The RTE or ‘right to education act’ has given our children an access to schools and in the last few decades, many mainstream schools have started accepting children with special needs. Whether it is happening in every corner of this country is a story for another day, but the point of concern is those children who in spite of attending the school are not learning anything significant from the entire process!
When I had decided to put my daughter to a mainstream school, like other parents I too was not much concerned about the academics. All around the world, social exposure and peer group interaction remains the primary objectives of sending our children with special needs to school and we somehow accept that academics cannot be really taught effectively in a typical school setting with limited time and already over-burdened teachers.
The difficulties with the current system
It is definitely over-optimistic to think and believe that in the current school settings, teachers would be able to give one-to-one attention, modify syllabus, work on social interactions or do justice to full inclusion, without help!
In a few schools this help is available either in form of a buddy teacher, special-ed, personal aid or a shadow teacher but in all other cases, it becomes parents’ responsibility to provide resources to the teacher.
Teachers keep on trying to find and devise ways to occupy or engage a child with special needs optimally, while teaching to the whole class. It can be difficult but not impossible and here some training, skill building and hand holding can become crucial.
Picture this; a child who is one or two grade low in processing information is sitting in the class getting bored. Now it is easier to give him some other work to keep him occupied, however, the best thing to do for a better inclusion, would be to teach the same concept in such a way that it is equally interesting to all. Yes, the preparation needs to be done in advance and the teacher and parent can work together to make resources, but this methodology can help the child immensely and help boost his confidence. If the parent and teacher can decide on the ‘minimum learning objective’ of a topic, it can become easier on the whole teaching process.
Let’s take an example of birds. Suppose there is this topic of birds in grade two. Children are learning about various kinds of birds, their habitats, different kinds of nests, eggs, beaks etc. For our children with special needs, parents and teachers can decide what are the basic minimum objectives that the child should know at the end of this topic and then teach accordingly. For Aarshia, we decided on three minimum outcomes. She should know that ‘the birds fly, they live in the nest and give eggs.’ Based on these three learning outcomes the PPT, the personal book and the question answer sheet was made and accordingly the classroom teaching was oriented.
It is important for a special educator, a teacher or a parent to understand and define the outcome of teaching a concept in advance. It will help all the stakeholders and the best part is that the child would be able to successfully learn within the limited means.
Here is my video of explaining a concept which is currently being taught in my daughter’s school. The whole class in learning about milk. The various types of milk, where do we get it from, what all is made from it and how the whole process of procuring milk and packaging happens. The school has taken the children to cow-sheds, milk processing units, factories and shops. They also made curd, paneer and a few sweet dishes with milk in the class. The whole activity was hands on as well as visual, but to reinforce it better, I made this personal book and it helped immensely in not only reading but also comprehending. I hope it will help you all and you’d create something similar for your children too. Do write your comments below if you find it helpful.