M.Phil Scholar, Psychology
Children with Special Needs have long been discriminated and deprived of opportunities in the society. The mind-set of the public is attached with misconceptions and stigmatisation, negligence and unfavourable attitude. Children with Special Needs refer to those who have disadvantages in sensory, physical and intellectual capabilities and who requires early intervention, special education services and support (NCERT, 2014). The World Health Organization (WHO, 1980) also defined Disability as restriction or inability to perform activities in the manner or within the range which is normal for a human being as a result of impairment (temporary or permanent loss or an abnormality in physiological or psychological functioning). Thus any child who faces barrier to learning, development and participation and who require special support system are known as children with special needs.
Over the years however the ideology of disabilities has changed. With emergence in educational and social development, various international policies like the Convention on the World Declaration of Education for All (1990), UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (1994) Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008), have put forwarded and acknowledged the universalization of education for all and initiated in creating an inclusive society. The Government of India also committed to the goal of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE). The most distinct legislation for special education in India is the Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 which have increased disabilities from the existing 7 (Persons with Disabilities bill, 1995) to 21 disabilities- Autism Spectrum Disorder, Blindness, Low-vision Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Neurological conditions, Multiple Disabilities including Deafblindness, Hemophilia, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Leprosy cured persons, Locomotor Disability, , Mental Illness, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech & Language Disability, Thalassemia, Dwarfism, Sickle Cell disease, Acid Attack victim and Parkinson’s disease with an aim to ensure empowerment and true inclusion for all. People with disabilities have now come to the fore front and is provided with platform in educational and other social affairs. Inclusive education is one such approach which follows child centred pedagogy emphasising on changing the system as a whole rather than the child. Here the special children learns with fellow regular peers within regular education system and efforts are made in altering and modifying content, curriculum and teaching methodologies to order to achieve accommodation for all.
Despite provisions given, special needs children in a nation like India and State like Nagaland are still evidently ignored. According to the 2011 national census the total number of person with disabilities in Nagaland is 29,631. It remains to be seen that there is a wide gap between policy provisions and actual utilization of provisions, lack of awareness about special children- their needs and requirement. There are untrained teachers, inadequate training institutions and absence of progress for action plan. There is lack of identification and assessment and most importantly attitudinal barrier. Nonetheless various associations has emerged in recent years in Nagaland, initiated and contributed greatly in mainstreaming and supporting people with disabilities. It has become one of the few states in stepping forward to bring better provisions for the disabled; however initiatives are keenly required to reach out to people widely and to break the attitudinal barrier amongst individuals greatly.
Teachers are regarded as the key to change education; they play significant role in uplifting and moulding a child. The teachers’ attitude towards children with special needs is an important aspect here especially in the education of children with disabilities. One of the reasons for attitudinal barrier is lack of awareness and training among the teachers and because of this it raises problem in successful implementation of inclusion (Kilimo & Hofman, 2014). A recent study conducted in Nagaland revealed that teachers (primary schools) in particular have low level of knowledge regarding children with special needs along with inadequate attitude towards Inclusive Education, distinctly due to lack of resources, training and skills in dealing children with disabilities. The study which involved pre-post test with an intervention programme (training programme) strikingly revealed that there is an increase of awareness among teachers after training programme, which brings to light that initiating such training has the capability of enhancing the perception of the society. The study therefore highlights the critical need of formulating training programmes in preparing teachers with skills, knowledge and attitude. It has marked to be a crucial need of the hour to enhance favorable attitude towards the implementation and functioning of Inclusion among the teachers.
Every child is special and unique; they have different capabilities and strength. They learn differently at their own pace and can strive accordingly. The term “Special” according to Oxford dictionary refers to “different from what is usual” it refers to being divergent in a unique way. To overcome the system of exclusion and to break the chain of stigmatization a simple knowledge on the different types of disabilities is not enough. What is also important and needed is a profound change in the way we think, feel and behave. Attitude, known as set of beliefs and thoughts are essentially created by society, however they are purely flexible and can be altered, according to psychologists. Negative attitude existing in the society only create hindrance and barrier for successful implementation of inclusion. Therefore, if only this form of attitude is altered or eliminated along with awareness, special children can experience independence, equality and growth in the society and can move for progress in becoming more inclusive in nature.