I am Avik Banerjee. I am from India. I have been running a non-profit organisation which is mainly for mainstreaming children with special needs, for the last four years. I have been working as a consultant to a group of schools which has 154 branches around the country. I used to work as a trainer to the teachers as well as building up infrastructure for the children with special needs.
It always focussed on one single type of disability or one single type of need. For example, a child would come with Cerebral palsy and then we knew that he had Cerebral palsy and he has got his intellectual functioning almost proper like any other human being and so we can design an intervention programme for him. But now it is like a multi-disability model or multi educational needs. So there is a child with Cerebral palsy who can be blind at the same time or who can be visually impaired or who can be hearing impaired. So it can be a challenge to implement a programme which will be all inclusive, taking in regard all the needs that he has.
There was a time when I had a child who had ADHA, which is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and he had Cerebral palsy at the same time. So being Cerebral palsy it made him really in the wheelchair and at the same time since he was not paying his proper attention so we really had to design our intervention programme or education programme or make him sit within the classroom environment, so that he is not creating any trouble for the teacher because he will have support and naturally his attention will deflect and the teacher will not have any trouble in educating him.
The renowned educationalists who are here right now, like Tim Bond who is professor to Counselling, then there is Helen Knowler, Anthony Feiler, Helen Woodfield and it was like more getting an opportunity to work with them one on one. The UK is considered to be the pioneer of special education, it is from here that special education started all over the world. One of my professors she is one of the first Indians who got her Special Education Master’s and I’m probably the second or third Indian.
There was an event and, incidentally, I got selected to be one of the panellists so it was like getting an opportunity to sit on the same panel as all the renowned educationalists from all parts of the world. We shared views on how we are going to include all the students so that the slogan ‘education for all’ really becomes true.
The view of mainstreaming the child that is the word we use. Getting a child straight down from his educational background or straight down from his home into society so that he becomes independent and doesn’t require the support which is requiring now from professionals like us. Because the problem is that no matter how much support you give, and considering the number of special needs children is increasing day by day, it is really impossible to provide the scaffolding throughout their entire life. If we can start working on them from a very early age, like from two years, three years, we can work with a child until the age of nine we can make a remarkable development or achievement. So we will be getting more and more children independent on their own. So that we can focus our attention to the early age groups so that when these children grow up they wont require any support or scaffolding from the government or on the part of professionals. They will be living on their own and that is a major cause of worry for the parents who came to us India.
The next possible aspect will be pursuing a PhD because the Master’s is not available in the Asia subcontinent. So the PhD will obviously be the next major step. After getting my PhD it will actually be going back to India because the Indian community is trying to start a Master’s programme in the same field. So it was an insistence from my professors who said that we really don’t have the required academic experience for the faculty. So I was required to do the Master’s as well as the PhD as per the university norms to be one of the faculty, to be one of the teachers.