Children With Special Needs
All children are ‘unique’ yet similar to one another in most aspects of growth.
However, some children are very differ-ent from their age-mates that they ‘stand out’. Such children have to deal with the normal/usual problems of growth along with all those difficulties that may arise because of being ‘different’. The child is unable to deal with the social and emo-tional problems associated with it. This has marked effect on the child’s personal and social development.
A normal healthy child is able to grow and do things to equip him/her for future life. A child who is not able to withstand the challenges of day-to-day life is generally referred to as handicapped/disabled or dis-advantaged children. They are also known as children who are ‘differently abled ’.
Baker, a well-known psychologist defines the disabled child as “one who deviates from what is supposed to be an average child in physical, mental, emo-tional and social characteristics to such an extent that the child requires special educational services to help develop to the maximum capacity”.
The disabled children can be broadly grouped into three categories. These are:
i. Physically disabled children.
ii. Mentally disadvantaged children.
iii. Socially maladjusted children.
The various causes of physical disability are as follows:
· Unfavorable environment
· Injury during child birth
· Accidents during early childhood causing orthopedic problems.
· Surgery requiring the amputation of the diseased part.
· Mental and emotional problems in early childhood result in stam-mering, stuttering and speech defects.
· Ear infections and injuries result-ing in hearing defects.
· Psychological, emotional problems and feelings of neglect result in behavioural problems.
Vision is a critical tool that children use in obtaining information about the world in which they live. Impairment of vision can lead to partial or total blindness. The children with visual impairment will need special materials and attention to develop fully.
Visual impairment can be caused by the following factors:
It refers to a child being born blind.
In this case the child is not born blind. The child may lose eye-sight on account of some accident. The resulting eye-defect is called acquired blindness.
It is a result of prolonged absence of vitamin-A rich foods in the diet. Deficiency of vitamin-A causes dryness of eyes, (xerophthalmia) and impaired vision in dim light (night blindness).
Parents of a visually challenged children have to give special attention and train their children to do their daily routine jobs like toilet, bath, dressing and feeding etc. Special effort is needed to help them to move around the house without knock-ing things and hurting themselves.
Parents and siblings need to develop social contact and provide constant reassurance by hugging, petting and reassuring the handicapped child when scared and emo-tionally upset.
Books with big print and a desk with proper light and recorded tapes are of considerable help to the child with defective vision. The special tool called “Braille” is also helpful.
The Braille dots are punched out one at a time from right to left. Children learn to use Braille with ease once coached properly.
White cane day is celebrated worldwide on October 15th every year. This is cele-brated to create awareness and celebrate the importance of the white cane used by visually challenged people.
A child with hearing impairment is one who has lost the sense of hearing before learning the language. This means that the child is born without the ability to hear. Such children are often mute and silent.
Hard of hearing on the other hand is a defect that is acquired later in life. The child experiences varying degrees of hearing loss.
Hearing impairment and loss can be due to the following factors:
(a) Conductive hearing impairment
The passage of air in the outer ear is called the ’Conductive Pathway’. The conductive pathway can get affected due to
i. Build up of wax in the ear,
ii. A foreign body in the pathway iii. Any swelling of the outer ear.
These conditions can cause temporary hearing impairment that can be medically treated.
(b) Sensory Neutral hearing loss is due to the damage of the ear drum, cochlea, auditory nerve and the associated brain cells.
(c) Mixed Hearing Loss is a result of hearing impairments arising due to a combination of conductive and sensory neural defects.
· The child may be speech impaired besides having hearing impairment.
· They may have difficulty in learning language/vocabulary. It is an enormous challenge to learn to communicate in a language one cannot hear.
Hearing defects cause a lot of problems ranging from language and vocabulary to comprehension and communication. Physical needs can be effectively taken care of by providing physical comfort. Parents can use play way techniques to help child.
Emotional and Social Needs:
Suspicion is almost the second nature with deaf children. Their social behaviour also needs to be improved and refined. Love and affection provide emotional security besides the much needed encouragement for better learning.
Educational Needs involve child’s ability to understand the language. They learn to communicate through visual and manual means.
· Oral Method or Lip-Reading is a slow method involving a lot of patience for the learner as well as the educator.
· Manual Method or Sign Language helps the child to communicate with gestures, cues and finger-spellings.
A child with an affected limb is not able to fully perform the activities involving the use of bones, muscles and joints. Similar handicap is experienced by children with a missing limb. Such children are known to be orthopedically crippled.
· Physical defect leads to inferiority complex among young children.
· The feelings of inadequacy result in self-pity.
· The child often goes through psycho-logical trauma because of discrepancy between his/her aspirations and the ability to perform.
Physical Needs consist of being able to cope with one’s daily routine. The attitude of parents should help the child do his/her duties independently rather than “do things for them”. Use of special contraptions like calipers, shoes and artificial limbs along with proper training has yielded very good results. Use of crutches and wheel chair improves the mobility besides boosting their confidence.
Social and Emotional Needs. Children with affected limbs are very often left out of social group activities. The child may feel frustrated, dejected and neglected. Loving care and proper training to be independent and self-reliant are the basic needs of all handicapped children.
Educational Needs involve and include such activities that require ‘doing’. Writing, playing, drawing, painting, knitting and even dancing are some much activities.
The main purpose of speech is effective communication. When speech is defective communication is also defective.
There are many causes for speech defects.
They are as follows:
i. Physiological causes: Defects and deformities of the larynx and the vocal cords affect the speech pro-duced. Incomplete development of the skull and head produces a cleft palate and cleft lip which produce speech defects
ii. Neurological causes. When nerves connected with the areas of speech and learning process are impaired, some type of speech defect or dis-order of articulation occurs
iii. Psychogenic Causes. These are causes related to one’s mind. Some types of stuttering are purely psy-chogenic in origin. General self consciousness added with speech defect may produce stuttering.
iv. Sociological causes. Some speech habits such as too rapid or too slow speech, or speaking in the low tones insisted by the parent may lead to speech defects.
Surgery can correct some of the physiogenic causes like cleft palate, extremely enlarged tonsils, adenoids, etc. Motor activities, dramatic play of all kinds, excursions, discussing and planning group activities will help in developing correct speech patterns.
Classes under special teachers will be use-ful for correction of pronunciation
Children should be given opportunities to listen to stories. The teacher and par-ents should always make it a point to pro-nounce words clearly themselves.
The intelligence possessed by a normal individual is said to be between 90 and 110 I.Q. Some children possess less than average intelligence and they are said to be mentally challenged or mentally handicapped.
The letters IQ stand for Intelligence Quotient. It is a measure of intelligence. The formula used to calculate the I.Q. is MA/CA x100. MA stands for Mental Age and CA stands for Chronological Age. The mental age of a person is found out by intelligence tests. If the mental age corre-sponds with his chronological age or the physical age, then his mental growth is said to be normal. The mentally retarded children have a lower mental age than their chronological age.
Depending on the I.Q possessed, mentally challenged people/children are classi-fied as slow learners, challenged, moder-ately challenged and severely challenged.
Children who are mildly retarded are referred to as educable. Those who are moderately challenged are called train-able. Those who are severely and pro-foundly challenged are called totally dependent.
a. Physical traits- For majority of them, their height and weight is normal for their respective ages. Muscular control is fairly well developed. Senses are well devel-oped but occurrence of speech defects such as stammering and lisping is fairly large among these children.
b. Other traits- Socially they are found to be less adjustable. Vocab-ulary is very much limited. They find adjustment to new situations difficult.
The causes may be endogenous or exogenous.
Endogenous type mainly consists of hereditary conditions. Defect in the germ cell produces a retarded condition called microcephaly. Defects in the nerv-ous system and weaker nerve potential inherited also lead to mental challenges. Marriage between men and women who are close blood relatives is said to lead to mental challenges in their children.
Exogenous causes for mental challenges includes venereal diseases in the mother, brain injury at birth and var-ious forms of anoxia at the time of birth. Toxic conditions in older mothers during pregnancy causes mongolism. Thyroid deficiency in children causes cretinism or dwarfism. Brain injury due to acci-dents, brain fever in the new born, also lead to mental challenges after birth.
Proper prenatal care including immuni-zation, good diet, and medical check-up delivery attended by a trained person, preferably hospital delivery and proper weaning foods for the baby will reduce the incidence of individual attention and instruction. In the case of slow learners they need more help and stimulation. The teacher needs to give clear direction and encouragement. The learning process must be made simple and more of con-crete examples must be used.