Knowledge is Wealth: Neuropsychological Consults in Mumbai

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Dr. Abrahams and Dr. Vanderberg preparing for neuropsychological consults

Sunday, in the bustling and busy city of Mumbai, India, we met with 9 families to provide neuropsychological consultations for students. The Next Genius Foundation arranged parent break-out sessions for the second day of the LD Workshop. We met families back-to-back, as more had signed up after the Educator LD Workshop than we had time in the day to meet. The room was quiet, orderly, and clean. In most cases, families attended with both parents, sometimes another nuclear or extended family member, and with the students. All families brought evidence of the student’s diagnosis, and most families brought a neuropsychological report. Families came from local high schools and also flew in from other states in India. Students ranged from 5th grade to 12th grade. Together, Dr. Lynn Abrahams and I did consultation on the spot about implications for learning and post secondary settings. We saw a range of profiles, including two Autism Spectrum, while the majority were language-based learning disabilities primarily with AD/HD. Only one family had received support in school for their student’s learning profile. The majority did not understand that great strengths could exist alongside great challenges. None had received intervention to improve reading and learning. All were high-achieving in the Indian system, three had struggled immensely for that achievement and were pulling back from trying, and all were searching for some understanding of why their bright and able children were perceived as lazy or challenged, all were surprised to hear that we value the child’s learning and that there could be appropriate interventions, services, and educational settings. The parents were brain surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists, teachers, and hard workers themselves.

Dr. Abrahams and Dr. Vanderberg preparing for neuropsychological consults

I honor the courage and risk these families took to meet with strangers in hopes of finding understanding and opportunities for their children. Dr. Abrahams and I saw students we had metaphorically seen before. The profiles were not unusual, yet, each of these students, each of these families, was unique. The families carried frustration combined with optimism and we carried excitement and enthusiasm. Dr. Abrahams and I shared our professional insights for each student: using a diagnostic interview model we elicited more information about learning inside and outside the classroom, behavioral manifestations of learning challenges, and each student’s personal interests and goals to offer potential implications for learning now and for future higher educational environments.

And the day is best represented by the video linked here. In the midst of a teeming metropolis, we experienced haunting, sacred, and timeless prayers, the prayers of families hoping for their children and seeking to foster their wellness and futures. In India, as Dr. Mandhana reflected in conversation with us, knowledge is wealth, but testing scores are the currency that give children access to that possible knowledge that may come from top-rate schooling and competitive college placements. We hope that the knowledge we shared may in some way translate to currency for these families, actionable understandings that can improve their children’s learning in the present moments.

Learning Disabilities Workshop 2018: Mumbai, India

Learning Disabilities Workshop 2018 in Mumbai, India has finished with a total of 9 hours of learning, 96 participants, 4 institutional hosts, and 10 speakers. “Today was magical,” said a participant. Dr. Neeraj Mandhana from the Next Genius Foundation launched the day with a welcome and orientation to the inherent potential of learning, especially learning differently.

Dr. Neeraj Mandhana, The Next Genius Foundation

The keynote speaker, Dr. George Hagerty of Beacon College, emphasized the correlational factors of success for students with learning disabilities, including community connection, self-awareness and self-advocacy, and a caring mentor.

Dr. George Hagerty, President, Beacon College

Dr. Laura Vanderberg guided the day’s session with an introduction to inclusion in the United States, including the importance of language as a cultural lens, philosophical approaches, major pieces of legislation, diagnostic implications, educational practices, and student impact over the last 40 years.

Dr. Laura Vanderberg, Director & Professor, Program for Advancement of Learning, Curry College

Judy Bass of Bass Educational Services and Dr. Lynn Abrahams of Curry College gave a theoretical, research-based, and practical overview to learning differences, including major functional differences and the primary diagnostic profiles for language-based LD, AD/HD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. They wove in student strengths and challenges, individual student exemplars, and practical strategies.

Dr. Lynn Abrahams, Professor, Coordinator, PAL for Multilingual Students, Program for Advancement of Learning, Curry College and Judy Bass, Bass Educational Services

Doug Cotter of the Gow School detailed k-12 supports for students with language-based learning differences, highlighting phonics-based instruction like Orton-Gillingham, the outcomes of homogeneous interventions, the importance of executive functions development, and the benefits of boarding school experiences in multiple domains of development: social, psychological, cognitive, and academic.

Douglass Cotter, The Gow School

Judy Bass coordinated a higher education panel, including panelists from Beacon College (Dale Herold and Dr. Oksana Hagerty) and Curry College (Keith Robichaud, Dr. Lynn Abrahams, and Dr. Laura Vanderberg), to explore the general scope of learning environments in postsecondary settings, the models for service delivery, the role of learning specialists in supporting student development, and also facilitated participant questions regarding the specific implications of cognitive science and special education for students in k-16.

Dale Herold of Beacon College and Keith Robichaud of Curry College gave an overview of the application process for higher education and the specifics for students who learn differently. They answered participant inquiries regarding specific paths and requirements for students.

Keith Robichaud, Associate Vice President of Admission, Curry College

Dr. Neeraj Mandhana coordinated a parent panel with two mothers of students from Mumbai who were diagnosed with learning differences. The mothers reflected on their children’s learning struggles, the process of diagnosis, the family response to diagnosis, educational opportunities, and the learning potential. One mother said, “I wish I had known. I wish I had understood my daughter’s struggles. I was so hard on her. I was so critical. I didn’t understand.” One mother said, “I wish my son was diagnosed earlier. Teachers told us he was lazy, that he needed to concentrate harder, to focus more, and we didn’t know how to help him.”

Dr. Neeraj Mandhana coordinates the parent panel

One mother describes her son’s challenges in finding the right supports for his learning differences

Following the formal sessions, participants stayed to ask questions and build relationships with the institutional hosts. As hosts, we learned a great deal about perceptions of and experiences with learning differences in India. We were honored to hear about educators’ concerns, practices, frustrations, hopes, and questions. We were humbled to share a small portion of the development of civil rights legislation, shift towards inclusion in the U.S. model, current understanding of the neurological bases and cognitive profiles of learning differences, scientifically-based approaches to interventions, best practices for educational settings, and opportunities for students in responsive k-16 settings. We look forward to continued connections and relationships with our new Indian colleagues.

Group of participants: School Heads, Counselors, Educators, and Psychologists attending LD Workshop 2018

 

Institutional Hosts for the LD Workshop 2018

Good-by only for now from LD Workshop 2018, educators sessions.

Saying good-by to participants leaving the Oberoi International School

School buses at the Oberoi International School as the sun sets

 

Welcome to Learning Disabilities Workshop 2018: Mumbai, India

The entrance hall for LD Workshop 2018 at the Oberoi International School

We are ready to launch the Learning Disabilities Workshop 2018 this morning in Mumbai, India. The workshop grew out of a request from educational professionals and The Next Genuis Foundation in India that we come and provide education on learning differences, educational options, and practical techniques. We have worked with Bass Educational Services, Beacon College, the Gow School, and the Next Genius Foundation (India) to develop the workshop and recruit participants.

The online portal for workshop is here: https://www.ld-workshop.com/

 

There are 3 components that we are completing before, during, and after the LD Workshop:

1. Visits to Local Mumbai High Schools- Goal to understand education in India to bring back usable knowledge to improve our programming for international students here at Curry.
2. Workshop for Educational Professionals (Heads of School, Inclusion Directors, Teachers, and Guidance Counselors)- Goal to implement sessions that provide cross-cultural understandings that promote support for students with learning differences. The United States Basics of LD: history of inclusion in the US and cultural approach, foundational understanding of learning disabilities, educational approaches for LD, k-12 options, and higher education options and admission. The Indian Basics: parent and family experiences, Indian educational and cultural approach to LD.
3. Family Break-Out Sessions- Goal to provide individualized discussions and resources for families with students who have learning differences.

At at this time, 100 participants are registered, with a waiting list of 35. The house is full and we are actively preparing the certificates of participation. We cannot wait to begin the Learning Disabilities Workshop 2018!

Judy Bass (Bass Educational Services), Doug Cotter (Gow School), Lynn Abrahams (Curry College), and Keith Robichaud (Curry College) signing the certificates of participation

Welcome to Mumbai, India: Antiquity Meets Modernity

    Skyline view of Northen Mumbai from the Westin Hotel, including “slum” housing, highways, and sky scraping buildings filtered through smog.

Welcome to Mumbai, India! Our team from Curry College has come on a cross-cultural expedition to support learning disabilities in India and the United States. Future posts will discuss the content of the workshop and cultural exchanges. This first post will chart our orientation to Mumbai’s unique blend of history and modernity, as the city melds ancient civilizations and traditions with modern developments and tensions. Our first view of the city shows a skyline of upwardly-stretching buildings, low swaths of layered “slum” housing, turning highways, and a curtain of smokey fog (smog).

We had a hair-raising commute on the densely packed highways to reach the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. Here, we visited the Kanheri Caves, which sit in basalt rock hills stretching through the park. In approaching the caves, we encountered roaming monkeys that have adapted to constant human visitors- they approach humans freely, ask for snacks, and engage in primate play seemingly for an audience.

The ascent to the Kanheri caves followed stone steps chiseled by hand. Workers were chiseling, hammering, and squaring stone pavers under the sun. Families and workers handed metal support posts from shoulder to shoulder, each person walking up a few steps before passing on the load.

Little girl wrapped in fabric playing while workers carry iron supports up the stone stairs

The Kanheri caves rose as sloping mounds of black basalt and lava where the Buddhist monks carved elaborate halls, temples, and living spaces into the heart of the rock. The monks had carved systematic cisterns around and over the rooms, with winding channels about four inches wide and deep that empty into square reservoirs outside the entrance to each room. We experienced an enveloping peace as we entered the stone caves. Only natural light would stream into the caves from the doors and small window openings. Upon stepping into the caves, darkness closed in until your eyes adjusted to the absence of light. The space and carvings evolve into your adjusting vision, meaning a revelation of texture, shapes, and distance. The rooms themselves had been designed for meeting, meditating, worshipping, and chanting, with acoustics that took a singular voice to torso-shaking depths. Buddha images with symbols of the lotus flower, monkeys, cobras, elephants, and other deities stood out from the walls in ¾ relief. Benches and shrines stepped out from the walls. The air shifted from heavy and moist to cool and light inside the caves. In total, there were 109 caves carved in the first century B.C. to the 10th century C.E.

View of the Kanheri Caves and the sloping basalt hills

Panoramic view of the Buddhist Temple, with each visitor taking a digital photo or selfie

Gorgeous tree profile on the mountain outside the Buddhist caves

We met a couple preparing to celebrate their engagement and visiting the caves for their engagement photos. Sakshi and Ankush exuded romance, intrigue, shyness, and hope as they talked to us about their experiences. We asked how they had met and as Ankush said, “We are a traditional society. So, we each created an online dating profile. Our families reviewed profiles for potential matches and then contacted each other. The families met to assess the match. Once they decided this could be positive, they arranged a meeting for us. So, we met and felt we are compatible. It is an arranged marriage.” He said, “You know, at this stage, we don’t have to pretend. The romance and love come easily.”

Sakshi and Ankush in the engagement photos

And here in Mumbai the melding of ancient and modern– arranged marriages and personal destiny, family screenings and online dating profiles, Buddhist caves and booming digital economies, wheeled rickshaws and buzzing motorbikes stacked with families, traditional dress and business attire, multigenerational poverty and hope for prosperity– seems to be core in the identity manifest. It feels like symbiotic chaos, schools of fish or thoughts in rushing water, mixing and shifting currents of understanding of self in culture.

Motorbiking on the highway in Mumbai and riding side saddle past the “slum” settlements

How humbling and how honored we feel to see these movements on this grand scale. Our students who come to us from India are stepping from deep roots to a comparatively new movement of education and support for students with disabilities in the United States. They come with a facile approach coupled with a thorough grounding in culture and history. Their families are willing to share their children in hopes of growth and development that is available no where else. We met with one of our families with a student at Curry College and the mother said, “There is learning that you cannot do until you move outside of your comfort zone.” The U.S. has moved rapidly during the past 40 years in civil rights and protections for students who learn differently. We have the privilege in Curry and the Program for Advancement of Learning to work with other people’s children and to use our metacognitive teaching model to support transformations in development. And now we can bring our growing awareness of our students’ culture and history to support them during the transition to an American college experience.

Family selfies in front of the Gateway of India

Waiting for the bus in Mumbai

Pulling a rickshaw up the overpass on the highway

Krakow, Poland Main Square

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The Main Square in Krakow dates back to the 12th century. This center of Old Town Krakow has been rebuilt many times over history because of invasions and destruction. The current Cloth Hall- the large central building with the multiple arches- was rebuilt in 1555 and was always a central trading place between the East and West. Throughout the Middle Ages, merchants sold goods here and traders brought goods from throughout Europe, Asia, and Persia. This central square has been listed as the best public space in Europe.

Throughout the day, the Main Square bustles with activity, including cafes, public gathering areas, and plump pigeons.

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The florist below sells fall bouquets made from leaves and autumn flowers in preparation for All Saint’s Day, when Polish people will visit their relatives’ graves and bring floral tributes.

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By night, the Main Square continues to thrive with restaurants, shopping, and gathering.

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