I’d like to begin with a famous quote by Stephen Hawking, one of the renowned scientists of the 20th century, who had motor neuron disease and was confined to a wheel chair and had a computer system that allowed him to communicate.
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
Indeed, special needs children shouldn’t feel that they’re ‘disabled in spirit as well as physically’.
Samuel Kirk, the American psychologist and special education pioneer, who first coined the term “learning disability” in 1963, said: “When youngsters in the same class room are remarkably different, it is difficult for the teacher to help them reach their educational potential without some kind of assistance. The help that the schools provide for children who differ significantly from the norm is called special education”.
Special educators are responsible for the educational needs of children with a wide range of disabilities. These children also require different services in their educational experiences. Knowledge of each type of disability and the specific needs of the children with that disability are crucial if he or she plans to be involved in the field of special education.
Unfortunately, acceptance among parents is a great deterrent to the needs of special children. Their frustration and disappointment is understandable, but they should bear in mind that every child is unique and each has hidden potential which we should ignite.
We may recall here what Einstein had said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Coming down to the local scenario, catering to the needs of these special children and awareness about this population picked up late in West Bengal and was in a nascent stage even in the first decade of the 21st century.
Fortunately, things have taken a turn for the better and many organizations have come forward to lend their helping hands. In Kolkata, IICP, Manovikas, Noble Mission, Pradeep and Julian Day New Mission School and Training College have been doing a commendable job with unwavering commitment and unflinching zeal.
Let us hope more and more organizations will step out and say to these children: “I just called to say I love you” (to remember blind American singer Stevie Wonder’s famous song).