Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science & Technology will release assessment tools for dyslexia - 'a learning disorder' in Indian languages and also a book on Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) at a function in New Delhi on Oct 16.
Learning disability refers to a cluster of symptoms which indicate difficulties in acquiring language skills such as reading, spelling, writing, comprehension during conventional classroom instruction. It is currently attributed to differences in brain structure and wiring. Learning disability makes it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the normal instructional environment and in its severe form, qualify a student for special education or extra support services.
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, and nearly 70%-80% of students diagnosed with LD have deficits in reading. It is characterized by a core deficit in reading that manifests despite normal intelligence, equal opportunity and adequate instruction.
According to a recent ruling of the Delhi High Court (5th September 2012) all government, private and public schools are mandated to equip themselves to handle children with various disabilities including learning disability. In addition, Specific Learning Disability or SLD has been recently included in the Person with Disabilities Act and DSM V.
The assessment of Dyslexia is carried out using a series of age appropriate, culturally valid psychological tests on the child in the native language.
Two primary reasons why dyslexia remains undiagnosed in India are:
- Lack of sufficient awareness amongst school teachers and parents.
- Absence of appropriate standardized screening and assessment tools in Indian languages.
Two screening tools for dyslexia for school teachers have been developed.
- JST (Junior Screening Tool) - classes (1-2) (5 to 7 years).
- MST (Middle Screening Tool) - classes (3-5) (8 to10 years).
- Eight Assessment Batteries also in four languages Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and English for Psychologists. The students screened by the teachers are comprehensively assessed by these batteries
It was standardized and validated across four languages (Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and English) across schools at five centers (4840 children from classes 1-5),Or kids Center for Learning Disabilities (Co-PI, Geet Oberoi),Delhi, Center of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (Co-PI, Bhoomika Rastogi Kar), University of Allahabad, Allahabad, Maharashtra Dyslexia Association (Co-PI, Kate Currawala), Mumbai, Dr.Shanta Vaidya Memorial Foundation (Co-PI, Kshipra Vaidya), Pune, and All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (Co-PI, Prema Rao), Mysore. Details of the validation and standardization are provided in the assessment manual.
The Screening Tool used by school teachers on has been validated by Clinical Psychologists in 4840 children across five cities - Allahabad, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune and Mysore. This is the largest such project to have been undertaken in India. Statistics show that the JST and MST both have sensitivity greater than 70% in all languages, meaning that they are able to detect dyslexia-related problems in children.
This is a pioneering development and would considerably facilitate the diagnosis and subsequent amelioration of dyslexia. According to 2011 Census, the rural to urban population distribution of India is 69%-31%. Given that learning in rural populations is primarily in the native language we think this will be most beneficial to the rural population. The next step is to extend this effort to other Indian languages.