Behavioural disabilities are common. So common, in fact, that there is no doubt you know some people affected by it. They range from autism to ADD to low intelligence, all of which are expressed in completely different ways for each individual. Whereas one person with autism might be so shy as to never speak, staying in their own world all day long, another might act out all the time, being aggressive and endangering both themselves, and their environment. So if they are that complicated, how can we find solutions for the many difficulties they pose?
To delve into that properly, I divided this into two posts: one for today, and one for tomorrow. There are just too many thought-provoking implications for it all to fit into one post, and there are two very distinct issues to discuss: problems relating to education, and problems relating to the justice system. Both have many implications, so much so that even feminism is strongly affected by it. Even then, though, space is limited, so this discussion will have to be restricted only to children with behavioural disabilities. Either way, for today, let’s look at education.
Laws and systems are different in every country, but for most people, there are two options: “special education” (a term hated by many, by the way) or regular education, like everyone else. Both pose many problems. With regular education, you can perhaps imagine what those problems might be. Teachers here are not at all trained to deal with children with behavioural disabilities, and especially primary school teachers don’t always need a very extensive education either way. As any beginning teacher will tell you, being in charge of 20+ rebellious kids is already hard enough, so when one of them needs extra attention, some teachers will soon run into trouble.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work at all. As mentioned before, every behavioural disability is different for every individual, so it can’t be said that regular education doesn’t work for anyone. Besides, some teachers are very well capable of keeping a class under control while still considering each individual. However, in many cases, it isn’t easy. It requires very good communication between parents and teacher, seeing as generally only the parents really know how to deal with their child, in addition to the teacher having to be extremely attentive and engaged. That, certainly, is not always the case.
“Special” education, then, might sound like a good alternative. After all, the idea is that the teachers here are specialised, and are therefore very well able to deal with these children. In practice, though, that doesn’t always work. Because behavioural disabilities come in so many different shapes and forms, putting all of these children together can create absolute chaos. Many children in these schools have trouble obeying rules, while others need strict routines to go about their everyday business. Teachers, in the meantime, are under constant pressure and have to face all of the problems that behavioural disabilities might cause, including aggression and a complete refusal to obey. After all, every type of behavioural disability can be found inside that one school. Surviving in there as a teacher is nothing short of heroic.
Of course, all these problems that accumulate in “special” schools lead many to dread ever going there. A very intelligent autistic child who requires routine and a bit of serenity can hardly be expected to function well in such a school, and it’s not like that particular child would be an exception. The same goes for many, if not most, children with behavioural disabilities.
Solving these problems, however, seems nearly impossible. Educating the teachers in regular schools is hardly an option, since not every teacher is up to that task, and particularly secondary schools already have enough of a shortage of teachers. And what else is left? To deprive these children of their education? That cannot be justified. They deserve the same rights to education as anyone else, and often have enormous potential, if only their disability can be dealt with properly. It is an issue that deserves much more research and attention, because there have been very few posts that I have been forced to end with such little recommendation for the future…
Tomorrow, we’ll see if more positive conclusions can be drawn about the justice system.
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