Juhu school contests observation committee report on autistic child

Says panel has not considered several aspects,including whether he will be able to progress independently

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: September 11, 2013 12:44:00 am

Contesting the final report of an observation committee that looked into the case of an autistic child,Jamnabai Narsee School,Juhu,has argued that it has not considered several aspects,including whether the nine-year-old will progress independently in a mainstream school or whether his interests are better served in an alternative environment in a special needs’ school.

In the final report to the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR),the committee had concluded that the child was fit to be allowed to attend regular school with a shadow teacher in the current classroom. The school told MSCPCR the committee did not specify how would the shadow teacher be required to attend the school with the child.

Stating that the child was not fitting into classroom environment and by demanding constant attention was disturbing others,the school had asked the parents to transfer him to another school last year. The Bombay High Court allowed the child to attend classes with a “shadow teacher”. It also asked a committee appointed by MSCPCR to observe the child for a month in classroom.

“The report does not address the issue of how a special child can cope in an environment which does not involve individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures and other interventions. No consideration was given to the fact that it’s not possible for the school to deliver effectively two different instructional methods in the same classroom,” says the school’s affidavit,submitted Tuesday.

The school told MSCPCR the case should not be seen in isolation and its overall impact on other schools should be taken into account. “It is not that this school does not deal with children with autism. Autism can be of various types,very serious to mild. We have had cases where autistic children were integrated into the classroom. In our experience,this child is unable to integrate into classroom environment,” said the school’s counsel.

The school observed that the child is unable to perform without the presence of the shadow teacher,except for basic objective questions. “The shadow teacher is carrying out a parallel instruction set in class. We have tried for five years to integrate this child and we bona fide believe that it is better that the child gets education from a special needs school. Today we have one shadow teacher,suppose we get three autistic children in a class,are we going to have three shadow teachers? Tomorrow,there will be examinations,and how does the child answer that? Is the shadow teacher going to sit with him,explain the questions and prompt him with the answers?” the school said.

The report,according to the school,fails to analyse impact of the child’s “admittedly disruptive behaviour” on other children.

The school told MSCPCR that feedback from teachers shows they are finding it stressful to deal with this kind of problem.

The lawyer representing the child argued that the purpose of a shadow teacher was to help a child to stay focused,participate appropriately in class,be positive in his approach to new tasks,help him initiate discussions with peers,respond appropriately with peers and social situations,among others. “He was helped by classmates during yoga class,which implies 44 other children want to help him… Taking out negative things from the report and highlighting it with international studies should not the school’s objective,” said the lawyer.


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