Yogeshwari, a 10-year-old girl with multi-sensory ­impairment was a cause for worry for her ­parents. They were concerned about her future and wondered who would take care of her after them. Their daughter had ­difficulties with ­communication, access to ­information and ­mobility. This is when Dr Anupriya Chadha, a chief ­consultant at the national level for Inclusive Education for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Right to Education ­(a ­programme under the ministry of human resource development) came into their lives.
“We came to know about Yogeshwari through a house survey that helps us identify children with special needs. At first her ­parents had doubts when told that their daughter could lead an ­independent life. After paying regular visits to their home to convince them, they agreed to homeschool her. After assessing her requirements, an individualised educational plan was ­developed as per her needs and level. After eight months of training and preparing her for pre-inclusive skills, orientation and mobility skills etc, she was enrolled as a ­full-fledged student in a regular school,” says Chadha who believes that Yogeshwari is her biggest success.
“Today she attends school for two to three hours regularly and is no longer dependent on her parents to fulfil her basic needs. Her example has helped increase acceptance levels among other local community members but a lot more needs to be accomplished. There are many like her who are beyond reach and need help,” says Chadha.
About the challenges she faced as a special educator, Chadha says, “Principals blatantly deny admission to children with special needs and believe that regular schools are only meant for a certain type of children. Most schools do not have the infrastructure or facilities to handle this category of students though things are now improving.”
Chadha, who returned to India after a master’s degree in school psychology, ­followed by specialisation in learning disabilities at the University of Wisconsin, US, says that these courses ­sensitised her to the fact that each and every child has potential.
“It’s just that some ­children need more support and time to learn as compared to others. This is what needs to be understood,” she says.
As to what should be the ­mindset of students aspiring to be special educators, Chadha says, “Be open-minded and ­compassionate. This is a passion- driven profession and one should not expect quick results. Since you are dealing with special children and they take time to respond, patience and compassion is a prerequisite.”
With increasing awareness of education of children with special needs, there is a lot of scope in this field. “Special educators are hired by universities, government and private schools, special schools and international NGOs working in the field of disability,” says Chadha, who received the founder’s award by National Association of the Blind last year.
All you need to know about a career as special educator
Special educators are trained in providing care and education to children with intellectual impairment, cerebral palsy, physical disabilities, auditory impairment, autism, behavioural and learning disorders. They help children optimise their strengths and minimise their limitations. You might get a job in a school that encourages inclusive education and teaches special children
# Indra Vidya Centre for Training in Special Education & Child Guidance Services, New Delhi; www.amarjyotirehab.org
# Lady Irwin College, New Delhi; www.ladyirwin.edu.in
# National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad; www.nimhindia.org/
As per NCTE norms, those with 50% marks in Class 12 and a two-year diploma in special education are eligible to become teachers at the primary level and those who have completed BA/BSc with at least 50% marks and BEd in special education are eligible for upper primary level. The candidates are required to undergo an NCTE recognised six-month special programme
Skills and traits
# You should love children and be very skilled at handling them and take their problems/behavioural disorders in your stride
# Should be well-trained in identifying all kinds of behavioural disorders and providing remedial therapy
# Good communicative skills as you have to deal with parents too
Good communicative skills as you have to deal with parents too
Average salary I take home
Rs. 10,000 - Rs. 1 lakh a month
I love my job because...
I learnt to unconditionally accept people and respect individual differences
This is a passion driven profession and one should not expect quick results. Patience and compassion are, therefore, a prerequisite