In a country with over a billion people educating children is a challenge. In spite of that challenge, Indian culture has very high expectations of their children when it comes to education. It a competitive environment that leaves most students tense and anxious at exam time. When children with learning disabilities can’t keep up it can be agonizing for them.
Suma Suswaram knows that kind of agony first hand and when she participated in the Landmark Education Self Expression and Leadership Program, she created a program to ensure that children who share her learning difficulties would get the resources they needed. As her community project she put together a seminar to help raise awareness of the the issue of learning disabilities among parents and educators. The project was so successful that it is being adopted by other organizations. Here is a story about it from the Deccan Herald.
Beating the war of words
It was a red letter day on October 6 for Suma Suswaram, who had initiated a seminar on ‘spreading awareness about learning disability’ at Lions Club, Nisarga with the consent of LNS S Devika Antherjanam, the president of the club and director of Sree Sabari Group of institutions.
The highlight is that Suma is only 15-years-old and is unlike your typical teenager. As Suma takes you through the path she has traversed to become what she is today, you are left with awe and administration for what she has undergone. For the path she has traversed is not ordinary. Suma was not like any other child. She was a differently abled child and underwent a lot of agony and frustration in a school with conventional standards. She relates an incident when she was in Class VII. The Sanskrit teacher in an attempt to give reading practice asked each child to read a paragraph. When it was her turn, she stood dumb staring at the monster words which appeared foreign to her. Her classmates requested/threatened/cajoled her to read. The teacher gave an ultimatum that unless she read, the class would not move further. She stood mutely looking at the class, pleading with her eyes to understand her. Luckily, the bell rang and the class came to an end.
This is just one of the many incidents in her life. Her parents couldn’t fathom why even after coaching her for hours her scores remained poor. One day after reading an article in a weekly magazine, her father took her to Roopa Shivkumar of Brindavan Psycho Education. She was assessed as dyslexic. Dyslexia is one of the typical academic characteristics of learning disabled individuals. Even though there are many characteristics of individuals with learning disability, academic characteristics are usually the first to be noticed by parents as it affects the child’s achievement in school.
After she had been assessed as dyslexic, she underwent remedial classes for almost 1 and a 1/2 years. Meanwhile her mother also completed her Diploma in Learning Disability at KPAMRC (Karnataka Parents Association for Mentally Retarded Children). Her mother started helping her as well as a few others with dyslexia. Interacting with them helped Suma put a lot of things in the perspective and the thought that she must create awareness in the society about learning disability.
It was during this time that her parents took the bold step to retain her in the CBSE stream. When they approached the CBSE board, she was exempted from taking up Sanskrit as second language and was also give an hour extra to complete her paper. She took up music instead of Sanskrit and this eased her exam tension. She was able to score more than 70 percent in class X exam and today is a student of class XI in the CBSE stream.
The Landmark Education course, which she did during January 2007, helped her to come to terms with herself and gave her the impetus to "Spread awareness about learning disability" in her community. The seminar on October 6 was the culmination of her dreams. Special educators lead the seminar and many parents, teachers and interested public attended the seminar. Banjara Academy put up a stall displaying books written by its chairman Dr Ali Khwaja. Suma’s dream was fulfilled as the seminar brought special educators, teachers, parents/children and Banjara Academy under one roof. As a result Suma has become a beacon of light that spreads awareness about dyslexia. May her tribe increase. For additional details contact 080 28396444/ 9880202345.