Inclusive education can be briefly described as 'Education for all' , it promotes justice, equity and quality education for all children regardless of their challenges. Traditionally, many children are excluded from mainstream education due to certain characteristics including their disability, gender, ethnicity, etc.
There is a common misconception that inclusive education can have a negative impact on the quality of education, however extensive research has shown the multiple benefits of inclusive education both for children with and without special needs. (Refer image below for a brief summary of the benefits).
What do I do if my child requires Special Education ?
Firstly, it is important to know that Sri Lanka has adopted a policy of integration and inclusion. Hence in most cases, the school must accommodate, integrate and include all children together regardless of their abilities. Certain exceptions will be there, especially in cases of children with severe disability whereby inclusion will hinder rather than enhance their outcomes.
As such, assessment of the child's current capabilities is essential. The assessment should first be done by a medical professional to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions that need to be treated. Once the child has been assessed and diagnosed, you will be able to make a decision on whether you want your child to enter general mainstream education system or give them special educational classes seperately. If you are considering the former, it is important to ask your child's school to create a Individualised Education Plan. This is a good starting point to discuss your child's capabilities as well as understand the school's capacity to meet your child's need. It is important to consider whether they have adequate resources and tools to support SEN Children, whether they have foundational knowledge, skills and experience working with SEN children and whether the school is willing and supportive of including SEN Children.
Individualised Education Plan (IEP)
This is a blueprint for a child's special education experience at school. The plan should capture the following information:
Student's information (Full name, DOB, Age, Gender, IEP team - parents, teachers, therapist etc.)
Present level of Education Performance ( Strength and Challenges this should also consider social skills and behaviour)
Annual Goals (Realistic and Achievable for the child; usually focused on academics but may include social and behavioural skills too)
Progress Report (means by which progress will be reviewed, monitored and evaluated)
Services (Additional support or services required by the child that can assist the child in reaching the level of their peers e.g. Shadow Teacher, Holiday classes/Extra classes, Speech Therapy etc.)
Supplemantary Aids & Services ( includes any modifications, accommodations and services required within the school setting)
Participation (Extent to which child will participate in mainstream education classroom)
As a parent, it is important you are honest and upfront about your child's challenges to ensure the IEP focuses on addressing these. It is important to understand that progress may be slow and incremental but taking a more conservative approach will be much more effective in the long run than expecting your child to suddenly 'keep up' with their peers. Setting goals that are too complex at the beginning will demotivate and frustrate your child. Setting simpler/ realistic goals will give your child the opportunity to celebrate these small wins and ensure regular motivation to boost and inspire your childs success.
Accommodations are commonly given to children with special educational needs as a means of making the learning more effective for them by adjusting how they learn. A few examples of accommodations that are available in schools include:
Provision of Visual aids, organizers, schedules
Assistive devices such as Calculators, Picture dictionaries, Audio books etc.
Manipulatives for maths
Adjusting assignment methods (e.g. Oral v. Written)
Preferential Seating (e.g. moving your child to the front of the class)
Extended time to complete work
Frequent Breaks between work
Modifications are another means of addressing special educational needs of children. In this case, learning is made more effective by adjusting what they learn. A few examples of what is available in schools is given below:
Curriculum may be revised for their needs/capabilities
Alternative assignment/assessment/homework (e.g. Content, Medium etc.)
Grading may be at a different standard/level than peers
It is useful to discuss this at the onset of the IEP, and ensure they are included in your child's plan. Reviewing progress will need to be done more frequently and identify means in which learning at school can be reinforced/consolidated at home. Since children with special needs have certain challenges it is essential that additional work, attention and support is received at home as well.
Image sourced from UNICEF
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