A not-for-profit organisation, MDA is committed to securing the rights of children with dyslexia, reports Shukti Sarma
It was Vinita Pandit, a respected principal of Arya Vidya Mandir, who was instrumental in bringing together parents of children who faced problems in school. Initially, it was a meeting place for parents to seek emotional and professional support for their children and to create a community. Soon, other activists and professionals lent support to the cause. In 1996, they formed the Maharashtra Dyslexia Association (MDA).
Now, MDA has three centres in Mumbai. It has a team of psychologists, special educators and other professionals, offering various services. MDA is a global partner of International Dyslexia Association. It holds workshops in schools and colleges; offers therapy and career counselling; provides teacher training; undertakes research; and holds meetings with educational institutes. Dyslexia, literally ‘difficulty with words’, is a specific learning difficulty which affects a person’s ability to read, spell and understand language while speaking or in writing.
Children with learning difficulties are taken to MDA by their parents or are referred to MDA by their teachers. Kate Currawalla, president, MDA, said, “Dyslexic children are as intelligent as others, but cannot perform in class because it is a language-based disability. They can give correct answers orally, but have difficulty in writing. Often, parents have unrealistic expectations from them. It results in confusion and erodes the child’s self-esteem because he fails to understand why his friends sail through academics while he is left behind. We show the parents that their IQ levels are quite high and make them understand where the difficulty lies.”
At MDA, children go through tests. These are often a revelation for the struggling children as they learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Children and their parents are counselled on dyslexia. An MDA representative said, “It is equally important for the parents to undergo counselling to keep track of the children’s development. The focus is not only on achieving academic competence at school, but also to develop self-esteem and help them with their personal and emotional issues.”
Project coordinator Sunita Pagedar talked about a 13-year-old boy who came a year ago with multiple problems. He had trouble with concepts, planning and evaluating his own activities and had attention deficiency and poor communication skills. He was enrolled for Level-1 of the instrumental enrichment programme. After a year, he has moved to Level-2. “Now, he is able to communicate better and has a fair knowledge of his abilities. He is more confident and his performance has improved in school. He has become more receptive and looks forward to coming to our centre,” she said.
MDA also organises workshops and conducts training programmes throughout the year, for continuing education for professionals in this field and for qualified interns. It also offers the only dyslexia therapist training programme in the country and coordinates an advocacy cell that brings together leading professionals to push for the rights of children with learning disabilities.
2010 was a big year for MDA, when they participated in the Mumbai Marathon for the second time, in the Dream Run category. The children and their families participated enthusiastically, along with their teachers and the volunteers. It was the perfect platform to raise awareness about the cause and boost the children’s self-esteem. Ms Currawalla, said, “About 60 members are participating in the coming year, including children and our staff.”
You can contribute financially or by way of professional support to the team. There is a corpus fund for advocacy and research programmes. Treatment and therapy for dyslexia is expensive; sponsoring a child helps the organisation provide treatment to more students. Donations for office equipment and the library are also welcome.
Maharashtra Dyslexia Association
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