Special needs children endure adversity in the form of a deficiency of facilities, support and awareness. They require additional time, teaching methods and care both at school, friend circles and at home. These needs vary depending on the nature of disability and age. Schools, parents and caregivers have an important role in helping children with physical disabilities and special abilities. Special needs education is a priority and needs immediate, consistent focus.
According to an article by Amrita Thakkar, for First Crayon, there are 47 million Indians with special needs and only 61 percent of them have attended or attend school. This is indeed a grave concern and needs both a clear policy intervention and an awareness among those concerned with the future of disadvantaged children.
Special needs education is required when there are Physical, Mental and Behavioral disadvantages. A decreased level of learning ability, as compared to most children of their age, necessitates additional help. Physical disability includes visual impairment, hearing loss or difficulty, chronic fatigue and others.
On the other hand, mentally disadvantaged children suffer from dyslexia, autism, speech and communication disorders and hindered intellectual development. As for behavioral or emotional disabilities, they are a result of trauma, strained social and family relationships during childhood. Classified as emotional and behavioral disorders, they manifest as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other such behavioral symptoms.
While different learning abilities, due to different conditions, can slow down the academic progress of children, discrimination can cause them to lose confidence. The first impediment in special needs children with gaining confidence is the lack of acceptance among parents. Weighed down by social isolation and stigma, some parents tend to believe it is better to avoid the trouble of providing children formal education.
Not just that, some educational institutions further the stigma by expressing reservations about admitting special needs children. Dealing a deathblow to the already suffering self-esteem, this disparaging attitude is the last thing a beleaguered parent needs.
Poverty, in itself, is a nightmarish reality that hinders individual and social well-being. Add to it the enormous financial costs of physical and mental healthcare costs, it is a struggle beyond words indeed. Let alone special needs education, for many disadvantaged children across developing countries, life is a bleak picture. Though many government policies are making an effort to provide inclusive education, subsidize health and education costs for the specially abled, the scale of need and that of policy leaves a gaping hole of inefficiency to overcome.
More importantly, we as a society need espouse empathy, acceptance and support through our actions. Samatha Learning Centre, HSR, Bangalore, is one such institution that is helping nurture the potential of differently abled children. A small step and inspiring action can trigger the much-needed change for the education of children with special needs.
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