Ensure autistic children’s right of education

Though rights of autistic children are much discussed on World Autisms Day, but the subsequent progress makes a little to this effect.  A report carried in a national English daily said, nine out of ten children having autism are deprived of special and mainstream schools in Bangladesh though the Disabled Persons Protection and Rights Act – 2013 ensures their enrolment on educational institutions. The 2013 BANBAIES data shows about 90,000 children of special needs of five types — physical handicap, poor eyesight, short of hearing, problem in speech, intellectual/mental — were enrolled in bdreports2459,770 government and registered non-government primary schools in 2012 while the total autism figures in the country are so far no less than 280,000, though regrettably to say, our government has no nationwide statistics in this regard. According to WHO, the prevalence rate is 8 per 1,000 in Bangladesh, close to the global situation.

There are some traits related with autism that includes a complex neurodevelopmental disorder defined by impaired social interaction, communication deficits, restricted interests, and repetitive behavioral patterns. The autism spectrum disorder (ASD) classification includes three disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. These traits can range from mild to very severe, and may be accompanied by cognitive impairment and other co morbidities. The children having autism, therefore, must be treated with special care.  Hopefully, the autism factor has been said to given due priority at our various administrative levels in coordination with GO- NGO initiatives. At every level, the rights of these differently able people must not be ignored. To take out the social prejudice about autism and autistic children, education is a must. Only education can change people’s attitude towards the social norms about autistic people. Children with disabilities of all kinds have the right of equal opportunities according to the National Education Policy 2010. The physically or intellectually impaired children, therefore, have the right to be enrolled in any educational institute without facing any discriminatory treatment. But we are shocked to learn that some authorities refused to enrol students with autism in mainstream schools although the government ordered all primary school to enrol children with special need in schools. This negative attitude actually defies not only the human rights, but also the constitutional rights of the impaired people. Beside, special school arrangements for the differently able children in the country are very few and most of them are very expensive and out of reach for middle-class people. Admission fee for a child in these schools is Tk 50,000 and more and the monthly tuition fee ranges between Tk 3,000 and Tk 10,000 seems t too costly to bear for a guardian. Moreover, there is hardly any special school facility for the children with disability in rural areas. We share the view that awareness among teachers can play a vital role in enrolling differently able students with special needs in mainstream schools. It is certainly a wise evaluation that the early intervention in autism is important for education. Lastly, in harmony with the UN Secretary General, we are saying, by including children with different learning abilities in mainstream and specialised schools, we can change attitudes and promote respect.