Tata Interactive Systems Gives Hope To Children With Learning Disabilities

Dec. 6, 2006 – An impromptu speech by ‘India’s Richard Branson’, Ashok Kurien – one of the founding directors of Zee, India’s first independent media company, and who has established India’s first privately owned lottery, Playwin, as well as DishTV, India’s first Direct-to-Home TV service – was a highlight of the Tata Interactive Learning Disability Forum (TLDF) 2006, a unique global symposium on learning disabilities (LD) – the first of its kind in India – held in Mumbai on 30th November and 1st December. Kurien was there because he has achieved fame and fortune despite being dyslexic.

In organising the TLDF, the global e-learning producer, Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) aimed to increase awareness and promote remedial activities, best practices, and knowledge sharing relating to LD. According to TIS’s CEO, Sanjaya Sharma: “The TLDF also encouraged networking and the sharing of ideas in addressing critical LD issues.”

Delegates at the conference comprised pediatricians, psychiatrists, instructional designers and special needs educators, as well as parents of children with learning difficulties. They experienced sessions covering key areas of LD — including biology, psychosocial and educational interventions — led by experts.

In a keynote address, Dr Gerald Erenberg, child neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the USA, traced how our understanding of the biological basis of LD has improved over the years. Later, he advocated a three-pronged approach of medication, education and psychosocial intervention to those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to integrate with society successfully.

Dr. Madhuri Kulkarni, professor and head of pediatrics at Sion Hospital, in Mumbai, India, outlined the history of the LD movement in India; while Glenys Heap, senior training principal with Dyslexia Action, UK, outlined practical techniques – including cursive handwriting and synthetic phonics – to help children with LD. She revealed that structured multi-sensory learning works best for LD children by reinforcing links between sound and symbols.

Patricia Barthorpe, a special education needs consultant from the UK, outlined the use of innovative techniques such as getting the LD students to tell a mathematical story and helping them discern patterns in numbers and figures to help them overcome dyscalculia.

Karen Dakin, vice-president of the International Dyslexia Association, explained the basis of the Orton-Gillingham Therapy for dyslexia and how the therapy teaches phonological awareness, morphology and semantics through a direct approach and diagnostic teaching. In addition, Dr Kersi Chavda noted that feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and loneliness result in a higher than normal incidence of depression and suicide in young people with LD.

Among the conference’s findings were that technology, especially computers, being non-judgmental and fast, could aid children with LD to learn since they allow them to practise their lessons and, by giving them the control over that learning, can also empower the children to learn.

“And, while experts can tell us what needs to be done, TIS can actually make it happen by bringing its project management approach to the challenge,” pledged TIS’s Sanjaya Sharma.

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Notes for editors

About Tata Interactive Systems and the TLDF
The TLDF was organised by Tata Interactive Systems (TIS), a global e-learning leader with experience and expertise in every stage of learning disabilities’ (LD) remediation: pre-assessments, screening, courseware, post-assessments, reporting and teacher training. Beyond developing solutions for clients, TIS regards the solution of LD issues as a corporate social responsibility.

Some of TIS’s LD-related initiatives include:
 Supporting the LD Clinic (Sion Hospital, Mumbai), one of the few certified institutions of its kind in India, dedicated to detecting and treating LD.
 Developing a unique book, ‘Brain Teasers’, designed to nurture the innate creativity of these special children and empower them to achieve their potential
 Providing free-of-cost remedial courseware, developed for clients, to help students at the LD Clinic discover the joys of learning
 Providing and facilitating a Special Needs Educator Certification Course aimed at increasing the number of certified Special Needs Educators, specifically to deal with India’s large population.

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