The Convention of the Rights of people with disabilities adopted in the year 2006, defines a disability as “Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
The term special needs is a catch-all phrase which can refer to a vast array of diagnoses and/or disabilities of children. Hence the term “children with special needs” (CWSNs) is for children who may have challenges which are more severe than the typical child, and could possibly last a lifetime. They’re children who have a disability or a combination of disabilities that makes learning or other activities difficult. Special-needs children include those who have: Mental Retardation, which causes them to develop more slowly than other children. Speech and Language Impairment, such as a problem expressing themselves or understanding others. Physical Disability, such as vision problem, cerebral palsy, or other conditions. Learning Disabilities, which distort messages from their senses. Emotional Disabilities, such as antisocial or other behavioral problems. Children with special needs may have developmental delays, medical conditions, psychiatric conditions, and/or congenital conditions.
In India various conditions and disabilities of CWSNs has been classified into below mentioned four major categories as per Disability Act 2016:-
A physical disability is a limitation on a person's physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina. It is a substantial and long-term condition affecting a part of a person’s body that impairs and limits their physical functioning, mobility, stamina or dexterity. The loss of physical capacity results in the person having a reduced ability, or inability, to perform body movements such as walking, moving their hands and arms, sitting and standing as well as controlling their muscles. Physical disabilities include conditions like
A) Locomotor disability: A person’s inability to execute distinctive activities associated with movement of self and objects resulting from affliction of musculoskeletal or nervous system or both, it includes—
(a) “leprosy cured person” means a person who has been cured of leprosy but is suffering from—(i) loss of sensation in hands or feet as well as loss of sensation and paresis in the eye and eye-lid but with no manifest deformity (ii) manifest deformity and paresis but having sufficient mobility in their hands and feet to enable them to engage in normal economic activity (iii) extreme physical deformity as well as advanced age which prevents him/her from accordingly.
(b) “cerebral palsy” means a group of non-progressive neurological condition affecting body movements and muscle coordination, caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring before, during or shortly after birth. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.
(c) “Dwarfism” means a medical or genetic condition resulting in an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or less. A common cause of dwarfism is a genetic mutation that affects bone growth.
(d) “Muscular dystrophy” means a group of hereditary genetic muscle disease that weakens the muscles that move the human body and persons with multiple dystrophy have incorrect and missing information in their genes, which prevents them from making the proteins they need for healthy muscles. It is characterised by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue;
(e) “Acid attack victims” means a person disfigured due to violent assaults by throwing of acid or similar corrosive substance.
B) Visual impairment
Vision impairment means that a person’s eyesight cannot be corrected to a “normal” level. Vision impairment may be caused by a loss of visual acuity, where the eye does not see objects as clearly as usual. It may also be caused by a loss of visual field, where the eye cannot see as wide an area as usual without moving the eyes or turning the head. It includes:-
(a) “blindness” means a condition where a person has any of the these conditions, after best correction—(i) total absence of sight; or (ii) visual acuity less than 3/60 or less than 10/200 (Snellen) in the better eye with best possible correction; or (iii) limitation of the field of vision subtending an angle of less than 10 degree.
(b) “low-vision” means a condition where a person has any of the these conditons, namely:— (i) visual acuity not exceeding 6/18 or less than 20/60 upto 3/60 or upto 10/200 (Snellen) in the better eye with best possible corrections; or (ii) limitation of the field of vision subtending an angle of less than 40 degree up to 10 degree.
C) Hearing impairment
Hearing impairment is the inability of an individual to hear sounds adequately. This may be due to improper development, damage or disease to any part of the hearing mechanism. Hearing is a prerequisite for the development of normal speech & language. It includes:-
(a) “deaf” means persons having 70 DB hearing loss in speech frequencies in both ears.
(b) “hard of hearing” means person having 60 DB to 70 DB hearing loss in speech frequencies in both ears.
D) “speech and language disability” means a permanent disability arising out of conditions such as laryngectomy or aphasia affecting one or more components of speech and language due to organic or neurological causes.
D) Intellectual disability
Intellectual disability (or ID) is a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functioning and skills, including communication, social and self-care skills. These limitations can cause a child to develop and learn more slowly or differently than a typically developing child. Intellectual disability can happen any time before a child turns 18 years old, even before birth. it includes:-
(a) “specific learning disabilities” means a heterogeneous group of conditions wherein there is a deficit in processing language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself as a difficulty to comprehend, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations and includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and developmental aphasia;
(b) “autism spectrum disorder” means a neuro-developmental condition typically appearing in the first three years of life that significantly affects a person's ability to communicate, understand relationships and relate to others, and is frequently associated with unusal or stereotypical rituals or behaviours. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term "spectrum" in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.
Mental behaviour—“mental illness” means a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, but does not include retardation which is a conditon of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.
Disability caused due to
(a) Chronic Neurological Conditions: Neurological disorders are medically defined as disorders that affect the brain as well as the nerves found throughout the human body and the spinal cord. Structural, biochemical or electrical abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord or other nerves can result in a range of symptoms such as—
(i) “Multiple sclerosis” means an inflammatory, nervous system disease in which the myelin sheaths around the axons of nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, leading to demyelination and affecting the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other;
(ii) “parkinson's disease” means a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people associated with degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
(b) Blood disorder—Blood disorders are conditions that impact the blood’s ability to function correctly. While some blood disorders are caused by genes, some can develop as a result of other diseases, medications or a lack of nutrients in your diet.It include:-
(i) “Haemophilia” means an inheritable disease, usually affecting only male but transmitted by women to their male children, characterised by loss or impairment of the normal clotting ability of blood so that a minor would may result in fatal bleeding;
(ii) “Thalassemia” means a group of inherited disorders characterised by reduced or absent amounts of haemoglobin.
(iii) “Sickle cell disease” means a hemolytic disorder characterised by chronic anemia, painful events, and various complications due to associated tissue and organ damage; “hemolytic” refers to the destruction of the cell membrane of red blood cells resulting in the release of hemoglobin.
Multiple Disabilities (more than one of the above specified disabilities) including deaf blindness which means a condition in which a person may have combination of hearing and visual impairments cause severe communication, developmental, and educational problems.
Children with Special Needs will need extra support, and additional services. They will have distinct goals, and will need added guidance and help meeting academic, social, emotional, and sometimes medical milestones. Persons with special needs may need lifetime guidance and support while dealing with everyday issues such as housing, employment, social involvement, and finances.
(The Author is a regular writer for this newspaper and served as Incahrge Abhedananda Home -Higher Sec Institution for Inclusive Education, Srinagar and can be reached at email@example.com)