Monday, June 05, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 15, 1444 H
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Be inclusive to deal with autism

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Schools have opened. Roles are cut for all — children, parents, teachers and even people in the administration for the smooth sailing of the new academic year. Numbers are big, and so are the preparations and infrastructure — 1,422 government schools for 741,000 students.

Amid this background, thought needs to be spared for a section of people who are in a typical situation by virtue of being slow learners under the influence of a medical disorder called autism. Those who suffer from it and their parents need support from the government and agencies that work for social security.

The Sultanate of Oman has a good track record, and has been proactively taking up the cause of children with autism through government initiatives and private participation - current numbers and projections indicate some 27,300 cases between 2020 and 2030.

Numbers are high again, which demands higher attention. Rehabilitation is not the only answer. Children suffering from it need education along with rehabilitation. They need specialists and special infrastructure because, somehow or the other, they are special children.

A responsible body like UNICEF calls for an inclusive society to include children with autism into society’s mainstream and “make them able to develop their skills and realise their full potential.” Along with children who suffer from autism, their parents need support from society. Everyone among them looks for an institution where their children can get both education as well rehabilitation so that they can manage themselves and be in the mainstream of society without any sense of inferiority.

The concept of inclusive education is quite popular in most parts of the world where children are suffering from autism study with mainstream children. They play, learn, and get requisite support from the experts in the institution. Such institutions have special arrangements for children with autism and have qualified trainers to take care of their rehabilitation.

Due to the involvement of some special features, these schools are slightly expensive. There are many who afford the fee. For others, the role of the government, civic society and social agencies become vital to supporting those who cannot afford such institutions, either by sponsoring an individual’s fees or by having some kind of arrangement with the institution.

Commenting on inclusive education, Mahesh Verma, who has been in Oman since 1985 and helped start Paradise Valley School, says, “Inclusive education is the most effective way to give children with a broad range of learning difficulties a fair chance to go to school, learn and develop the skills they need to become a part of mainstream society. Inclusive education means all children are in the same classrooms and schools.”

“It means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded. Inclusive systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the classroom and allow diverse groups to grow side by side, to benefit all,” said Verma.

He calls for sparing some thought for those children who, due to medical reasons, have no access to regular schools and depend on special care.


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