Maheesh Karthik, 10, is a bundle of energy and fun. He is so active that sometimes his friends fail to keep up with him. “If he keeps jumping, it’s very difficult to control him,” said Sharda Kesan, his mother. It is this hyperactive behaviour of Karthik that made him ‘unfit’ for a regular school.
“It was at the age of four that his teachers and classmates found it difficult to deal with him,” added Kesan. Karthik was subsequently moved to a special school that deals with children with autism.
As the world gets ready to observe Autism Day on Friday, parents of children with autism in India said they find it difficult to send their wards to school. In Delhi, one finds only a handful of schools that have an inclusive set up.
“The latest figures suggest that every 1 out of 150 children are detected with autism worldwide. But where are the schools for children like these? Most schools neither have any awareness nor the infrastructure to deal with autistic children,” said Dr Shelja Sen, child and adolescent psychologist and family therapist.
Sensitisation is key to make education inclusive, said Dr Sen. Shiv Nambiar (name changed), an engineer had to fight an insensitivity of school authorities who refused to keep his son in the school.
“I had admitted my son to a reputed school, which had supposedly one of the best inclusive education set up. But soon we realised that rather than catering to the needs of my child, they wanted him to compete with regular children. He could not and we were told to
take him away. Though the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has guidelines, saying no school can deny admission to any child, but that is only on paper,” added Nambiar.
Doctors said denial of admission in schools often lead to children remaining in pre-schools for a prolonged time.
“There is a need to change the attitude of the school and the approach of the teachers who are very inflexible. A teacher often expects a child to behave in a certain way, come to school, do the class work, and maintain discipline. The moment they are a little different from others, they are not able to handle them. Training and sensitisation of teachers is very important since that determines the attitude of the other children in the classroom towards an autistic child,” said Sen.