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Disabled students face daily humiliation from 'friends': Child experts

While the state, under the Right to Education Act ensures that every child has a right to go to school, psychiatrists and child experts say that children with disabilities are mocked by their friends, and worse, teachers

Inclusion in mainstream education for students with various forms of autism, learning or physical disabilities is a fairly new trend in the state.

While the education department insists on a foolproof system in place under the umbrella of RTE for these children, psychiatrists and child experts have highlighted the need for awareness among students, in general.

Many psychiatrists are coming across new case studies where students with any form of disability are struggling to cope with humiliation and ridicule coming from their own classmates.

“I have treated a series of patients, all schoochildren, who have been humiliated in class by their so-called friends as well as class teachers for either being ‘slow’ or ‘stupid’.

Often, people forget that children can also be facing emotional issues at home, and continuous ridicule adds to their trauma,” said Seema Hingorrany, a clinical psychologist. She emphasised the need for schools to start awareness programmes for their students as well as staff and parents.

Experts have also pointed at the lack of awareness about various forms of behavioural disorders in children, which are often misunderstood. “A student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is always labelled as mischievous and treated with strict action. This adds to the emotional turmoil that the child already is in,” said Dr Samir Dalwai, a developmental paediatrician.

He added that with the absence of awareness among the school management, these children become the point of ridicule for the rest of their batchmates. “Lack of empathy is a big problem. Many kids with behavioural disorders end up becoming the butt of every joke in class, and are often targeted not just by students, but also the teachers,” he added.

The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) recently heard a case filed by mother of a 16-year-old girl, who filed a complaint against her daughter’s school for allegedly encouraging teachers and students to humiliate her daughter.

This student has agenesis of the corpus callosum since birth a defect which affects her motor co-ordination skills and was apparently mocked by her classmates and teachers regularly, even though parents had informed the school about this issue at the time of admissions.

“This is not an isolated case; students face such issues every day in almost all schools. The beginning to a solution will be including awareness about all these issues in the BEd program. Teachers need to be the first made aware and so do parents. Schools can play a big role in creating awareness among the society in general,” added Dalwi.

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