‘Regular’ schools need to accommodate ‘special’ kids

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 02 April 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The recent controversy where the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) denied writers to students with special needs just days ahead of board exams, has once again brought to the fore the troubles these students face in the present education system.

While the board finally agreed and provided writers on Wednesday, parents are worried about the exams. A woman whose child was recently diagnosed with dysgraphia and dyslexia said she had been hopeful about getting her child into a NIOS school after Class VIII. "My kid is hypotonic (poor muscle toning) and has bad handwriting. I had thought NIOS would give him a writer, but I am not sure," she said.

Developmental paediatrician Dr Vibha Krishnamurthy spoke about the 'inflexible' education system that worsened the plight of special children. "Many autistic children who make great progress in the initial stages with regular therapy, suffer a great deal of stress and tension in our schools in later years,'' she said.

Even as the various educational boards promise various concessions to students with autism and learning disabilities, it is not a smooth ride for parents in the years at school. "It is not very difficult to accommodate these students if the machinery, like a remedial educator and counsellor is made available. Giving students an opportunity to study at a regular school helps them to learn better," said Meera Kothari, clinical psychologist and director, GAET counselling centre. A recent study in the city revealed over 48% of the schools did not have a counsellor and about 80% of the schools did not have a special educator.

However, school principals feel it is the stigma among other parents that needs to be addressed. "Schools are extremely worried about their reputation and sometimes ignorant parents fail to understand why the school has opened its doors to students with disabilities. The other obstacle is the unwillingness to take on extra work. For several schools, it is about 100% results during board exams. To achieve it with special students also studying in the school may require additional efforts," said the principal of an SSC school in Kandivli.

Armaity Engineer, principal, Bhaktivedanta School, Lokhandwala, said, "Parents must interact with parents who have been through similar issues." The school has over 300 students with special needs.

Developmental paediatrician Dr Samir Dalwai said educational systems are not to be blamed. "The society looks at autism as an enigma which cannot be cured. So schools keep these students away. But if this myth that it is not curable is busted, why will schools throw out these children?."

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