Learning begins at birth. It depends on the child’s ability to see and hear and on normal development of physical and mental abilities, as well as personality. These aspects of child development are controlled, usually when the child is 6 weeks, 9 months, and 18 months old in the Counseling Center for preschool children.
However, learning problems can be very easily developed after that (i.e. when the child is older than 18 months), and in that period, parents should contact a doctor if they feel that their child does not progress as his peers. It most cases, examinations will show that the child’s basic learning abilities are not disturbed and that it will progress normally. As soon as a child goes to school, all learning problems will soon be revealed in the classroom.
Whenever it is suspected that a child has learning problems at any stage of development, he/she should go to pediatrician for a thorough physical examination. Pediatrician will detect any visual or hearing disorders, for example deafness caused by catarrh of the middle ear or poor vision due to squint.
If the discovered physical disorder can not be treated, or if the problem with learning can not be identified with physical discomfort, the pedagogical psychologist will examine the child’s intelligence to detect possible intellectual inferiority. The intelligence test is invaluable in separating phisically, but not mentally disabled child from most remaining children who are both physically and mentally disabled. The test is designed to reveal children with much more pronounced problems, such as dyslexia or autism.
Intelligence below normal
Children at ~50 are intellectually significantly below normal and can not keep up with their peers; those children should be educated in special schools. If tests and evaluations show that your child is intellectually below normal, a team of experts will talk to you about the possibilities and the best way to help your child.
Some children have major problems with learning – especially reading – although they do not have physical disabilities and have an average IQ (intelligence quotient). The problem these children are facing is the wrong interpretation and use of the knowledge they have acquired. The best known example is dyslexia, i.e. when a child has difficulty reading and writing because some letters are somewhat similar (b, d, p). Children with dyslexia usually overcome difficulties in teaching in regular school.
Children with severe mental and physical disabilities require special classes and care in special schools.
What to do?
The procedure for determining the type and degree of disturbance in children is started by Center for Social Work of those municipalities on whose territory the person lives. The procedure is usually initiated on the basis of a request of a pediatrician or a general practitioner who has examined the child; at the request of parents, and other health workers as well as citizens who know about such a person.
Intellectual disabled (mentally retarded) persons are classified in 4 groups (mild, moderate, severe and profound); this is based on their IQ. If certain changes occur in patient’s status (as he/she gets older), a reconsideration procedure may be initiated to determine the type and degree of disability, as well as the possibilities of rehabilitation, education, employment etc.
Prospects for the disabled children
Physically disabled children of normal intelligence can certainly hope for success in life. It is therefore necessary to encourage them, within reasonable limits, to independence and learning.
Children who are somewhat mentally retarded are much more left at the mercy of society. They need real help and support from the family so they could grow up with at least some self-confidence and independence and, in that case, being able to do some work. Intellectually defective, as well as mentally and physically disabled children, may be incapable of moving among adults. Such children will probably have to spend their entire life in an institution – a mental hospital or a home for chronic patients.