A learning difficulty is in its simplest explanation, a disturbance in the ability to read, write and/or calculate.

This condition is a perplexing one because it is a ‘hidden’ difficulty. It is not visible to the onlooker like say measles or mumps and that probably is why it becomes more difficult for people around to accept. It is not an illness, a virus or bacteria does not cause it so in that sense there is no 'cure'. It is a condition that the individual must learn to deal with. It can be likened to a state where the individual has poor eyesight and he or she deals with the condition by wearing glasses.

A learning difficulty affects the ability of the brain to process information. Children can have trouble in reading, writing, speaking, understanding and listening.

The condition called ‘learning difficulty’ can manifest in a number of ways. There is no definite structure or path that can be seen. That is why diagnosis becomes so difficult.

From the time of birth of the baby, the developmental milestones like holding the head, turning over, sitting, standing, walking, single words and short sentences must be carefully noted. The paediatrician will monitor the development of the baby and will be able to make out if there is a developmental delay.

When your child goes to Pre School, the teacher may be able to notice if there is a persistent difficulty with the abilities of the child.

  1. A late speaker
  2. Did not crawl on all fours – moved forward on the tummy or slid along on the bottom
  3. Clumsy - constant tripping, falling and hurting oneself
  4. Does not respond when called out to
  5. Loves being read to but makes no attempt at independent reading
  6. Difficulty in managing buttons and clasps.
  7. Confusion in getting the correct shoe on the correct foot.
  8. Lack of eye-hand co-ordination as in ball playing and other games
  9. Unable to keep time with a certain rhythm like clapping hands to a beat.
  10. Confusion over directional words - up: down, in: out

Primary School Going:

  1. Reluctance in reading and/or writing
  2. Confusion with orientation of letters and numbers. Still sees ‘b’ as ‘d’ and ‘9’ as ‘6’
  3. Confuses words like ‘no’ for ‘on’
  4. Difficulty in remembering sequences like tables, months of the year and days of the week.
  5. Messy page work – writing off the line and/or with lots of scratches and erasures.
  6. Difficulty in reading what he/she has written
  7. Appears very bright and alert but class work is a shambles
  8. Frequently displays surprising skills in a particular area.
  9. Confusion about the order in pronouncing words. ‘Forgot’ is spoken as ‘gotfor’ or ‘animal’ is spoken as ‘aminal’

Children with a learning difficulty may be at a greater risk for anti social behaviour. The child who knows that there is ‘something wrong’ with him/her but cannot figure out what, will face a good deal of frustration. This feeling of frustration is enhanced by the desire to learn but the inability to do so because of a difficulty.

An informed parent or teacher can help in alleviating these fears by explaining the reason behind such disruptive behaviour.

I present over here, actual case studies from the children I have worked with, over the years. I chose to tell you about them because their story must be known since they could be a source of inspiration to others. All of us involved with Learning Difficulties have at some place or the other, read stories about famous dyslexic adults. Here is where one will get to know the stories of children who are still growing up. Who knows, maybe some of them will be ‘famous’ in the future.

- Bela Raja

Case 1

A young child, about eight years old came to see me along with her mother. The little girl, whom we shall call Tina, had a difficulty in reading and spelling. Her mother was very worried because she did not know what to do to help her little daughter. Tina was a shy, hesitant and soft-spoken child. She had trouble in spelling the word ‘pink’. Her ‘b’s and ‘d’s were frequently interchanged. She had trouble in reciting the alphabet without making an error. Tina underwent an assessment and she was found to be dyslexic.

Her remedial work began without further delay and it went on for five years. Tina learnt very quickly because she was basically a clever girl. Her mother had been asked to read her textbook chapters to her because Tina was able to retain information that she heard. Extensive work was done on Tina’s sound-symbol association. It was initially quite a task for her but once she learnt it, she could sound out any letter in her sleep. Tina struggled with her sequencing exercises but she eventually was able to manage them quite comfortably.

As she journeyed from one grade to another, the strain of coping showed on her in spite of her remedial work. However her parents insisted she came for her remedial classes because she seemed to enjoy the interaction. She was taught how to think in an organized manner and she enjoyed the group discussions that happened frequently. In the remedial class, she was taught writing skills and later on examination skills. She did very well on her assignments and had no trouble in laughing at her own mistakes.

In school though, she was extremely sensitive and prone to tears very quickly. She fared badly on her class tests and that did a lot of harm to her self-esteem. She was unable to transfer the confidence she felt in the remedial classroom to the school classroom. She hesitated to socialize and generally kept to herself. A few sensitive children tried talking to her but they could not reach out to her.

Fortunately her school was receptive to her special needs. Tina dropped her second language in grade six and when she reached the ninth grade, she gave up Math as was permitted by the curriculum that the school followed. By now she had stopped her remedial classes since it was very hard for her to reach all around. Tina took Economics in place of Math. The Economics teacher was very skilled and was aware of Tina’s special needs. Tina started doing very well in the subject and she passed her tenth grade board exams with a percentage in the upper sixties.

Later on, Tina cleared her twelfth grade board exam with a percentage in the upper eighties.

Today, Tina is abroad and is pursuing a career in Art and Photography. All it took to finally turn things around for Tina was one sensitive teacher in school!

Case 2

There was a young boy whom we shall name Ashwin. I met him for the first time when he was in the fifth grade. His mother complained that he was a most inattentive student and was very playful and naughty. It took her a lot of coaxing, cajoling and scolding to get him to sit and study. Even if he did sit down, the moment his mother’s back was turned, he would be in any other place but at the study table.

Ashwin was not a spontaneous reader though his mother claimed that he had no trouble reading. He was a poor writer with microscopic handwriting and terrible spellings. Ashwin was very talkative among his friends but when it came to talking to an adult, he would be very shy and unsure of himself.

After an assessment, Ashwin was found to have a difficulty with auditory perception. Though he had no physiological defect with his hearing, the way he perceived sounds was faulty. It was a case of auditory dyslexia.

Ashwin’s IEP (Individualized Education Programme) was created and his remedial classes began.

With Ashwin, unlike Tina, the strategy was to use visuals to assist his learning. His sound – symbol association was taught all over again using multi sensory techniques. The further teaching of spellings was based on that. There was the extensive use of maps, charts and tables to help him remember. Ashwin was taught how to ‘mind – map’ when he was writing down an essay or doing a creative piece of writing. He was very good with ideas and always came up with interesting and offbeat concepts for his creative writing pieces.

Ashwin was at once, two people. One was the ebullient, outspoken, mischievous class clown with his friends and the other was a quiet, shy and reticent student with his teachers. He would never look up to meet the gaze of his teacher.

Ashwin’s remedial classes continued till he was in the ninth grade. His mother was very vigilant about his condition and his sister who was a few years older, helped him with his work. The teachers understood his special needs though his pranks used to test their patience.

Ashwin passed his tenth grade board exams with a percentage of more than 70 and he did equally well in his twelfth grade board exams.

Today Ashwin has taken up hotel management as a career and has truly emerged a confident, poised and self-assured young man. The little boy, who could not meet the gaze of his teachers, is now elegantly looking after the comfort of complete strangers and is happy in doing so.

The worksheets presented here are skill based worksheets. They are directed at sharpening the skills of the learner that he/she would need for academic pursuit.

These worksheets are also designed to make the student think creatively. If the answer given by a student is not the regular answer but the student can explain the logic behind it, the answer has to be accepted as correct. If you have any queries, please email me. I would be happy to answer you. I plan to introduce more of such exercises at definite intervals.

I hope you enjoy using these worksheets as much as I enjoyed creating them for you.

Bela Raja