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Exploring Life Through Films: The Stigma Against Children with Learning Disabilities

The story of Taare Zameen Par revolves around Ishaan and a teacher that opened a new world to him through compassion and limitless understanding. Ishaan is an eight-year-old child who has a hard time learning at the same pace as his peers due to his inability to read or write. The boy has his way of learning through his creative imagination, but not everyone— not even his parents— can see that. Growing up, I was privileged enough to encounter various professors with different teaching styles that resulted in them having a different impact on my life, different nevertheless positive. I used to question many of my professors' teaching styles and compare them to what I refer to as the "correct" teaching style. But just like how Ishaan's way of learning is different from mine, I realized that there was no one-size-fits-all for learning.

At the start of the film, Ishaan's world was filled with wonders; he sees everything with rose-colored lenses. He would awe over small fish and delighted over air bubbles he would blow into his drink. Everything changed when Ishaan felt isolated from his family when he was sent to a boarding school. Ishaan became withdrawn and lonely because no one understood how different letters, numbers, and the world, in general, looked for him. If only from the start, his parents were knowledgeable enough about learning disabilities and the possibility of their child having one, Ishaan would not have experienced a lonely phase in his life. Children with learning disabilities are still stigmatized today; not every parent is open to labeling their children just because of the discrimination brought by them. However, we must always keep in mind that proper intervention, encouragement, and understanding of the children's needs are what the children truly deserve. Even Ishaan's parents were not accepting when the teacher, Ram, told them about Ishaan's condition. It is sad to think that up until today, discrimination against disabilities is still prevalent when in fact, this should be an era of inclusivity, an era of improving the quality of life of children with learning disabilities.

In this world that is still full of discrimination, we should strive to be a person like Teacher Ram; after all, through my teacher's compassion, I could rise above my' dark days'. All it took for both Ishaan and I was patience and care that changed our perception. Ishaan was able to express himself more through art with Ram's facilitation. Throughout the movie, who knew that Ishaan, a child at the young age of 9 who was socially isolated, could produce such wonderful artworks. We must not underestimate the power of social support in the success of interventions.

Different obstacles in life challenge everyone, and it is no different from the challenges experienced by children with learning disabilities, challenges that are not impossible to overcome. We must not look at learning disabilities as a barrier to greatness; rather, we should look at them simply as a hurdle that is very easy to overcome with proper knowledge and support.


Film: Taare Zameen Par (Translated to: Stars on Earth) directed by Aamir Khan


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