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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Helping the neglected

Prateek Walia, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, April 10, 2013
First Published: 23:42 IST(10/4/2013) | Last Updated: 23:44 IST(10/4/2013)

Life is usually a battle for families with disabled children or those with special educational needs. Financial and emotional challenges that parents encounter on daily basis make life more difficult for them.

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Children who have autism spectrum disorders or are suffering from hearing and speech impairment are often neglected, especially those born in the lower middle-class families, as they are not even exposed to the outside world.

The reasons can be plenty, either parents themselves are not educated or do not have time for their children or lack of awareness or cannot afford the expenditure. The UT education department is transforming the lives of many such families.

The department may be receiving flak for not resolving the admission issue of economically weaker section students in private schools, but it is doing a great job in implementing Inclusive Education Programme under Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan, wherein children with special needs (CWSN) are to be provided education in general schools, more importantly in neighbourhood schools.

The child-mapping survey done by the department helps it detect such children and transform their lives for the better. "The biggest challenge we face is to convince parents, especially those belonging to lower middle-class, so for them we start with home-based education here in we go to their houses and provide education to children," informed Rajni Kapoor, one of the volunteers associated with the UT education department.

In October last year, Rajni came across three such students, who were never exposed to the outside world or any academic activities.

Sahil Sharma,14, who was diagnosed with down syndrome by his paediatrician soon after his birth, was admitted to a special school where he started pulling his hair and showed other harmful behaviour, following which he was made to sit at home. Then the volunteer started working on him by visiting his house for two hours a day in a week.

"The first time I met Sahil, he was in a very bad condition. He could not even perform activities of daily life," Rajni says.

Rajni did a functional assessment thereafter and prepared an individualistic education plan for him, primarily focusing on eating, bathing, dressing, walking and toilet training.

Today, after six months of training, Sahil goes to school thrice a week for a few hours.

Sahil's mother Manju Sharma says, "My son now helps me in small domestic activities such as opening the door, picking-up utensils and most importantly his social behaviour is improving day by day."

"Sahil loves to come to the school and play with his friends. He tries to speak to all and expresses his feelings by gestures," schoolteacher Brij Kanta says.

Another such student Rahul, 11, has also shown tremendous improvement.

After five months of home-based education, Rahul has now started coming to the school daily. He sits with his classmates and listens to the lecture like any other student.

According to his teacher, Rahul loves to draw pictures and gets ready for school on his own now. He is the most neat and clean boy of the class.

The UT education department is certainly doing a great job with all such students without demanding much effort from the parents' side.

This year the department has already enrolled 254 CWSN students and 13 volunteers are working with them.

Who are children with special needs
Vision impairment
Hearing and speech impairment
Locomotor problem
Mental retardation
Cerebral palsy (CP)
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
Multiple disability (MD)

What is inclusive education programme
Under this programme, every child with special needs irrespective of the kind, category and degree of disability should be provided with inclusive education. The ultimate aim of the programme is to mainstream all children with special needs (CWSN) in neighbourhood schools.

Resource Centres
There are four resource centres in UT government schools to further develop full potentiality of each child with a disability.

Funds for parents
The department also gives escort/transport allowance to parents to drop their children to nearby schools.

Class based on assessment
Teachers/ volunteers do a functional assessment for such students and start with home-based education programme. Thereafter, the child is admitted to a school and the class is chosen based on assessment.

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