If this question is plaguing you, then in order to answer it we need to understand what the term Special Education means.
In different parts of the world, the term Special Education refers to different services or policies. But broadly, Special Education refers to providing specialised education services to children whose learning needs cannot be met by the regular school curriculum. This refers to children who have cognitive, behavioural or physical disabilities which impact their learning and therefore they require modification of usual teaching practices to suit their learning needs. Children with disabilities have unique learning needs that typical schooling methods cannot accommodate. This is where special education steps in.
Education in India is challenging even for the typically abled. With a general one approach fits all policy, the curriculum has often failed to accommodate the needs of children with varying abilities. The large numbers in classes, high depth of subjects and intense pressure on academics and exams make schooling an uphill battle. In many ways, our educational system fails to cater to the individual needs of a student. In such a scenario, the challenges faced by a child with special needs, especially when it comes to schooling are immense. Special education, therefore, is aimed at making learning adapted to the needs of special needs students and providing these children individualised resources.
The official numbers of children with special needs in India don’t give us a very clear idea of their prevalence. In many parts of the country, especially the rural areas, a lack of awareness and the stigma associated with disabilities often stop parents of children from reaching out for help. The 2019 “State of the Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities” which relied on the numbers from the 2011 census, reported that children with disability in India constitute 1.7 % of the total child population and more than half of this population doesn’t attend school. Not only do children with disabilities drop out of school due to the lack of resources but many aren’t sent to school at all in the first place. However, with more awareness, advocacy and efforts for inclusion, these numbers are slowly changing.
The term special education needs refer particularly to educational needs that stem from a disability. This disability or challenge can be cognitive, physical or behavioural in nature. Some of the special needs commonly seen are due to a brain injury, visual or hearing impairment, developmental delays, learning disabilities like Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a speech or language impairment such as stuttering, intellectual disability such as Down Syndrome.
Some special needs such as visual impairment or a physical disability and their impact on learning are easier to identify right from the start. Although, many times, identifying a special need takes time and requires observation and assessment. School readiness hasn’t always been given enough importance as schools mostly rely on age milestones to enrol children as students. As a result, special education needs might be identified much after a child begins formal schooling. As all children do not meet developmental milestones at the same time, it might be difficult to recognise some special needs at their onset. Especially when it comes to behavioural or emotional disorders, children might just be wrongly labelled as difficult or disruptive. These children usually might be pulled up for misbehaviour, or seen as incapable or uninterested in learning.
Therefore identifying a child’s disability or difficulty is very important to give them the appropriate help they need. Depending on the disability and its severity, identifying it may not always be straightforward, as each manifests differently. But a few pointers that indicate you need to get an assessment done for your child are
Once parents have identified that their children have special needs they are often left in a dilemma about what type of schooling environment will suit their child. Will they adjust and settle in a regular school with assistance or will they do better in a special school. The type and severity of the disability is mainly a deciding factor here. While integration has great advantages, children with severe or multiple disabilities might fare better in a special school, where they will get more individual attention. Children with minor disabilities and learning challenges on the other hand may benefit more from being integrated into a regular school, where they can cope if given the right assistance and resources. Either way, enrolling the child in school is just the first part of the challenge. Once enrolled, it must be ensured that the child is in a welcoming environment and has access to the assistance they need. Continuing evaluation is also necessary to implement changes in strategies and techniques used.
If you are concerned about your child’s progress at school or aren’t sure where to start, get in touch with our specialists at Tactopus. We are here to help.