Some kinds of special needs are visible at a glance, while others are not. All the more they can put people at a disadvantage, because their surroundings usually underestimate such difficulties. For example, the “invisible” disorders include developmental learning disorders known as “dys-” (such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysortography, etc.). They are most likely caused by genetic dispositions or complications during a childbirth or early childhood development. Although they are not associated with the intellectual disability (on the contrary, one of the basic diagnostic criteria is an average or above-average level of IQ, while it is not exceptional that such disorders occur in people with extraordinary talent and highly above-average intellect), such children (or adults) can often encounter misunderstandings or prejudices about the level of their overall ability.
The most distinctive manifestation of these disorders is the significantly reduced level of some partial skills compared to the level of the child’s overall ability. This means that a child who is generally skillful (with regard to his or her age) and who is given sufficient and quality educational care and opportunity (including the use of effective teaching methods and approaches) is still unable to learn some specific skills as well as his or her peers. Above all, it concerns some (so-called) school skills – such as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), spelling (dysortography) or counting (dyscalculia). Such a child can fail at school, lose interest and motivation for learning, and become an object of derision from his or her classmates (and sometimes also misunderstandings from both their teachers and parents). All this is more significant when the learning disorders are associated with ADHD (hyperactivity syndrome) and the child is perceived as inattentive, restless and naughty, first of all.
Developmental learning disorders manifest themselves especially in school education, but certain evidence can be usually recognized already in the child’s pre-school age – such as difficulties with right-left orientation, attention, hearing or visual differentiation, etc. In this case, it is possible to support the child adequately and to develop specifically those areas where he or she fails. Above all, we must never stop trusting in his or her potential. Such children need encouragement and opportunity to experience success occasionally. Some good advice even for today’s parents and teachers of these children can be found also in E. G. White writings: “Christ discerned the possibilities in every human being… The same personal interest, the same attention to individual development, are needed in educational work today. Many apparently unpromising youth are richly endowed with talents that are put to no use. Their faculties lie hidden because of a lack of discernment on the part of their educators. In many a boy or girl outwardly as unattractive as a rough-hewn stone, may be found precious material that will stand the test of heat and storm and pressure. The true educator, keeping in view what his pupils may become, will recognize the value of the material upon which he is working. He will take a personal interest in each pupil and will seek to develop all his powers. However imperfect, every effort to conform to right principles will be encouraged.” (Education, p. 232).
Josef Slowik, PhD
University of West Bohemia
Department of Pedagogy
Article used with permission from iLight – EUD Children’s Ministries Bulletin, May 2019, No. 5, Volume 4