Dr. Anjan Bhattacharya
Consultant Developmental Paediatrician
Apollo Gleneagles Hospital
Just like fever is a reflection of a physical disease, Problems in studies are reflections of underlying developmental conditions. We all know that fever can happen due to several reasons. For example, it can be either due to malaria, or dengue or typhoid. Or it may be due to thousand and one other reasons.
If only malaria, dengue or typhoid could all be cured by popping a pill say, quinine, then there would have been no worries at all.
Treating fever without knowing its exact cause can be really fatal. It is equally worrying when the exact cause for a child’s lack of interest in studies is not known.
Just as fever is a reflection of a physical disease, similarly a child’s lack of interest in studies is also a symptom of a disease. If this is treated with scolding or pressurizing the child, results can be equally tragic!
Poor scholastic performance may be due to several reasons. One important reason for it is learning disability. The latter can be general or specific.
In Dyslexia, the written word cannot be interpreted by the brain whereas in Dysgraphia, the disability occurs due to the inability of the brain to decipher the handwriting. In Dyscalculia, the brain is unable to process numbers. So, the exact reason for the disinterest in studies has to be found out rather than keeping several tutors for the child.
- General Disability is reflected not only in disinterest in studies but also in a lack of maturity in all spheres.
- In Specific Learning Disability or SPLD, disability in studies is generally due to a disability in a particular sphere.
Dyslexia occurs due to the non-functioning of specific areas of the brain like the Phoneme Producer, Word Analyzer, Word Automatic Processor, etc. Research has found that problems of visual decoding in the occipital lobe (Magno Cellular Gyrus of Lateral Geniculate Nucleolus) takes place for 0.1 sec in a dyslexic person compared to 0.4 sec in a normal person. Hence, it is of no use if a parent continuously finds faults with a dyslexic child or even keeps multiple tutors for him.
In Dysgraphia, portions of the brain named Caudate Nucleus, Thalamus Spino Cerebellar Track develop problems which should be treated at the earliest to allow the child to develop an interest in studies.
Specific Learning Disability can be due to hereditary or birth related causes. In cases where any other family member has the same problem, it is referred to as Developmental SLD. Acquired SLD happens when a child does not cry at birth, lack of oxygen supply to the brain at birth, high jaundice during childhood, epilepsy or any damage to the brain due to injury.
When SLD is treated through scientific means, your child’s doctor will ask you about any such previous fact(s). This is called Detailed Developmental History Taking.
As Learning Disability can be due to several reasons, it should be treated scientifically. The international standard that is in practice can be used to treat such a disease at a very reasonable cost. This requires the help of a specialist as it may not be simple like treatments for other common diseases. This can be understood when we see that it is not possible for a doctor to find out the exact reason for fever at all times until further detailed testings are done.
After Detailed History Taking, specialists generally ask about the child’s General Developmental Label. If it is found that the mental age of the child is less than the physical age, then General Learning Delay technique of treatment will be followed by the specialist.
If it is found through scientific methods that there is no difference between the mental and physical age of the child, then internationally standardized and validated bona fide test battery should be used by trained and competent professionals through which Specific Learning Disability can be diagnosed.
While going through the midst of this assessment, the specialist will gauge if there is any neuro-disability, neuro psychiatric problem, or syndromic symptoms that have developed in the child, like Baten’s Disease, Wilson’s Disease, Fragile-X or Non-convulsive Status or Epilepticus which will continuously make the child fall behind in studies.
In occasional and relatively rare cases, General Learning Delay and Specific Learning Disability are found together in a child. For example, if a 7 year old child is found to have the General Developmental Label of a 4 and half year child and Specific Learning Developmental Assessment shows that he is in the grip of At Risk Dysgraphia, then the child will not be cured if he is treated only for General Learning Delay. He should also be treated for Dysgraphia for a 4 and half year child. Only then will he be completely cured.
Any developmental problem cannot be solved if there are problems regarding the child’s eye, ear and teeth. This is known as Health Promotion. In foreign countries, Health Promotion is done for every child irrespective of whether he has any problem or not. It is imperative that a child is checked by a Pediatric eye specialist, a Pediatric dentist and an audiologist with expertise in dealing with problem child to rule out problems in these areas.
The following case will prove the importance of Health Promotion :
A child having cerebral palsy had a ear test done in an inexperienced centre and the result was normal. But on checking for a second time, it was found that he had moderately significant high frequency sensory hearing loss [SNHL] for which no treatment had been done till then. Hence, despite having normal intelligence, just due to the above problem, the child was unable to excel in his studies.
Similarly, a child having eye-sight problem will not be able to study but may not be able to pin-point his problem. A child having tooth pain will also not be able to concentrate in class.
In all these cases, Health Promotion will be able to cure such compounding problems of children. The only thing required is a specialised centre with latest scientific methods.
Child Development Centre, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, is one such unique centre where your child will receive treatment according to international scientific standards. So, please try to understand your child’s problems and do not ignore them thinking that everything is a result of his tantrums. Early detection will lead to early intervention and this will help the child to develop properly at a very reasonable cost. Let your child excel in studies using latest scientific techniques.