Raise your Hands to Help our Special Needs Children – Kahor Raleng, Head of Department of English

Special needs children deserve every bit of our love as does every child. It is sad, however, that there are times when they are not always treated fairly – it may be as slight as a remark, an expression or a reaction from another that makes them feel excluded or unwanted. Life can be very demanding and challenging for a child with special needs. To help them battle through it, society needs to give them additional support and encouragement all the time. They need the constant support of parents, doctors, therapists, teachers and others who can help and make them feel as independent as possible every single day of their lives.
Raise your Hands to Help our Special Needs Children
I have a niece who is 2 years and 8 months old. She is the most beautiful and loving child that I have come across. She never complains as long as she is fed on time. Nobody could ask for a more loving child. But she cannot walk nor can she talk. She was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in October 2014. When she was 6 months old she started showing some problems. At first we thought that it was some kind of respiratory problem. She was treated by several doctors in Nagaland and Manipur but none of them could diagnose her problem. Her condition deteriorated so she was taken to GNRC, Guwahati. The Neurosurgeon there diagnosed it as a non-convulsive seizure but the cause could not be ascertained. She started her medications and her seizure was controlled but she showed no signs of cognitive development and motor skills development. Then Dr. Simpson in CIHSR, Nagaland diagnosed it as a case of mild autism.
It is said ‘Ignorance is Bliss’. Is it really Bliss? Now that I am aware of this condition, I reflect back on my years as an educator. Due to our ignorance especially regarding disorders like Autism, ADHD, Schizophrenia, Dyslexia, Seizures, etc, many lives are wasted. Several individuals live with these disorders and are deprived of a normal life because of wrong diagnosis, untimely intervention or mere ignorance. Society also plays an important role in the way these disorders are perceived or treated. Parents try to cover up the condition of their child because society stigmatizes them. There is a stigma connected to all these disorders and the superstitious nature of humans regards it as a curse or some form of black magic. I was left aghast and saddened at the response of some of my VERY EDUCATED friends when they were told of my niece’s condition. Some were horrified, some gave me an awkward look with a lot of pity, where as some haven’t even heard of the term. Just a handful of them knew about the condition. For many, they don’t like talking about it because the topic is a kind of taboo or it distresses them.
Many special needs individual go through life without receiving any attention. It is not their fault that they are born like that. Nobody asks to be born with special needs. It’s the way of nature and God’s purpose. Let us show some humanity and help them by educating ourselves, spreading awareness and by giving them the special care that they deserve. The Government should take the initiative of providing special needs teachers and fund schools or institutions for special needs individuals. Unfortunately, in our state, the special needs teachers have to fight for their right and have to beg for attention from the Government. I would also like to urge the youths who are on the threshold of deciding their careers, to opt for studies in these fields as it is the need of the hour. We need specialists in these fields, trained therapists, trained teachers and also trained counselors to guide and counsel the parents, guardians and professionals who interact with children.
Autism is not reversible but can be managed through early diagnosis and extensive therapy. If ignored it can be life threatening and an individual will be dependent on others for life. It is not possible to diagnose a dysfunction in a child through some symptoms or behavioral patterns so it is very important to refer it to a doctor, development specialist, occupational therapist etc. When a child does not exhibit behavior patterns which are expected or they exhibit behavioral patterns which are not expected, the child should be immediately referred to a professional. Apart from autism there are several other disorders or learning disabilities which a person can suffer from. It can display as attention deficit, poor memory, poor mathematical abilities, difficulty in reading etc. If the parents or teachers are not aware they can be labeled as ‘lazy’, ‘disobedient’, ‘lethargic’ and countless unreasonable names. The good news is that many of these individuals can lead meaningful lives if the right interventions are given at the right time. In fact they have more talent than many ‘normal’ individuals; this is testified from the fact that many of the leading scientists, inventors and famous personalities had some form of disability: Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Pierre Currie, Thomas Edison, Orlando Bloom, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo da Vinci, John Lennon and many more.

My niece has been undergoing speech therapy and physiotherapy for the last few months along with her daily medication. She is showing signs of improvement and gradually we hope and pray that she will be able to live a beautiful and meaning life with her God given gifts.

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