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The Miracle Of Inclusive Schooling……………

October 7, 2009
Three and half years Sam was a borderline spastic child with cognitive gaps regarding colour and number concepts, slurred speech and mild physical disability. The child did not have control on his bladder as well. His poor health did not allow him to concentrate on any activity in the preschool. Initially, he was a chronic absentee to the preschool due to his ill health. He struggled to express himself. This was the Sam I first met, three years ago.
Thanks to the Almighty, his mother, and THE INCLUSIVE Preschooling, he is in a mainstream school as any other child, doing wonderfully well in academics. How did this happen?

There are certain things which helped Sam at school; initially it was more a sociocentric model used, being:
· Accepting the child as he was.
· Counselling the parents to accept him to be as he was (There were many counselling sessions to support the parents, especially the mother).
· Love and co-operation of the peers and the facilitators.
· Acceptance, care and help of the peers.
· There was no differentiation in treatment between the normal children and him.
· There was always encouragement even to the little things he did.
· Providing age appropriate life skills.
· Training the child to question “why”? , gave him a lot of self confidence.
· Child friendly environment which provided freedom of expression.
· Using multiple activities to strengthen each concept.
· Perseverance behind replicating the teaching strategies till the criterion could be attainted to reach the three R’s.

By the end of 8th month with Continuous individualized interaction of the chief facilitator the ice was thawed and the child started interacting positively after which there was no turn back. Though the child mastered the preschool programs regarding basic concrete concept formation of animals, fruits, vegetables, transport, parts of the body and plants, and shapes, lacunae was identified when it came to recognition and recalling of abstract symbols like alphabets and numbers. The child also found it difficult to identify colours. At this point Montessori equipment to teach alphabets and numbers were used to make him learn it, the parents support was also requested and the mother worked with him at home regarding the alphabets and numbers done at school everyday. The same alphabets and numbers were also taught through clay modelling, colouring, pasting, picture books and Educational CDs. The child started responding to the alphabets and numbers with lines and strokes initially. With the collective help of the school and the mother, the child mastered to recognise and recall the alphabets and numbers by the end of the academic year. Simultaneously, the chief facilitator started to work with the primary colours, but it was greatly frustrating to see that though the child could repeat the colour, it still failed to recognise when another object of the same colour was shown. Due to the summer vacation the academic year also had come to a close. The parents were requested to talk to him regarding primary colours at home during vacation.

Next academic year, when Sam came back, we had to start working on his colour concepts, alphabets and numbers all over again. But the most heartening factor was there was learning readiness and prior experience, which greatly helped. Again using multiple methods and strategies we helped him to master alphabets and numbers. But helping him to master the colour concept was still a dream, as he always used to get mixed up with colours. At this point we came with an innovative program to use a single colour for the whole week and requested the mother to send the child dressed in the same colour dress for the whole week, and if the colour of the week was red, we and his mother would talk only about red objects throughout the week, slowly the child started responding to the intervention program, which was reinforced at all given instances, consciously by the facilitators as well as the mother.

At the same time the parent was encouraged to send the child for physio therapy as well as speech therapy. The parents initially started with physio therapy, which greatly helped Sam to gain his physical balance while walking, the school also provided a lot of physical activities like hopping, running, jumping, stretching, bending e.t.c to strengthen his therapy program. By the end of the therapy, Sam could greatly balance him self while walking as any normal child could, instead of dragging his left foot. When ever Sam felt off balance there were always little Vishal or little Adi to support him, such was the peer support, which voiced in unison, “Don’t cry, we are there”. This is the greatest boon of inclusion, where the children and the caregivers wholesomely accept the child for who he is and always are BEING with him.

At the middle of the third year in the preschool , the child was introduced to speech therapy and this helped him to reduce the slur in his speech. By then the child had mastered the essentials of preschooling. As “Kindler’s Corner Preschool” offers preschooling only till Prep II, it was suggested to the parents to admit him to a mainstream school. During the screening test for admission the child cleared all the questions without any effort by himself and hence today Sam is studying I std, in a state board school, doing wonderfully well.

Through this journey in being with Sam, I as a facilitator observed the amount of confidence the child had gathered over the three years due to the positive and encouraging environment. This success has given me a world of satisfaction and impetus to help more differently abled children. Today, Sam is a normal child in aspects of cognitive, linguistic, emotional and psychomotor domains. Though late chronologically to Std I, the child has been successfully mainstreamed. This is the miracle of inclusive schooling………..
(The name of the child has been changed to withhold the identity)

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