This blog post has been contributed by Deepa Garwa.
I have been asked this question many times. Sometimes by people who were well meaning and a lot of times by those who were not. People have asked me this under the guise of concern and curiosity but I was always able to gauge what they really wanted to know. My fellow teachers in my school were extremely unhappy when the ‘Right to Education’ made it mandatory for them to have children with special needs in their classrooms. They used to complain about the extra burden, lack of facilities and infrastructure and for not being trained to handle children with special needs. I used to tell them to forget about all that and just accept. Acceptance paves the way for a lot of problems and solutions can be found within its realm. It was not just fellow teachers; there were parents too who thought having special needs children in the class would affect their children’s behaviour and ‘these’ kids should go and study in special schools.
One of the common misconceptions was and still is that children with special needs are not educable and it is a time wasting exercise to put effort into teaching them. I believe this is a very dangerous thought for teachers to have, because if you are not convinced yourself, then the chances are you’d never be able to fully support the inclusion.
Now back to the question, why do parents want to put their special needs children into mainstream schools? The answer is not one dimensional and frankly, many special needs parents have not had the best experience with inclusion. Many of them home-school their children based on their unpleasant experiences with the school system but other optimistic parents still send or want to send their kids to school. Let me be clear, academics is the last thing we have in our mind. So what makes this decision for us?
It is our RIGHT: Yes, the children with special needs are as much a part of the society as other children are. It is their right to be treated in the same way. Just like all the children going to the school are not alike and have varied abilities and skills, the same applies to our little special brigade as well. They all come with their own skills, strengths and challenges and it is their right to get the same treatment that their ‘neuro-typical’ counterparts do.