The disability field as most other rehabilitation fields was initially looked upon as a zone of charity. Consequently, there were very few technically qualified people. However, the scenario has changed a lot in the last few years and the need of the hour is for trained and qualified professionals.Special education as a field requires great determination, commitment and strength. It gives immense satisfaction and a sense of achievement. The job is very enjoyable but requires a lot of hard work. The fallacy that all you need is “the will to do good” is not enough; sound technical knowledge is required to work in the field.
When thinking of working with people with disabilities, we must keep in mind:
- Disability has always been around. It is part of the human condition.
- There is no such thing as normal.
- People with disabilities may accomplish things differently from people without disabilities.
- We all need some kind of support in overcoming problems, barriers and challenges.
- We are all faced with changes and need to learn to adapt to them.To understand special education it is important to first have a complete understanding of disability. A handicap may range from mild to severe, be temporary or permanent. It may be physical, intellectual or emotional. It can occur as one handicap or as a combination of several impairments. Handicaps can be congenital or acquired through disease or injury.The various kinds of disabilities:Mental retardation -The mentally challenged are characterized by their below average IQ level and their inadequate adaptive behavior. Often these children will progress through development stages at a slower rate than others of the same chronological age.
Depending on the level of retardation the Mentally Challenged are further categorised into:
Severely and profoundly challenged
Trainable mentally retarded
Educable mentally retarded
Physically challenged – The physically challenged have some form of an orthopedic malformation. They require special services or equipment.
Hearing impaired – The hearing impaired are unable to hear within normal limits due to physical impairment or dysfunction of auditory mechanism. This is characterised by an impairment in processing linguistic information through hearing. The hearing loss maybe permanent or fluctuating. This handicap does not affect the person’s intelligence.
- Visually Impaired – A visually impaired person has a partial or complete loss of vision that interferes with learning. This handicap also does not affect their intelligence.
- Autistic– A person showing autistic tendencies is usually self absorbed. They show severe social, communication and behavioral problems.
- Neurologically impaired – Neurological impairment occurs due to injury to the brain and spinal cord during, after or before birth. They lack motor control. In some cases there maybe seizures, mental retardation, impairment of sight, hearing or speech. The degree of severity and involvement varies from person to person.
- Learning disability – This condition is described as a neurobiological disorder where the person’s brain works or is structured differently. These differences may interfere with his or her ability to think and remember. Commonly known learning disabilities are dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia amongst many others.To work with each of these conditions requires specific skills. These skills are learned through special education. The disabling condition can be only one or a combination of several impairments. A child with a disability can never be looked at in isolation without considering the environment that he or she lives in.A special educator needs to acquire the skills so as to develop holistic learning programmes keeping in mind the family and the environment for the all-round development of the child and not just look at education in isolation.It is important for anybody who wants to get into the field to go through a self evaluation process of whether they can cope with the requirements of the field or not. Volunteering daily with any institute working with the disabled might help you judge whether the field is for you or not.
Job opportunities for special educators:
Being a special educator makes you eligible for the following kinds of organisations:
- A special school for the disabled
- A regular school which has a special wing
- An integrated school
- An NGO working in the field
- As a rehabilitator in a community or rural project
- To take private classes
- It also makes you technically sound to work more constructively as a parent with your disabled sibling.