Special education and the pandemic

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It’s been a year of online education and while students and professors have more of less adjusted to this new way of learning, for those educators dealing with special-needs children it’s been a harder, finds NT KURIOCITY

RAMANDEEP KAUR |NT KURIOCITY

As the pandemic pushed education online, learning has changed drastically for regular as well as special students. But without doubt it has been more difficult for students with special needs to respond to online learning.

“Children with special needs have been highly affected with the sudden change. Their academic routine has totally changed. Technology and parents have taken the place of classroom and teacher,” says special educator at Disha School For Special Children, Kirtitha Kundaikar, adding that not all have adapted to these changes as it depends on the severity of their disability. And for those with attention deficit and cognitive process disorders, this kind of online education is not viable as they cannot focus. “In such a situation it is up to the teachers as well as the parents to help the child get adapted to this new learning environment and cope up with the changed situations,” she says.

Thus, the school has been calling parents to the premises to give lessons/ worksheets/homework for the students. “We have programmed a routine/ time table for the students from morning till night and accordingly set the Individualised Education Program for each child separately. We do the assessment and evaluation based on the information given by the parents regularly,” says Kundaikar. Regular videos are also made and sent to the parents to guide them. Initially, she says, each teacher also did home visits of her/his students.

At the Caritas Centre For Deafblind in South Goa, the teachers have also been making various teaching-learning materials so that the students can learn in a better way.

“We have also made videos to show parents how each activity is to be done to see improvement in the children,” says Elisha Borges, who is a special educator at the institute. But since not all parents have access to smartphones owing to financial conditions of the family, printed materials is also given.

At Lokvishwas Pratishthan’s School for Hearing Impaired Children, Dhavali-Ponda, classes for those from 9 to 12 have already begun and the hostel too has been reopened. For the rest of the students ie from class 1 to 8, online classes continue.

“From June onwards we made a WhatsApp group for every class. Initially, we started with teaching of Indian Sign Language and then continued with syllabus teaching,” says headmaster, Vinod Satarkar, adding that they have prepared subject-wise small videos, notes with explanation, and pictures, which are all sent via WhatsApp according to the class-wise time table. They also do teaching through WhatsApp group calls
and Google Meet.

But the teachers face their own share of challenges as sometimes there is an inconsistency in students’ responses and so the teachers have to regularly communicate with the parents. However, given that students learn through Indian Sign Language, their parents find it difficult to communicate with them and hence the students are completely dependent on the teachers for their work. And so the teachers also do home visits.