How special needs children can continue their learning during the pandemic
THE Coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected children across the globe, especially their education. Schools in India have been closed since the first nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 and this has really disrupted their academic calendar. For children with disabilities, totally dependent on their teachers to guide their learning, this break from the class has proved much harder.
While those who can access technology and the internet are using online education to continue learning at home, a much larger segment is without an alternative. Technology-based classes are not a reality for all students, especially ones in rural areas who are without devices, connectivity, or even the means to afford them.
Difficulties of children with special needs
When it comes to children with disabilities, the situation presents additional challenges. The lack of access to education services and child development programs in centres due to the pandemic has been a source of agony to special needs children and their families.
With a sudden halt in their reassuring routines, cut off from their teachers and nurturing learning environments, the children are in distress, prone to frequent outbursts and panic attacks. Many have lost the academic and therapeutic advancements they had made over months. The sense of loneliness can also be very deep.
Creative tools to continue working with the children digitally can be of great assistance and relief. The bigger challenge, however, is reaching these children. Many of them live in villages and are unlikely to have access to the required device or internet because of their location and economic situation.
Our NGO partner Satya Special School in Pondicherry caters to 1,000 children with disabilities from both rural and urban sectors. Satya partners with schools in and around the city and supports them with remedial teaching classrooms by bringing special education to the children.
Established in 2003, Satya Special School aims to create an inclusive mainstream environment for their students. The school uses technological devices and audio and audiovisual instructions to help students with disabilities learn basic day-to-day living skills.
Satya has been developing and using content through digital devices for children with different disabilities. They implement these as in-school activities. Now, with schools physically inaccessible, they wish to take their technology to where the children are.
So the special needs school is starting the initiative of a digital lending library for the children in nearby villages. The devices or tablets will be preloaded with sensory activities and speech therapy software to be used by the children with help from their mothers as primary instructors. The children’s mothers will also act as resource people or librarians, helping other mums to understand the software and its usage.
These devices can operate without internet connections and will be lent out to the children on a rotational basis. The Public Health Centre in the village will act as the library.
The current requirement is of 100 tablet devices which will be distributed across 43 villages. The software that will be uploaded will include IIT Madras-incubated Avaz, Blessed Angels and KAVI PTS, in addition to audiovisual instructions created by experts at Satya.
Technology-based learning has a huge potential in the special education space and it will help the children move along the path of development. One imagines that these devices will be used by the children even after the pandemic.
An appeal for assistance
We are fundraising for this initiative by Satya Special School. It will help children with special needs continue their learning digitally in the absence of a teacher. The cost of each tablet is ₹12,000 and the school hopes to raise funds for 100 of them with your generosity. Please donate now to help rural children with special needs to continue learning during the pandemic.
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.