While most people are busy filling forms to secure a nursery berth for their children in a school of their choice, Priyam's, 5, (name changed) parents are yet to make their decision. They are not sure whether to send her to a normal school or find a special school for her. Their child is dyslexic.
Her teachers in playschool identified that she was a special child who needed clinical help and advised her parents to seek clinical guidance.
Diagnosis confirmed she had learning problems. Priyam was slow in understanding instructions and failed to carry them out. She had problems in grasping the words or the tune of her nursery rhymes.
Senior psychiatrists say children like Priyam should be sent to normal schools. It not just help them adapt early to the real world but also instills a sense of confidence. "The idea is to include. For such cases, schools are supposed to have special educators. Even teachers need to be trained to be extra sensitive towards such kids," said Dr Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural sciences at Fortis Healthcare.
"There are many examples which show that if given proper guidance, these children perform on a par or sometimes even better than the 'normal' kids," said Dr Parikh.
Navjot Singh, 6, (name changed) had changed three schools in a year. Reason: he could not sit in a place and teaching became extremely difficult with him around.
On sensing, that there was a problem, the teachers contacted the parents and asked them to seek help.
Six months on, Singh is studying in the same school. His teachers are relaxed and he is happier and a little more focused. Mental health experts say 4-6% of school-going children suffer from learning disorders and such problems often go unnoticed.
“As soon as teachers notice such problems in a child, he/she should be sent to a certified clinical psychologist registered with the Rehabilitation Council of India, as they are licensed to carry out the required learning ability tests and certify if there is a problem," said Dr Parikh.
"It is a myth that only government hospitals or some select private hospitals are certified to give a learning disability certificate," he said.
The CBSE does not have specific guidelines or a list of hospitals for a child to get concession as a special child. "The onus of certification is on the school, as we believe they will have done the due diligence before applying to us for concessions in board exams," said Rama Sharma, PRO, CBSE.
"Identification and timely intervention is the key. Even under the right to education Act every child with disability should be facilitated for mainstream education,” said Dr Jitendra Nagpal, senior consultant, department of psychiatry at Moolchand Medicity.
"Once the IQ tests are conducted, then the psychologists carry out the tests. Thereafter, depending on the ability of the child, we advise activity-based learning," he said.
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Readers’ queries on art therapy
My 15-year-old daughter is suffering from delay milestone and a kidney patient, let me know if she could be cured through art therapy?
Dr. Parikh: Delayed milestones must be evaluated by a pediatrician, and based on the nature of deficit, a multi-disciplinary approach with the help of special educators, occupational therapists, and psychologists needs to be initiated. Art would help as an adjuvant to improvise on the psychological well-being of the child.
Ms. Archana: Art therapy is not a cure. Having said that, it will definitely enhance the treatment she is undergoing for her kidney. When the ill child engages in art making, he or she is in charge of the work-the materials to be used; the scope, intent, and imagery Participating in creative work within the medical setting can help rebuild the young patient's sense of hope, self-esteem, autonomy, and competence while offering opportunities for safe and contained expression of feelings.
My son, 19, who lost both his legs in a car accident has sunk into depression. Can art therapy cure him?
Dr. Parikh: Depression is a medical illness. People who have depression tend to lose interest and pleasure from all activities. You must consult a psychiatrist. Art as a therapy would be beneficial when used as an adjuvant to the clinical management.
Ms. Archana: Expressive art therapy groups are a perfect way to allow teens to communicate difficult thoughts and feelings through various artistic mediums. Art therapy assists teens in solving problems, increasing self-esteem, building social skills, and behaviour management.
Responses by Dr. Samir Parikh, Consultant Psychiatrist & Director, department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences and by Archana Singh, Art Therapist under the Art and Health Initiative of Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.