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Most parents of a special child are faced with the dilemmas and hurdles during admission of their child into a school. Every parent wants their child to go to a mainstream school but there is always a big doubt whether the child will be able to cope up with the pressures of the school, and also whether the school will be able to do justice to a child with special needs, by providing the adequate facilities required by them. Though the debate will continue, we as parents need to understand the pros and cons of the choices available, and whether the choice will benefit the child or not. Before we make a decision as a parent, it should be clear that the decision should be done keeping the needs of the child in mind and not because of any peer and societal pressure.
What happens when a special needs child is sent to a mainstream school?
For any child, peer learning is a part of daily life. Often, one of the skills missing in a special needs child is the social skill. Sending a special child to a mainstream school helps the child to learn these social skills by interacting with their class peers. Being in the company of other children can help a child to get motivated to do things which otherwise cannot be imagined. Mainstream schooling helps a special needs child come out of their shell and to achieve higher success. Also having a special needs child in the classroom also teaches regular children to be more empathic towards children with difficulties which in turn is advantageous for the society as a whole.
However, before choosing a mainstream school for the child, the parents also need to assess the factors which will be required for a successful inclusion of their child. First and foremost is availability of resources within the school which are required for inclusion. The resources can be in the form of special educators, helpers and occupational therapists, or in the form of special classrooms to provide additional help to the child. A special needs child will require additional help to cope up in school. For this, the help of a special educator in the school is required, who will try to modify the curriculum to help the child understand it easily. The helpers will provide extra help physically if required and an occupational therapist will work the physical and sensory deficits of a child. For a successful inclusion, it is important that the child spends as much time with regular peers, so within the school the child should not be confined to the special section and should be made to interact and learn with the regular peers as much as possible. The amount of time special children spend with regular peers is determined by their abilities in various subjects. One other factor that should be kept in mind is the sensitivity of the management and the teachers towards a child with special needs. With a special needs child, a teacher needs to be more patient and should be willing to help the child by providing extra help or modifying the syllabus to the needs of the child. Also, the school should ensure to provide a positive and sensitive environment to a special needs child to avoid the child getting bullied or teased to avoid low self esteem and other psychological setbacks.
When special needs children join special needs schools?
The advantage of a special school is that they have facilities which cater to the needs of a special child; they are best equipped with all the staff members who are trained to educate special needs children. Students attend classes with peers who have similar needs. Moreover they follow a curriculum that special needs children can easily cope with and do not feel any sort of stress. Rushing or panicking to finishing syllabus is the least of concerns, what is imperative is positive learning and development of the child at a pace he/she is not beleaguered by. Teachers and other staff are more patient and caring as they know the kind of students they will be around and are prepared much in advance. Schools for autistic students focus on communication and socialization. Schools for the blind provide instruction in Braille and life skills. Schools for the hearing impaired have classes in sign language and speech therapy. These schools teach need-specific skills to students along with academics. Some are meant to prepare students for transition into a mainstream school while others will keep students through graduation.
However on the contrary, a child in a special school gets segregated from other children and from mainstream education and will not be able to get experiences and learning they may otherwise have been exposed to in a regular setup. Some of these experiences might not be easy, but it could be argued that it is not right to try to shelter disabled children from the realities of the real world that they will have to spend their lives living in. It is also argued that although special needs schools mean well, they sometimes tend to prepare children with disabilities for a life in which they will need constant care. They say this means that instead of learning how to get by in the so-called real world, they learn how to live a good life for somebody with a disability – rather than a good life in general. The main point of this argument is that some say special needs schools define children too much by the fact that they are disabled, and also make that a bigger deal than it would be if they were left in mainstream education.
The perfect outcome to such debates don’t simplify thought but encourage a deeper meaning while taking and making those decisions keeping in mind how well a parent can devote time and care as well. It is always a parent who know his/her child the best and taking a decision of sending the child to a special needs school or mainstream is a risk that has to be taken and not casually but much thought and sensitivity. When choosing the type of education appropriate for your special needs child, study all the options. Consider the amount of trained staff available to work with students, the types of services provided in each setting and types of accommodations available at the school. Decide if you want the main focus of your child's education to be academic, social or emotional. Talk with the school about their expectations for your child in the short and long-term and be specific when speaking about your child's strengths and areas of difficulty. This will help you determine the right placement for your child and provide the greatest academic success.