Educating Special Children
In the late 18th Century, the ideas of fraternity, equality and liberty swept a large part of the World. This inspired political reformers and leaders in medicine and education and turned their attention towards the educational needs of Special People. France played a pioneering role in the area of Special Education. It was in Paris that Valentine Huay started a School for the Blind in 1785 and Father De L’epee developed an early version of finger spelling for the deaf. Jean Marc Gaspard Itard’s case study of ‘The Wild Boy of Aveyron’ is a pioneering work in the field of education for the mentally retarded.
Special Schools in India
During the same period, India too, witnessed the emergence of special schools for people with disabilities. The first school for the deaf was set up in Bombay in 1883, and the first school for the blind at Amritsar in 1887. There was a rapid expansion in the number of such institutions after this period. Today, there are more than 3000 special schools in India, yet these institutions reach out to a very limited number of children and that too in urban areas.
The educationists working in this area realized early that the Special Child should not be secluded from the Normal Child. Instead, most recommended an integrated education system for the Special Child under an inclusive system of education way back in 1950.
Consequent to the success of international experiments of placing children with disabilities in regular schools, the Planning Commission, in 1971, included in its plan a programme for integrated education. The Government launched the Integrated Education for Disabled Children scheme in December 1974.
There is a need for Public-Private partnership in this area. The idea is to provide educational opportunities to Special Children in regular schools, to facilitate their retention in the school system, and to place children from special schools in common schools.
Educationists in this area have to make special preparations for the Special Children and their parents. These include pre-school training, counselling for the parents, and special training in skills for all kinds of disabilities. Resources will have to be generated for books, stationery, uniforms, and allowances for transport, readers and escorts etc.
Key action points for successful implementation:
- Community mobilization and early detection
- In - service teacher training
- Provision of resource support
- Provision of educational aids and appliances
- Removal of architectural barriers
Special Schools which admitted special children have to be supported by welfare services and provided specialized services in the form of Consultants, Therapists, and Special Educators. As far as possible, the Special Children must not be segregated from other Children as it reinforces the social stigma they require role models to overcome their disabilities. In regular schools, however, in the absence of a proper training of the teachers the child could face other problems such as access, attitudes, teacher’s apprehension and peer acceptance, rigid curriculum and extra curricular activities.
Inclusive education would succeed only if the mainstream schools develop a positive attitude towards the educational needs of disabled children and increase access through simple adaptations. Apart from a general awareness in society, what needs to be done is teacher preparation and peer acceptance.
Inclusive education goes beyond physical presence of a child in the classroom situation; going through the same curricula as the non-disabled, appearing at the same examination with them and acquiring the same certificate.
Besides training the Special Child through Vocational Training the Special Children should be encouraged to participate in extra curricular activities like drawing, painting, dance, music, sports, craft and indoor games. Technology can help in the shape of special aids and appliances, computer assisted instruction and development of low cost/ tools of learning and teaching. The Special Children also need to be evaluated under a special evaluation system.
The idea behind this article is to engage the Educationists as well as people from different walks of life to come together and contribute to the special needs of Special Children. Those who wish to contribute to this sector in any form may write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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