Millennial Musing
October 3, 2017
Children with special needs

Recently there was a story in the media about a mother pleading for her autistic son to be re-admitted to a primary school, and I feel the need to talk about it. First, let me give my disclaimer. I have a close family member who has autism, so I am quite passionate about this topic and I’m prone to bias.

First, let me start off by saying children with special needs are treated as SECOND class citizens. As a parent, the minute you are told about your child’s condition, you know all your hopes and dreams for them will eventually die. Whether you wanted them to become a doctor or lawyer, you know the chances of that ever happening are almost zero.

This has nothing to do with the parent; every parent loves their children and thinks they are capable of whatever their imaginations can create. However, society always sees a completely different perspective.

Do you ever stop to think about your use of the word ‘retarded’? Retarded and stupid are used synonymously in our vocabulary, for no other reason than people think that children with special needs are stupid. It breaks my heart that people think my cousin is stupid just because he is autistic.

The way we think of a demographic dictates the way we treat them. If we consider special needs children stupid, then that’s how we’ll treat them. Furthermore, the School for Children with Special Needs quite frankly is a day care centre. Ask a parent, if you think I’m lying.

The school is simply where children are “kept”; they rarely learn life skills and assimilation. Most professionals agree that exposing autistic children to normal children helps their development. Autism is also treatable, but because we have no specialists, the children high on the spectrum just grow worse. Eventually they get older, leave the school and become their parents’ burden.

This is not to criticize the teachers at the school, as I am acutely aware of how difficult special needs children can be. However, we must face reality and admit that the school needs more specialists, such as speech therapists and behavioural training specialists.

How often do you hear about advancements for the school? The answer is almost never. We only hear about infrastructural improvements, because, as I said before, it is simply a holding place for special needs children. We need to change the way we look at special needs children and only then will people care about their futures.

My cousin has a “tic”, which is an involuntary repetitive movement and it can look strange to anyone not exposed to autism. However, that does not give people the right to verbally accost him and other children with special needs. Just because you don’t understand something does not give you the right to be rude.

If you see a child behaving in a manner that appears strange to you, it’s no trouble to ask the parent. Be as polite and sensitive as possible when asking your questions; there’s nothing wrong with being curious. Ultimately, I just want people to see special needs children as equal humans with potential. They are simply different.

My cousin’s favourite meal is pizza and he loves to drink juice. He loves to give big bear hugs and he absolutely loves the beach. He hates blowing his nose when he has a cold, and eating porridge for breakfast, as he finds it too plain. When I look at him, I see a happy child, a well-loved child; but all you will ever see is retarded.