DR RADICA MAHASE
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, journalist with the New York Times, once said, "A good special-education teacher is hard to find and even harder to hang on to.”
A few months ago, I ran into a young man who very proudly told me that he is a teacher specialising in special-needs education. In that short meeting, he confidently spoke of his desires to change the education system in TT and his ideas of restructuring the curriculum so that all children, regardless of learning abilities, would have access to an education. This week, I am sharing his story.
“I am Keron Khadoo. I am 33 years of age and belong to a small village in south Trinidad. My passion is helping differently-abled and abled children to learn and reach their full potential. I also have a knack for art, floral and decorative designing. I'm from a humble family that over the years became really small as my father and two older brothers have passed.
"Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a teacher so I started off in this direction. However, my interest and love for special-needs education came into reality and I became even more passionate when my nephew was diagnosed with autism. The kindness and love he has within him warmed my heart beyond words. I knew this is what I wanted to do, to be a small part of these children's lives – even if I can make 1 per cent impact on their lives, I knew they were making 100 per cent on me.
"During the period of studying for my degree in special education I have met with some challenges along the way. My brother, who was 36 years at the time, passed away and this had a major impact on me emotionally. My parents, sister and friends were there for me with all the encouragement and I got back on track. Six months later, my dad passed on. It was such a trying time, filled with grief and sadness, but I remembered my father's words of encouragement and ploughed forward. I sincerely thank my family and friends who helped me get through the tough times to continue persevere.
"I really enjoy working with special children, the warmth and love they have is overwhelming. The passion these children have to learn is amazingly profound. They light up the lives of everyone around them and I am really privileged to have this opportunity to be a small part of their lives.
"Being a facilitator at Rahul’s Clubhouse has been such an amazing journey so far. Every day is a new adventure for me. Working with children of different ages who are on the spectrum – they have shown me so much love and appreciation in the time we spend together. Seeing the kids progress and their willingness to learn give me a reason to smile and tell me what I know – I can make a difference! Also, Rahul himself has made a great impact in my life as we bonded from our very first meeting. I know that he knows that I am here to make a difference in his life, even though he might not communicate verbally with me.
"I encourage anyone who has an interest in special-needs education to definitely go for it, this isn't just a career, it becomes your passion, it's fulfilling and the love you receive is breathtaking. More young people should explore the world of special-needs education. It is a vast field and you can learn something new every day. You can give hope, not only to children with special abilities, but also to their parents. However, before you enter this field, make sure you are passionate about it because it is more than just a job. You would have to give it your all. You have to be very patient – patience and passion should go hand in hand.
"When it comes to teaching, one thing we should always take into consideration is that every child is different and therefore learning methods may not be the same. I would say that is when your teacher's instinct should kick in and you have to make learning fun. Create an environment for your children where they feel comfortable and safe and by creating such an environment, you would be amazed at your students’ responses.
"My model of teaching is to treat each student as the unique individual he or she is and thus, create an individual plan, keeping the instructions simple for students, while advocating for them. In the future, I want to create programmes and develop special curriculum which would be able to assist teachers, as well as parents, to teach special-needs children and young adults in public educational institutions.
"Currently, all students, special needs and neurotypical, are required to go through the same curriculum. We need a separate curriculum guide for students with special needs. We need more facilities where both students and parents would be able to access the correct training and education. We also need to have awareness campaigns all the time, not only on a special day or month.
"I would love to see primary and secondary schools having a special-education programme for children with special needs. Also, for SPED educators to be spread across the nation's schools. I believe that our government has the power and potential to introduce this into the education system. My wish is for all children with learning disabilities to have an equal opportunity for success. I would like parents to know that it is okay to be worried at times because the journey is a tough one. Know also that special-needs educators, working hand in hand with you, can indeed make a big difference in your child’s life.
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T