If you don't have him on your team, try racing instead

Published: 21 June, 2011 06:59 IST | Soma Das |

Not everyone has a Nikumbh Sir from Taare Zameen Par to turn to, but a new Internet car game from Israel promises to be the answer for anyone aged seven and above with learning disabilities, including dyslexia,

Not everyone has a Nikumbh Sir from Taare Zameen Par to turn to, but a new Internet car game from Israel promises to be the answer for anyone aged seven and above with learning disabilities, including dyslexia

A car game may be the new ray of hope for an estimated 30 million children in the country, suffering from dyslexia. The learning disability (LD) affects a child's ability to comprehend and grasp written material and is characterised by difficulty in reading, writing, spelling, and even speaking in certain cases.



AgileEye, a new Internet-based software from Israel, claims to help build eye-brain co-ordination for dyslexics aged seven and above. The game has been available on the Internet since March of this year. The objective of the game is to ensure a moving car stays on the middle of the road. To play, you have to log on, register, fill in a few details, so that settings can be customised, and thereafter you can play the game over 12 sessions of 12 minutes each spread over six weeks for a fee.

Says clinical psychologist H'vovi Bhagwagar, "It's a brilliant invention and will be very useful to dyslexics, especially adult dyslexics as they need to drive and work on the computer. Often dyslexics don't get adequate practical training and this software might help."

Psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria, however, feels that while the software may be helpful, there needs to be further research done before a final call can be taken. "It remains to be seen whether it can stand the test of time and work in an Indian context," she says.

Dr Poonam Bajaj, physiotherapist, Harkisandas Hospital, is skeptical about the application. "While playing one tends to slouch and while that may not matter to a normal child, it affects a child with dyslexia whose functions depend on head posture. If the posture is incorrect, hand-eye co-ordination can suffer, leading to frustration," she said. Bajaj feels that while the game can be a supervised pastime for children with dyslexia, it cannot be a substitute for therapy.

Early diagnosis is best
Bhagwagar and Chhabria agree that early diagnosis is the best measure for coping with dyslexia. "This prevents the development of secondary disorders, including self-esteem issues, behavioural problems, and depression.

Early assessment by a trained professional, such as a psychiatrist, LD specialist or clinical psychologist will ensure whether or not the child has dyslexia and the extent of the dysfunction. The child can then be taken care of by a team of specialists, including an occupational therapist, remedial educator and psychologist.

Placing the child in a special school is also an option," explains Bhagwagar.

Building the child's confidence is essential believes Chhabria. "Parents should look for areas where the child excels and help him hone those skills, which will build self-esteem," she says.

Dyslexia, hereditary?
Common symptoms of dyslexia include an inability to differentiate between alphabets such as 'B' and 'D', confusion over directions, an inability to hold a pencil or tie a shoelace. "One cannot definitely say whether dyslexia is hereditary or not. While there is a 50-50 chance of children of parents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) developing dyslexia, the evidence is inconclusive," observes Bhagwagar.

While the disability is not curable, it is manageable with the help of exercises. "Several advanced techniques to cope with dyslexia are available, but unfortunately not yet in India. Parents have limited knowledge of the disability, but what's more shocking is that even schools and teachers have very little knowledge about it," adds Bhagwagar.

If cases of dyslexia seem on the rise, it has more to do with awareness about the learning disorder. "Cases are diagnosed and detected more often nowadays as there is increased awareness among parents," concludes Chhabria.

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