'Slow learners' should be tested for learning disability, say experts

Principals and psychiatrists are asking the testing centres of the city to examine students with IQ between 70-85 for learning disability as well

Even as students with different forms of learning disabilities (LD) are still struggling to receive concessions from education boards, experts have highlighted the need to change the testing methodology in order to determine if a child is suffering from LD or not.

At present, the three LD testing centres of the city consider a minimum score of 85 points in the IQ test to examine a child for LD. However, a student with 70-85 on the test is only categorised as a ‘slow learner’ and given very few concessions by education boards.

While a student with LD is allowed to drop a language, opt for lower level of Maths, extra time during exams, use of calculators, etc. a slow learner is only allowed extra time, and is excluded from other concessions. “Right now, I have two LD students who are referred by the testing centre as slow learners, giving them no concession of dropping subjects or choosing easier ones.

If they are not tested and proven to have LD, they will in all probability lose out on an academic year, which will be unfair to them,” said the principal of a school. She added that she had written to the state board, as well as doctors at Nair Hospital’s Learning Disability testing centres, but to no avail.

Sharing similar sentiments about the issue, Dr Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist, also wrote to the three government testing centres Nair Hospital, KEM Hospital and Sion Hospital where students from across the state get tested for LD and acquire a certificate to avail concession from their board.

“In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association set a standard criteria for classification, in which it clearly mentions that a patient with an IQ between 70-85 should also be considered for LD. However, our testing centres are still only considering the minimum IQ of 85 as the criteria to examine students.

Many students are at a loss and this needs to change,” said Dr Shetty. The psychiatrist added that studies have proven that students with IQ between 70-85 can also have LD. He is planning to also write to higher authorities and if need be, file a PIL for the students.

Centre speak
Dr Mona Gajre, head of the LD testing centre at Sion Hospital said that the three testing centres of the city are currently depending on the recommendations of DSM-4, which states that the minimum IQ of a child to be tested for LD should be 85.

“However, this can differ from one child to another, and changing the criteria to include students with IQ of 70-85 will benefit students. However, DSM-5 cannot be adopted in parts and the decision has to be taken by an expert committee, not only for the testing centres of the city, but for the entire state and country.”

She said that once the committee checks the pros and cons of the new study, it could make the right recommendations for everyone to follow. “It is, however, an excellent idea and will aid many children,” she added.

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