The miracle of inclusive schooling

At three and half years, Sam was a borderline spastic child with cognitive gaps regarding colour and number concepts, slurred speech and mild physical disability. The child did not have control over his bladder. His poor health did not allow him to concentrate on any activity in preschool. He was also a chronic absentee from preschool. He struggled to express himself. This was the Sam I first met, three years ago.

But today, thanks to his mother’s determination and inclusive preschooling, Sam is in a mainstream school, doing wonderfully well in academics. How did this happen?

There are certain things that helped Sam at school, which used a sociocentric model to deal with such children:

  •  Accepting the child as he was.
  •  Counselling the parents to accept him to as he was (There were many counselling sessions to support the parents, especially the mother).
  • Care and co-operation of peers and facilitators.
  • Acceptance and help from peers.
  • Treating Sam and other normal children the same.
  • Encouraging even the little things that he did.
  • Providing age-appropriate life skills.
  • Training the child to question “why”? , thereby giving him self confidence.
  • Providing a child-friendly environment for freedom of expression.
  • Using multiple activities to strengthen each concept.

 By the end of 8th month, after continuous individualized interaction with the chief facilitator, the ice was broken and the child started interacting positively. There was no looking back after this. Though the child mastered preschool programs and learnt about animals, fruits, vegetables, transport, parts of the body, plants, and shapes, lacuna was identified when it came to recognizing and recalling the alphabet and numbers. The child also found it difficult to identify colours. At this point, Montessori equipment was used to teach him the alphabet and numbers. Sam’s mother also worked  with him at home reinforcing alphabet and number recognition. The same alphabet and numbers were also taught using clay modelling, colouring, pasting, picture books and educational CDs. The child started responding to the alphabet and numbers with lines and strokes. With help from the school and the mother, the child learnt to recognize and recall the alphabet and numbers by the end of the academic year. Simultaneously, the chief facilitator started to work on Sam’s colour identification problem. Initially, but it was frustrating to see that though the child could repeat the colour, he still failed to recognize it when he was shown another object of the same colour. As summer vacation set in, the academic year had come to a close. Therefore, the parents were requested to talk to Sam regarding primary colours at home during the vacation.  

When Sam came back for the next academic year, we had to start working on his colour concepts, alphabet and numbers all over again. But the most heartening factor was there was learning readiness and prior experience, which greatly helped. Again using multiple methods and strategies we helped him master the alphabet and numbers. But helping him master the colour concept was still a dream, as he always got confused with colours. At this point, we came up with an innovative program to use a single colour for the whole week and requested the mother to send the child dressed in the same colour dress for the whole week, and if the colour of the week was red, us and his mother would talk only about red objects throughout the week, slowly the child started responding to the intervention program, which was reinforced at all given instances, consciously by the facilitators as well as the mother.

 At the same time, the parents were also encouraged to send the child for physio therapy as well as speech therapy. The parents initially started with physio therapy, which greatly helped Sam gain his physical balance while walking, the school also provided a lot of physical activities like hopping, running, jumping, stretching, bending, etc., to strengthen his therapy program. By the end of the therapy, Sam could balance himself while walking as any normal child could, instead of dragging his left foot. Whenever Sam felt off balance, there was always little Vishal or little Adi to support him. Such was the peer support. This is the greatest boon of inclusion, where the children and the caregivers wholly accept the child for who he is and are always there for him.

At the middle of the third year in preschool, the child was introduced to speech therapy and this helped him reduce the slur in his speech. By then, the child had mastered the essentials of preschooling. As “Kindler’s Corner Preschool” offers preschooling only till Prep II, it was suggested that Sam be admitted to a mainstream school. During the screening test for admission, the child cleared all the questions himself, and today Sam is studying I std, in a state board school, doing wonderfully well.  

Through this journey with Sam, I as a facilitator observed the amount of confidence the child had gathered over the three years due to the positive and encouraging environment. This success has given me a world of satisfaction and impetus to help more differently-abled children. Today, Sam is a normal child in aspects of cognitive, linguistic, emotional and psychomotor domains. Though older than his classmates in Std I, the child has been successfully mainstreamed. This is the miracle of inclusive schooling.
 

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