Inclusion at Amritsar's Springdale Senior School is truly a team effort
Bringing inclusion into a mainstream school system can happen provided there is plenty of heart coupled with the right intention and approach. This is what the story of Springdale Senior School in Amritsar teaches us.
The push towards complete inclusion has been enabled to a great extent by a group of parents led by Prerna Khanna, whose son Kavish has cerebral palsy. When Kavish expressed a desire to study in the same school as his brother who is not disabled, Khanna got together with some parents to develop strategies to enable Springdale Senior School to fine tune its inclusion policies.
As a parent of a child with disability, my only hope was to give my son a good education and so I trained myself in special education. I had never thought of inclusive education and it was only when Kavish strongly expressed his need to be in the same school as his brother that I started working with parents of children with special needs to develop strategies based upon everyone's feedback as well as my son Kavish as he is expressive about his needs. - Prerna Khanna, Parent-Special Educator
In Rajiv Sharma, Principal, Springdale Senior School (SSS), the parents found great support. As principal, Sharma began the push towards making the school inclusive 10 years ago and took the lead by enrolling in a course in learning disabilities.
"A number of teachers in the school were motivated to join similar courses as it was felt that one or two special educators won't be sufficient to do full justice to the needs of children requiring accommodations", says Sharma. "The response of the teachers was overwhelming and it encouraged us to take in more children with various types of challenges".
After some initial hiccups, over the years the synergy between teachers and parents has improved with constant feedback and participation from both sides.
"I still remember when Kavish got his first birthday invite", says Khanna. "I was on cloud nine. That was followed by many such invitations. I had never imagined that students would be so open, caring and helpful. It touches my heart when I see hyperactive children with special needs hit other students but no one reacts. It shows the sensitivity of students".
Dr Gurpinder Singh , who has a son with Down syndrome, is happy he has found an atmosphere that is open, loving and understanding. "Danish has been going there for six years now and initially we struggled a lot to find a school that would take him in. At Springdale, I found they were understanding of his challenges and had the resources to help him. He has improved a lot and has started speaking clearly".
Principal Sharma is clear that this is not the end of the road as far as his efforts towards inclusion and integration are concerned. "We are still learning from the experience as we find that each child has a different set of requirements. Our education system and understanding of the educational boards towards the cause is a limiting factor. But things are moving for the better. We wish to continue our efforts and appeal to other institutions also to pitch in as one school is not enough to carry forward the mission of inclusivity".
Another happy parent is Arti Mehra, who recently turned down the opportunity to shift her daughter to another school whose founder is well known to her. Springdale, she says, feels like friend and family to her.
"In Sprindale, Niyati has found a loving set up where teachers are sensitized and compassionate. They have many small touches like a buddy system that help kids a lot. There was a time when some children could not adjust to my daughter and the teachers held a talk and things changed after that. I am having a wonderful experience".