A masked hurdle for dyslexic children


Teachers have to repeat instructions multiple times to be understood.

As schools are reopening, dyslexic children are having trouble in the learning process as the teachers have to wear masks which muffle their voices.

According to a study,“While masks prevent the spread of COVID, they also make spoken language more difficult for children to understand, by muffling the sounds of speech and hiding the speaker’s articulations.”

“Social distancing and online learning brought on by the pandemic also threaten to widen achievement gaps for children with learning difficulties,” The study further said that readers struggle all the more when it happens online but even in person classes have special challenges.

According to another study, India is thought to have approximately 90 million people with varying degrees of learning disabilities (LDs) and an average class in school has about five students with LDs.

Anoop, program director of Ishanya foundation, a centre for individuals with special needs, Bangalore said that while they adapted a hybrid model of learning, there are various challenges faced by the children when it comes to in person classes. Teachers have to be loud and clear but masks prevent them from doing so and they have to repeat instructions multiple times.

He explained that listening is an important part of learning for the children. The difficulty level is moderate in dyslexia but in cases of autism, it is even more challenging, he said.

Seema Bhushan, founder of The Learning Arc, which tackles cases of learning disabilities,said that, “Masks have been a frustration for everyone and most children have accepted it.Sound is an important part of the teaching process. Some of these children already struggle in processing phonemes and the masks add to it. Since the children are not vaccinated there is always a risk of catching the virus and spreading it.”

Manav, the owner of Turtles school said that they had to shut down because of COVID and they are only taking online classes. However, Aparna, a parent, said that online classes have helped a lot but it used be a lot easier before. There are a lot of distractions during online classes. Even if the teachers have to wear a mask, it reduces the amount of time a child spends looking at the screen.

Tanmay, a ninth standard student prefers offline classes more because it allows him to meet everyone. “There is a problem with masks sometimes when the teacher is not facing us but it has not been a challenge for me,” he said.

Sneha, another parent said that, “I think it can a bit of a problem for younger kids. My younger son is still taking online classes and it has made him more dependent on me. He looks at me every time he needs anything. There will be a problem with masks, in the initial days but they will become used to it. It will make him more independent.”

Neha Singhal, a psychologist who also teaches children with learning disabilities said that any kind of change in these times brings its own challenges with it.Children with dyslexia often have trouble associating letters with sounds so it affects comprehending language spoken or written.

She added, teachers can not wear masks for that long anyway. With masks they have to be louder than usual. We are still shifting from online to offline, “I take classes of small groups of children and make sure I am at an appropriate distance whenever there is a need to remove masks.”


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