grow up into an adult feeling entitled to a promotion or pay hike, just for showing up at work, everyday. Careful planning and organization at work and home, diligence, perseverance and sheer hard work are the values, students should learn at school. An automatic promotion to the next grade can make all of the above values redundant in the student's life.

And what happens, when the promoted student is incapable of understanding the advanced syllabus, of the next grade? Will he work hard at something that he has difficulty grasping? Inability to perform or even understand peer level academic curriculum can have devastating effects on his self esteem. So how is this policy of indiscriminate promotion to the next grade helping?

I am 100% on board, for applying different criteria of assessment for differently abled students but a complete disregard for the assessment process or overt guidelines, is way too much mollycoddling for my comfort.

As teachers and parents it is our job to prepare the children for the tough road ahead. We would be utterly failing in our duty, if we are focused on making the path easier on them. The message we need to send to our children is that if you follow the guidelines and work hard to achieve your goals, success will be yours but if you chose to ignore hard work, there are repercussions to it.

Every behavior has a consequence and its up to us to guide our children towards the right habits and behaviors.