Student with dyslexia aces board exams; Mom-teacher Suchita Pattnaik narrates son’s journey

Dyslexia is a learning disorder in which there is difficulty in reading due to problems recognizing speech and sounds and determining their relationship to letters and words. According to the Mayo Clinic, a reading disability, dyslexia is the result of individual differences in the areas of the brain that process language.

However, despite being such a major health condition, much less is known about dyslexia. Knowledge around dyslexia is so little that people often interpret it as problematic. Due to the limited awareness surrounding this condition, affected individuals are ostracized and stigmatized.

We at ETimes-TOI spoke to Suchita Pattnaik, a mother and a DIY teacher about what dyslexia means to her, how she helps her child Shreyansh cope with dyslexia and what she has faced so far.

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In 2010, Suhita’s eight-year-old son was diagnosed with dyslexia, after which her family severed ties with her. With no one to offer her support, Suchita embarked on a journey in which she had to convey her feelings along with her son who did not join schools due to his condition. Despite constant rejections and bullies, this mother never lost her focus and years later, when her son secured 96% in the CBSE class 12 board exams, her joy knew no bounds. Shreyansh is currently pursuing a course in Artificial Intelligence at a reputed college in Gurugram.

ETimes-TOI: What do you wish people knew about dyslexic children?
Suchita Pattnaik:
In my opinion, we should all treat them normally but gently. Like all other children, they are also normal children with special abilities and people should know that dyslexic children are also intelligent. If they code, they are the best at it, if they solve math problems, they will do it faster than any other student. Therefore, bullying them and making them feel inferior to others should be discouraged. We should be more empathetic and inclusive towards them.

ETimes-TOI: What are the most disturbing comments and reactions you come across?
Suchita Pattnaik:
Comments like “abnormal” and “crack” were the most disturbing comments, but my determination and my son’s zeal to learn were much stronger than these negative comments. Therefore, we did not pay much attention to such comments.

ETimes-TOI: Any parenting tips you would like to share with parents of dyslexic children?
Suchita Pattnaik:
There are a few things we need to keep in mind, such as seeking help at school, finding people who can relate to our children, making sure they receive ongoing support and encouragement so that they can put into practice what they have learned during treatment.

Protect your homes, because many dyslexic children are prone to self-harm. Take care of their emotional needs. Prepare for adolescence, as when these children reach the age of puberty, they experience new emotions that are a natural part of growing up. Discuss what to expect as your child grows and how to manage it with your doctor. Allay your child’s fears by reassuring them that the changes that come with puberty are natural.

ETimes-TOI: What was your son’s greatest strength?
Suchita Pattnaik:
My son’s greatest strength is his knowledge of technology. He is interested in gadgets and has always been into reading technology books and magazines. His ability to understand technology is faster compared to other children his age.

ETimes-TOI: How did you help him overcome his handicaps?
Suchita Pattnaik:
Ongoing treatments, counseling, brain development activities, sports and meditation helped him overcome his deficiencies. Sometimes, I had emotional and mental breakdowns, but I never expressed it in front of him.

On Shreyansh’s achievement and lauding Suchita’s effort, Vibha Gupta, Principal, Orchids – The International School, Sector 56, Gurgaon, says, “I feel proud to have teachers like Suchita, who is not only a DIY teacher but and inspiration to all of us. We have to learn how to care for our child with special abilities and giving up is never an option. We are all children of God, there should be no discrimination based on mental health.”

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