I have taught students with special needs for more than 35 years. I have taught students with visual disabilities, auditory disabilities, mental retardation as well as specific learning disabilities.
I am more perplexed when I deal with a kid with a learning disability. Though all special educators rightly give importance to early intervention, my heart goes to the struggle teenagers face, after basic remediation.
Many of my students who joined me while in their primary school have now grown to be independent and doing well in life. I have seen them struggling not only in school but at home, in their social circle and handling their emotions as adults.
All L.D. Students have reading/writing/spelling/math difficulties. Fortunate ones receive early intervention and good remedial support. But what percentage of them remain in the mainstream and complete their high school diploma, in a regular school set up?
Many schools provide resource facilities up to the end of primary school. Some up to the end of middle school. But what percentage of kids become grade-appropriate or learn to manage after that?
Even private resource centres refrain from taking high school students. This is because many of the special educators are not confident in teaching core subjects. Also, we find it difficult to motivate them. These are the kids who have struggled throughout, learned to read words, sentences, paragraphs, and managed to get passing marks. But we do not provide any further support beyond giving them accommodation and washing our hands.
Imagine the plight of these students. They are sent to regular tuition classes, where they are lost in a mass. Expectations from teachers are too high and the school focuses on “100% first class” from a batch. Peer groups could be a pressure more than comfort and ways to drift into bad habits are plentiful.
Regular advice of “go slow on his education” seems meaningless. Advice on change of boards helps at times. But the social pressure of adjusting to a new school, new teachers, working hard to meet up a different set of expectations persist. I would want to leave the readers with a certain set of questions to ponder upon...
About Sudha Murthy: I am a Special Educator and Counsellor. I have been teaching and mentoring students with special needs for over 37 years now. I have also been responsible for teacher training, setting up, and running of resource rooms in school- 20 years. Worked in the USA as a Special Educator for 8 years.