Education is every child’s RIGHT! And, whether the child is typical or has special needs does not take that right away or tweak it in the way a school would like. How many times have we seen parents sharing their ordeal on social media when they have dealt with an insensitive school teacher,principal or other staff members? When parents were warned, looked down upon, stared at or were told indirectly that THEY WERE RESPONSIBLE for things that their child was doing or NOT doing. And the times when a school has implied through various means that they can only do this much!
The IEP meets are feared more than the Apocalypse and every time there is a phone call from the school, the parent have a mini heart attack fearing the worst! And the worst being the child not cooperating, not returning to the classroom or worst still, throwing a tantrum AGAIN and that he better be picked up NOW.
It is not that we as parents of children with special needs want ‘the moon and the stars’ from our respective schools. All we want for them is to be a little sensitive, interested and co-operative without the hidden agendas of kicking our kids out or putting them into special-Ed classes without a real need.
While academics remain the major area of struggle, the parents leave no stone unturned by trying new online programmes, books and anything that gets any recommendation from any parent or educator. This anxiety does stem from the school’s inability to see or pinpoint the actual issue and only concentrating on the symptoms. What is even more worrying is that often, parents are left on the mercy of the school demands and get bullied about non-issues that ranges from ‘Non-compliance’ to ‘disruptive behaviour’, which stems not from the ‘stubborn” behaviour’ per se but from the inability to make sense of what is happening around him in the class, due to inadequate processing abilities.
You can also read: Why Do We Want To Send Our Special Needs Children To Mainstream Schools?
This also doesn’t mean that all schools are doing this intentionally. Mostly the schools and teachers do not have a clue about the associated issues and the in depth knowledge of all, that comes within the spectrum of various ‘Disabilities’. Mostly their escape route is to refer ‘these kids’ to the special-ed teachers.
We, as parents do not expect the schools to bend backwards to accommodate our children. In fact a lot of times, parents feel obligated if their child gets accepted in a mainstream school (I know this happens in all developing nations). Also, as academics is not our primary goal for sending our children to school, we do not go and trouble the teachers about the grades and marks. Despite that, schools don’t really care for the struggle and the challenges the parents have to face on a day to day basis.
The least that we as a society which is aiming for inclusion and integration can do is to have the interest to try, to change and to believe! It is not impossible. Nations like Italy are doing it all along. If only the schools, the education institutes, the teachers and everyone that in any way is associated with children with special needs would try to do their small bit, life and more importantly school years would be better for our special need angels and for us parents too. I have put together these five points which I believe can be instrumental for schools in accepting our children.
1. My child has a DISABILITY and he is DIFFERENT:
While all along a parent shares the diagnosis of his child to the school but, as soon as there is a slight deviation from the child’s part on what is considered a typical ‘behaviour,’ the school gets into the motion of summoning the parent about the ‘tantrum’ or the ‘ stubborn’ behaviour. Without really understanding that there would be times when our children would not abide by the rule book and would not behave the way other children do. They overlook the fact that this child is behaving differently because HE IS DIFFERENT and, has needs that he is not able to express. Once the school and the staff TRULY Accept that the child may need extra help with instructions and that there may be meltdowns, that’s when they can truly understand and accommodate a child with special needs.
2. Be Creative and For God Sake Have Some Sense Of Humour:
A few weeks ago, I was called into my daughter’s school (for those who don’t know she is 8 and happens to have Down syndrome). I was invited in a room where few other teachers were already seated. After pleasantries, they told me that they are facing a behavioural issue with my daughter.
In the middle of my skipping heart beats, the music teacher told me that Aarshia ( My daughter), comes crawling in the music class ( the music rooms have floor sitting design) and they have tried everything, but she doesn’t understand!
I thought I heard it wrong so I asked again but he had the exact same words. I don’t know what came over me but I started laughing. And asked the teacher if in his entire teaching career he has seen anybody doing that? He said ‘no’ and I told him to enjoy this till it lasts because it is not going to be every day that he will have somebody who would be coming crawling in his class! Well, a few agreed and others were amused by my inability to see a REAL issue there! But being a parent for last 8 years, I have learned to choose my battles and I requested the school to do the same.
3. Take Some Onus:
This saddens me like nothing else does. A school which is supposedly dealing with a lot of children with special needs would still be summoning the parent on every misbehaviour or tantrum the child may throw. If a school is interested and serious as they claim they are, they should have a few tricks up their sleeve apart from their usual ‘rewards and punishment’ and ‘call the parents’ when our kiddos throw a tantrum or two!
When they tell us to teach our child things like discipline, instructions following and compliance; I fail to understand why they cannot take the onus for the same even when it happens in their premises and presence. In spite of being with our children for few years, why every meltdown is not an equal responsibility of the school? And it is not just the disciplinary issues. I have seen children aged 13-15 or more attending a school for years altogether, learning nothing than the colouring, rote counting or the Alphabets! The truth is that the school needs to take responsibility for the child and cannot conveniently pass the buck every time to the parents.
4. Don’t Discount Our Child’s Abilities:
Please don’t stay fixed on what our children can’t do! Yes, there was a time when the world thought our children can’t do much but our kiddos are proving these notions wrong every day. They are achieving new goals, reaching new heights and changing prejudice and perceptions all along. And, if you can believe in them the way we parents do, together we will be able to give this world some really nice, loving, well-adjusted people. Have expectations and keep an open mind!
You can also read this: Special Need Mothers – Have Great Expectations!
5. We Both Are On The Same TEAM! :
whether you’d like to believe it or not; we both belong to the same team. Both of us have the same goal-to help our children reach their potential! We both want to help them adjust to the society, lead a meaningful life, have friendships and relationships, manage themselves and be independent. And trust me, you are never going to get a better resource and insightful person for our children than us. Even if sometime we come across as a loud-mouthed or too pushy, it is because that’s the only way we are heard and it is mostly not by choice. But if we believe you to be on our side, we can REALLY HELP! We can devise, create, volunteer, modify and do much more only if we know that you are truly concerned about our child’s integration and inclusion.
You all must’ve had quite a few experiences with the schools or the school system. Do write and share the same here. We would love to hear about it and share it with others!