Disability is a complex and multifaceted concept. The concept and meaning of disability differs across territories along numerous associated legal, political and social constructs. It is generally viewed as a physical or mental condition(s), or both, that limit(s) an individual’s movements, activities and sense perceptions. Persons with disabilities are forced to face a lot of discrimination due to prejudices and biases in society. The most vulnerable area that falls prey to the discrimination is “EDUCATION”. Disabilities are often incurable, however early identification and intervention may facilitate optimum management and also prevent exacerbating the consequent conditions.
In India, Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016 recognises 21 disability conditions. It has replaced Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act, 1995 which recognised only 7 disability conditions. It is in harmony with the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Further it provides a legal framework, generates awareness about rights of persons with disabilities, and promotes equitybased inclusion.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 ensures Free and Compulsory education to all children, including Children With Special Needs (CWSN). In the context of schools, provisions of the RPwD Act 2016 and RTE Act 2009, implies that all children with disabilities should be identified as early as possible, their special needs arising due to disabilities should be appropriately addressed and they should be supported to realize their full potential within the society. The identification process of children with disabilities should begin ideally at the moment of birth.
The field realities across the country, however, provide ample instances, where children with disabilities remain unidentified, even after getting admission in school, due to lack of awareness among school functionaries and the general population. This primarily occurs in cases of disability conditions where symptoms completely lack, or have minimum, visual manifestations that can be easily identified by parents or teachers. Disability conditions recognised by RPwD Act 2016, such as physical challenges, acid attacks, or dwarfism are easy to identify but disabilities like mental illness, specific learning disabilities, hearing impairments or autism are comparatively difficult and complex to identify without appropriate training.
Needless to say, the early and appropriate identification of condition/s of disability facilitates special attention for implementation of required educational intervention. This in turn can bring a meaningful difference in the lives of children with disabilities. Need based interventions that are implemented in inclusive educational settings, as early as possible helps children to grow with confidence and self-respect. As a result, children with disabilities can purposefully engage with society.
A survey was conducted in the year 2019, by the project team, to understand and gain information about the action taken by the States and Union Territories of India regarding the screening and identification of disability conditions and related challenges. The survey revealed the following facts - 52.9% of states were observed to face difficulty or confusion in understanding characteristics and/or symptoms of some disabilities. A majority of the states claimed to face confusion with the following disabilities: Mental Illness, Speech and Language Disability, Learning Disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, Haemophilia and Thalassemia. It was also revealed from the responses that those states that were not facing any confusion in disability conditions, had involved special educators or medical experts in the process of identification of CWSN. Approximately 76.4% of states had involved both Regular Teachers and Special Educators for the process of identification of Children with Special Needs. Lack of awareness and knowledge about the various disability conditions among regular teachers emerged as the major reason for not involving them in the identification process.
A Total of 8 states have either finalized or are in the process of finalizing their own checklists for the identification of CWSN namely, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. In addition, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir are in the process of developing checklists for the identification of CWSN. The lack of identification and screening tools hinders appropriate and timely identification of the CWSN.
To support teachers in the initial screening of children with disabilities, PRASHAST has been developed by CIET-NCERT. Part-1 of PRASHAST is for screening of all school children in order to recognise children who may have a disability. The results of Part-1 and Part2 of the PRASHAST is a preliminary step and facilitates referral for further diagnosis. Early screening ensures access to appropriate educational intervention for children with disabilities.
Teachers and PRASHAST
The PRASHAST is designed for use by the regular school teacher as they spend maximum time with students. Teachers are uniquely positioned to engage with the growth and development of children. Over a period of time, teachers can observe a child in different situations, such as classroom, playground, co-curricular activities like music, art and craft. Any child not developing typically (as per accepted norms) is easily identified by the teachers and can be referred for further diagnosis. Additionally the teachers serve as reliable contact points with parents for eliciting relevant information.
PRASHAST is divided into two parts, Part-1 and Part-2 for the preliminary screening of students in schools to facilitate further referral to assessment camps for disability certification.
PRASHAST is prepared in a manner that is user friendly, written in simple and clear language, assimilates and presents the behavioural manifestations of the 21 disabilities, mentioned in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD) 2016.
The PRASHAST enjoins the involvement of regular teachers and special educators/ counsellors/school heads/ school management committee in the screening process. The PRASHAST is a safeguard against unscientific diagnosis and needless labelling of children.
If some children in the class seem to display lack of interest, low attention, appear distracted, not participating in learning activities like other children, and seem to be sleepy and fatigued, exhibit challenging behaviours, these can all be due to either environmental or disability conditions. Physically, some of these children may not seem to be like other children in the class. This does not necessarily mean that they have a disability. With the help of PRASHAST teachers have a safeguard against jumping to inaccurate and unscientific conclusions. Usage of PRASHAST is designed to facilitate clarity about the child’s condition.
It is good to bear in mind - a child’s lack of participation in learning activities is not often not due to the ‘lack of compliance’ as often perceived.
Points to remember while using the PRASHAST:
PRASHAST aims at enhancing the participation of regular teachers in the systematic screening of students, studying in regular schools for possible disability conditions, assuming school as the smallest unit of data collection.
Procedural steps adopted for the development of PRASHAST are mentioned below:
Guidelines for School Heads
Guidelines for Regular Teachers
Guidelines for Special Educators/Resource Teachers/Counsellors
NAME OF STUDENT: _________________________________ CLASS:___________ AGE:_______
GENDER: ____________ SCHOOL: ________________________SCHOOL ID:__________________
CITY: _________________ STATE: ____________NAME OF FATHER: _______________________
NAME OF MOTHER:_______________________ HEIGHT: _________ WEIGHT: ________________
|This student has difficulty in walking or needs support to walk/ climb stairs.
|This student has difficulty in moving/using any part of the body (for example hands for writing, eating, etc.).
|This student has observable deformity such as missing any body parts, say for example hand/finger/ leg.
|This student experiences numbness (feels nothing/lack of sensation) in hand/feet/leg/arm.
|This student has stiffness/floppiness in limbs and/or jerky movement in limbs/ jerky walking pattern/ involuntary (uncontrolled) movements
|This student has problems in self-help skills/defecating/ washing/ eating /holding and placing objects/ cutting/pasting.
|This student has slurred (unclear) speech or drooling.
|This student is significantly shorter for his/her age.
|This student has a disproportionately large head/ bowed legs/ short fingers/ neck.
|This student falls frequently and has difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position.
|This student always walks on his/her toes.
|This student is an acid attack survivor.
|This student is unable to see anything using both eyes.
|This student has difficulty in seeing in low lighting or feels the need to move towards the source of light.
|This student blinks/rubs his/her eyes frequently or complains about burning sensation or itchiness in or around the eyes/ frequent headache.
|This student holds a book too far or too close while reading.
|This student faces difficulties while reading such as misplaces the line or skips lines in between, omits words, adds words, moves head along the text.
|This student avoids engaging in activities requiring visual focus such as reading or colouring or writing/copying from blackboard or prefers to copy from peers.
|This student closes or covers one eye while reading or focusing on close objects.
|This student has misaligned eyes (asymmetrical or squint).
|This student turns head to position ear in the direction of the speaker or purposefully watches the face of the speaker during a conversation.
|This student does not respond when addressed or called out.
|This student uses an unusually loud voice while speaking or often mispronounces words.
|This student frequently asks for repetition during dictation or verbal instruction.
|This student has problems in hearing environmental sounds such as the school bell, people calling or is not startled / surprised by loud noises.
|This student repeats words or parts of words or speaks in short, fragmented phrases.
|This student stammers while speaking or speaks incoherently.
|This student has difficulty in communicating or socializing with others.
|This student is unable to do everyday tasks like finishing homework/following instructions/directions of the teacher or even using the washroom without help.
|This student’s behaviour doesn’t conform to the context (playground/classroom/home) or accepted social norms for example, frequently walks out of the class without permission, speaks out of turn and keeps interrupting.
|This student has difficulty in applying what is learnt successfully in one situation/context to another. For example, she/he can solve questions related to addition with pen/pencil and paper but is unable to answer when asked ‘if there are 5 bananas and 3 mangoes, how many fruits are there in total?’
|This student reads or writes slower than the average/expected speed.
|This student has bad handwriting that lacks clarity even after sufficient practice and exercises.
|This student has continuous difficulties in understanding the meaning of what is read
|This student exhibits difficulty in recalling the spellings of learnt words/ grammar/ punctuation/ organization, even after teaching multiple times.
|This student has a comparatively short attention span or is unable to concentrate on a task.
|This student has difficulty in organizing himself/herself to complete a task on time.
|This student lacks a sense of direction (left-right/ up-down/front back).
|This student reverses letters or symbols or words or numbers while writing, for example, writing “q” instead “p” or b/d, u/v, w/m, च/ज, प/त, frequently.
|The errors committed by this student have a particular pattern or consistency.
|This student has difficulty in understanding mathematical symbols such as +, -, x, ÷.
|This student has difficulty in making eye contact or looking at the speaker.
|This student echoes or repeats words. For example, on being asked ‘What is your name?’ will repeat ‘What is your name?’ instead of telling his/her name.
|This student has difficulty in interacting/making friends/playing with peer group/classmates.
|This student finds it difficult to deal with sudden changes in routine for example, change in class teacher/change in classroom/timetable/seating arrangement.
|This student exhibits repetitive mannerisms like hand flapping, nodding head, finger movement, rocking body, and vocal repetitions (sounds/words/phrases).
|This student can count (for example 1-100) but is not able to give two pencils/three pens when asked.
|This student has difficulties in following group instructions and requires specific individual instructions by name, for example while instructing the whole class ‘open your mathematics books’, this child may require ‘Rohit, open your mathematics book’.
|During story telling sessions, this student always appears not to be interested while all others are listening keenly.
|This student reverses pronouns or avoids using pronouns. For example, when the teacher asks ‘Have you brought your homework?’ the child responds ‘You brought your homework/Rani brought your homework’.
|This student can read fluently and repeat verbatim but is not able to narrate (orally/write) in his/her own words.
|This student often appears sad or seems withdrawn or has severe mood swings or has trouble focusing or staying in her/his own seat
|This student has an unexplained weight loss or weight gain.
|This student complains frequently about aches such as headaches and stomach-aches.
|This student often has suicidal thoughts or talk about attempting suicide or indulge in self-harm activities such as making cut marks or burning.
|This student appears to be involved in drugs or alcohol use.
|This student appears to be detached from reality and lives in an imaginary world, for example, talking to imaginary friends (that is not make-believe play).
|This student appears to have intense feelings of fear without any specific reason.
|This student exhibits drastic changes in behaviour or personality, for example, fighting frequently, using weapons, and expressing a desire to seriously hurt others.
|This student gets tremors (rhythmic contraction and relaxation of muscle).
|In comparison to other students, this student gets easily tired or fatigued.
|This student has unexplained and excessive bleeding from cuts or injuries or has many large or deep bruises or has frequent/ unusual nosebleeds without a known cause.
|This student has swelling in abdomen/hands/feet or has frequent fever.
Source : NCERT
Last Modified : 2/27/2023
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