In my journey parenting a child with autism, I find that one of the biggest hurdles we parents face is in trying to get our kids into any sort of formal schooling environment, at least in my country – India.
Here is my voice, albeit single and small, and this is what I want to say.
When a school of any stature or size declares they do not have a set up that supports children with disabilities, I think it is a point of shame for the school. How can any institution that by definition is supposed to shape our children into future citizens of this planet deny its students the opportunity to interact and learn from peers who are different from them? It is not just my son and those like him who will benefit from interaction with their neurotypical peers, but their peers will benefit as well.
My son can teach his “able” peers the value of nonverbal communication, the simple joy in accomplishing simple everyday challenges. Most of all, he can teach them to laugh and share his happiness. Meeting families like mine can teach children the value of familial unconditional love, and if one day they find themselves raising a child with a disability, they will be able to look back and find a point of reference and perhaps some hope.
School is not just about teaching academics. What good does it do to churn out a generation that may be brilliant in their chosen field but lack compassion, respect and an appreciation of the world around them? I do not disregard the value of an education, but educators of today need to take a long hard look at what they are accomplishing.
As a parent who has chosen to stay at home, I have had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of children and gauge their emotional quotients. In my experience, kids who go to a school that includes children with disabilities are far more empathetic, kind, warm and generally better able to handle the knocks this world has to throw at them than those whose schools do not provide for kids like my son.
As a parent of an older child who is “neurotypical,” I would like to call out all other parents who apparently object to their children being schooled alongside kids with disabilities. You have no idea the opportunity your child is losing out on and what an important life lesson my son has to teach your kids.
It is easy to call out the education system and point fingers at their lack of compassion, but the system is made up of people like you and I. If all parents (of both neurotypical and neurodiverse kids) were to take a stand and insist on the same standard of education for all kids, the system would have no option but to change.
Edmund Burke said over 100 years ago: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
It’s time to do something, people.