Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia and many other similar learning disabilities are rife in our society, one that is trying to keep its youth at the forefront of modernization.
In the past few years during the course of teaching MBAs and school children I have realized that everyone learns differently. There are means with which we tap into other people’s minds; wanting to do so in order to impart education is important but it’s important to understand that educational reform should focus more on the tools with which we teach rather than just making cosmetic changes to the curriculum we teach.
Focus on tools of education needs to be enhanced
There are ways to connect with students and teachers who should be sensitized towards understanding the psychological and emotional needs of students in the current day and age where information is available at the tap of a button.
Technology has allowed helping students learn outside of universities and classrooms. People or children who learn differently need to be recognized and be helped in ways in which they learn and engage with their environment.
In order to create enabling environments for students to learn we need to make science mainstream and create technological platforms that can connect the differently-abled to the realms of knowledge that they cannot access in traditional ways of learning and polish their skills to channelize them into the mainstream economy.
One U.K. study of note found a genetic link between a dopamine receptor gene variation associated with ADHD and the tendency to be an entrepreneur.
Sensation seeking, common in ADHD is more common among entrepreneurs than in the general population and anecdotal reports bolster this point, saying that people with ADHD are three times more likely to own their own business.
Besides being easily bored with routine and the status quo, those with ADHD traits tend to thrive in times of crisis and have immense abilities to distill complex situations into simple ones.
Similarly, students with dyslexia may not be good at forming sentences and solving math problems but are immensely creative and can be excellent teachers, photographers, artists and hairstylists.
How do we recognize these gifted individuals and channelize their talent into mainstream social folds and the economy? Parents with such gifted children do not understand how to handle them and they end up getting frustrated. Schools simply lack empathy not to mention teachers who are not trained to take on responsibilities to manage these kids accordingly.
Education policy needs to be retooled to enhance learning
Our education policy should make room for differently-abled kids and work out a way to educate them on platforms other than a classroom that offer little or no engagement.
These children/adults are best equipped to learn through technologies and computers and are very good at researching the information that interests them.
Richard Branson and Steve Jobs were differently-abled, and were able to think out of the box to come up with solutions to the world’s problems which were not thought of through traditional schooling. Creativity and fun and learning are ways to bring out the best in our children which is what schools need to start paying attention to.
Dr. Russel Barkley who is an expert at ADHD offers great ways to help individuals with learning disabilities to channelize their creativity and become good at what they are interested in.
Bill Gates is somewhat on the spectrum too with the ability to hyperfocus and create ideas and code for hours on end even though his people skills may have been somewhat different in his early years.
Gates has been known to obsess over ideas and bring them to fruition because of the ways he was exposed to an environment where problem-solving was the name of the game.
Problem-solving in our generation is not taught even for normally abled kids and their creative ideas are not taken seriously.
A 14-year-old boy named Muhammed Abdullah was able to finish his O levels at age 11 and is now pursuing his A-levels because he has an environment that is focused on what he needs to do in order to grow and use his abilities to learn and solve problems.
He does not have ADHD or any other disability but he does have several varied interests one of which is learning how machines function and is now able to drive at a young age. He is also able to manage complex math problems, work out computer programming, and figure out skills that best suit his mind and passion.
One size fits all learning can no longer work
Schools and universities should be talent management spaces rather than cookie-cutter factories churning out bricks in a wall allowing students to learn at the pace with which they learn and an environment where they want to learn.
Summer should be a time for training the youth regardless of age or gender in areas that improve their skills and hobbies which bring their strengths to the fore rather than being distracted by negative activities.
Skating arenas, planetariums, mobile gaming competitions, swimming and camping and above all learning how to be kind and tolerant towards one another should be essential parts of curriculum where learning should be the student’s choice and the learning experience should be a pleasant and productive one for the user irrespective of age, race, religion or learning background.
Mahvesh Mahmud is a Shell-Chevening-DFID-Noon Foundation (2007-2008) scholar to the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge UK where she was awarded the Lucy Cavendish College’s Kate Bertram Prize for distinction in Management Studies, specifically in the areas of Innovation, Strategy and Organizations. She also has an MBA from NUST Business School, Islamabad. She is an academic and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.