All over the world, many parents are blessed with children who are differently abled. Many of them exhibit symptoms right after birth or at a young age, but many others do not show any sign for quite some time. Having a child with special needs is hardly any different than having a child who does not require special attention - kids with special needs require attention only in certain deficiency areas. WIth the right approach to their learning and growth, parents can easily rear up a child who is differently abled.
The kids can experience developmental, intellectual or cognitive disabilities, and the factors could be genetic, developmental or environmental. They may exhibit mental, physical or emotional responses owing to these disabilities. These may be either of the above or a combination of two or more factors. Research continues in this field, and many aids have been developed based on the learning abilities of these kids.
RelayRead brings to you an understanding of how these kids can be introduced to books and how it can help in their overall growth and personality development. But first let's take a look at some of the existing disabilities and how one can rear a child around those.
- General Learning Disabilities
Learning disability is a condition when the brain is unable to comprehend, process and interpret information. Genetics may be a factor for this condition but premature births and post birth trauma or accidents can also contribute to it. Some of the commonly seen learning disabilities are dyslexia and dyspraxia. The child is unable to learn or even read and write, processing mathematical problems is oftentimes also difficult.
Alternative means of education and learning helps kids in this range. A different approach of teaching is adopted for such kids. Many researches have been done on the same and those methods of teaching have been successful to quite an extent. The focus is on creating individuals who are confident and self-sufficient to a great extent as they grow.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a common medical condition which exhibits behaviours such as hyperactivity and impulsive reactions on even the smallest of issues. This happens due to a difference in brain activity and development. The common pointers of an ADHD child are lack of concentration, hyperactivity, clumsiness, impulsive behaviour and carelessness. These kids get bored easily and you will never find them seated in one place.
Behaviour Therapy and training for parents on handling kids with ADHD helps raise kids who blend in well with the others. School also plays a big role in moulding these kids. Teachers can be trained to handle and teach such kids. The peers can be regularly conditioned to help, guide and be sensitive to the emotional needs and requirements of such special kids.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Children with ASD face challenges being in a social setup, communicating with others and very often, learning. A child with ASD can be exceptionally gifted in a certain stream but not show interest in other fields. The child may not react the same way other kids do at any stimulus. ASD cannot be cured but early diagnosis and intervention of the condition can be helpful for the child. Therapies for ASD at different stages assist kids to learn day-to-day activities and gain self-confidence.
- Physical Disabilities
Physical disabilities may be caused due to genetic factors, birth defects or injury. It can also be associated with other developmental disabilities. Physical disabilities can be related to mobility, functioning of the body or dexterity, and may also include visual impairments, hearing defects of various degrees and speech issues. With the advancement of science, many developments have been done to assist those who are physically disabled. Based on the degree of disabilities, at times, surgeries are also helpful. In order to raise a child with disabilities, one must find out the root cause of the condition. A lot of times, physical disabilities are paired with some underlying causes. If the physical disability is present independent of any other condition, the child can learn as other kids do. He or she may require assistance based on the disability. Many schools and colleges offer specialised learning options for kids with disabilities.
Learning Through Books for Your Special Needs Child
- Not Beyond Their Attention Span
Kids in general, have a short attention span. It increases as they grow. A kid who is about 3 to 4 years of age has an attention span of roughly 15 minutes on an average. So, a kid of that age can sit in one place and listen to you read without getting distracted for 15 minutes or so. Kids with special needs may exhibit similar attention span or lesser depending on their individual condition.
These kids require extra care during story time. Select books that are appropriate to their span of attention. A special child will not sit still if it goes beyond the time they can concentrate on the story. They may get bored quickly and may show anger, annoyance or may outright deny the activity the next time. So be mindful of their learning abilities and the span of their concentration.
- Content Matters
Before you purchase books, read through till the end. You must know the story before you decide to buy it for your child. That’s because books are a great tool of learning for kids and you do not want to offer a wrong lesson to your child. Buy books online, but not merely based on its graphics. Read through, and if not the full story, at least the snippet. The story should not have any tragic or inappropriate details that may affect your child. Kids with special needs are very sensitive. This sensitivity is good and as a parent or guardian you need to channel it in the right way. They will remember good stories throughout their life.
- Simple, Short and Uncluttered
The books that you read out to a child with special needs should be simple in nature. The plot should be easy to understand and remember. It can have repetitive details about relationships or family members etc. It should be something with short and crisp stories making it easy for the child to understand and remember. Kids with visual impairments often have trouble seeing and registering images that are too detailed. They may have trouble understanding the shapes or forms of visuals that are cluttered with a lot of small elements. While selecting books for such kids make sure that the visuals are bold and simple. Many books are designed to let the child touch and feel different surfaces in order to understand how those feel in reality.
Differently abled kids are as intelligent as a child with no disability but they need a different way of teaching things. They learn well but may take longer to do so. Infact, with the right way of teaching, they turn out exceptionally well.
- Sing Song Rhymes
Kids love rhymes and songs. Sing while you read a story. Modulate your voice. It has been observed that kids learn faster when they listen to what is being taught. Reading out the rhymes, poems, stories or even numbers for that matter will help them register the content in their minds. They will relate the music to the words and be able to remember easily.
Yes props! Who does not like props? Use props while you are reading to kids who are specially abled. Put a red cloak on her while reading Red Riding Hood. Make him sit on a carpet when you read out Aladdin. This helps kids understand and retain the stories well. They are also able to relate the prop to the crux of the story. It will also encourage them to read the story over and over again.
- What was that?
Asking questions while reading to kids is a great way of holding their attention. Getting the answer correct boosts their self-confidence. This in turn encourages them to read more. The more they read and listen to others read out to them, more the chances are of them enjoying studying as they grow. The bond they build with books goes a long way in shaping who and what they are as individuals as they grow up.
- Read Repeat
Read and read again to kids. This is something you must do whether or not you have a specially abled child. When a story is repeated over and over again, kids tend to register the details. The ability to memorize also develops and he is also able to recollect from the memory when you will read the same story the next time. Encourage kids to help you select when you buy books online or pre-read books that other children have loved. This way, they will be excited to read it with you.
- Make it Interactive
Being interactive infuses the element of fun to storytime. You can encourage the kid to speak out the lines his or her character says. Activities are a great help with children! This will glue the kid to having the story times more often. This is also a great way of developing communication and linguistic skills in your child. Kids tend to repeat sentences or phrases that they hear in the stories or rhymes while talking to others.
If you have a child who is specially abled or know someone who has one, know that raising these kids is not difficult or impossible. Yes, it is a tough task because it takes a lot of time, patience and love to nurture them. They need special attention and some specialised learning tools. There are many aids and assistance that are available for such children. A lot of hard work goes into having these kids enjoy learning and reading books. But rest assured that once you have inculcated the basics, the kid will never want to leave books and also enjoy studying.
These kids are not really specially abled; they are specially gifted! So remember, the next time you come across one such kid, shower him with lots of love, time, and of course - a book!