Educators with a ‘special’ tag

- June 4, 2022
| By : Wara Samar |

With inclusive education becoming the norm, differently-abled students are being integrated into mainstream schools. This work is entrusted to special educators, a group of trained professionals who have interesting stories to tell

Marina Arfeen Khan with her students on Autism Awareness Day/Photo: Marina Arfeen Khan

“The work fetches more than monetary satisfaction”, says Marina Arfeen Khan, a special educator, implying that working for a cause with the most vulnerable citizens is a reward in itself. She chose this field since she wanted to help visually imparied children.

The Rights of Persons With Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 identifies 21 disabilities, and it sees disability as a human rights issue and not a social welfare concern. 

In line with this principle, the government has mandated at least two special educators in every school. To cater to such diverse needs, they undergo rigorous training so that they are competent to handle children with disabilities.

Khan, who has been teaching since eight years and is specialised in Visual Impairment, is currently associated with the Government Co-ed Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, Madanpur Khadar. 

On being asked if she thinks inclusive schooling is necessary, she says, “Absolutely! With this, other students have become sensitised to the differently-abled, and I have noticed a great difference in the behaviour of those who study alongside differently-abled and those who don’t. Also, now the differently-abled children do not experience trepidation in social settings as they did when they were only taught in special schools. Now, they easily make friends.” 

Speaking of the challenges she faces, Khan says that since a lot of documentation is involved, this compromises on the availability of time that would have otherwise been utilised in teaching.

“We have employment opportunities in clinics and hospitals. Earlier, I used to provide home tutoring sessions too”, adds Khan. She feels encouraged in her mission when she gets feedback from parents on how they used to consider their children as a liability, and now are proud of their progress.

Smiling, Khan adds, “Some even say that to them I am no less than God.”

Right to education

Mohd Ajmal, special educator at SKV School, Noor Nagar, has five years of experience in teaching special kids. He says that he opted for special education as he saw that most of the people were pursuing other subjects. He believes that since everyone has the right to education, special children should not be left behind. 

There is one teacher for every 8-9 children in his school. Every special kid is taught to interact with other kids, but they are attended individually in a resource room.

He says that sometimes, the children do not have a disability certificate. In such cases, it is his job to assess the child first, and then we take him to a district camp where the diagnosis and category are confirmed.

On being asked about the challenges he faces, Ajmal says, “We have to think before holding a PTM (parent-teacher meeting) since most of the parents are daily wagers, and to attend the meeting, either of them has to lose a day’s earnings, which is difficult for them to afford.”

He further says that there are other duties apart from teaching special kids that he has to tend to, which becomes overwhelming at times.

Ajmal says, “Currently, the teacher-student ratio is 1:8. However, this is variable as we may admit three more students in this session. The ratio for other students is 1:40.”

He is delighted with the work the government is doing. On that note, he enthusiastically adds, “The government funds teaching/learning material (TLM). We all have been provided with tabs, and we teach through videos as well. We make use of charts and teach them using a concrete learning approach.”

Job security

Another teacher at a government school (who does not want to be named) agrees that the job is very fulfilling. He says that the school is doing a good job in providing free education to the children. 

However, he points out that there is a lack of sensitization among the other teachers, especially those who have never closely observed a special child. Sometimes, there are children whose parents need other assistance. In such cases, school authorities do the best that they can in their individual capacity.

Another downside is that the nature of his job is contractual. He feels a constant pressure that does not allow him to give 100%. At the end of the day, it’s a stable income that counts. 

Laiba Faheem with her students
Photo: Laiba Faheem

Energy channelization

Vikas Lukhse, special educator in Child Development Centre (CDC) at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Old Rajinder Nagar, is involved in early-age interventions for children below the age of 10. He reveals that he calibrates different strategies for different children, as what works for one may not work for the other.

He explains that they avoid the use of digital platforms and try to focus on channelising the energy of these youngsters in productive ways. “Seeing improvements in the children once they undergo therapy is what fuels me to keep working. I am pleased with my job and the role the hospital plays in improving the quality of life of the differently-abled”, he says.

Laiba Faheem, who is pursuing D.Ed Special Education in Intellectual Disability, has always wanted to be a teacher. When she came across distant relatives’ differently-abled children, she approached their parents to ask about their daily lives. It was then that she decided to opt for this field. 

She says that sometimes special educators are invited to lead sessions in different schools to spread awareness about such children, for which they are paid; however, there is a huge difference in the fees offered depending on the location of schools.

Asked if the pandemic has affected students’ attendance, she says, “The number of students has declined after Covid as parents are reluctant to send their children to school due to greater risk involved with the hygiene of these children. Only 70% of children have joined after the pandemic.”

Appraisal and content 

Another special educator Asma Nikhat has siblings with special needs, which encouraged her to pursue the field. She works in the junior wing of DPS, Mathura Road. Speaking of the facilities provided at her school, she says, “In-service training is provided to special educators so that they are capable of handling all special needs children. They have enrichment centres with different tools.” 

She uses immersive readers for teaching students with learning disabilities.This tool delivers reading experiences to the child so that they can identify a spelling in a proper way and listen to the sound of the text that is given.

On being asked how the diagnosis is reached, she explains, “Some of the students who have just been admitted to the school are in the ‘suspected’ category, for which parents and class teachers are guided to identify certain red flags. Once the signs are confirmed, formal assessment is done.”

When asked about the impact inclusive education has, Nikhat says, “In inclusive education, special kids get a chance to be a part of the mainstream.”

Multi-sensory approach

About the approach she utilises, Nikhat says, “Multi-sensory approach plays an integral role for their education. When we work on their senses, visual stimulation and employ other strategies, it works very well to provide the basic information to work on their basic learning incompetencies. A few disabilities are visible like physical disability and locomotor disability, but when you talk about something like intellectual disability or behavioural disability like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or related to academics like learning disability, it needs to be diagnosed first.”

She continues, “So when a child enters the school, professionals have their own way to identify any disability. There are school counsellors and we call the parents to make them understand the problem their child is facing, and what intervention is needed.” 

She further adds, that many kids do wonders in co-curricular activities like sports, arts, craft, etc. “Often, the kids have limitations in academics, but they excel in co-curricular activities, and they pursue that as a profession. Based on their interests, we suggest they undergo training in vocational centres.”

For more stories that cover the ongoings of Delhi NCR, follow us on: