Some tips to make classrooms inclusive for children with cerebral palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a condition where the muscle movement and coordination of a person is affected. In some, it can affect vision, hearing and sensation as well.
While there are schools and NGOs that work exclusively with children with CP, they can and must be taught in mainstream schools. This requires some simple accommodations, say experts.
Nandita Paul, a special educator since 1983, works on cognitive-based therapy program for children with cerebral palsy. She believes that it is critical to start off with teaching social skills.
Teachers must encourage other children in the classroom to teach the child with CP social skills. This helps to build self esteem and also teaches empathy to the other kids. This will also help ensure that the child is not isolated. Any praise and encouragement from classmates will help build their confidence. - Nandita Paul, Special Educator.
Paul suggests other measures like giving the child extra time to complete tasks or class tests. Encouraging them to work independently is also a good idea as is giving them a slower pace to carry out sports activities.
So, if you are looking at ways to make the classroom inclusive, here are some things to consider:
- Introduce a buddy system This involves a child without disability assisting a child with cerebral palsy, but without taking away their independence. This helps promote greater bonding and inclusion.
- Make schools accessible - Children with CP need a lot of space to move around. Make the classroom clutter free and minimize sensory overload and distraction. And having wheelchair ramps, lifts and hand rails at washrooms and playgrounds is an important step.
- Provide assistive devices - The learning abilities of children with CP are enhanced with the right devices. These help them to learn faster and better. The learning and teaching program should have computers and audio visual aids. There are many assistive and adaptive devises that are specific to children with cerebral palsy and schools must consider adopting them.
- Ensure that no bullying takes place - Schools must take up the responsibility of ensuring that children with CP have a safe, non-toxic environment where they are treated as equals. This depends on regular sensitizaton of teachers and other support staff.
- Communicate with parents - Parents are primary caregivers of children with CP. Ensure that teachers communicate with parents on a regular basis to know more about the child. This will help the teacher to reach out to the child in a better way.
Dr Neelam Sodhi, if one of the founders of Ashirwad, an NGO that works with children with cerebral palsy in Ludhiana, Punjab. She believes that the key to building inclusion lies in awareness and attitudes.
"Schools must also be aware of the concessions that are provided to disabled children by every education board. For instance, some education boards that children with disabilities do not have to take written exams and can do it orally. Children with CP benefit by different teaching methodologies which teachers must be aware of."
The key is to have a positive approach in order to build inclusion in the true spirit.