Going to school, reading books, writing, appearing for exams and competitions, etc are a normal part of any child’s initial life. This process is so much imbibed in our lives that we tend to take it for granted. A child will go to school on turning 3 years and the process of educating him starts and continues for almost next 18-20 years of his life.
However, in case of neurodiverse (ND) kids, this ‘normal’ is not so normal! Rather most of the times, its a very turbulent journey for the child and his parents.
When a ND child turns 3, mostly at that time, parents start noticing that their child is not giving eye contact, is hyperactive, not responding to name, not engaging, etc. On top of that, the pressure of admission in a branded school (which, unfortunately, is also a status symbol), trauma of diagnosis, denial mode, difficulty in accepting the child’s diagnosis, social pressures, etc take a toll on parents mental and physical well being.
Amidst all this confusion, parents usually admit their child in a ‘normal’ mainstream school believing that their child will definitely learn with other children and things will change. Many of them hire shadow teachers to support the child in school, for which they pay a heavy monthly salary separately other than the school fees. Other than this, paying for multiple therapies, tuitions, special educators, etc also make a big hole in their pockets. Mostly, one of the parent (usually mother) has to give up her career to support the child.
However, after slogging so much under mental, physical and financial pressure, (mostly) what is the result? We all know that, I need not mention that! Only a small percentage of ND children are able to cope up the school pressure and eventually settle there to some extent. But what happens to other children who couldn’t settle in ‘normal’ school? It is normal for parents to feel angry, depressed, fatigued and disheartened when even after doing so much, nothing helps the child.
Parents suffer, the child suffers equally! Attending school, feeling of being treated differently, rat race with extra tuitions to cope up the pressure of marks, attending therapies everyday, daily struggle with his disability, etc etc…. what happens to his childhood? When will the child enjoy? When he will do the normal mischiefs like other kids? Does he even have time to laugh his heart out, unconditionally!
Unfortunately, when our children laugh, this is labelled as ‘yeast overgrowth’, ‘gut issues’ etc and mostly parents start looking for medicines to ‘fix’ this!
Read ‘Trust for special Needs Child’
Amidst all this, where is ‘EDUCATION’? we need to think that what is real education? Studying subjects which you don’t even understand, rote learning them and vomiting the same in examination and scoring marks… is this education? Where is this so called ‘education’ leading my child? And I personally believe that this is true for every child, whether NT or ND.
Then, what to do? How to educate my child? How to give my ND child real education and make him employable and ready to face various challenges of life?
While searching on google, I came across this definition of ‘education’.
‘Education is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement, and generally preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life’.
How apt this definition is! Real education is not cramming information without understanding, rather it is about ‘acquiring knowledge’ and ‘intellect’ that help in developing ‘power of reasoning and judgement’ and helps in developing maturity.
I, as a mother of ND child and having gone this whole experience mentioned above strongly feel that we need to change our thought process so far as education of ND kids is concerned. It is very important to have a broader outlook, to look beyond what is available as ‘education’ as of now, to explore and think & act out of the box to give real education to our children. Merely going through the process of conventional schooling will definitely not make my child employable and capable to face the real challenges of life. We need to explore other mediums of educating our children such as homeschooling, unschooling, education from open boards, etc,something that doesn’t burden me and my child with unrealistic social expectations; give my child freedom to learn the way he wants at his own pace, without slogging in a rat race; something that gives him enough space to explore his interests; something that is financially affordable and result oriented and does not leave a hole in my pocket and I am able to build a financially secure future for my child. Basically, we need to change our perspective. It is high time to come out of this monotonous education system and understand ‘real education’. Only then, it is possible to really educate our ND children.
The above are my thoughts regarding educating my ND child. In my next blogs, I will be exploring the various alternate mediums of education that can be helpful for ND children. In the meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on my WhatsApp number +91 9910353219 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Author CA Shivani Lohia
Shivani Lohia is a Chartered Accountant by profession and mother to 8 years old child on the autism spectrum. The cause of autism awareness is very close to her heart and she strongly believes in equal education for all & strongly advocates inclusion. She has been homeschooling her son since he was 5 years old.