HC allows ‘shadow teacher’ for autistic child

Five months after the Jamnabai Narsee School removed a seven-year-old autistic child citing the reason that he was not fitting into the classroom environment and by demanding constant attention was disturbing the other children, the child will return to the same school, armed with a Bombay High Court order and a 'shadow teacher' in tow.

In the first legal sanction in the country for a 'shadow teacher' to sit with a child in classroom, the HC on Thursday allowed the child to attend class with a trained special educator who will sit with the student and help him acquire necessary skills to function independently.

The court has also asked a committee appointed by the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) to assess the progress for a month.

Dr Samir Dalwai, a behavioural paediatrician, who will make the assessment said the case would set a precedent for the rights of autistic children. "It will promote the concept of shadow teachers to support such children within the mainstream school system. It is very easy to talk about inclusive education, very difficult to implement it. It is for the first time in India that legal sanction has been given to the concept of shadow teacher," he told The Indian Express.

A division bench of Justice S J Vazifdar and Justice R Y Ganoo allowed the child to be accompanied by the shadow teacher. "The shadow teacher will be appointed by the parents at their cost," said lawyer Pradeep Havnur who represented the parents.

The school based in Juhu had in July asked the parents to take the child out of the school saying he displayed behaviour that could be detrimental to him and his classmates.

In a letter to the parents, Principal Sudeshna Chatterjee stated that the school "had pooled all resources, including paediatricians, counsellors and special educators to enable the child to meet the challenges of regular school life".

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