By Dr Piyush Chandel
Every parent wants their children to do well in academics and score good marks in exams. There is immense pressure, which sometimes does more harm than good. Some children perform better in areas other than studies such as music, dance and arts and sports.
Some children, who despite studying really hard don’t score good marks, may suffer from learning disorders. Children with learning disorders may have difficulty in reading, known as Dyslexia, writing disorder or Dysgraphia and in solving simple mathematics problems which is known as Dyscalculia. They also have difficulty in following simple instructions, they forget very easily and are confused between left and right, b and d, 6 and 9 and so on. Children with learning disorders may display difficulty in remaining focused and organised.
They have difficulties in doing simple age appropriate activities such as cutting paper with scissors, writing neatly and correctly. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the most common neuro-behavioural disorder of childhood. In this disorder, kids exhibit a very short attention span and can be distracted very easily; they also have the tendency to run around without any purpose. Children with learning disorders may have challenges in specific areas and be excellent in other areas. For example, a child may be fluent in reading but have difficulty in writing or be good in both reading and writing, but have difficulty in solving even simple mathematics problems. These challenges are seen in approximately 10 out of 100 have learning disorders.
The reasons for learning disorders can be many:
Learning disorders can be due to defect in genes and chromosomes. They could also be a result of several factors, such as low birth weight or preterm birth, besides being seen in babies who do not breathe or cry properly at birth. Also alcohol and drugs abuse during pregnancy can affect the developing brain.
The normal development of a child also significantly depends on the environment at home and the relationship among family members. A child’s development in families which are happy, stress free and supportive is much better than the those which are abusive. Nowadays, both parents are usually working and there is nobody to take care of the child, who spends most of his/her time watching mobiles and TV. These children are also at risk for neuro-behavioural problems and difficulty in adjusting to outer world. They can also have refractive errors (difficulties in vision), difficulties in concentration and sleep disorders.
As per WHO (World Health Organisation), children less than two years of age should not have any screen time i.e. they should not be made to watch mobile, computer or TV. For children above two years of age and till five years, screen time should not exceed more than one hour (the less the better). Children who watch mobiles or are on computers for prolonged stretches of time can develop myopia which is a type of eye problem and can have difficulty in seeing distant objects.
Excessive screen time also leads to dry eyes, redness and pain in eyes and difficulty in sleep. A child with myopia will find it difficult to copy from blackboard and will have symptoms similar to learning disorders. The incidence of myopia is increasing very rapidly and if not detected timely it affects child’s school performance and sometimes vision as well. Every child should have one ophthalmology check-ups till one of age and again between 3 to 5 years of age and after that it is good to have one yearly eye check-up.
For parents, it is very important to speak to their child on a daily basis and they should try to build a bond of trust, faith and love. Don’t scold your child for getting less marks in exams and don’t compare one child with another.
Unfortunately, learning disorders have no cure but the most important thing is to identify problem areas or symptoms at home and consult a doctor to have a correct diagnosis. The earlier the intervention starts the better the results. Many parents tend to ignore symptoms because they don’t want their child to get labelled as someone with learning disorder, but acceptance is the most important aspect of solving any problem. If these children do not get proper help, it can lead to frustration and lack of self-esteem and even depression, since they may be compared with other children at home and school. Every child is special and deserves love, support and proper care.
(The writer is Neonatologist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Noida.)