“Special” is defined by Webster as distinguished by some unusual quality, uncommon, noteworthy, extra-ordinary, additional to regular, extra, in addition to the ordinary”. Special education is defined as that additional educational service over and above the regular school programme, which is provided for an exceptional child to assist in the development of his potential and/or in the amelioration of his disabilities. Special education is preventive, corrective, promotive and effective rehabilitation process.
Brief History of Evolution of Special Education Services in India
Many NGO’s during 1940’s had an awakening to the effects of special education as preventive, corrective, promotive and rehabilitative process by looking up to the western world for the technology and its application.
Earlier to this period the efforts were not systematic nor were they multidisciplinary to meet the challenges of heterogeneity and multiplicity of the needs of those who availed the services. These served more as day care centre and respite centre’s or as remedial education centre’s which tried intensively to impart 3 R’s to its pupils who were detained in the classes i.e., removed from the mainstream.
During late 1960-1970’s the parental pressure, scientific temperament of some social scientists and the global developments in special educational practices resulted in establishing special schools by voluntary organizations in India. These services explored the ways of providing multidisciplinary interventions with full time or part time staff and tried to offer a meaningful need based child centered education which met the physical, social and emotional needs of the pupils.
However there remained a compartmentalization between clinical interventions and classroom activities in the initial stages of the multidisciplinary programming. The special teacher identified some domains for learning like self care, motor development, to explore the possibilities of incorporating the therapies in the curricular and co-curricular programmes of the class rooms. There were other innovative charges in the process by adopting some guidelines for the teacher student ratio, grouping of students in appropriate age groups and developing culturally relevant curricular.
Later many organizations introduced individualization of programmes or the guidance from multidisciplinary team. The systematic training programmes clearly revealed the necessity to involve families as informants, co-therapists and as a major link in generalization of training into the community of all age and levels of training. Multidisciplinary special education strategies which remained confined to the clinical settings, then the class room in special settings, thus got transferred to the families through parent training programmes, home visits and regular parent school links.
It was after the international year of the Disabled in 1984 that Government action at National level was initiated in the country. During the decade of the disabled, grant-in-aid schemes for special schools run by NGO’s to subsidize their outlay on services was introduced to meet stipulated criterion or norms set by GOI. This supported the NGO’s which were being sustained on the meager resources available to them.
The national institutes such as the NIMH, NIVI under the ministry of welfare was established in 1984 with an objective of research and HRD to meet the national needs in collaboration with NGO’s of the country.