|Year : 2011 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 77-78
Use and abuse of specific learning disability certificates
Department of Psychiatry, Professor of Clinical Psychology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
|Date of Web Publication||16-Oct-2012|
Department of Psychiatry, Professor of Clinical Psychology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi-110 029
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Mehta M. Use and abuse of specific learning disability certificates. Ind Psychiatry J 2011;20:77-8
Specific developmental disorders of scholastic skills are disabling academic problems in children. Over the years they have been given different labels like dyslexia, perceptual handicap, neurological impairment minimal brain dysfunction, congenital word blindness, developmental aphasia, congenital aphasia, education handicap, etc. Until very recent times, they were often not diagnosed due to lack of awareness and paucity of assessment tools.
Specific learning disability (SLD) is characterized by one or more significant impairments in acquisition of reading, spelling, or arithmetical skills, which are not the direct result of other disorders (such as mental retardation, gross neurological deficits, uncorrected visual or auditory problems, or emotional disturbances) or inadequate schooling.
According to studies conducted in different parts of world, the prevalence of specific reading disorder (SRD) is 4% of school-age population. The prevalence of specific spelling disorder (SSD) is almost the same as that of SRD and the prevalence of specific disorder of arithmetic skills (SDAS) is 6% of school-age population. In India, very few focal studies have been conducted regarding the prevalence of SLD and the results are variable. In a multicentre study on child psychiatric epidemiology (ICMR), the prevalence reported by NIMHANS (2001) is 7.2% and the prevalence of SRD reported by KGMC Lucknow (under the same multicenter study) is 0.52%. The prevalence of SLD in a study conducted at AIIMS in 1991 on school children was 4.87 per 1000, currently it is estimated around 9%. The boys were more commonly affected that the girls, the ratio being 4:1 (boys is to girls).
The child with SLD has many problems in school like inability to perform well in spite of having average or above average intelligence, difficulty in concentration, poor motivation to learn, lack of self-confidence, and low self-esteem. There are many comorbid clinical conditions along with SLD like ADHD, conduct problems, somatoform disorders, psychogenic pain like headache. Some students have committed suicide for not doing well in exams. Thus, is needless to say that the child with SLD undergoes tremendous stress, shame, disgrace, and humiliation. Parents of these children also feel very frustrated as they have to spend endless hours in helping the child to complete his/her home work and to prepare for examinations. The financial burden is also great for many parents where treatment sessions are taken in private set up.
In view of these problems, the Central Board of School Certificate (CBSE) has given certain concessions to these children such as exemption from third language, extra time, permission to have a writer, and quota in admissions in higher studies. This certainly takes away some problems faced by these children regarding their future.
In recent years, awareness about SLD has increased manifolds due to media. Now there are standardized tests to assess the disability and it`s severity. The demand for SLD certificate has increased out of proportion; parents and teachers both want to avail advantages of the SLD certificates, irrespective of the child`s level of disability. The use of the certificate for deserving students is righteous. But in our country abuse of a facility is growing like a menace. The abuses can be classified under following heads.
Ambitious parents-there are many parents who deny their child`s disability and plan admission in courses for which the child does not have neither ability nor an aptitude. Some parents demand for certificate even when the child has no SLD like the child has dull average intelligence without any scatter on the sub-test of the intelligence test, not fulfilling criteria of SLD. There are also situations where child has studied in open school and barely getting passing marks due to borderline intelligence. There also reports where students are tutored to make mistakes deliberately in the assessment. These parents often emotionally blackmail the clinical psychologist for achieving certificate. Moreover, parents become demotivated in providing training to the child, have high expectations, and want to send to the child to professional courses by using quota.
Parents play very important role in training of their children. There are many parents, especially mothers, who have dedicated themselves to train their children. Such deserving children definitely should be helped.
School authorities-they are also responsible for the misuse of SLD certificates. Teachers are over diagnosing cases with SLD, demand for certificate is made from classes 3 to 4 onwards, lowering motivation of parents and children to seek training. Schools aim at projection of good results, with extra time or with a help of the writer, they feel they can push child`s performance in the exams. There are some reports that brighter students are engaged as writers to help the child get good marks.
Untrained professionals-many untrained persons have made a business of providing training sessions for these children, which causes tremendous financial burden on parents.
These situations pose an ethical dilemma for the clinical psychologist. Which student is deserving the certificate? Are we getting into the trap of manipulator`s or coming under undue pressures of parents and teacher`s? How can we stop malpractices and help the genuine and deserving students. The trained professionals have a great moral duty to take this challenge by being firm and consistent to refuse where there is doubt in the credentials of parents/student/ teacher`s report. Be persistent in changing parent`s attitude toward the child and his limitations. To help parent to come out of "denial" and have realistic goals for the child. We all have to protect rights of the deserving students. We have to fight the abuse of SLD certificate to protect the rights of the deserving students.