To make classrooms inclusive, we do not need special teachers or different environments, all we need is compassionate teachers who are trained to handle children with special needs, says Ira Sehgal, who created history in 2015 when she became the first differently abled woman to top the UPSC exam.
“When people think about children with special needs, they try to create a special or unique environment for them. Instead of bringing in special educators, we must try to train every teacher in Braille and sign language and other skills to handle children with special needs. Special education should be part of regular school teacher training curriculum,” says Sehgal, adding that one of the biggest prejudice she had to face while growing up was to convince everyone about her abilities, as the society either was sympathetic or was skeptical.
“Most schools were ready to give me admission and my father had to fight to get equal opportunity for me. He was not convinced of schools offering special opportunity because he wanted same platform and equal treatment for me,” she says.
She further stresses that attitude of the teachers also need to change. “Some teachers are either very liberal with such children or are very strict, while we expect them to treat us at the same level.”
“Both the attitudes are harmful as you either kill their confidence or you don’t allow their whole potential to come out, as you tend to over-appreciate. We need to be inclusive right from the childhood, as children must be sympathetic towards the specially-abled from the beginning. This helps in better understanding.”
Sehgal feels that our current education is not equipped or has the right attitude towards catering needs of such children. There are no tailor made solutions for special needs children.
“A child with autism cannot study a few subjects like learning the languages, but our education system is such that every child is forced to study same kind of curriculum. We need to have special curriculum, which he or she is capable of learning,” says Sehgal.
She concludes that the present system is trying to push inclusivity but an actual holistic policy is still missing. There need to be enough sensitisation workshops focusing on how all of children can grow together and make a positive society where everyone has same opportunities and same platform.