Creating inclusive learning environments for persons with autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum Disorder is the third most commonly found developmental disorder and occurs across cultures and socio-economic strata. Autism profoundly affects an individual’s capacities for learning language, social interaction and imaginative faculties. Indeed, individuals presenting with its symptoms are often regarded as ‘mad’, and relegated to the margins of social existence, without access to appropriate intervention, education or training. // Although no large-scale epidemiological survey has yet been done in India, prevalence rates suggest that upto four million individuals are likely to have autism in India alone. This poses an enormous challenge as a public health and welfare issue as well as an educational one. // This paper engages with the issues pertaining to the educational needs of persons with disability in general and Autism in particular, in the context of a developing nation like India where endemic and structural poverty, malnutrition, child mortality etc dominate welfare agendas, and where disability tends to be relegated to the backstage, It is well documented that the majority of persons with autism do not receive a basic education. Few specialized schools exist to cater to their complex needs, and the majority of them are in urban areas. There is a dire need to absorb these children within the existing educational structures and put in place inclusive and accepting teaching practices and learning environments that will enable them to actualize their potential. ‘Inclusion is very difficult idea to actualize in the context of a hierarchical, highly stratified society where caste, class gender and other axes of inequity conspire to mitigate against the marginalized. // ODL, due to its reach and flexibility is a potentially effective instrument in training teachers to create inclusive teaching –learning environments and imbibe the philosophy of inclusion in their ideology and practice. There is a pressing need to create and empower a cadre of sensitized, trained personnel to address the educational needs of persons with disability especially complex, little understood ones like Autism.