I think my heart has been shocked, shattered, and then shocked some more this past week. To begin with, I found out that Kazakhstan (and many other countries) do not even have a special education option for children with special needs. So, parents whose children have Autism, Intellectual Disabilities (formerly known as MR), etc. do not have an option to educate their child in a public school. And no, there is no private school option either.
So, what do these kids do? Well, the lucky ones have parents who do what they can at home or through private schooling at home, which most cannot begin to afford. For those individuals who are not so lucky, they are often sent off to a psychiatric unit (given diagnosis relating to such) and left institutionalized and medicated. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I am disgusted. HOW? WHY? I know, this is not the United States. Kazakhs are not quite as advanced in terms of education, but to think of the thousands of children being pushed aside in society literally breaks me apart inside.
I had the chance to watch "Kids with Cameras" today - a documentary about children with Autism who attend a film making camp. It was amazing! I also got to speak to the director, as well as Dr. Ryan from the U.S.A, who is an Autism expert/specialist. Kazakhstan is just now starting to understand the importance of special education and bring to light the opportunities and options for kids with special needs. I am hoping to get the chance to discuss some ideas about programs, what I can do to help, etc. with Dr. Ryan and his team this week while they are here. I can not just sit back and pretend I do not know the information I have learned. I cannot continue to teach my students at my school and think all is right in the world, when I know so many children are being academically and socially neglected. I have to find a way to help. I have to find a way to make things better.
My contract states that I am not allowed to participate in any other employment during my contracted school year, as they want us to be fresh, energetic, and dedicated to our students. I think that is fine and dandy. So, it looks like I am going to do a lot of volunteering. I have to find a way to do tutoring, social activities, SOMETHING for these kids being unattended by the education system.
Next time you hear someone complain about school, the amount of work, the cost, anything....remember, there are so many individuals out there who would LOVE the chance to learn, but someone is telling them they are not entitled to learn because they are different than us. :(