By Dr Rohit Gupta
In order to select a suitable school for a child with special needs, we need to understand the child’s requirements. “Special needs” is a term widely used to include a variety of developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome and ADHD, among others. These children are particularly vulnerable and can face several functional barriers. They have specific challenges they need to overcome, which is why they are said to have special needs. So, the requirement for each child and priorities for each parent is different and for that, the unique circumstances for the child and family need to be taken into account when selecting an appropriate school. Here we discuss a few points which are applicable to all special needs children:
The school should be easily accessible, and preferably located near the home of the child, for the parent of a special needs child may be called to the school on an urgent basis. It is not uncommon for children with special needs to experience meltdowns, so the child may need the parent in such times to feel a sense of comfort which comes from the familiar face of the primary caregiver.
The school should have a good infrastructure with provisions like a playground with swings, rooms with a relaxing atmosphere, or rooms for activities that the child might enjoy like music and dance and other recreational activities. This also includes resource rooms, which are learning spaces where a special education teacher instructs and assists children with special needs. These classrooms are staffed by special education teachers and sometimes specialised professionals and tool-kits needed for instruction and learning are available for children with special needs.
The school should have a good team of available professionals like a child psychologist, special educators, occupational therapist, speech therapist, etc, who can work together to provide the relevant services to the child, as well as pay close attention to the child’s changing needs and look for signs when the intervention plan or IEP needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Inclusive education policy
The school should clearly mention their provision of services and the exact nature of policies regarding the inclusion of children with special needs. This involves mentioning the degree of integration and also how they include the child in the classroom environment along with other neurotypical children.
Flexible teaching methods
Most children with special needs learn better when teaching methods are tweaked to match their individual learning styles. The teachers present in the school should be aware and trained to give instruction through multiple mediums. For instance, many special needs children tend to be visual learners, so the school should include activities in the teaching plan that make use of strong visual tools and allow learning from visual experiences.
Provision of NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling)
The school should be flexible not only in their method of teaching but they should also conduct examinations taking into account the special needs or circumstances for these kids. The method of test-taking should fit the standard applied to children with special needs, so as to make the assessment and evaluation process as fair as possible. For this, the school should have the provision of conducting exams through NIOS as it is difficult for these kids to follow the usual CBSE format.
The school should maintain transparency about the status of the child with the parents. Parents should be regularly informed about any incidences of problems faced with the child in the school setting and they also receive regular updates on the progress of the child or the effectiveness of the intervention techniques. The parent of the child should be able to observe or enquire anytime about their child.
Appropriate transport facilities should be available for the convenience of the child. Transport service should be provided by the school along with the availability of staff to help out by accompanying the child, as they lack communication skills and hence may have difficulty in expressing their needs to others.
The atmosphere at the school should be conducive to the growth of the child and their skill development. These children need a lot of love, support and care and it’s important for the school staff to ensure that the child feels welcome, accepted and comfortable during the time spent at school.
These are a few points that a parent should keep in mind before enrolling their child with special needs in a school. It’s an important decision that will play a central role in addressing the unique developmental needs of the child and leave a lasting impact on them, thus it should be taken after careful consideration, and not in a hurry.
(The writer is Centre Head, Moms Belief Pahal, Keshavpuram, Delhi)
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