Saturday May 25, 2019

Learning Disability: Things we need to know

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Does India understand the concept of disability, or more so, the specific types? The concept of disability differs from society to society. Although, India is progressing in this path but the question is whether or not it has the right trajectory in its mind?

“The problem is not how to wipe out the differences but how to unite with the differences intact.” – Rabindranath Tagore

And these variations and diversities of the issue are exactly what the Indian society, as well as the government, needs to understand. Disability is not restricted to just the physical or mental aspect of it, rather it has a wider spectrum as it segments or branches out.

Although, all of these disability issues need to be given prime importance but some are forgotten or overshadowed by the more prevalent concerns. One of them being the ‘Learning Disability’ which is often thrown in the backyard of the legislative amendments or the societal concern and even by the advocates of the disability rights.

Today, December 3, is observed as the “Persons with Disabilities Day”. However, how much do we know about the concept of disability or do we even understand that there is a difference between it and the model of handicapped or impaired, is a question to be asked.

Impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function.

Disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.

Handicap is a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or a disability that limits or prevents the fulfilment of a role that is normal (depending on age, sex and social and cultural factors) for that individual.

One of the things evidently realized by the authorities and society is that the education of a person with a disability of any kind is very crucial for their development and independent life.

Therefore, it has also experienced great transformation aimed at enabling an independent life for such people. Education has become a fundamental right of every child in India and that has led to the biggest front foot in the direction of their (persons with disability) empowerment.

Although, it appears to be a great decision, however, for certain sections of disables it is the biggest flaw in serving as the Right to Education is provided, but not tweaked according to their needs.

People with learning disability (LD) have a comparatively poor academic performance in school. LD is a developmental disorder that usually becomes evident during the period of primary to secondary education. Though it is not restricted to that time frame only.

This is a ‘perinatal problem’ which consists of a certain neurological conditions, known to be associated with LD; however, genetic predisposition seems to be the most probable etiological factors. Evaluation of a child suspected to be having LD consists of a medical examination as well as a vision and hearing test analysis of school performance.

To diagnose such student, a perimeter is available which estimates their problem by an education testing. Although, it can be helped or aided for improvement with Individualized Remedial Education Plan (IEP). With the help of a planned strategy, most children learn to cope up with disability and get integrated into a regular stream. But this disability doesn’t stop here, it pertains even in higher education students.

It’s a lifelong process of development which heals itself day after day.  

A study conducted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People revealed shocking facts of discrimination against those with disabilities. A survey under the study showed 89 schools across the country had a mere 0.5 percent of the total number of students with disabilities.

Eighteen schools questioned during the survey accepted that they did not admit students with disabilities. Twenty percent of the schools were not even aware of the 1995 Disability Act at all.

“The Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.) syllabus doesn’t have enough information on disabilities. There is a section on special education, but nothing on inclusion,” said Koshi a central university student working in the field. As a result, teachers are, at times, shockingly uninformed about children with disabilities. There is a lack of awareness among teachers and professors about LD.

These students have no less capability to understand or acquire knowledge as compared to others rather they qualify for this status if they have an unexpectedly high IQ score.

People with LD don’t come across as being one quite easily until their educational history is brought under attention. Thus, special attention ought to be given to them as they are under constant stress to figure out the dividing line between the socially standardised intellectual students and the not so intellectual ones.

The India government definitely has certain provisions for LD students, but they, at large, fail to be revised and implemented as they fall on the back foot of the disabled category. The LD students are not obvious in nature and have integrated issues, but they remain to be disabled if not in the socially obvious manner.

Next Story

“Everyone is Desperate For Some Magical Thing,” Paralyzing Illness in Kids On High Rise

The CDC is pledging a greater focus, too. Parents have accused the agency of doing little more than counting cases and have complained that when they tried to contact CDC, they encountered only automated phone trees and form responses.

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Braden Scott gives a thumbs up as he pauses while practicing on the piano in Tomball, Texas, March 29, 2019. Braden was diagnosed with the syndrome called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2016 and was paralyzed almost completely. VOA

One morning last fall, 4-year-old Joey Wilcox woke up with the left side of his face drooping.

It was the first sign of an unfolding nightmare.

Three days later, Joey was in a hospital intensive care unit, unable to move his arms or legs or sit up. Spinal taps and other tests failed to find a cause. Doctors worried he was about to lose the ability to breathe.

“It’s devastating,” said his father, Jeremy Wilcox, of Herndon, Virginia. “Your healthy child can catch a cold — and then become paralyzed.”

Joey, who survived but still suffers some of the effects, was one of 228 confirmed victims in the U.S. last year of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, a rare, mysterious and sometimes deadly paralyzing illness that seems to ebb and flow on an every-other-year cycle and is beginning to alarm public health officials because it is striking more and more children.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it may bear similarities to polio, which smoldered among humans for centuries before it exploded into fearsome epidemics in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fauci, who published a report about the disease Tuesday in the journal mBio, said it is unlikely AFM will become as bad as polio, which struck tens of thousands of U.S. children annually before a vaccine became available in the 1950s.

Rachel Scott, right, helps suction the mouth of her son, Braden, in Tomball, Texas, March 29, 2019.
Rachel Scott, right, helps suction the mouth of her son, Braden, in Tomball, Texas, March 29, 2019. VOA

But he warned: “Don’t assume that it’s going to stay at a couple of hundred cases every other year.”

While other countries have reported cases, including Canada, France, Britain and Norway, the size and pattern of the U.S. outbreaks have been more pronounced. More than 550 Americans have been struck this decade. The oldest was 32. More than 90% were children, most around 4, 5 or 6 years old.

Most had a cold-like illness and fever, seemed to get over it, then descended into paralysis. In some cases, it started in small ways — for example, a thumb that suddenly wouldn’t move. Some went on to lose the ability to eat or draw breath.

Many families say their children have regained at least some movement in affected limbs, but stories of complete recovery are unusual. Health officials cannot say how many recovered completely, partly or not at all, or how many have died, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says deaths are rare.

Scientists suspect the illness is being caused chiefly by a certain virus that was identified more than 55 years ago and may have mutated to become more dangerous. But they have yet to prove that.

Treatments, physical therapy

And while doctors have deployed a number of treatments singly or in combination — steroids, antiviral medications, antibiotics, a blood-cleansing process — the CDC says there is no clear evidence they work.

Many parents say that when they first brought their child to the emergency room, they quickly realized to their horror that the doctors were at sea, too.

“Everyone is desperate for some magical thing,” said Rachel Scott, a Tomball, Texas, woman whose son Braden developed AFM in 2016 and has recovered somewhat after intensive physical therapy but still cannot move his right arm and has trouble swallowing and moving his neck.

A growing number of experts agree that physical therapy makes a difference.

“These kids can continue to recover very slowly, year over year. … It’s driven by how much therapy they do,” said Dr. Benjamin Greenberg of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the condition.

Wilcox, Joey’s father, said his son made huge improvements that way. Joey can run and use his arms. Still, muscle tone is weak in his right leg and shoulder, and he still has left-side facial paralysis. “He can’t completely smile,” his dad said.

Other stories are more tragic.

Katie Bustamante’s son Alex developed AFM in 2016. The suburban Sacramento, California, mother realized something was wrong when she asked the boy, then 5, why he wasn’t eating his yogurt. Alex replied that his thumb had stopped working and he couldn’t hold his spoon.

That morning was the start of 17 months of hospital stays, surgeries, therapy, and struggles with doctors and insurers to find a way to restore his ability to breathe. It ended one morning last May, when Alex died of complications.

Government officials need to step up, Bustamante said.

“I want them to research it and find the cause, and I want them to find a way to prevent it,” she said. “This is growing. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Suspected cause

More and more experts feel certain the main culprit is an enterovirus called EV-D68, based on the way waves of AFM have coincided with spikes of respiratory illnesses caused by EV-D68. Enteroviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which, such as polio, can damage the central nervous system, while many others cause mild symptoms or none at all.

In the U.S., doctors began reporting respiratory illnesses tied to EV-D68 in 1987, though usually no more than a dozen in any given year.

Then, in what may have been one of the first signs of the AFM waves to come, a 5-year-old boy in New Hampshire died in 2008 after developing neck tenderness and fever, then weakened arms and deadened legs. The boy had EV-D68, and in a report published in an obscure medical journal, researchers attributed his death to the virus.

Braden Scott uses a device to support his left arm as he practices on the piano in Tomball, Texas, March 29, 2019.
Braden Scott uses a device to support his left arm as he practices on the piano in Tomball, Texas, March 29, 2019. VOA

The first real burst of AFM cases hit in 2014, when 120 were confirmed, with the largest concentrations in California and Colorado.

What ensued was an even-year, odd-year pattern: Cases dropped to 22 in 2015, jumped to 149 in 2016, and fell again, to 35 in 2017. Last year they reached 228, a number that may grow because scores of illnesses are still being investigated.

In keeping with the cyclical pattern, just four cases have been confirmed this year so far.

CDC officials consider an illness AFM based on scans and other evidence showing a certain kind of damage to the spinal cord. Proof of an enterovirus infection is not required for a case to be counted, mainly because such evidence has been hard to come by. So far, CDC investigators have been able to find evidence of enteroviruses in the spinal fluid of only four of 558 confirmed cases.

Scientists are using more sensitive spinal-fluid tests in hopes of establishing the connection between AFM and EV-D68 more firmly. That, in turn, could spur more focused work on treatments and maybe even a vaccine.

Meanwhile, Fauci’s agency has put out a call for researchers to apply for federal funds, and is tapping a University of Alabama-anchored network of pediatric research centers to work on the illness.

Also Read: New Antibody Approach to Tackle Ebola, Research To Make Successful Treatments For The Deadly Viral Infection

The CDC is pledging a greater focus, too. Parents have accused the agency of doing little more than counting cases and have complained that when they tried to contact CDC, they encountered only automated phone trees and form responses.

CDC officials have begun holding meetings and calls with families, set up a scientific task force and working to monitor cases more closely.

Fauci suggested it would be a mistake to assume that surges will take place every other year forever. The next one “may be in 2019, for all we know,” he said. (VOA)