A couple of years ago I taught an unusual class, uncommon in the sense that for almost all the students I had in that class, there was a personal assistant for each one of them. I had students with a wide spectrum of learning needs ranging from severe autism, attention deficit disorder and mental retardation for those who were simply being unable to grasp concepts. Whenever it was time to teach this class I looked forward to the varying situations that would occur. Anything was possible!
In a non-inclusive school, these students would have been completely written off. But with a strong learning support department, they were aided to learn all they could within their abilities. This was further aided by an accommodating curriculum that realistically considers that learners cannot achieve at the same level, just like it is in real life.
The kids were given all the necessary support from syllabus design which had alternatives based on one’s ability as well as concessions such as extra time, prompters who periodically reminded those with attention deficit disorders. There were also scribes for those who were unable to write due to undeveloped or underdeveloped motor skills, physical challenges or enlarged scripts for those who were partially blind among so many other prompts.
Fast forward, ten years later, Dita (not real name), who could not sit still for a long time because of the attention deficit disorder is now a manager of a successful family company. This was after successfully accomplishing his masters’ degree abroad. The other students’ stories in this class are an inspiration as well.
When I reflect on this particular class, the essence of what it means to be a teacher dawns on me. Building and sharing a life whose outcome depends on what building block you put is a very humbling thought indeed.
Thank God for inclusive education because without it, these students at that time would have been written off and perhaps subjected to a very limited and half functional life.
I am making a case for inclusive education with a strong and well equipped learning support department. Hiring the right personnel namely counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, speech therapists among others as well as equipment enables hands-on manipulation. There is need to ensure that students who are in need of this support, get the real deal!