Kids having problems in academic performance is not a new issue. But having a kid diagnosed with a learning disability can be alarming. Many parents get panic and frustrated. But this is not the way to handle it. A child when gets diagnosed with a learning disability, the parents realise the problem which in turn is the first step to its solution. Shouting, blaming or punishing the child will not do any good in such cases. The calmer the parent is, the child finds a better way out of the problem. It is not easy, yet with appropriate professional guidance, it is possible in many children. Many genius persons in history like Thomas Edison suffered from a learning disorder. So, better to stop blaming the kid for poor marks and let us help him find a solution for his real problem.
In older days, this condition was simply called academic skill disorder which gives more details of the condition. It is highly relevant in the clinical context. Classically LD is affected in three main domains in academics which are reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Pathologically, LD can be developed due to physical or mental disorders. It can also be due to issues with school, curriculum or syllabus. It can also be due to problems in the family or social environment. It is very important to realise the cause of the disease as only a case with an organic basis can be handled with medicines and therapies. Other causes should be addressed by counselling professionals, social workers or teachers. Many organic diseases can lead to LD as a clinical manifestation. They include ADHD, behavioural & emotional disorders, children who missed the crawling stage in milestones, children with a history of complicated pregnancy, dysmorphism, speech disorders & problems with language development and defective fine motor activities like pen holding.
Although children with LD may show different associated complaints and clinical presentation, there are some common findings and observations. The blood flow to certain areas in the endocrine and nervous systems may be reduced. Some other findings include hypoplasia of some areas of the brain matrix, demyelination of some areas of the brain, neuronal damage that leads to gliosis or periventricular leukomalacia, and metabolic & endocrinal imbalances. Some genetically mediated enzyme insufficiency may lead to nutritional deficiency and metabolic error in such children.
The process of learning is explained in Ayurveda as gaining knowledge. This includes mainly four factors according to Ayurveda philosophy. Soul, intellect, Mind and the senses. Learning happens when these factors work together towards that single aim. The whole process starts with an initial aspiration for knowledge happening in the soul. There should be this urge for attaining knowledge, to start the process. Sense organs, mostly of touch, vision and hearing start collecting what they are in contact with the external world first. Being the first physiological step in learning, sense organs and their health are of extreme importance. Sensory perception happens only in the presence of the mind as it works as a mediator. The knowledge attained in such a manner from the sensory organs through the mind gets imprinted as a code on the soul and becomes a memory. This acquired knowledge further determines the person’s judgement skills and intellect. The intellect with proper learning helps the individual to think and act intelligently. Any derangement in any of these factors will lead to defective skills and hamper the process of learning.
Speaking of the factors affecting the process of learning, the active member that can be affected by our medicines are the sense organs and mind. As the soul and intellect are considered as the deep functioning of the brain, they are not directly reachable through medicine. But the mind is nothing but rasadhatu which is the essence of the food and medicine we take, seated in the seat of the heart (hrudaya). Such an understanding of the connection between mind and rasadhatu is inevitable while managing learning disabilities. Thus, every medicine and food acting on rasadhatu is ideal for mental health and found beneficial for children with learning disabilities.
But which combination suits the child in a specific condition can be determined only after proper evaluation by the doctor. There is no single drug or wonder drug for learning disabilities. If Rasonadi Kashaya is found beneficial for one child, it will not do any good for another kid but Indukantam Kashayam will be suitable there. Such discrimination needs a scientific approach professionally. OTC medication is very harmful in LD. Tendency to give medicines like Chyavanaprasam or Brahmighrutam may cause even adverse effects if given without a consultation. There are different conditions of both the patient and disease which should be evaluated closely. One medicine effective in a scenario will not be suitable in another.
As LD is a disorder affecting the mind, diet changes, lifestyle modifications and other needed therapies like Yoga and music therapy etc are also integrated with Ayurvedic treatment. Diet has a prime role as it directly affects the quality of Rasadhatu thereby mind. Lifestyle and habits should be turned into healthy, depending upon the circadian rhythm. This will help the body and mind to tune into a natural rhythm and harmony. Neuro-developmental games and exercises help the child to build better coordination. While body and sense organs are influenced by medicines directly, the intellect and soul are influenced by music and Yoga.
Mostly the parents or teachers identify some abnormality. With proper evaluation, a child psychiatrist can diagnose the condition.
Learning disorder is a condition where some areas of brain don’t wok properly or in a normal way. It affects only the specific skill or skills. The child may not be mentally unstable.
A learning disability can not be cured completely. But with proper guidance and support, the child can reach the goals and perform better in academics.
Learning disabilities are permanent. But an adult may find it more difficult during a huge change in life, like a job switch or an exam.
Dyslexia – difficulty in reading
Dyscalculia – difficulty with maths
Dysgraphia – difficulty in writing
Dysphasia- problems with language