Mumbai Schools Embrace Neurodiversity But Hurdle Exist

Mumbai Schools Embrace Neurodiversity But Hurdle Exist

Mumbai schools embrace neurodiversity, accommodating various conditions. But some schools may suggest specialized settings for neurodivergent students, raising concerns about the inclusiveness of mainstream education.

Simple VishwakarmaUpdated: Monday, January 08, 2024, 08:01 PM IST
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As the concept of 'neurodiversity' has gained prominence in recent years, challenging the notion of a singular 'correct' way of thinking, learning, or behaving, Mumbai schools have responded by welcoming diversity amongst students on campus.

Neurodiversity emphasises recognising and celebrating the unique strengths and perspectives of individuals. However, the term has often been associated primarily with conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Dyslexia, limiting its broader scope.

To understand the inclusivity and support mechanisms for neurodiverse students in Mumbai schools, The Free Press Journal (FPJ) reached out to several educational institutions. The responses provided a glimpse into the diverse approaches and initiatives in place.

Sunita George, the principal of the Bombay Scottish School, Mahim, said the school has about 60 identified neurodiverse students, including those with learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia), ADD, ADHD, and mild Autism.

"The school conducts remedial sessions during non-academic classes, offering two to three periods a week based on students' needs. Initiatives include identifying strengths, sensitising peers, and fostering peer support through regular meetings with parents, special educators, and teachers", she said.

At another city school, Orchids The International School, Principal Sunanya Awasti, said 15 neurodiverse students with a range of conditions are currently receiving support. “The curriculum is tailored to individual needs, with different teaching objectives for various student needs”, said Awasti.

She said special care and support are needed for students with special needs, stating that mainstream schools can provide an inclusive environment with proper measures in place.

Principal Neelu Lamba of Hiranandani Foundation School, Thane, advocated for embracing neurodiversity and acknowledging neurological differences. Lamba emphasised the evolving approach of inclusive education, with boards offering concessions and support, such as additional time for exams and readers/writers in higher standards. Lamba discouraged the need for separate schools, stating, "There's no need for separate schools for those facing minor difficulties."

However, while most school leaders claim to have accepted and made provisions for neurodivergent students on campus, NGOs and support workers in this field may not agree.

Smita Pathak, a member of the non-profit organisation Ummeed Child Development Center said admission policies differ among schools. "In general, schools are inclined to decline enrollment if a child's diagnosis is disclosed. Moreover, they stress the importance of parents embracing the idea of a shadow teacher, incurring expenses ranging from approximately 15,000 to 20,000 per month", she said.

She also emphasised that there is a lack of awareness regarding the specific support that children with special needs require.

Challenges often arise at the admission stage, with numerous schools threatening to withdraw admission upon learning about a child's condition. “I encountered a similar situation at a prestigious ICSE school in Bombay (Mumbai) where my son was admitted. However, upon disclosing his diagnosis, they indirectly suggested that the environment was not suitable for him, proposing that he might thrive better elsewhere", she said.

Pathak also expressed that she feels disheartened about the schools frequently steering children with special needs towards special schools, despite the belief that these children can excel and learn more effectively in mainstream educational settings.

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