Specific difficulties in adjusting to school occur primarily in children with impaired vision. Astigmatic, short-sighted and more far-sighted children easily get tired when they are reading, writing and drawing, and other problems such as headaches, watery eyes and nervous blinking usually occur. This causes irritability, restlessness and reduced interest in school. Statistics from several European countries say that between the ages of 7 and 14, an average of 25% to 30% of children of both sexes suffer from various refractive errors, i.e. refractive errors in the eye (myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism). These visual impairments are often combined with each other.
Immediately at the beginning of schooling, all students should undergo a systematic examination of vision. Every and the smallest anomaly should be corrected with glasses. This should be done even when the visual acuity has not yet been reduced, but a specialist eye examination still reveals a hidden refractive anomaly. Early correction best prevents the progression of the anomaly, squinting and low vision.
If the child is extremely visually impaired in both eyes, i.e. if the sharpness of its vision, despite the best correction with glasses, is only 40% or even less, then it is not able to attend regular school. Such a child must be adapted to students’ visual abilities (school for the protection of vision).
A completely blind child, i.e. one whose visual acuity is less than 10% with correction with glasses, is educated in special institutions for blind children. Children are admitted to these institutions on the basis of the findings of the expert commission for giving an opinion on the categorization of children with physical and mental disabilities, which is appointed by the competent municipality.
Deaf and completely deaf children have equal or even greater difficulties in adapting to school. A deaf child is a child “who has lost hearing from 30 to 80 decibels, with whom communication is insecure and whose speech is significantly impaired” (Ordinance on the categorization and records of children with physical and mental disabilities, Art. 6). Such a child finds it difficult to attend classes, does not understand much and has difficulty communicating with the environment. Because of this, it is careless, learns little, finds it difficult to express itself and often seems mentally retarded, although it is not. Because it is difficult to fit into class activity, such a child feels neglected. As it insufficiently understands what is being said about it, it becomes suspicious, oversensitive to its “I”, irritable and abusive, even aggressive in severe cases.
Deaf children can be helped by improving their hearing and speech with exercises on special devices and the use of hearing amplifiers (hearing aids). Such hearing rehabilitation is a lengthy process; therefore it should be started as early as possible, preferably as early as preschool age, i.e. as soon as it is noticed that there is no complete hearing. Hard-of-hearing children are educated in special classes where classes are conducted in parallel with hearing rehabilitation. Children who suffer from mild hearing loss can be educated in a regular school with the help of a hearing amplifier.
A deaf child is considered – according to the regulations – a child who has lost its hearing by more than 80 decibels and with whom communication is impossible. Such a child usually does not even develop speech, so it becomes mute. For the education of deaf or deaf-mute children, there are special schools in which they are accommodated on the basis of the findings of the expert commission for categorization.
School children suffer from speech disorders, and less frequent stuttering. Our examination of mental disorders showed that among primary school students, speech disorders are encountered at this frequency:
A child with impaired or underdeveloped speech usually experiences severe psychological trauma. Because it is defective in the basic social function with which it should affirm itself, to express itself, to show its intellectual abilities, the stuttering child is ashamed of its defect. The stuttering child is reluctant to speak, does not show its true knowledge, is too reticent in expression, and often does not achieve the success it deserves. This discourages and hinders it even more. If teachers treat it tactlessly, impatiently, with contempt or badly disguised irony, such a child is exposed to ridicule by peers, which inflicts new psychological blows on it.
A stuttering child can attend regular school. There is no need for such a child to be educated in special classes or schools for children with speech disorders. In a special school for speech-impaired children, the child is in an exceptional, unnatural environment where everyone – both students and teachers – speaks in an unnatural, half-singing way. There the child soon stops stuttering. But it must also move among people who speak normally. That’s why it has to adapt to them so much that it can talk to them without difficulty. At a speech therapy school, a child does not have the opportunity to practice this. This is why stuttering reappears immediately as soon as the child returns to regular school, no matter how long he or she has previously been in a special school for speech-impaired children. A child can be completely relieved of stuttering only on the condition that it persistently practices how to cope in the natural environment and gradually overcomes the emotional obstacles that are the cause of its neurosis.
Stuttering is usually a side effect of deafness or underdeveloped intelligence, or both at the same time. In this case, the child who stutters- i.e. incorrectly and incompletely pronounces certain voices – should be subjected to simultaneous rehabilitation of hearing and speech, or should be educated in a special school for mentally retarded children if its intelligence is not sufficiently developed. Stuttering is sometimes the result of an anomaly in the area of the oral or nasal cavity or pharynx. Removing such an anomaly allows the child to use special speech therapy and to achieve voices that it has not been able to form so far. There are cases when the stuttering is psychogenic in nature; then the speech disorder is removed with the help of the child’s psychotherapy and parental counseling.