“ John seems to be significantly challenged here and may have a better chance of success in another school,” said the principal.
John’s parents knew all too well what this statement meant, as he had been asked to leave his previous school as well for ‘restlessness’ and ‘disruptive behaviour’ in class, inability to cope with the syllabus, incomplete work and difficulty getting along with his peers. Regardless of the school or curriculum his parents chose, the result was the same for John.
Sadly, 9-year-old John had already attended three mainstream schools and by this point, his parents felt a sense of hopelessness. They just wanted him to be a happy child enjoying a regular schooling experience like other children. This is when John’s parents consulted a clinical psychologist for a formal assessment and were referred to VNA.
VNA strives to provide an environment that whole-heartedly accepts children for who he or she is and allows them to grow at their own pace without the pressure of achieving an academic standard set for them by society
John’s parents visited VNA with a sense of optimism and hesitation, as they were unsure if this was the right place for him, or if this school could really help him as it did not look like a regular “school”. Post their visit and a few interactions later, his parents felt more hopeful and assured that John would perhaps be better understood and supported at an alternative school such as VNA.
Given his past schooling experiences, John began school at VNA with some trepidation. It took quite a while for him in the beginning, but he eventually began to settle in once he felt included, accepted and supported. His teachers worked collaboratively with his counselor and parents to develop his very own Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to specifically address his learning, behaviour and overall developmental needs.
“We were encouraged when we watched him make friends, and heard him talk with excitement about his classes and the things that interested him. With each passing day, we observed John’s enthusiasm, confidence and happiness continue to blossom. With the right intervention, differentiated approach, and daily personalized support, we watched John beginning to transform.” said John’s parents.
Stories like John’s are the very reason why VNA exists.
What could cause such a transformation? The answer is never simple or straightforward. It is a journey each child makes in unique and individual ways.
The VNA community facilitates and rejoices in every milestone a child achieves, no matter how small a step it may seem. John is but one of the cohorts of children who come to VNA, struggling to cope with personal and societal challenges and mainstream modes of schooling – particularly when facing the challenges of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Specific / Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD).
Like a mainstream school, VNA presents each child with an array of opportunities to help them develop into well-rounded and creative individuals. While this has been much easier to achieve in a physical setting, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it significantly more challenging and frustrating to cope with remote learning for students with learning differences. The range of methods used by teachers to support the varied ways in which each child learns has also been greatly curtailed.
However, VNA teachers remain optimistic and have gone out of their way to ensure that they continue to provide their children with consistent routines and learning continuity. Beyond virtual classes, teachers have found innovative ways to connect, play and bond with their children to help them feel comforted and assured.
Despite the hardships, the pandemic has also brought about more opportunities for special educators to learn, share resources and collaborate beyond borders. At VNA, they continue to remain encouraged by the possibilities and seek to share their expertise in ‘special education’ with the wider community. They are also keen to explore partnerships that can further strengthen practices to support children in India, particularly those struggling to cope with SLD, with the belief that many more Johns can call their school a real home away from home.