Learning Disabilities And Behavioral Disorders In Children


Parenting is a tight rope walk. We need to find all the right balances. Am I pushing my kid too hard? Am I not pushing him enough? Am I raising my kid to be alert and cautious? Am I raising her to be bold and independent? Is my kid happy and loving ? Can he exercise self-control? These questions plague all parents.

As parents, we want to give our kids the best of opportunities, and follow the most productive parenting techniques, so our kids can excel in every aspect of life. Unfortunately, there is no manual for parenting, and every child is different. Techniques, that work well for some children, may not work for others. Children have different strengths, weaknesses, interests and talents and meet different milestones at different stages of their lives.

Understanding our children is not always easy. It is both heartbreaking and frustrating for parents to see their kids trying hard, and still not doing well school. In the past, poor performance in school, was attributed to laziness or stupidity, but today we know that this may not necessarily be so.

Today, we know of specific learning disabilities (SLDs), that make it difficult to process language or mathematical calculations, in kids, with average, or even above average, intelligence. Modern lifestyle, academic pressure, and stress, has also resulted in an alarming increase the severity of some neurological disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Poor school work and other behavioral problems can also result from oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

So what are these SLDs? How can they be detected? What can be done to help children with SLDs make satisfactory academic progress? What help and support is available for children with SLD in India? What is ADHD? What are the treatment opions for ADHD? What are the risk factors for ODD and how can it be treated? These are some of the issues I am going to delve in to, in this post.

Specific Learning Disabilities

For a long time, in India, SLDs were considered to be a problem specific to western countries, related to the vagaries of the English language. However recent developments show, that is not the case. Studies carried out in schools across 10 panchayats in Kerala, showed that 16% of the children suffered from SLDs. SLDs typically include dyslexia and dyscalculia.

Dyslexia, a reading disability, which mainly manifests as difficulty in reading and spelling words, is recognized as a learning disability in India. The incidence of dyslexia, in India, is now believed to be 15%.

Dyscalculia is a difficulty in performing calculations and dealing with numbers.

It is important to note, that those who have dyslexia or dyscalculia, are neither lazy, nor stupid. Their brains process information differently, so they need to be taught using different techniques and strategies.

The situation in India

Research shows, that about 10 to 15% of people in India suffer from dyslexia. However multilingualism, and huge differences in urban and rural schooling ages of very young children, in India, make it harder to diagnose dyslexia and exacerbates the problem for those who suffer from it. Dyslexia Assessment for Languages of India (DALI), was first released in October 2015. Unfortunately, in rural areas, there is very little awareness of SLDs and practically no testing facilities. Additionally, this study shows, that even in urban areas, few teachers are trained to identify dyslexia in students.

Various states and boards, in India, provide concessions for students suffering from this condition. In many states of India, for the various concessions to be available, the child has to be tested at a government hospital. Although laws exist, requiring certain concessions, how far these laws are actually implemented, remains doubtful.

Diagnosing and managing dyslexia

Clinical psychologist, Shyamolie Desai says, dyslexia, can be diagnosed from the age of 7. However, in her personal experience, parents typically bring children in for testing, after the age of 10. If a child of average or above average intelligence, is struggling with school work, particularly related to, spelling, reading, or writing, then the child should be tested by a qualified clinical psychologist. The assessment process is lengthy and detailed, starting with tests for physical disabilities, like poor vision or hearing, followed by multiple sessions with the psychologist.

Being neurological in origin, dyslexia is a life long condition, that cannot be cured, but with support and proper instruction, children with dyslexia can make satisfactory academic progress. Teaching approaches, that use multi sensory experience, may focus on their strengths, and help overcome the difficulties, these children face.

Remedial educators can help children with dyslexia work on reading and writing, whilst they attend a regular school. There are also alternative modes of education available to children with dyslexia, that can availed of, for part of, or all through school life, depending on the severity of the condition.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is a disorder, in which the development of the central nervous system is disturbed. It has three types of manifestation, inattentive (commonly known as attention deficit disorder or ADD), hyperactive and impulsive, or a combination of both inattentive, and hyperactive and impulsive.

For a variety of reasons, ADHD can go unnoticed and untreated, although in the school setting, hyperactivity and impulsivity has a better chance of being detected, than ADD.


Although ADHD is, usually, hereditary,`stress or inability to cope with rejection <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/Does-your-child-suffer-from-Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder/articleshow/26198270.cms>`_ can make it more severe.

Studies show that smoking, or alcohol or drug abuse by the mother, during pregnancy, increases the risk of ADHD in the child.

Children exposed to lead, have higher chances of developing ADHD. Certain food coloring and preservatives are also thought to contribute towards ADHD.

Problems with ADHD

According to this article, ADHD sometimes resolves itself without treatment, but on the other hand, left untreated, ADHD can result in low self esteem, poor performance in school, and an increased risk of delinquency or drug abuse. ADHD in adults can also affect family and social relationships.


According to Shyamolie, ADHD can be detected as early as age 3. Treatment can involve a combination of medications and occupational therapy. For very young children, just occupational therapy is preferred.

Occupational therapists perform tests to figure out child’s strengths and weaknesses, and subject the child to a variety of stimuli and activities, and figure out what needs to be incorporated in the school day to help the child focus better. There are a variety of programs available to children, depending on their specific needs, to help them adapt to their environment.

During therapy sessions, the therapist designs activities to improve handwriting and focus and work out aggression and anger.

In addition to therapy, and medication, if required, a fixed daily routine, affection, clear and consistent parenting, and a few other lifestyle choices can make it easier for children to cope with ADHD.

Support groups and family therapy can also help ease the stress of dealing with ADHD.

Shyamolie says, channelizing excess energy into outdoor games and sports activities, can help contain the symptoms of ADHD.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Apart from performance in school, a child’s behavior is another matter of concern for most parents. It is not uncommon for children to be stubborn and fussy. However, if a child is frequently and persistently angry, irritable, defiant or vindictive, then it may be, because they have ODD.

The cause may be genetic, as in pertaining to a child’s natural disposition, or may result from inconsistent parenting, neglect or abuse.

According to Shyamolie, inconsistent parenting can trigger or worsen ODD. So it is crucial to be consistent in the implementation of discipline, and for both parents to be on the same page.

In India joint families are not uncommon. There are many advantages to joint families, when it comes to child care. However, with many adults involved, there are bound to be disagreements, when it comes to child care methods and approaches. It is best, if these disagreements are resolved in the absence of the child, and consistent parenting techniques are used, particularly in matters of discipline, by all authority figures, so that the child is not confused by mixed messages. This is in the best interest of the child, which is, usually, what all the adults care about, even if they disagree about the details.

Shyamolie also says, that empty threats and scare tactics are, typically, counter productive, as many kids figure out the bluff, and stop valuing the authority of the person using them. She says, it is important to give children reasons why they are not being allowed to do certain things, rather than just ordering them, and then frightening them in to abiding.

Many children diagnosed with ODD, may also be suffering from ADHD.

For kids suffering from ODD, counseling can help. In these cases, both the child and the care givers are counseled. For very young kids play therapy works well, and parental skills training is also available. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has also been found to be effective in treating ODD among children and teens. CBT is a practical approach to tackling problems, by breaking them down in to smaller parts and focusing on the present. It provides a new way of thinking about problems and helps to discover new, more effective, methods to deal with them.

Experts believe, that boot camps, tough love approaches and scare tactics are ineffective at treating ODD.

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