Every child is unique in the way they learn and process information but children with ‘special needs’ may require some things that are more specifically tailored to support their learning, emotional, behavioural, physical and social needs. The term ‘special needs’ includes a wide variety of developmental, neurological and learning disabilities like Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia; amongst others. Children with special needs have specific vulnerabilities and face numerous functional and social barriers, making each child’s requirements and priorities unique and different. These unique circumstances should be taken into consideration while selecting an appropriate school and learning environment for your child. Below are some considerations you may want to keep in mind while researching schools that accommodate and include children with special learning needs.
Accessibility and Transportation
Visiting the school campus should be your starting point; it gives you an understanding of how close the school is from your residence and how easy or difficult this commute may be. Children with special needs often have meltdowns and the school may sometimes require the presence and comfort of a caregiver to calm the child and put them at ease. Therefore, a parent may be required to come to school on an urgent basis at times. Another thing to consider is medical facilities and emergency services nearby, you might also want to inquire with the special learning school in Mumbai about their policies in case of said emergencies. This speaks a lot about the school’s preparedness and structure when it comes to sensitive issues and emergency situations.
Infrastructure and Environment
This is a key element you need to consider as not only should the environment be welcoming, comforting and fun, it must include other elements that cater toward physical disabilities as well, like ramps, elevators and trained staff to assist children with various disabilities. Check for the provisions offered by the school in the form of playgrounds, recreational areas, libraries, resource rooms, creative spaces for arts and craft and so on. Visit the classroom to understand the learning spaces provided by the teachers and special educators, the spaces should be open, relaxing and soothing for the learners.
Bringing your child along for a visit may also be a great way to understand their impressions of the school, it also gives the school the opportunity to understand your child better as reports can often be one dimensional. Children really have their own perspective of what they want and like in a school, so getting them along may bring in an observation you might miss out otherwise.
Flexibility in teaching methods and paramedical assistance
Most children with special needs tend to be auditory or visual learners, therefore teaching them the way the need to learn is key. The teachers and special educators must be trained in delivering content and knowledge through multiple mediums while tweaking and offering various learning strategies to cater to the individual learning styles of their students.
A school that includes neurodivergent students must have paramedical professionals on their staff as well; this may include special educators, child psychologists, speech and occupational therapists as well as behaviour therapists. Therapy and counselling should be normalised and made part of the school timetable so that students are not singled out for their differences but rather their needs are included and understood by their peers and teachers as well. These professionals can also provide great insight and support for the changing needs that are relevant to your child’s growth.
Boards, provisions and inclusive education policies
Another important factor to consider while selecting a special school in Mumbai is the board and concessions offered by the school especially when it comes to test-taking and examinations. Most children find it difficult to get through regular boards like CBSE, hence schools should have provisions of boards that take the learning challenges of our learners into consideration like the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). This board provides the students the flexibility of subject selection and on the stop retests/ examinations. The board also offers provisions for extra time, writers and readers depending on the severity of learning disability. This becomes a source of relief and comfort for learners with special needs who may also be experiencing anxiety or stress around examinations and testing.
The special learning school in Mumbai should also be transparent with the parents giving them a clear plan on how they propose to include their child in an environment which may also include students who are neurotypical. Inclusive education plans along with periodic and regular feedback to the parents is essential to map the progress of the child and provide timely intervention.
Nurturing students holistically
Children with special needs most often than not also exhibit emotional, behavioural and social issues. As parents you must look at schools that have Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs interwoven into the curriculum. SEL programs teach children to reflect on their own unique strengths and improve on the limitations. It guides and helps them regulate their emotions and also helps them be more mindful of the emotions of others around them. SEL programs also teach them how to recognise and read social cues, which is usually very hard for them to pick up, that’s the reason most of our special needs students find it difficult to cultivate friendships and build meaningful relationships. Lastly, a sensitise SEL program that also talks about mental health can help encourage discussion and curiosity around neurodivergent conditions. This generates empathy within the rest of the student body and thus provides a more accepting, sensitive and tolerant environment for students with special needs.
Picking the right special learning school in Mumbai for your child must come through a lens of overall wellness. If any school wishes to truly accomplish inclusion one must look at a more holistic education and curriculum
that doesn’t only revolve around academics but also includes space for developing social competence and emotional intelligence as well.
Author: Avalanne D’souza
School Psychologist, The Aditya Birla Integrated School
Find below the contact details of special learning school in Mumbai:
The Aditya Birla Integrated School,
162-164, D.N. Road, Opposite CST Station.
Fort. Mumbai – 400 001.
Contact No.: +91 8828860611
Office Timing: 9:30am – 12:30pm