Experts have called for a more positive approach to people with special needs by focussing on, and helping them to discover their strengths and improvev on them.
At a one-day Special Education Case Conference, organised by a non-governmental organisation, the Inclusive Education and Individualized Education Plan Centre (IEIEPC), in collaboration with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG)Liberation Parish, several special education specialists enlightened teachers, parents and care givers on how to bring out the best in children/persons with special needs.
In a paper, ‘Supporting Special Needs Children/Persons to Discover their Strength’, Prof. Olufemi Fakolade of the Department of Special Education, University of Ibadan (UI) stated that in spite of their condition, people with special needs have unique qualities. For instance, he said people with autism are high performers on figural IQ test; those with dyslexia demonstrate superior artistic abilities; people with learning disability show higher than average entrepreneurial ability, among others.
“Once we recognise the strength of students with special needs, we can start to create positive environments within which they can thrive.”
Fakolade highlighted the practical components of supporting the discovered strength of some special needs persons to include strength awareness, positive role models, universal design for learning, strength-based learning strategies, enhanced human resources, affirmative career aspirations and environmental modification.
“By changing from a deficit orientation to a diversity perspective, and by creating positive support system within which students with learning differences can learn according to their strengths rather than their weaknesses, we can thus help these students become who God truly wants them to be,” he said.
Also, a senior lecturer at UI, Kelechi Lazarus, PhD, whose paper centred on ‘Supporting Special Needs
Children/Persons with Learning Disabilities’, urged teachers to have a sense of optimism that all pupils can succeed; show confidence that they can deal with children’s individual needs; provide a broad and balanced range of curriculum opportunities for all children; provide an extra pair of eyes and ears; explain task requirements; and support written work.
Other resource persons were Dr. John Oyundoyin, Oluwawumi Oladipupo and Ijeoma Ugwu.
On the church’s rationale for sponsoring the conference, the host Pastor, Tony Egbe said it is part of the church’s annual corporate social responsibility initiative aimed at helping parents with special needs children to identify the problems and link them with specialists that will provide support and assist them to take better care of their children.
He said with the level of participation and feedback from the event, the church may consider organising the conference twice a year to help give hope to parents that might not know where and how to get help for their children with special needs.
Over 500 children with special education needs, parents and care givers attended the conference.