It was hurray for Bollywood in February as several Beacon College educators took the school’s innovative learning model on the road to Mumbai for an inaugural workshop on learning disabilities for Indian educators.
Organized by The Next Genius Foundation, an Indian charitable trust boosts inclusive access to higher education, the LD Workshop 2018 aimed to quench the thirst for tools and classroom strategies of Indian educators who serve LD students. About 80 participates attended the event staged at the Oberoi International School in Mumbai.
“There is a dearth of professional training for educators working with LD students in India,” Neeraj Mandhana, managing trustee of The Next Genius Foundation, observed in the workshop’s brochure.
Such professional enrichment is increasingly critical in India. In 2013, a team of researchers from the University of Melbourne concluded that every classroom in the country likely contained two or three children with learning disabilities. In all, the team estimated 10 percent of all children there live with learning disabilities.
Co-sponsored by Beacon College, Bass Educational Services, LLC., Curry College, and the Gow School, the workshop featured five sessions. Beacon President George Hagerty, Dale Herold, the school’s vice president of admissions and enrollment management, and Dr. Oksana Hagerty, a learning specialist, were featured speakers.
President Hagerty opened the seminar with his talk, “The Higher Education Pathway for Students Who Learn Differently.” To serve LD students effectively, he said, educators must cling to “the expectation that an island of challenge will not define the landscape of one’s life.”
In her presentation, “The Learning Specialist as a Facilitator of Learning: Implications for International Students with Learning and Attention Issues,” Oksana Hagerty spelled out the roles and relationship of learning specialists to LD students.
Learning specialists, she said, provide individualized academic assistance through weekly hour-long one-on-one sessions and three hours of weekly community learning time. This affords students time for feedback and openings to receive assistance.
Workshoppers peppered Beacon’s contingent with practical questions, such as, I have a kid who [has this or does that] …. What do I do? Or how do I educate the parents better?
“These were the things we hear all the time,” Herold said, “but they seemed a little more desperate for hands-on [strategies] and classroom dynamics.”
According to India’s 2011 Census, some 27 million people with disabilities live in India. That’s 2.21 percent of the population. And while the movement to sensitize Indians to the realities of learning disabilities began in earnest 55 years ago, the plight of those with disabilities only received promising legislative remedies two years ago.
That came with the passage of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill. It mandated prison time and fines for discriminating against the differently abled. It also expanded from seven to 21 the list of recognized disabilities.
Advocates hailed the progressive measure as succor for Indians suffering from an array of conditions or living with learning disabilities.
“Apart from making the disabled in these categories eligible for state benefits and employment, it gave the community the belief that they now had legal backing to make their voices heard,” disability rights advocate Nipun Malhotra recently told The Hindustan Times.
And events like LD Workshop 2018 only builds on that momentum, Mandhana said.
It afforded “a unique opportunity for educators working with students that have learning differences (LD) [including] ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, language processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder and more,” he said.
Plans for a second annual workshop are in the works. Herold said Beacon College plans to keep exporting its expertise in educating LD students to India and elsewhere around the globe.