I do not know how they certify a kid as ‘L.D.’… that is, a kid with learning disability. During my teaching career, spanning over nearly four decades, I have come across many kids, now and then, who I am made conscious of as having the so-called ‘Learning Disability.’ The moment I am made conscious of it, my approach towards the student – in my case college kids – does undergo a change… I become more patient, less demanding… and, I try to remind myself, “Hello, you cannot expect the same calculations and the same efficiency from this kid… Understand his plight… show patience.” And, invariably, I heed to this voice…
What is interesting to watch is this: some of these young ones are least interested in this ‘label’… this ‘tag’… of ‘learning disability’. I find them almost hating it… They want the world to treat them on par with the rest… demand the same work and efficiency from them… show the same level of patience to them. I feel extremely satisfied and proud when I come across such kids. The feeling is akin to the young ones who do not like to depend on their ‘caste quota’… but, want to move ahead in life rubbing shoulders of the rest… “That’s the true merit,” I hear them say, “That brings out the best in us.”
The other kind is the typical ones: They know they have this ‘special privilege’ of being certified as a ‘L.D.’… and, even though it was certified years ago, they continue to think they are having this learning disability. Some are genuine… and, the teachers and the authorities have to be empathetic to them. But, many of them misuse this privilege… and, in the process, become under-performers, dependent and – it may sound harsh – losers. They mechanically depend on calculators for the simplest calculations. “Sir, it is allowed for me… I am a L.D.”
“I know beta; but, have you tried to do it without the calculator?” I ask, “Have you realized what happens to your confidence when you do it on your own?”
Some understand what I say… and, some don’t.
Two days ago, a mother of a twelfth-standard student called me up and said, “Sir, my son says he needs a writer for his Board exams.”
Now, I have taught his boy for two years… and, he is the one who belongs to the category of ‘mis-users’… I don’t know how and why they certified him as a ‘L.D’… He needs no special concession for anything… I felt angry when I heard what his mother said… as angry as one gets while a healthy guy comes to you begging at a traffic signal!
Many years ago, a friend of mine, a well-known trainer, was invited to judge an inter-college Public-speaking contest. A blind girl had stood first and my friend got so moved that he praised this girl for inspiring everyone by doing it despite her blindness. What followed after that was unbelievable… The young girl got furious for being made to feel she was ‘handicapped’… She did not want to go home feeling that the world had honored her with a winner’s trophy out of sympathy… because she had ‘disability’…
It was an eye-opener for my friend. He immediately apologized for hurting the girl’s sentiment. Even today, after twenty-five years, my friend keeps referring to the episode in his training sessions!
‘Less-abled’, ‘Differently-abled’, ‘Special’, “L.D’… all these badges are there because of the practical reality. Those who suffer from any physical, mental or learning challenges – and their near ones – alone can understand the plight. So, if authorities have offered such privileges, they have done it with purpose and good intention… and, yes, with the hope that it would serve its purpose…
In the Hindi movie, ‘Black’, there is this moving scene. Mr. Debraj Sahai, (Amitabh Bachchan) has brought a walking stick to his prodigy, Michelle (Rani Mukerjee) who is blind, deaf and dumb. So long, she had been dependent on her teacher for everything…. Her teacher knows that she cannot live life like that… that, she has to be tough, independent. So, in that scene, when Michelle touches the walking stick, her first reaction is ‘NO’. But, her teacher makes her hold the stick firmly saying, “This is to make you independent… not dependent!”
I tell the same to my own Michelles!