The Problem

  • Who are Slow Learners?

    Anil was an 8-year-old boy. His parents were worried about him. He could not eat his food on his own, and needed assistance for brushing and bathing. He would wet himself and occasionally spoil his clothes, no matter how many times they told him it was wrong. He would forget easily and had to be removed from school after nursery because teachers complained that he could not even hold the pencil and disturbed the whole class by his behavior. Even though he could speak, it was not clear. His speech sounded childlike. He would not sit on one place for five minutes and would always wander around and sometimes beat and pinch others.

    What was wrong with Anil?

    Why did he not behave like others?

    Why couldn’t he continue in school?


    His parents took him to many doctors and faith healers, on the advice of elders.

    Don’t worry, as he grows up, he will be alright.”

    “Use this tonic, it will improve his memory.”

    “Probably a spirit has caught hold of him.”

    Tie him up or beat him, that will teach him a lesson.

    These were some of the distressing and unsatisfactory answers that they got. After going from one doctor to the other, they were finally told that he was mentally retarded, and there was no medicine for this.

    It is true. Anil and many others in fact, 3% of the population is affected by this condition called mental retardation, which is life long, cannot be cured and such children may require support throughout their life.   

    “Slow Learners” is a term which is used for those children who are neither average nor mentally sub normal. These children are often termed as dull normal, border line, below-average, sub average or partially mentally-subnormal. These children usually go unidentified as they are able to understand the things up to some extent and some how able to adjust in the society. But where ever higher mental processes are involved, they fail to accomplish the assigned task.

    As a matter of fact, repeaters form two groups. One of those children who are not interested in studies because of other psychological reasons and others are those who are not able to get through in-spite of best possible efforts. And these children are often being pressurized by teachers as well as parents.

    Parents of such children usually say that their child is studying in a good school, additional tuition facility is also being provided but still not able to get through.

    Hardly people think that child is not able to perform well due to its low intelligence. In-fact it is all happening unintentionally. We can never expect from a teacher who is managing the class of 70-80 children that she would give personal attention to such child. And at the same time it is also quite difficult for parents to spare so much of time as to understand that their child’s comprehension is poor. In general, parents are busy in their own business and unless there is some specific problem they hardly have much time for their child.

    It is surprising to note that when child is consulted for some other medical problem then it is found that child is having low functioning intelligence. And hence, referred for intellectual assessment. Around 80% children are referred by medical professionals and only 20% are identified by other sources accidentally.

    Here it is worth mentioning that there may be some bright children who have difficulty in reading or writing. Exceptionally someone may be slow in speed hence slow in learning- but this group is quite different, they are called “Dyslexics”. They are never called slow learners for the term “Slow Learner” connotes low functioning intelligence while “Dyslexia” is learning disability or learning problem.

    World famous scientist Einstein  had learning problem. It is astonishing that man who added so many surprising inventions to the modern society, was once about to expel from the school. Same was the case with the Edison.

    The essential feature of mental retardation is significantly sub average general intellectual functioning, which is accompanied by significant limitation in adaptive behavior, with onset before the age of 18 years.

    Impairments in adaptive behavior may manifest in 2 or more of the following areas – communication, self-care, home living, social and interpersonal skills, work, leisure, health and safety. A child’s mental growth is determined by his IQ level. It is calculated by the following formula:

            Mental Age

    IQ =     ------------------------ X 100

         Chronological Age


    Eg: If a child’s mental age and chronological age both are equal, his IQ will be 100. If his mental age will be more, then his IQ will also be more than 100 whereas if his mental age will be less, his IQ will be less.

    His IQ (Intelligence Quotient) will determine his level which are:

    85 – 100 IQ    =          Normal intelligence or Average

    70 – 85 IQ      =          below average but not mentally retarded 

                                    i.e dull Normal (SLOW LEARNER)

    Less than 70   =          Mentally retarded

    Based on the level of intellectual impairment four degrees of sub normality have been visualized and specified, namely:

    Mild mental retardation:                 IQ 50-70

    Moderate mental retardation:          IQ 35-50

    Severe mental retardation:             IQ 20-35

                       Profound mental retardation:           IQ below 20

    Often a debate is raised that whether this problem is hereditary or environmental? The truth is- it is Congenital. Slow Learners are unattended as neither it is accountable in the average category nor in the handicapped. As a result of which this group gets neglected. Here, it is worth mentioning that this group is doubly pained, as they often understand up to certain extent that they are being avoided and ridiculed by their counterparts, i.e. normal children And if they are put with handicapped children, it has been seen that they start imitating their oddities of behavior resulting in deterioration in their behavior/temperament and personality. Hence, they require specific training and education considering their limited intelligence and behavioral problems, if any. Moreover, people particularly parents need to be made aware about this fact. Mental retardation is the problem existing in every society and increasing gradually. 

    The present birth rate of babies in India is about one and half crore every year and mentally retarded population is about 2 crores. The prevalence rate of mentally retarded in the world is approximately 3 percent. But with methodical training and appropriate support, such persons can usually live successfully in the community, either independently or in supervised settings.

    Now that it is clear that slow learners form a separate group of children whose needs are different hence their training would be different too. Specialized training to these children does not involve much sophisticated/advanced technicality rather it comprises certain basic postulates. Which are in fact useful with normal children to begin with.

    Some of the basic postulates are following:

    1. No formal education before 5 years of age.

    2. In the beginning less emphasis on rote memorization.

    3. Emphasizing the specific ability (Aptitude) rather then on multi model subjects.

    4. Subject matter should be divided in small parts rather than as unified whole.

    5. Making the child learn in a playful manner.

    6. In addition to personalised attention, some kind of “group activity” should also be there to facilitate the socialization process. The stages of clearing steps should be in a sequential manner: Article recognition, color discrimination, minor calculations, reading, writing in local dialect and providing general Information about Daily living.

    Parents are advised to behave as normally as that of other children, not to compare their wards with other children and to make them involve in all house-hold activities so far as possible. We should keep in our minds the Gandhiji’s statement- 

    “One step is enough for me, I do not long for the distant sense.”

I Have Thanked The Trees That Have Made My Life Fruitful But Have Failes To Remember The Grass That Has Ever Kept It Green -"TAGORE"