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.
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.