Inclusive education to empower children with disabilities

INDIA: Inclusive education and special school concepts are not competitive but complementary to each other, reckons Dr Geetha R Bhat.

Nature and nurture has a substantial role to play in the growth and development of human beings.  Nature and nurture apart, human organisms are susceptible to damage through disease and injury.

Deviations from the average of physical and mental ability of human beings beyond limits resulting in substantial and appreciable difficulties in performing a function or in social adjustment would be perceived as disability.

Setting up a special school with all necessary resources like infrastructure, equipments and manpower warrants a huge capital. In a developing country like India which cannot afford to make huge investments, an alternative system becomes imperative so as to bring children with disabilities under the umbrella of education. Inclusive education is one such viable approach to make the dream come true.

Inclusion in education is an approach to educating students with disabilities. Under the inclusion model, students with disabilities spend most or all of their time with non-disabled students.

When children with disabilities learn in the same school as their non-disabled peers with the support necessary for them to be successful there, then the society is said to be “inclusive”.  All students in a school, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses in any area become part of the school community.

A “team approach” is very crucial for inclusion. Some of the key players could be regular teachers, parents, community, resource teachers, non-disabled children, Children With Special Needs (CWSN) and so on. Inclusive Education helps children with disabilities to prepare for full participation in community life.

The community should encourage the education of children with disabilities in their neighborhood.  This ensures better acceptance of the disability and enables them in education, employment and social activities. For Inclusive Education to be successful all school personnel need to display shared responsibility and support for all students and teachers should have the capacity to understand the unique needs of children.

Inclusion settings allow children with and without disabilities to play and interact every day, even when they are receiving therapeutic services. When a child displays fine motor difficulty, his ability to fully participate in common classroom activities, such as cutting, coloring, and zipping a jacket may be hindered.

While occupational therapists are often called to assess and implement strategies outside of school, it is frequently left up to classroom teachers to implement strategies in school. Collaborating with occupational therapists will help classroom teachers use intervention strategies and increase teacher’s awareness about student’s needs within school settings and enhance teacher’s independence in implementation of occupational therapy strategies.

There are many positive effects of inclusions where both the students with special needs and the other students in the classroom benefit. Research has shown positive effects for children with disabilities in areas such as reaching Individualized Education Program (IEP) goal, improving communication and social skills, increasing positive peer interactions, many educational outcomes, and post school adjustments. Positive effects on children without disabilities include the development of positive attitudes and perceptions of persons with disabilities and the enhancement of social status with non-disabled peers.  The overall benefits could be

  • All children are enriched and have a positive attitude
  • Professional skills are developed for teachers
  • Parents are better equipped to deal with their children
  • Children with special needs are better prepared for independent living.

However, the concept of Inclusive Education should not be perceived as a threat to Special School programmes.  The Special Schools can concentrate on more difficult groups such as children with multiple disabilities, cerebral palsy, severe retardation, etc.  Inclusive education and special school concepts are not competitive to each other, but are infact complementary to each other.

The Directive Principle of Indian Constitution, the National Policy of Education, The RCI Act, the Persons with Disabilities Act, The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) 2010 project empowers to ensure admission, retention and education of all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years, including the disabled children. No normal school can deny admission to a disabled child.

With the growing prevalence of children with various disorders, Inclusive Education can definitely benefit those children who have learning disability, mild or borderline intellectual functioning and other children with disabilities.  Schools have to adopt a separate way of assessing these children instead of the normal writing assessments. Oral assessments, projects, experimental method, co-curricular assessments will prove beneficial.  Resource rooms with a trained resource teacher and adequate learning aids should be made compulsory in all schools.

Today, with the availability of abundant opportunities across different fields, be it, music, sports, martial arts, art and craft, children, especially children with disabilities can excel across multiple myriad fields with basic academics and adequate life skills.  And this is where we and the current education system of our country need to focus on to empower children with disabilities.

Source: Deccan Herald