Sangeetha Rao, Special Education Teacher, Bethune-Bowman Middle/High School

Born in Hyderabad, India, Sangeetha Rao is Special Education Teacher for the Learning Disabled children. Starting her career as a fashion designer, she switched to the teaching field in 2007. Sangeetha has a diploma in Special Education and very passionate about her job. She has taught children in India, but her stint in the USA has helped her enhance her professional development skills in the stream of Multiple Disabilities. She strongly believes in spreading awareness about being helpful and bring happiness on the faces of the children giving them the support and care they need.

In the global pandemic outbreak of COVID 19, people are worried and schools are shut down in this period which has a huge impact on the education of not only regular children but also, on the education of children with special needs. It is becoming difficult for children with special needs, they are affected because their memory and retention power is not similar to others. While social distancing has been widely promoted as the best strategy to avoid transmission, that advice may not be realistic for people who care for children and youth with disabilities who may require therapy or assistance with daily tasks. Meanwhile, children’s clinical services and other treatments are being disrupted with the closures of schools, medical settings, and caregiving agencies. Families’ ability to obtain critical medical supplies can become difficult as resources become scarce. 

People with disabilities need much more support than others in the face of a pandemic. They may not be eating properly and may experience higher stress because they are unable to understand what is happening all around them. About half of all children with Cerebral Palsy have seizures. This means that they have times when there is some abnormal activity in their brains that interrupts what they are doing. Because of the functional limitations experienced, some children with CP are dependent on others for assistance with daily activities, which leads to long-term caregiving that far exceeds the usual needs of typically developing children. Providing a high level of care required by a child with long-term functional limitations. People with disabilities are a diverse group, experiencing different hardships in accessing the information on prevention and risk of infection. People with visual impairment and blindness depend upon touch for most of their daily activities. They need to hold the hand of an escort to move around; they cannot read the messages that the rest of the people can see; they cannot practice social distancing unless there are innovative approaches like keeping a safe distance using a white cane. For the hearing impaired, especially those who are not literate, they cannot hear the message or read it. Since many depend on lip-reading, they are compromised when the person giving a message is wearing a mask. 

To include multiple colors of disability such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disability, etc. and their challenges to work as a superpower in this outbreak various educational services including vocational, recreational and academic into online/ virtual through video conferencing mediums zoom, got to training, got to meet, skype, etc. are coming in help by understanding the convenient mode of learning and applied pedagogy across India and overseas. For many children with Learning Disabilities, digital learning has emerged as an indispensable resource for education. But the question remains that what about the parents and the children who come in the section of the underprivileged category? The closure of schools is not only impacting students, teachers, and parents, it will also have a far-reaching economic and societal consequence. As per Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, 11.59 crore children of the country are enrolled in the mid-day meal scheme. This indicates an additional burden on the parents of the children to provide them with food. As these parents are from an economically weak background and most of them may be daily wagers, it will create a very adverse scenario, with parents struggling to provide food for the family. It is indeed a challenge for the educational institutes and the teachers on how to reach out to students and ensure continuity of education through remote learning. There are millions of students from various economic segments of society and most of them do not have access to computers or the internet. Some of them do not even have access to phones. In the given condition, where isolation is the only remedy to not get affected by the virus, ensuring the education of children has become a real challenge.

Special children need special professional care in terms of educational and other emotional needs as well as counseling and proper monitoring. However, in the given condition, the onus falls on the parents to deal with the situation. If proper systematic care is not taken, along with their education, these children might develop other complications. Most of the parents are not yet prepared to deal with the upheaval. Attending to the educational needs of the children at home and dealing with their emotional needs is a daunting task. Parents with limited education find it difficult to facilitate the learning of their child at home. Parents who are not adept with online learning also find it difficult to help their children. For the working parents, balancing their work commitments and addressing the mounting needs of their children is difficult to handle. For example, Children with ADHD generally have deficits in executive function: the ability to think and plan, organize, control impulses, and complete tasks. That means you need to take over as the executive, providing extra guidance while your child gradually acquires executive skills of their own. They often don’t “hear” parental instructions, so they don’t obey them. They’re disorganized and easily distracted, keeping other family members waiting. Children with impulsivity issues often interrupt conversations, demand attention at inappropriate times, and speak before they think, saying tactless or embarrassing things. It’s often difficult to get them to bed and to sleep. Hyperactive children may tear around the house or even put themselves in physical danger. The demands of monitoring a child with ADHD can be physically and mentally exhausting. The children with Autism, get haunted by internal triggers causing behavioral problems. Therefore, many children including children with Intellectual Disabilities need therapists, as they are trained to help with all kinds of problems like ADHD, depression, OCD & anxiety, eating disorders, self-injury, disruptive behavior disorders, and trauma-related disorders. 

As India is home to nearly 150 million people with some degree of disability, nearly 25-30 million have a severe disability. Most of them live as part of their families and depend on a career. This adds to another 25-30 million careers. So, we are looking at nearly 50 million people who need special support, which is not routinely forthcoming.

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