Autistic Kids: Normal Schools or Special Schools?

S.K. Veena

S.K. Veena

Principal, Nalanda Public School, Hyderabad

Should autistic children be sent to normal schools or special schools?

Should autistic children be sent to normal schools or special schools? In the light of recent events where more than a few debates have flared up in different parts of the world for similar reasons, schools are left wondering if they need to frame special guidelines in regards to autistic children. Autistic children attending regular schools are being excluded from being a part of special activities and fun trips.

Autistic children are supposed to be treated as normal kids so that they don’t feel any less competent or humiliated in front of people. Treating them as abnormal children would only hamper their confidence and they would withdraw from people, try to keep distance from others and become reluctant to socialize. However, other children and mostly their parents fear that being with an autistic child will have adverse effects on them.

Many schools do not take in autistic children and make excuses like special children require especially skilled teachers to handle them. There seems to be a stigma attached to autism that people need to be made aware of in order to remove it from the lives of autistic children.

Normal school:

  • Violating human rights: When regular schools do not accept autistic children on excuses of various grounds, it is still a violation of human rights. It is important to understand that these children are also a part of our lives and we need to do what we could in order to make lives easier and better for them. Normal human treatment including education alongside regular kids could help autistic children realize their special potential and socialize better.
  • Getting rid of myths: While some autistic children develop multiple syndromes which require special treatment and education, it is a myth that every autistic child will have the same condition. An autistic child who doesn’t have syndromes like schizophrenia are completely apt for attending regular schools and other children need not worry about their reactions in any way. It is a big myth that autistic children could cause harm to other children.
  • Care and help: Studies have found that when autistic children attended school with regular children who were made aware of the syndrome, they actually took to caring and helping their autistic classmate. Not only did the child become more socially interactive but also contributed to awareness and removing the stigma surrounding autism from other children. There are so many autistic children in every country including ours that it is becoming very crucial to make them adapt to normal living.
  • Spreading awareness: Autistic children are bullied and teased because there is a social stigma about them being mentally retarded. This is untrue and spreading awareness is very important. Mostly, it had been found that these autistic children are especially talented or gifted in a particular field. Some are exceptional artists; others have implausible talent in music, etc. It is only when these children are made to feel like normal in normal schools, that they develop the confidence to pursue their skills. It is like talent lost and wasted when autistic children are kept aloof.
  • It is not a disease, yet is on a rise: It is important to understand that autism is not a disease that can be caught or spread, it is a syndrome caused by a difference of anatomic structure of the brain. It should also be noted that this syndrome is on a rise. Every year the number of children born with autism rises. The next autistic child could be born in your family and you will want to give him/her a normal life. It is time we become aware and appreciative of these children and give them the right to normal education and living.

Special school:

  • Special attention: Special children need more attention and in normal classrooms it becomes difficult, for the autistic child as well as for other children to learn properly. The teacher needs to give more attention to the special child and make him understand in the way he/she prefers. In this case the other children usually feel left out and are not able to concentrate well. In other situations it is seen that the teacher pays normal attention to all children in which case the special child is left clueless about the subject.
  • Disturbance: Most autistic children are known to need special attention and when they don’t get that they are known to scream and disturb others. Some are known to not be trained about their human needs at an age when other children of the class are well trained. They become the topic of humiliation and other children refrain from socializing with them. Why deny normal educational environment to an entire class for one special child?
  • They achieve better under special supervision: Special care and attention, special techniques of making them learn what is rather difficult for them can only be achieved in a special school. Autistic children are known to have special abilities in a specific field which must be made their special subject, to learn, grow and accomplish in that field. Moreover, they also need to feel comfortable in the beginning which is only possible in special schools where there are children who don’t judge them otherwise and teachers who are trained well.
  • It should all come down to what is good for the child: Society and media simply it as exclusion of an autistic child from the normal group of students. What they fail to see is that the exclusion in the beginning is actually good for the child. Instead of labeling issues we should be concerned about what the child actually needs – a normal environment or a special environment. If the child is more comfortable in a place where his needs are well understood, then so be it.

Autistic children are special - they need special care and attention to realize their talent and live a normal life. In a normal school where the other children treat them differently and bully one child, it could lead to serious damage in the minds of these special children. It should be better for the governments to make special provisions to have schools for these children in every state.

That being said, some children can go to normal school, a school where children and teachers are aware of the needs of the child. They can learn social skills and do well in life with the guidance and support of teachers and students. Only a school where awareness is possible, these children can be a part of the normal group.

Autism is a kind of developmental disorder in children, characterized by their impairment, communications and behavior with the society.

Many normal schools avoid admitting these kids and suggest the guardians to keep them under the guidance of proficient teachers who can tackle them.

Normal School:

It is not written in any rule book that autistic children cannot study with common children. They can also be taught in the same way as normal kids.

If theautistic child is free from any syndrome, they are expected to attend normal schools.

It is important to teach an autistic childhow they should adapt with normal children. This helpsthe former in their betterment in studies and other activities.

Mostly, autistic children are born with some special talent, like, painting, dancing, etc. For instance, the child protagonist in the movie TaareZameenPar was shown as a victim of Dyslexia (a disorder involving difficulty in learning or interpreting words). It was depicted that he was good in painting. So, talents and skills help them to develop confidence.

Special School:

Kids suffering from autism require special treatment in normal classrooms. It becomes difficult for other students.

Sometimes, their weird activities, like screaming, may scare and disturb other children.

Yet, special supervision will make them feel comfortable in learning and accomplish particular field. Generally, in some schools autistic children are bullied by the normal kids, which affect them seriously. This behavior must be taken care by the teachers or staffs.

Everybody should be aware that if, guided under proficient teacher, autistic child can also be a normal child.

S.K. Veena

Principal, Nalanda Public School, Hyderabad

Building Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships

S.K. Veena

S.K. Veena

Principal, Nalanda Public School, Hyderabad

Teachers and parents provide a vital support system to help students flourish. When parents and teachers communicate and work together effectively, it can significantly impact each student's long-term success. Much has been made about the need for teachers to foster healthy relationships with the stakeholders of the school

Likewise, a Principal must seek out opportunities to build cooperative relationships with parents.  Though the relationship between Principal and parents are much more distant than the relationship between teacher and parents, there is still considerable value there.  Principals who embrace the opportunity to build the relationships with parents will find it to be a worthwhile investment, especially nowadays when parents are more demanding and there is lack of trust and every move of the school is being scrutinized by the parents.

Principals have to make decisions all the time. Many a time parents may not agree with your decisions, but when they respect you, it makes those disagreements easier. Garnering parental respect and support helps to make those tough decisions a little easier. Principals are not perfect and some of their decisions may not be right. Being respected gives Principals a little leverage when they do fail. Furthermore, if the parents respect you, the students will respect you. This alone makes any time invested in building relationships with parents worthwhile.

Trust is sometimes the most difficult thing to earn. Parents are often skeptical. They want to know that you have the best interests of their children at heart. Trust happens when parents bring issues or concerns to you and know when they leave your office that it is going to be addressed. The benefits of earning a parent’s trust are fantastic. Trust gives you the space to make decisions without looking over your shoulder, worrying about being questioned, or having to defend it.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of having a relationship with parents is that you can solicit feedback from them on a wide variety of school-related issues. A good Principal seeks out honest feedback. They want to know what works well, but they also want to know what needs to be fixed.  Taking this feedback and examining it further can spark great changes in a school. Parents have great ideas. Many will never express those ideas because they do not have a relationship with a Principal. We may not like everything we hear, but having feedback can challenge the way we think and ultimately make our school better.

A Principal’s job is difficult.  Nothing is predictable. Each day brings about new and unexpected challenges.  When you have healthy relationships with parents, it simply makes your job easier.  Calling a parent about a student discipline issue becomes much easier when there is a healthy relationship there.  Making decisions, in general, become easier when you know that parents respect you and trust you enough to do your job that they are not going to be beating down your door and questioning your every move

When Principals spend time after school at extra-curricular activities they should reach out and build informal relationships with parents. Principals are adept at finding common ground or mutual interests with almost any parent.  Having these conversations helps parents see you as a real person and not just as a figurehead for the school and helps you know each other as individuals and helps build a rapport with them.

Randomly calling a few parents each week and ask them a short series of questions about the school will not only help you in soliciting feedback, but also make the parents feel good because their opinions was asked. Another strategy is   inviting a small group of parents to join for lunch on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to talk about key issues the school is dealing with.  Strategies like these can really solidify relationships with parents.

Finally, schools are almost always forming committees on a variety of school-related topics. These committees should also have parents included. Inviting parents to serve on a committee brings a different perspective that can be beneficial for everyone.  Parents get to be a part of the inner workings of the school and provide their stamp on their child’s education. All these endeavors will make it a win -win situation for all stake holders.

S.K. Veena

Principal, Nalanda Public School, Hyderabad