Our commitment to special children
Until some years ago, the existence of special children with different learning needs went unnoticed or disregarded. While physical and developmental disorders were recognized medically and tended to in hospitals or care centers, learning difficulties were looked upon as temporary problems that faded with time.
Then, as a result of the burgeoning interest in child development and the detection of more and more of these different children, people began to sit up and take notice.
Many of these children were precocious and intelligent, but had difficulty with reading, writing, comprehension and schoolwork in general. In the West, such children were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and were treated with drugs. In India, most mainstream schools chose not to retain them and sent them off to "special schools".
While it is true that these children have learning difficulties, it is also true that most are very intelligent, only differently so. With greater inquiry and observation came the realization of how gifted and capable these children really are. They are now being called "Indigo Children"1 who have the following characteristics
- They are highly sensitive and/or intuitive
- They learn through experience and practical methods
- They often have difficulty with authority and are misunderstood by adults
- They are easily bored and frustrated with systems that don't require creative thought (rote learning, for example)
- They may be anti-social and are seen as nonconformists
- They often find "system busters" i.e. they see better ways of doing things than others
- They are visual learners and think faster than most people
In short, their view of the world is vastly different from the norm! Thus, the key to helping these children realize their full potential is to educate them in a manner that is both engaging and effective.
1 Carrol, L. & Tober, J. (1999). The Indigo Children: The new kids have arrived. New York: Hay House.
Over the past five years, Omega has been sincerely invested in Special Education, an area most mainstream schools in India have been ignorant about or have chosen not to address.
At Omega, we have three kinds of special children-
- Children with little or no exposure to English at home who face challenges at school. These children will need additional help with English to bring them up to par with the rest of the class.
- Children with difficulties such as Dyslexia, ADHD and ADD.
- Children with a combination of the above, English competency and learning difficulties being interrelated.
Gifted children who face such difficulties are usually labeled as ‘problematic'. At Omega, we see the latent potential within each of these ‘Indigo' children and adapt our methods to best suit their needs. The process of addressing the needs of these children is well laid out.
How are the children identified?
Usually, the class teacher or the Unit Head refers a child to the School Counselor, based on their observation in class on parameters that have been given to them.
These parameters deal with both academic performance and behavioral aspects, some of which are listed below
- Difficulty in reading, writing, spelling, comprehension and following instructions
- Poor performance in academic assessments over a full school year, and Inability to manage school work in class and at home
- Short attention span. Fidgety, restless and unable to sit through a class period
- Introverted, has difficulty forming relationships, emotional without reason
- Aggressive, gets into fights for no apparent reason.
Based on the observations and referral, the Counselor meets with the child, the parents and the teacher to gather information about the child. The Counselor then observes the child in and out of the classroom during school hours.
In the event that the child's problem arises purely out of a lack of competence in English, the child and the parents will be informed and the child is provided English as Second Language (ESL) assistance with the parents' consent. The child will receive remedial English language support till such time that he/she is on par with the rest of the class.
For the others, a decision is taken as to whether the child needs a clinical assessment or not.
Why is a clinical assessment required?
A clinical assessment is required to establish the nature and severity of the child's difficulty. Clinical psychologists use standardized, age-appropriate measures to ensure fair testing. These assessment findings will help both the parents and the school to support the child better.
What does the clinical assessment cost?
Assessments done at Omega are free of cost. However, there may be instances where the school and/or the parents feel that an independent assessment is required. Clinical Psychologists normally charge around Rs. 1,500.00 for such assessments.
What happens after the assessment?
Based on the clinical assessment and class observations, the parents will be counseled and briefed about the ‘Indigo Section' (what it means, the process of shifting sections, what it will cost, what the milestones/goals are, what methods will be used etc.)
If they should agree with the school's recommendation, they will then sign a consent form and pay the fees, after which the child will be placed in the Indigo Section at the appropriate class level.
What kinds of disabilities can we handle?
We are well equipped to handle children with ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia.
As yet, we don't have the capability to handle autistic children other than to give them extra care.
How do we assist these children?
At Omega, we assist Indigo children using the methodology from Davis Dyslexia Association International, founded by Ronald Davis, who was himself autistic and unable to read, write or spell despite having an IQ of 137. He says of his experience, "I went to a doctor who told me that I would never be able to master the alphabet and learn to read. What the average person could read in five minutes or less would take me an hour or more…I was 38 years old and still functionally illiterate."2 (Davis R., p.15) Through self-experimentation, he found that the key to functioning without difficulty was to ‘orient' oneself i.e. make a paradigm shift so that one's perceptions are stabilized. Davis saw firsthand that "orientation enables them (children) to understand a skill they already have and gives them a means to control it" (p. 116). He found that applying the principle of orientation worked with the interconnected difficulties of dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and ADHD/ADD.
2 Davis, R. & Braun, E.M. (2003). The Gift of Learning. New York: Perigee
In this method, children are also taught to master vital concepts with the use of clay so that they have a mental representation to recall later. Older children are encouraged to acknowledge their own shortcomings, set positive goals and achieve them step-by-step with the facilitator's guidance. Omega has adopted these methods for use in the Indigo sections. For more information, please see www.dyselxia.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are trained facilitators available at Omega?
Omega is the ONLY school in Asia to have two trained Davis facilitators, out of a total of only six in India.
The school has been recognized by the Davis Dyslexia Association Inc., of Burlingame, California USA. The school also has 66 primary class teachers trained in Davis Learning Strategies.
What are the facilities provided in the Indigo Sections?
- All teachers handling Indigo Sections are trained Special Educators and have also been trained in the Davis Learning Strategies.
- The number of students in an Indigo Section is limited to 20. This guarantees better attention to every child.
- Each class is enabled with visual learning aids to help children grasp concepts better.
- Indigo sections work flexibly within the given curriculum structure.
- Learning occurs at the child's pace and the focus is on skill development rather than mindless memorizing.
- Teachers practice Davis Learning Strategies everyday with materials imported from U.K.
- Children master the alphabet, numerals and important concepts using imported plasticine clay.
- At the end of each term, assessments are done to assess the child's progress in reading, comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills and mathematics. Based on the child's progress, the child is given remedial assistance at school and at home.
- Parents and private tutors are briefed about the child's strengths and needs. Based on classroom observation, they are also advised as to the best strategy to be adopted to make the child a happy learner.
- The child is also counseled on any behavioral/emotional issues, and this information is passed on to the parents.
What does all this normally cost?
In the USA, the initial consultation and screening costs $175 (Around Rs. 10,000)
The Davis Dyslexia Correction program costs $4,250 (Around Rs. 2,50,000)
The Davis Attention Mastery program for ADHD/ADD costs $ 4,250 (Around Rs. 2,50,000)
What does Omega charge?
Omega is driven by our Founder's guiding philosophy of helping every child to excel in all spheres of life, not by the urge to make profits. Our interest is to help children overcome their difficulties and lead happy, fulfilling lives. However, the reality is that the school incurs huge costs to train teachers and facilitators. Two of our facilitators were sent to Denmark for a six week intensive Training Program after which they obtained their licenses. Therefore, Omega charges a nominal sum every school year for the facilities listed above.
When is a child normally placed in the Indigo Section?
A child can be placed in the Indigo Section once an assessment has been made as to the nature of the learning difficulty. The earliest a child can be placed is in Class I. Between classes I and III, the child is taught using Davis Learning Strategies, which deal with:
- Focusing skills to de-stress the child, regulate energy levels and pay attention to the task at hand
- Developing reading skills through work with plasticine clay
- Improving reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary, through picturization and visualization techniques
- Improving writing and organization skills
- Learning vital mathematics and science concepts using clay, enabling the child to own these concepts for life without the need to memorize.
Children over the age of 8 are eligible to receive ‘Orientation Counseling', a personalized, 30-hour intensive program designed to help the child overcome his/her difficulty. The child and the trained Davis facilitator work together over several one on one sessions to recognize difficulties, set goals and tackle learning issues. Strategies unique to each child's needs are developed for use not only at school but also throughout life.
How long does a child stay in the Indigo Section?
The child remains in the Indigo Section till he/she acquires the ability to handle the class learning requirement or until class VII, whichever is earlier. When the child is able to take on the load at a particular class level successfully, he/she is transferred to the mainstream section. Thereafter, the Counselor and Class Teacher closely monitor the child to ensure that he/she is comfortable. In the event that the child is not able to handle the workload even after reaching class VII, it is suggested that the parent consider opting for the NIOS (open school)stream for the child. (Please ask for note on the NIOS program.)