Certification in Disability
Rights of Person With Disability (RPWD) Act 2016 includes 21 disabilities as compared to the previous 7 disabilities listed in the PwD act 1995 : Blindness, Low vision, Leprosy, Cured persons, Locomotor disability, Dwarfism, Intellectual disability, Mental illness, Cerebral palsy, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech and Language disability, Hearing impairment ( deaf and hard of hearing), Muscular dystrophy, Acid attack victim, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Thalassemia, Hemophilia, Sickle cell disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Chronic Neurological conditions, Multiple disabilities including deaf blindness. Children with ADHD, SLD, Intellectual disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Hearing Impairment, Low vision and orthopedic disabilities are found in inclusive schools. These disabilities are not visible at first but can be identified with time and at times delayed; due to multiple reasons- parent acceptance, awareness of school authority, stigma etc. But as a rule of inclusive education as practitioner we promote parents to seek a diagnosis and hence the need arises for a disability certificate.
The disability certificate and/ or identity card is considered the basic document that a person with any disability of more than 40 percent requires in order to avail any facilities, benefits or concessions under the available schemes of the government.
Government of India has taken the responsibility of providing optimal environment to ensure full participation of the persons with disabilities. A number of welfare programs, schemes, concessions and facilities for educational, vocational and economic rehabilitation are set up to ensure equal opportunities to persons with disabilities.
In schools or establishing inclusive schools, the advantage of a diagnosis and a disability certificates are providing facilities that in a way ensuring free and compulsory education in age appropriate classrooms.
CBSE has been very clear in its provisions in examinations if the correct diagnosis is being produced:
· Reservation for PWDs in school, colleges and jobs.
ISSUES DURING CERTIFICAION PROCESS
Benchmark disability means having at least 40% of the disability. To avail the special provisions of disability certificates, parents may produce false disability certificate by increasing the percentage of disability or have a tendency to hide the true nature of the child’s condition at time of admission; concern starts when the school is unable to equip to the kind of support required in the formative age of the child.
Diagnostic reports by the hospitals (government or private) are not clear sometimes. Type of disability, degree of disability and what services child should avail are unclear. Because of which school faces problem during CBSE registration, choosing disability codes according to the RPWD Act 2016 and while giving the provision of scribe or prompter.
· Issuing authority of medical certificates
According to CBSE, any government hospital or RCI registered hospitals /institution can issue the disability certificate. Parents find it difficult to go through the long procedures of government hospitals to get the certificate so they get it done by any private, sometime not even properly accredited hospitals. School faces problem during CBSE registration if the certificate or assessment report is not valid. We are left with safer referrals of government hospitals for the certification which may not be convenient to the parents for repeated appointments.
• Low scores of the student
When it comes to student’s low academic performance, teachers are expected to be answerable regardless of the efforts made by the teachers. Without certification, the teacher may be unaware of the learning challenges of the child leading to prolonged denial and pressure on the child.
• Managing behaviors in classroom
Teachers are heard saying that it is difficult to manage behavioral problem in a class of 30-35 students. They tend to seek support from the Special Educator to manage problem behaviors. In that case, any support/intervention provided by the Special Educator can be taken in a negative way that their child is being targeted /labeled.
• Teacher- parent relationship
Poor academic performance or behavior problem leads to frequent complaints between teacher and parent which adversely affect teacher-parent relationship. Parents even blame teachers that their child is being targeted or labeled.
• Counseling parents for the concerns and the symptoms identified in the child in the school and refer to seek diagnosis.
When the child is referred to
a special educator, after doing the informal assessment first thing a special
educator is expected to do is meet the parents and discuss the challenges faced
by the child in the school. It is well received that parents are unable to
accept the possibility that their child may have a disability,
Even if they accept, parents tend to avoid going through the lengthy procedure of diagnosis or their lack of awareness of the procedure for the diagnosis. At times it’s crucial that we reiterate that the diagnosis will explain a lot of questions on why the child is unable to adapt in the school environment. Timely diagnosis is the first stage to reduce the effect of disability at the functional level of the child.
Acceptance is at times achieved in the course of seeking the diagnosis, thus becomes critical and necessary role for the special educator.
At times the concern is why does it matter what the diagnosis is, the child is only expected to receive education and the social environment of their peers. The new generations of parents are heard saying that as they are paying fees; it becomes the sole responsibility of the school to provide services like extra classes, remedial teaching or special education to their child if he/she is performing low in class. They feel that there is very less that they can do to participate in the child’s academic progress and behavioral concerns at school.
· Complaints from school and owning to problems at home
It is seen that the children with special needs are treated as the trouble maker and underachievers in class. Parents get frequent negative feedback of the child from the school and are unable to direct the parent to strategies and corrective measures. This mostly leads to frustration of the parent and further to problems at home like excessive scolding, discouraging or even physically abusing the child. The child is further emotionally drained to understand why he is subjugated to firm treatment.
Most of the parents are not aware of the process of diagnosis-where to go, whom to meet, what to say etc. Also it becomes difficult for the parents to run from one hospital to another or to adhere to monthly appointments of government hospitals. This delays the process and thus the child’s progress.
• Effect on academic and emotional wellbeing
When children scores poor marks in academics or behave in differently manner, they are labeled as low achievers by the teachers, peers or parents. This reduces their self-esteem and thus their motivation to put efforts.
“People with well-developed emotional skills are ... more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of the mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”
— Daniel Goeman, "Emotional Intelligence"
PROCESS TO BE FOLLOWED
Screening is done on a large group of student. This help in identifying larger number of At-risk students in less time. It is hard for the special educator to observe each and every class to screen at-risk children. Screening can be best done by the class-teachers and subject-teachers (both academics and co-scholastic). Further, they can refer those students to the school’s special educator or counselor by filling the referral form. Student can be referred by the Principal, Parent or Teachers. Referral form consists of present concerns of the student and intervention/strategies applied so far.
Special educator then assesses the referred students using informal assessment checklist, observation (individual and in-class) feedback from other teachers and parents. Assessment means gathering and analyzing information in order to make further decisions for an individual. After assessment, special educators meets the parent of the child to inform them whether the child needs to be sent for diagnosis or just needs academic support from home(in case of learning gap due to first generation learner or cultural differences etc).
Referral for Assessment/Diagnosis
It is the most important step in certification process. After identification, special educator then refers the student for clinical diagnosis of the disability. Disclosure of the disability to the parents includes parents counseling for the acceptance of the child’s disability, providing information, offering emotional support and ensuring services. We make them understand the importance and the process of diagnosis in order to make instructional, administrative and guidance decision for an individual.
In the process of diagnosis, written recommendation from the counselor/ special educator signed by School’s Principal is optional if asked by the hospital/institution.
Disability certificates or assessment reports should clearly mention the followings:
1. Name, age and date of assessment
2. Tool used
3. Type of disability according to the RPWD Act 2016
4. Degree of disability
5. School setup: inclusive or special
6. Other therapy modalities to be employed
7. Permanent disability/ reassessment schedule
Referral for services
Based on the diagnostic report, teachers and parents are trained for the instructional strategies and other services like special education, speech or occupational services etc according to the need of the student.
Documenting everything is an integral part throughout the process of diagnosis. Documentation includes individual case files of the students. The file contains-
1. Referral form filled by the teacher or parent referring the child.
2. Informal assessment / screening checklist
3. Observation records/work sample of the child
4. Record of meeting or communication with the parents
5. Report of written recommendation to relevant teachers of the nature of support expected for the child.
6. Copy of assessment report of the child if the child is diagnosed.
The process of certification includes many problems from school’s administration to parent and student. The main sufferer is the child with special needs. He/she goes through many academics, emotional and social difficulties to fit in an inclusive setup. The main problem is attitudinal barrier and negative generalization people form about disability. Parents fear that after diagnosis/certification, their child will get labeled in school and in society as well. This barrier cannot be overcome simply through laws. School needs to conduct frequent workshops for teachers, parents and students to sensitize them towards disabilities and inclusive education and to promote collaboration between teachers, parents and other service providers.