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Comparison of Cognition Abilities between Groups of Children

It is an accepted notion that cognitive ability of an individual develop during childhood years and expand its capacity through family and interaction with the environment. Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and understanding of that gained knowledge that involved thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and solving life’s problem. Researchers had documented that heredity plays a major role in development of cognition. For this reason, the cognitive ability of individuals differ from each other depending on the genes inherited.

This is very evident in school children wherein a number can easily remember and understand the lesson while a number are having a hard time understanding them. Some students excel in science but hate mathematical computations while others are the opposite. This paper aims in analyzing the difference in cognitive ability of children related to dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia which are considered as specific learning disabilities or SpLD and major causes of academic underachievement. Related to SpLD, Karande, et al. (2005) conducted a study among Indian school children with the

objective of determining whether cognition abilities differ among children having different levels of non- verbal intelligence. This is first of its kind in India and the result can be a basis for providing a special mode of teaching with special emphasis to their SpLD. The author consider SpLD as a generic term of a variety of related disorders manifested by unexpected, specific and long lasting difficulties in knowing and understanding the use of reading or dyslexia, writing or dysgraphia and mathematical processes of dyscalculia. The specific difficulty persists despite excellence in instruction, proper

inspiration and existing adequate opportunities related to social and cultural matters. Furthermore, the author consider SpLD to exclude children having learning problems primarily due to impairment in vision, hearing, motor handicaps, below normal intelligence level, emotional imbalance and those which were unable to adjust normally to socio-cultural environment. SpLD according to the author is considered a condition that arise from dysfunction of the central nervous system and can be treated as a chronic handicap resulting to poor academic performance of children.

Dyslexia or disability specifically related to reading is reported by the author to affect 80% of learning- disabled children and considered to be a disorder of cognition or intellectual functioning. The disorder is both familial and can be inherited. As much as 65% of children who hailed from parents with dyslexia is reported to inherit the disorder. The author reported that based from linkage studies, the loci on chromosomes 6 and 15 are responsible for reading disability. Neurobiologic investigations using post- mortem brain specimens revealed that there are abnormalities in the temporo-prieto-occipital brain

regions of people with dyslexia and prominently centered on the angular gyrus. Dyslexia is a learning disability manifested by deficits in phonemic or ability to speak clearly, phonological decoding, rapid naming of colored object drawings, difficulty in single word reading, vocabulary and spelling/writing of dictated words. The author further elucidated the fact that reading is comprised of two main processes of decoding and comprehension. In dyslexia, a deficit in the level of phonologic module prevents the ability to simonize the word into its phonologic elements.

As a result, the reader suffers difficulty in decoding the word and identifying it. This explains the paradox behind the existence of intelligent people having difficulty in reading. Materials and Methods of the study The design used by the study is cross-sectional which was well fitted for the purpose as it involves measuring the cognition level across three different population samples. A government-recognized clinic of a medical college in Mumbai was chosen as site of the study that was conducted over a period of 15 months from January 2001 to March 2002. Nine year old and above children who were referred to the

clinic for poor academic performance and newly diagnosed by the clinic having SpLD problems and have not yet undergone remedial actions were enrolled for the study. Only nine year old and above children were considered for the study for the reason that a child can only be conclusively diagnosed for SpLD at age nine years old and above. All the subjects were attending schools with English as medium of instruction in Mumbai and nearby districts. Each child was assessed in detail by a group of multidisciplinary experts comprised of Pediatrician, Clinical Psychologist and a Special Educator. Audiometric and ophthalmic examinations

were done on the children to rule out hearing and visual deficits as contributory to persistently low academic performance. This was done due to the fact that the interest of the study centered on the cognition ability as inherited from the parents and not due to audio and visual impairments. Children found to posses non-correctable hearing or visual impairment were not considered for the study. Moreover, those found with SpLD deficits but with co-morbidity with ADHD and epilepsy were excluded as samples for the study. Reflecting from this condition, children with ADHD and epilepsy should have

been included as normally, ADHD is also an inherited disorder and it can be considered to affect cognition level of children. On closer analysis, those children should not be included as the object of the study is to determine the cognition ability based exclusively on hereditary consideration. A total of 216 children aged 9 years and above were referred for poor academic performance. Among them, 42 were diagnosed as slow learners and having dull normal and borderline intelligence of nonverbal IQ of 70-89, 14 had mental retardation with non-verbal IQ lower than 69, four had non-

correctable hearing and visual problems, seven were with severe depression, 14 children with language barrier and 135 were diagnosed having SpLD. Of the 135 SpLD children, 19 were associated with ADHD and 2 with epilepsy and were excluded from the study. Among the remaining 114 children with SpLD, parents of the 19 children refused to sign the informed consent and thus eliminated from the sample roster. Ninety five children were included as samples and all were given the required cognition function tests (CFTs). In the study, the intelligence level of the children with SpLD were determined on the basis of their

non-verbal performance using the WISC test which is known to reflect their true level of intelligence from their scores. It is an accepted fact that SpLD children normally perform poorly on verbal tests compared to non-verbal tests as verbal tests measure skills related to arithmetic, information and span of digits where they were known to have deficits in understanding. The study children samples were divided into three groups; the first group or the average non-verbal intelligence group with non-verbal IQ of 90-109, the bright nonverbal intelligence group with non-verbal IQ of 110-119 and the superior non-verbal

intelligence group with non-verbal IQ of 120-129. For every experiment, there must be a reference group and so, a separate control group composed of 125 non-disabled children aged 9-14 years were also given CFTs. Their mean scores of 25. 14 for figural information, 28. 30 for symbolic information, 27. 36 for semantic information and 7. 54 for behavioral information were treated as the standard scores. After taking the informed consent from the parents, one of the authors administered a battery of 13 CFT’s individually on each of the child. The psychometric tests are based on the Guilford’s Structure of Intellect

(SOI) Model. The data gathered were analyzed based on the “Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 7. 5 for Windows (SPSS, Chicago, Illinois, USA)” (Subjects and Methods, 13th par. ). Results and Discussion Of the 95 samples of study children, 45 had average-non- verbal intelligence, 35 belongs to bright normal non-verbal intelligence and 15 had superior non- verbal intelligence. The mean differences in CFT scores from the three study sample groups in four areas of information were not significant statistically when compared between themselves. The result of the CFTs is presented in Table 1. The average of the

CFTs scores from the three study groups in the four cognition areas were significantly lower compared to the standard scores from normal children. Table 1. Comparison of cognition function tests among the three groups The result indicated that children with SpLD whether they were classified as average, normally bright and with superior non- verbal intelligence have similar range of abilities with respect to cognition but their scores were significantly lower than those of the normal children. Their lower cognition abilities vise normal children with respect to immediate awareness, comprehension and recognition of stimuli provided

proof why these children face significant and long lasting difficulties in understanding the use of reading, writing and mathematics. The information from this study can aid the educators towards developing specialized teaching strategies to ease the difficulties being experienced by these children. SpLD is not just a disability that is school- related but rather a lifetime and personal disability that can adversely affect self-image, peer, family and social relations. The finding that children with SpLD have similar cognition abilities irrespective of their intelligence level provided hope that they too can equal the academic

achievement of normal children given the special educational teaching needs and strategy. There were three limitations faced in the study, one of which is the presence of more boys than girls in the sample children which may have some effect on the result. Secondly, children with superior non- verbal IQ of 130 refused to enroll in the study and so no data is available as regard their cognitive abilities. Thirdly, the study was limited to the study of cognition which is only one of the five intellectual processes as described by Guilford in his SOI model. The other four processes namely memory,

convergent production, divergent production and evaluation could have completed the picture. This led us to the implications for future study to concentrate on the other four intellectual processes. Summary and Conclusion It was proven from the study that cognition ability is hereditary and a dysfunction of the central nervous system. The design of the study not to include those children with non-correctible visual and audio disabilities and the exclusion of children with ADHD provided purity of evidence from the result that cognitive ability hails exclusively from heredity congruent with the objective of the study.

The inclusion of a fourth group comprised of normal children provided reference data that the cognitive level of SpLD children is really below normal. The study also provided proof that regardless of non-verbal intelligence classification, children with SpLD possess the same level of cognitive ability although significantly lower than normal children’s cognitive ability. This discrepancy can be placed in equal and level playing field with normal children with the help of special teaching modules designed to develop the disabled and slow comprehension process among children with SpLD. That is in the presumption that the

disability was discovered earlier and the remedial action was implemented. The remedial action of providing an specialized lesson module is the only way we can help the SpLD children. The disability will be a lifetime burden if corrective measures were not done at early age resulting to a lesser person. Reference Karande, S. , Sawant, S. , Kulkarni, M. , Galvankar, P. and Sholapurwala R. (2005) Comparison of cognition abilities between groups of children with specific learning disability having average, bright normal and superior nonverbal intelligence. Indian Journal of Medical Science, 59 (3), 95-103.

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