Wow! It’s been such a long time I posted here. I’m really sorry for the looooong delay (that sounds like tautology right? At least in my ears)! I've really missed this blog. And I repent today. You won’t have to wait long for subsequent posts (I pray).
“Then Jesus told them this story: If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won't you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? And when you find it, you will be so glad that you will put it on your shoulder”. (Luke 15:3-5. Contemporary English Version)
Many parents tell the story of their child being rejected by a school because the child has autism (and may have been displaying some challenging behaviours). I remember being angry the first few times I heard such stories, but overtime I realised it was better the parents found a school that would accommodate their child than insist on keeping the child in a school that may be hostile to the child, which won’t help anyway.
Sometime recently my boss and I considered going round mainstream schools around our community to create awareness on autism and probably organise trainings for the teachers, so that they can handle any child they suspect may be on the spectrum. At the first school we went, the Headmistress did not mince words in telling us she was not interested in any awareness or training, as she had no plans of accepting any child with special needs. She was really angry that we even considered coming to her school for training. Needless to say, we left that school extremely sad. We were sad because we feared for any child in that school that may be on the autism spectrum, or may have any other related disorder.
In the scripture above, Jesus told the story of a shepherd that left ninety-nine sheep behind to find a missing one. And I ask myself if as shepherds, either as teachers or parents, would we have gone out of our way to find that ONE?
I believe strongly in the idea of “no child left behind”. Some people in Northern Nigeria are campaigning for education for the girl-child. Some of us are campaigning around the world for education for children with special needs. In Nigeria, at least, there are still some families that keep their children with autism locked up because they think the child cannot go to school or the child is a waste. Please that child can go to school. There are mainstream schools here in Nigeria that provide special education and learning support for children on the spectrum. And there are special schools or centres that provide special education to meet the needs of these children and to help them develop skills that they need to achieve independence.
I hope that with the autism awareness campaign going on in Nigeria now, school proprietors will be encouraged to provide quality education for children with autism and children that have other types of special education needs. If autism is as common in Nigeria as reported, there is a need to provide education for the children on the spectrum that are around us. Like the illustration in Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, do we want to leave these children that we consider as different, without help? Do we want to leave them in a wilderness? I hope we all answer NO. If as a school proprietor, you want to help, you don’t have to just provide somewhere for them to go everyday. Employ the services of special needs teachers or send the teachers you have in your school for training. You must decide that you want to give them QUALITY education.
In our campaign for quality education for children with special needs, we would not overlook neuro-typical or regular children (children that do not have autism or related disorders). Although that shepherd left the ninety-nine to look out for the missing one, we are not saying “neglect other children”. No way!!! It’s actually not a question of “99 or 1?” What we desire actually is 99 and 1. A situation where regular children, male or female, and children with special needs can have access to quality education, regardless of the social class of their parents or their location in the country.
Thank you for reading... I’ll be back with more autism gist.