I had been into few years of teaching when the bomb of accepting ‘differently abled’ students into our classrooms was hurled onto us. We were not prepared for it and we knew it would cause upheaval in our lives. But whether we liked it or not, we had to be reluctantly part of Inclusive Education program in the regular setup.
Like others in my league, I was already neck deep with planning and executing activities, teaching, figuring out the nuances of CCE, providing personal attention to few students who weren’t performing well, giving a patient ear to those who were lost and uncared for at home. And now, this additional task of not only accepting differently abled/special needs children into our classrooms but also to make special provisions for them in the form of ‘providing buddies’, ensuring their work was done and lastly setting customized papers for them.
How did we respond to this – true to our human nature…we initially rebelled but when we realized that the concept was here to stay, we accepted it with defiance.
I was perturbed by the additional work that would have to be done on a regular basis. But more than that I was concerned about the emotional and psychological impact on these children and their impact on our normal students. The specially abled students are generally characterized as annoying because they tend to repeat certain patterns which are not palatable to a normal individual. I was sure they would be bullied, looked down upon and teased frequently.
But I must confess that I was wrong!! Rather I am glad that my hypothesis was proved to be invalid. I had incorrectly assessed the situation and unnecessarily doubted my innocent students.
All through the years since this concept was introduced, I have noticed that the kids in every classroom have without any inhibitions accepted the students with special needs. In every classroom, when asked who would volunteer to be a buddy to these students…there is always an overwhelming response. Almost every child in the class is ready to help them with their daily activities and assignments at school.
The ‘buddy(s)’ takes care of most of the needs of these students. Escorting them, tracking their written work, sometimes completing written assignments, ensuring that these students eat their tiffins in company of 2-3 other students, providing emotional support, informing the teacher when the child is unmanageable…all this and much more!
We adults have mental blocks; the kids do not. The children are free of prejudices. They embrace everyone with own arms and big hearts. It is we who corrupt them with our ideologies and regular conditioning.
I have come to realise that ‘Inclusive Education’ is the best way to bring the children with disabilities and special needs into the mainstream. Since the students are exposed to them through classroom interactions, the former are accepted as a part of their daily lives. Every child learns to be patient and compassionate towards the needs of every other individual in their surroundings thus creating a fine balance in our society!!