In this article we will discuss about the provisions for the educable and trainable mentally-retarded children.
Provision for the Educable Mentally-Retarded:
Although this group of children tend to fail in ordinary school nevertheless they are capable of progressing in the normal school subjects of reading, writing and counting, up to a useful and functional level, provided that the curriculum and methodology of teaching these subjects is specially devised to meet the limitations of their nature.
Though the ordinary primary school programme may be basically accepted it will have to be greatly modified and instituted in special Schools or Classes, where numbers can be kept small and the teachers have been specially trained for this type of work. The whole direction of such a school should be towards the attainment of ends other than those of academic excellence.
The standards aimed at and the methods employed should be functionally orientated. All the school activities including those in the basic tool subjects, should sub-serve practical, realistic and realisable aims for this type of child.
The most important objectives for the teacher lie in helping the mentally- retarded child to develop these attributes which will enable him to become a self-sufficient and accepted adult member of the community in which he lives.
In this regard we are obliged to pay as much or more attention to the main requirements for happy community living as to purely academic achievement. Our primary concern must be to promote not so much the three R’s, as the three A’s, of Personal Adequacy, Social Adequacy and Occupational Adequacy.
Personal Adequacy means more than just the ability to take care of one’s ordinary everyday needs. It involves in addition, accepting oneself and ones limitations, but at the same time having an awareness of one’s positive attributes and capitalising on these. Personal Adequacy for the mentally-retarded is concerned as much with self-respect as self-care.
Social Adequacy as an educational aim, means helping the child to behave and conduct himself generally in ways that make him acceptable to his fellowmen both in work and in leisure activities.
The third main aim in the education of the mentally-retarded child. Occupational Adequacy, is essentially practical. We are seeking here to impart those skills which will enable him to secure employment and become either wholly, partially or economically independent. Even so it would be wrong to imagine that this involves us solely is training in specific work skills.
Of at least equal importance is the promotion of attitudes and behaviour in the work situation which make him acceptable both to his employer and to his fellow- workers. In the lower occupations a friendly cooperative, disposition, good manners, punctuality and perseverance, are often more important factors in securing and holding a job than knowledge of a specific skill or trade.
It is within this context of occupational competence that the tool subjects of reading, writing and counting should be emphasised, in so far as they are required to do certain jobs. In India, at present, the principal requirement for the vast majority of jobs is still physical skill of some kind. Short-comings in respect of literacy and numeracy do not as yet constitute a serious barrier to employment.
This is all to the good so far as the educable handicapped child is concerned but it will not always be so. Increasing industrialization will tend to place a great premium on functional levels of attainment in the basic school subjects as a necessary condition for the acquisition of industrial skills, even at the lowest level.
The ultimate purpose then of the education which has been outlined for the Edcuable Mentally-Retarded child is to help the child in a positive realistic way to take his place in the community as a wage – earner and a citizen.
Provision for the Trainable Mentally-Retarded:
In the case of this group of mentally handicapped children even the above limited aims are impossible of achievement. No matter how much the ordinary school curriculum is modified and simplified, they will still find it impossible to cope with subjects that have a strong academic bias, and the normal school subjects of reading and arithmetic come under this heading.
To force the study of these subjects on such children is not only misguided, but downright cruel, and serves only to promote feelings of inadequacy and a sense of failure. These children need provision of a rather different type and this is best provided separately from the educable group, in Occupational or Training Centres or Classes.
The fact must be accepted that this group of mentally handicapped children will always require some form of protected environment, either, under guardianship in their own homes or under care in an institution or Sheltered Workshop.
This is not to say however, that they are incapable of deriving benefit from education, though it must clearly differ from that of normal children, with the accent falling on the training of the will and the emotions rather than the intellect. Our aim should be to make them as self-sufficient, socially adjusted and economically useful as their limited resources will allow.
With these broad objectives in mind the curriculum would tend to cover the following main areas:
A programme of simple habit-training enables these children to develop skills of self-help in respect of their daily practical needs such as eating, dressing, washing, toilet etc. These abilities relieve the burden on parents and make the child more acceptable in the home.
Through group activities as in games, story-telling and simple dramatic work we can train the child to work peacefully and co-operatively with others. In addition to utilising such situations to instill good manners and consideration for others, we can use them also as a basis for aesthetic experience and training.
3. Sensory Training:
They must also learn, through special instruction and with the aid of special materials to make the fullest use of their senses so that they gain increasing awareness of themselves and the world they live in.
4. Language Development:
All the activities in the curriculum should be used to aid the child towards better speech and understanding of verbal concepts. Though he will always have difficulty in communication, story-telling, simple dramatic work and discussions will help him both to listen better and to express his ideas more clearly.
5. Craft Work:
In order that they may experience feelings of self-confidence and self-respect and at the same time develop motor control, they should be taught simple crafts such as weaving basketry, rug-making and so on. Some of these skills may enable them to achieve some degree of economic self-sufficiency in the future.
6. Academic Skills:
These should find place in the curriculum only in respect of social ends. These children will never reach truly functional standards of proficiency in reading and counting, but a knowledge of simple everyday words and of simple calculation in money taken from real life-situations, will be of great value to them in moving about in the community.
A place for music of some kind must also be found as a means of releasing energy, and to provide a form of expression which the mentally handicapped enjoy.
In short, the educational programme for the Trainable Mentally-Retarded emphasises physical and social rather than intellectual skills Self-sufficiency and independence are stressed so that the burden which they impose on their parents and on the community is minimised, while they themselves enjoy as full a life as is possible for them.
In seeking to educate the mentally-retarded of both categories the aim of increasing their awareness, of themselves of the word they live in and their relationship to it, looms large, but spiritual values have their place also. All that has been outlined above means that we have to think big in making provision for our mentally handicapped children.
These aims and purposes can only be realised if we have small classes, specially trained teachers, adequate teaching materials, and co-operative parents and an understanding public. The cost may be high but the end justifies the means. If we can help the mentally- retarded child to achieve his fullest possible growth, and to be happy in himself and in his world, then the cost is well worthwhile.