He was on his belly on the floor, animated from spinning a pencil in spite of a bubbling class. Out of the blue, he stood up, paused, looked sideways and asked "Do you know Boeing 797's new twin engines?" Everything halted for a while, and then silence turned into whisper and suppressed giggles.
A teacher was simply asking the class to give an example of a noun. He was 8 years old, smart, inquisitive, with Autism, and ADHD. He was preoccupied, if not obsessed, about airplanes, cars, and anything that worked in a circling motion. But just like any boy, he loved to play, showed creativity, adored animals, and loved music. He was funny, clumsy, inattentive, and most of the time did things differently. Among the crowd, one would always notice he's the odd one out.
In a typical classroom in Thailand, 1 or 2 students have special needs due to Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Down syndrome, and other forms of disorders. Such cases are religiously and socially perceived as karma of one's unfortunate past life.
Once, it was considered as a mental illness. However, a curious mind, obsession, meltdowns, attention lapses, poor self-help skills, hyperactivity, and other behavioral characteristics constitute various challenges for teachers, parents, school administrators and the child. The lack or improper socio-educational support poses more risks than intervention.
Dr. Amar Singh, a special needs inclusion advocate, emphasizes acceptance as the first and foremost important thing in a child's life. Just like anyone else, the child possesses the faculty of human emotions and any right that each may child enjoy.
A child with special needs has the ability to feel belongingness, compassion, safety, and capable of trusting those who convey these feelings. Most of all, they have the capacity to return the same, sometimes in odd, but not very odd ways. These children could excel, overcome and succeed small and big challenges if given the right attitude and support to their needs. May it be from home, peers, and school.
Although the Thai government provides funds and assistance for education of children with special needs, there is still a wide and tremendous effort in advocating the needs especially in training teachers. Group advocates, local TV programs, and public activities have brought so much awareness and public education. It is the heartfelt desire among the community of these kids and their families for these children to feel recognition, respect, and acceptance as part of a bigger society.
Here are some organizations in Thailand that do consultation, conduct trainings, hold seminars, and sponsor awareness programs:
1. The Rainbow Room Foundation, 11/13 Thonglor 25, 9:30am-5:00pm Tue-Sat Tel. 02-0232396
Odd it may seem, but don't we all have oddities? Yet, we have someone who accepts us just as we are. Such need isn't limited to the so-called normal children or adults with odd behavior. Acceptance and compassion doesn't begin from teachers, parents, and relatives ; but from a community and a bigger society.
Our role isn't to cure Autism, Down syndrome, and the like, but to provide these odd individuals a chance to live and experience a life worth living for!