Friday 17 June 2016 at Pragati Manor, Guwahati
Professor Hemendra Ram Phookun introduced the purpose of developing a tool to detect learning disability in vernacular language in the state of Assam and for that formation of this focused group. Dr Mythili Hazarika, Deputy Editor of the Open Journal of Psychiatry & Allied Sciences started her presentation with a case report. Thereafter she briefed the gathering on learning disability. Need and time to act for developing a detection tool in vernacular language is highlighted. Methodology to develop such a tool like content validity and reliability are covered. Feedback to the whole concept in general and regarding items to be included in the tool in particular are welcomed. This is the first focused group discussion for the purpose participated by 20 delegates from various fields including psychiatry, psychology, social work, special and remedial education, audiology and speech language pathology, counselling, along with teacher and student.
Editor-in-Chief, Open Journal of Psychiatry & Allied Sciences Dr Shyamanta Das talked about work already done for development of tool in vernacular medium in different area of mental health field and that can be taken as a guide. Special Educator Jyoti Gogoi introspected by our own lack of knowledge in certain domains as service providers. Lack of awareness in the schools including those in teachers is brought to attention by Counsellor Medini Devi. With support and attention, this group of population does improve is the observation made by Mayurakkhi Goswami, Counsellor
According to Rahul Gautam Sharma, now from Cotton College earlier Jatiyo Bidyalay, speaking in English is a fear for most of the students educated in vernacular language and for Assamese language some need symbolic cues. Consultant Clinical Psychologist Jayashree Das lauded the initiative and vowed to be a part as well as asked for involvement of teachers; even the education boards may need to be incorporated in this programme.
Kakoli Nath, Audiologist and Speech Language Pathologist shared her experience of working with these children for last many years. The importance of being able to enjoy working in this field, to overcome our own lack of knowledge by learning is stressed. Moreover, the underreporting as a result of not identifying iws pointed out by her. School Counsellor Moitrayee Gogoi was alarmed by the lack of knowledge in the subject and shared some of her own interactions with few such students.
Bobby Hararika, Assistant Teacher of Maidam Vidyapeeth ME School, an Assamese medium school said that the lower primary level students are comparatively worse because of the socioeconomic background of the families from which these children come, and hence, intensive work in these classes should be the initial priority. Dr Myhtili Hazarika reoriented that screening will be first step and then intervention. Remedial Educator Neel Harit Kaushik shared the fact of lacking awareness in the form of learning disability meaning all developmental disorders for most of the people.
Professor Hemendra Ram Phookun gave feedback in the form of literal translation being not able to express the internal meaning at times; he also gave certain examples. Here, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Jayanta Das throw light on abstract translation and he is optimistic that this is achievable. Dr Mythili Hazarika introspected by our own inadequacy of the Assamese language. The invention of words in vernacular language and continuous use of them will gradually make them acceptable, according to Dr Jayanta Das. Approaching persons who are working in fields of vernacular language can be a big advantage was Dr Jayanta Das’ observation.
To Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Nahid Suraiya Islam’s query, Dr Mythili Hazarika gave few examples of auditory discrimination screening. Chandamita Barua, School Counsellor shared few examples of students with such disorders being in the receiving end of punishment from teachers. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr Bobby Hmar wanted an encompassing approach keeping in view the comorbidity. Neel Harit Kaushik reiterated what symptom led to what again calls for a combined approach.
Dr Anweshak Das, Consultant Psychiatrist liked the concept and also is in favour of all developmental disorders being attended to since these disorders go hand in hand. Going of this focused group to grass root level, e.g. village and school is important is what Dr Anweshak Das feels. Follow-up is another importance step according to Dr Anweshak Das. Dr Jayanta Das enriched the discussion by his input regarding making available handouts in vernacular language as an addition.
Funding is another area that has to be explored is what Dr Mythili Hazarika introduced. Neel Harit Kaushik shared her own difficulties in terms of funding. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr Utpal Bora started by speaking on intrinsic and extrinsic factors as well as the need to draw flowcharts for identification. Here, involvement of paediatrician and neurologist can be an essential integral part. Instead of generalising, school and family specific factors need to be kept in mind and the feasibility of negotiating such issues are areas for introspection, according to Dr Utpal Bora. The questions should be from the viewpoint of understandability of the service users instead of service givers. A pilot project is a must before going ahead with the large-scale implementation, Dr Utpal Bora concluded.
Medical & Health Officer Dr Jayanta Dutta, a psychiatrist enquired about the question setup for the different classes. Dr Nahid Suraiya Islam came across many children with mental health-related problems which resulted from learning disabilities. Selection of schools is also a matter of concern where we should overcome biasness, according to Professor Hemendra Ram Phookun. But, for the pilot project a convenient centre that is accustomed with the procedure can be explored is what suggested by Dr Mythili Hazarika.
Dr Shyamanta Das draws attention to the fact that when the end is far, we need to break it down our journey into sub-stations. Also we need to keep on publishing our works in between to keep us motivated and for that platform already exists in the form of a journal. Dr Bornali Das, Psychiatric Social Worker said about this area being very common and still called invisible disability. She briefly highlighted the main areas of the disability and the need of forming subcommittees to carry forward the work efficiently. The discussions that came up were summed up by Dr Bornali Das.