CHILDREN WITH special needs are no more segregated or confined to ‘special schools’, thanks to the efforts of city schools to make campuses more inclusive. From improved infrastructural facilities to special educators on campus, schools are not only offering a host of support system to children with special needs, they also proactively detect learning disabilities among students too. Schools have over the years introduced efficient handholding systems for children with learning difficulties, physical disabilities or emotional and behavioral difficulties.
The Cathedral and John Cannon School at Fort has provided a ramp at the entrance of the school to help wheelchair-bound students and those with physical disability enter the premises with ease. These students are accommodated in classrooms on the ground floor to ease their access.
The school also has an in-house team of special educators to help children with learning disability (LD) cope with the curriculum and perform at par with their classmates. “Generally, the IQ of these children is higher than the others and they only lack in their performance IQ. And this is wrongly viewed as a shortcoming when actually it is just a different way of assimilating,” said Sudarshana Shukla, the career guidance counselor at the school.
Some other schools such as the St Joseph’s School at Panvel have outsourced the expertise. “We have tied up with a professional organisation called Drishti which has experience in special education needs for over two decades. We also have a special educator onboard, who is available on the campus on a regular basis,” said principal Kalpana Dwivedi.
Most schools also deploy mechanisms to detect students with special needs at early stages according to a Bombay High Court directive for screening learning disabilities among students in primary schools. In a circular issued last week, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CICSE) had also asked affiliated schools to detect learning disabilities among students.
“Students don’t undergo any formal test until they are nine years old. Once the assessment is carefully conducted, students detected with LD are taken special care of. A Special Educator is assigned to every section who aligns the timetable of mainstream classrooms to those of the Learning Resource Classrooms (LRC),” said Zeenat Bhojabhoy, principal of Jamnabai Narsee School at Vile Parle.
The LRC is a slightly informal, colourful and less intimidating space where students with special needs are attended to. The are taught at a slower pace, their spelling errors are overlooked. “We avoid using red pen for corrections at the LRCs, every teacher has to write at least one encouraging remark after a class for every student, no negative tone of speech is used and we chart out personalised goals for every student with a special need,” said Shukla.
For the schools, the biggest challenge is to convince parents that their ward has special needs. “A majority of the parents of students in our school are high achievers who are not easy to convince that their child needs a special aid. There is a lot of initial hesitation but the sense of accomplishment that students have after availing these remedial classes soon irons out all the apprehensions,” said Shukla.