What are the rights of children with special needs?

The human rights of all children, including those with disabilities, are well considered in The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention includes a specific article recognizing and promoting the rights of children with disabilities. Besides the CRC, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006, presents a powerful momentum to promote the human rights of all children with disabilities.

Human rights recognize the need for an inclusive society and it provides both the motivation and the groundwork for the movement towards inclusion for children with disabilities. Inclusion requires the acknowledgment of all children as an important part of society and the respect of all of their rights, regardless of age, sex, language, ethnicity, poverty or impairment. For creating an inclusive society, we need to remove the barriers that might prevent the enjoyment of these rights, and involves the construction of encouraging as well as protective surroundings.

According to the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1966), ― For the purpose of this Convention the term „discrimination‟ includes distinction, exclusion, limitation or preference which being based on race colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic condition or birth, has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing equality of treatment in education”.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that the inclusion of children who would otherwise be perceived as ‟different‟ requires “changing the attitudes and practices of individuals, organisations and associations so that they can fully and equally participate in and contribute to the life of their community and culture. An inclusive society is one in which difference is respected and valued, and where discrimination and prejudice are actively combated in policies and practices.” The World Conference on Special Needs Education (SEN), organized by UNESCO and held in Salamanca, Spain, in 1994, recommended that inclusive education should be the norm. This has now been reaffirmed in the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

When we talk about inclusion in the milieu of education, it means the creation of barrier-free and child-focused learning environments. It also requires providing proper supports to make sure that all children get education in non-segregated/ discriminated environment. Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), mentions that the child‘s education be intended for the development of their personality, talents, mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; to the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding and tolerance.

The process of inclusion not only involves ̳special‘ children, but all children. It provides children with disabilities the experience of growing up in a diverse atmosphere. When the education system falls short to provide for or accommodate this diverse and encouraging environment, difficulties arise, leading to marginalization and segregation of children with disabilities.

Here, it important to differentiate between inclusion and integration. In school setting, inclusion requires that schools adapt and provide the needed support to ensure that all children can work and learn together whereas integration means the placement of children with disabilities in regular schools without essentially making any adjustments to school organization or teaching methods. Inclusion is not the same as ‘integration‘, which means bringing children with disabilities into a ‘normal‘ mainstream or helping them to adapt to ‘normal‘ standards rather than adapting and making modifications according to their requirements.

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