Now engineering aspirants with learning disabilities (LD) such as dyslexia must prove the severity of their disorder to avail concessions in the upcoming Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Advanced 2017 — the qualifying exam for admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Calling it impossible, mental health professionals in Mumbai are set to write to the IITs to withdraw the criteria. They said that such disabilities cannot be quantified.
According to an information brochure for the exam released recently by the IIT-Madras, which is the organising institute, students with dyslexia are allowed to use scribes to write the test but only if doctors certify that the disability is extreme.
The format of the medical certificate to be produced by the dyslexic candidates require doctors to mark the disability on a scale of mild, moderate to severe. But this is a problem as currently, there are no standard approved methods to quantify the disorder, said doctors.
A footnote in the form to be submitted by the students asks doctors to make the diagnosis on how the disability impairs their academic performance. They will have to certify that “the method of diagnosis is based on the significant impairment in academic achievement.”
Psychiatrists in Mumbai, however, said that it is unfair to ask for such kind of certificates. “JEE needs to do a rethink as quantification of LD has not been done anywhere in the world,” said Dr Harish Shetty, senior psychiatrist, Dr LH Hiranandani Foundation Hospital, Powai.
LD testing centres such as KEM, Nair and Sion- hospitals are in a fix over issuing the certificates. “We found out about the new rule when a parent approached us for a change in their medical certificate,” said Dr Henal Shah, psychiatrist, AL Nair Hospital, Worli. “The IITs should have given us an advance notice before bringing in this rule so that we could have thought over it.”
Shah said that she and other doctors will write to the IITs to withdraw this rule.
Adding that in the western countries, terms like severe or mild are used to describe LD but they are only for the doctor’s understanding. If somebody can perform better with a little help, he is considered mild and if they need accommodation and are still unable to perform they are considered severe, she said. “But in the western countries children get immediate help when there’s a problem. Schools prepare individual plans for them. But in India, this help is not easily available and so on what basis can we make such diagnosis?” she asked.