When we hear the term autism many of us think of Raymond the young man with an encyclopedic memory and amazing math skill portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in his Academy award winning performance in the movie Rain Man. But all autistic people are not Raymond as Autism is a spectrum disorder.
Very much in the news these days is the case of an autistic boy and the question of whether he should be in the school or should be placed in a specialized autistic remedial environment. The RTE act stresses on inclusion, but the B.Ed course does not prepare teachers for this inclusive classroom scenario and thus inclusion becomes a mere illusion on paper.
So in this case who is right? If the school removes this child then the path followed is black, if the school keeps this child in the name of inclusion then the path followed is white, because it would have upheld the rights of the autistic child. But do white and black work in autism both for the child and the other children? No it does not. The path required is grey. In many aspects of autism the children are sound sensitive and would not thrive in a classroom scenario where the noise, clutter and chaos will only add to their issues. So it is not inclusion (white) or seclusion (black) that is the answer, it is a carefully selected path of grey (integration) that has to be arrived at by the parents, therapists, school and teachers.
It is not easy to deal with autism cases as there is very little expertise on autism available in India. The global research on autism is also fairly new and being a spectrum disorder each child requires a very individualized plan. It is a spectrum which means that its symptoms and characteristics find expression in many different combinations and in any degree of severity .At one end of spectrum we may find a mute child crouched in a corner of his room, spinning a paper over and over again for hours at the other would be a child who screams nonstop and flaps its arms or tends to lash out physically.
Autistic or autism disorder is one of several pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). These disorders are characterized by severe widespread impairment in social interaction and communication skills and stereotyped patterns of behaviors, interest and activities.
There are a range of treatments of autism. Drugs don't cure autism, but many autistic suffer from multiple problems such as depression or seizures, and the drugs can help with those secondary problems.
· Doman/ Delacato Method
· Lovaas Method -
1. The school and teachers would have an individualized plan of interacting and supporting the therapies of the child.
2. The teachers would understand and incorporate the point of view of the mother/parent in regards to interacting and handling the child in various situations. Sometimes mothers/parents have developed a unique way that works best for the child.
3. Teachers would not only be trained in understanding autism but the individual case of the child with support from its therapists etc
4. The parents especially the mother would have the emotional support knowing that the child will be not only accepted in the class room but integrated.
5. It is the mothers that require the most support and counseling. It is an extremely high emotional state for the mother to work on educating an autistic child as the mother has the constant fear of ‘what if I am not there?’ when autistic children are understood by their immediate community of friends, relatives and teachers it becomes easier for the mother and family.
6. Mothers would also understand not to have too many performance based expectations from their child and would not enter into irrelevant comparisons.
7. The other children in the classroom would also undergo counseling to help them understand why the child is behaving in that particular manner and how to support the child as friends. This would help them grow up to be citizens of tomorrow who accept differences in the larger society.
8. The other children would also need therapy in many cases as they too undergo depression, disconnect and worry about the child.
It is truly time to push for a change in the teacher training programs to include education about inclusion but till that happens it is time schools trained teachers as part of their in-service training.
It’s time to have assorted chairs in the classroom and to have the grey view on inclusion, let’s stop the black and white.
Dedicated to all parents of autistic kids, you are doing a great job, it is because of you all (and a special one that I know) that these kids are not the forgotten children.