Globally, there are millions of children living with disabilities in the world. In India, National Statistical Office conducted the Survey of Persons with Disabilities its 76th round (July – December 2018) to estimate indicators of incidence and prevalence of disability, cause of disability, age at onset of disability, facilities available to the persons with disability, difficulties faced by persons with disability in accessing/using the public buildings and public transport, arrangement of regular caregiver, out-of-pocket expenses relating to disability, etc. However, children with disabilities in India have traditionally been marginalised within or excluded from schools because of their apparent difficulties. ‘Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in India- A Statistical Profile: 2021’ after the 76th round of the National Statistical Survey indicates the education level among persons with disabilities are as under:
- Among persons with disabilities of age seven years and above, 52.2 per cent were literate.
- Among persons with disabilities of age 15 years and above, 19.3 per cent had the highest educational level, secondary and above.
- Among persons with disabilities aged 3 to 35, 10.1 per cent attended preschool intervention programmes.
- The percentage of persons with disability of age 3 to 35 enrolled in ordinary school was 62.9 per cent.
- The percentage of persons of age 3 to 35 years with a disability who ever enrolled in Special School among those who were not enrolled in ordinary school or were enrolled in regular school but were not currently attending was 4.1 per cent.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 highlights equitable and inclusive education: ‘Learning for All’. It was observed that the overall enrolments in schools are declining steadily from Grade 1 to Grade 12. This enrolment decline is significantly more pronounced for Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs). There are even more significant reductions for female students within these SEDGs and often even steeper in higher education.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) required radical changes to traditional approaches to provisions for children with disabilities. One year later, the 1990 World Conference on Education for all focused on a much broader range of children with disabilities who may be excluded from or marginalised within education systems. This conference declared that inclusive education is the only means to achieve the “Education for All” goal.
The subsequent international documents reaffirmed this trend. For example, in the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (2006), disabled persons should be able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others through reasonable accommodation of their disabilities.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 defines inclusive education and sets provisions that the appropriate Government and the local authorities shall endeavour that all educational institutions funded or recognised by them provide inclusive education to children with disabilities. It also guides the training of professionals and staff to support inclusive education at all levels of school education.
This paper talks about innovative and recent trends for exploring the education of children with disabilities. The researchers may introduce the movement from special education to inclusive education and moving from isolation to inclusion and provide that solutions must focus on prevention, cure and steps to make these children as normal as possible.
2. Broaden the Horizon of Special Education Zones (SEZs)
The education system in India is constantly changing due to legislation, policies and education frameworks. The NEP 2020 talks about Special Education Zones (SEZs) based on socio-cultural identities for Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs). SEDGs are broadly categorised based on
- gender identities (particularly female and transgender individuals),
- socio-cultural identities (such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and minorities),
- geographical identities (such as students from villages, small towns, and aspirational districts),
- disabilities (including learning disabilities and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)), and
- socio-economic conditions (such as migrant communities, low-income households, children in vulnerable situations, victims of abuse or trafficking, orphans, including child beggars in urban areas, and the urban poor).
It can be challenging for general and special educators, school counsellors and psychologists, administrators and practising clinicians to keep up with these changes and be current in all areas relating to special education. The special education literature knowledge base should reflect these changes; however, there is no current resource that effectively and comprehensively does this. The purpose of “Probable Areas and Trends of Research in Special/Inclusive Education” is to fill this void by providing detailed areas of active research and current scenarios based on policies.
3. Probable Research Areas in Special/Inclusive Education
Choosing exciting and probable research areas in Special/Inclusive Education is your first challenge. There is some general advice for selecting a topic you are interested in! First, the research process is more relevant if you care about your concern—narrow your topic to something manageable. If your issue is too broad, you will find too much information and be unable to focus. This paper can help you choose and limit the scope of your subject.
The best suggestion is to think of the who, what, when, where and why questions:
- Why did you choose the topic? What interests you about it? Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
- Who are the information providers on this topic? Who might publish information about it? Who is affected by the issue? Do you know of organisations or institutions affiliated with the problem?
- What are the central questions for this topic? Is there a debate about the topic? Is there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
- Where is your topic important: local, national or international? Are there specific places affected by the subject?
- When is/was your topic important? Is it a current event or a historical issue? Do you want to compare your case by period?
As a researcher, you may have some basic questions about the education of the students in the classroom:
- Why are these pupils in a special/general/inclusive/remedial education classroom?
- Will I have students like this in my class? I’m going to be a high school or college teacher.
- Are these children called divyang, disabled, differently abled, special, exceptional, or handicapped?
- What does special/inclusive education mean?
- How will I know if some of my students have special learning needs?
- How can I help these pupils?
One of our goals in research is to answer these questions and address other concerns you may have. Unfortunately, providing satisfactory answers to these queries is not an easy task.
We have observed among researchers, guides, and special educators that confusion, controversy, and honest disagreement exist about specific issues. Therefore, as you continue your research work, review the literature, acquire some information and data, and gain experience with the samples, you will develop your personal views and meaningful answers.
The easiest step is to have a brainstorming session to see what topic is best for the researcher. It’s best to find something that interests the researcher, but the researcher shouldn’t be afraid to leave their comfort zone a little bit. Look at what is happening in the news and see if anything sparks a creative burst of thought. Then, make a long list of possible choices and begin the selection process.
The researcher can start brainstorming on critical issues, like Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and create a concise review on matters like
- Ageing, retirement, and end of life
- Employment and economic self-sufficiency
- Health and wellness
- Long-term support and services
- Self-determination and self-advocacy
- Social inclusion
- Supports for families
- Workforce issues etc.
You may try for intersectionality in the research topics like
- IDD & Cultural Diversity
- IDD & Disability Identity
- IDD & Gender Sexuality
- IDD & Health Disparities
- IDD & Legal System
- IDD & Mental Health
- IDD & Poverty
- IDD & Race Ethnicity
An extensive list is provided as an annexure of this paper, unreservedly recommended for researchers, professionals, governments, NGOs, colleges and universities to start research on these issues.
4. Setting Trends in Research
The researchers should understand the need for research, like the example below:
A parent of a 50-year-old son or daughter with a disability born before the first National Policy on Education (NPE) was formulated by the Government of India in 1968. The parents had raised a child in an era before education was a right for children with disabilities. During those eras, diagnosing any disability, predominantly intellectual and developmental disabilities, was regarded as a heavy burden, and the quality of care and life was variable. The information from the studies presented here indicates that, while life for a child with disabilities and their families is very different today from the 1968s, there is still some way to go concerning healthcare, education and complete community acceptance.
The evolving awareness of issues through trend-setting research studies brings with it responsibilities which relate to:
- The need for parents of a child diagnosed with a disability, whether prenatally or at birth, to receive accurate information about the healthcare needs of children with disabilities.
- The importance of this information being delivered in a non-threatening, balanced, natural and supportive manner.
- The reality is that not every child with a disability is sick nor has multiple health problems.
- It the importance for people with disability to receive the same healthcare as the rest of the population.
- Anxiety about illness and noting that many symptoms experienced by children with disabilities are the same as any other child would experience.
The importance of research delivering its findings accurately and not overwhelming and frightening families; rather that it be considerate of the real-life implications of a statistically significant result. Up-to-date research suggestions, on the research horizon, we can identify the ongoing need for some suggested topics as:
- The collaborative teaching approach for teachers who teach special children and how it benefits both children and teachers.
- Consider different peer and social interactions for special children in school.
- Should special education schools be separate from mainstream schools to build confidence in the kids?
- How can teachers help special kids stay away from bullying when in school?
- The interaction between students with disorders, delays and other physical impairments and functioning students
- How does it sound for a parent to have a physically lacking kid in certain areas?
- How can parents of special children ensure their better academic performance and self-confidence?
- The free and compulsory right to education for children with disabilities.
- Does an inclusive environment help students with disorders or hinder their academic performance?
- Students with autism and bullying
- What are the best practices for special children to learn
- Can mainstream teachers effectively teach special education
- up-to-date research on fertility, sexuality and relationships?
- Understanding implications for managing the dual diagnosis of autism in children and adults with Down syndrome.
- What are speech-language therapists, and how do they work in an inclusive environment.
5. Sophisticated studies
Sophisticated studies also tease the effects of different family environments and individual characteristics to understand better and predict unique risks and needs. Some examples of sophisticated research are as below:
- They maintain the quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities during end-of-life in India.
Changing disease patterns and improved life expectancy have resulted in a growing cohort of older India with intellectual disabilities, with the provision of end-of-life care to this group only recently emerging as a priority area.
- Intellectual Disability and Complex Intersections: Marginalisation under India’s Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI)
This research question can meet its aims for people with disabilities who also experience complex social disadvantages.
- Debates about dedifferentiation: twenty-first century thinking about people with intellectual disabilities as distinct members of the disability group
Dedifferentiation describes a shift from regarding cognitive impairments as the origin of difficulties experienced by people with intellectual disabilities and, instead, regarding their problems as socially produced and familiar to all people with disabilities.
- Supported Decision Making: Understanding How its Conceptual Link to Legal Capacity is Influencing the Development of Practice
The research should aim to help understand the conceptual link between supported decision-making and legal capacity and how this influences practice development. It should examine how the concept has been defined as a process of supporting a person with decision-making; a system that affords legal status; and a means of bringing a person’s will and preference to the centre of any substituted decision-making process.
- The significance of research to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented and swift changes to our lives. Threats to health and wellbeing are magnified for people with intellectual disabilities due to individual and social structural factors.
- We are exploring t Finally, the impact of an arts-based, day options program for young adults with intellectual disabilities.
This study should explore the perceived impact of participation in creative art therapy and music-based, day options programs on the social and emotional well-being of young adults with intellectual disabilities.
- Post-school options for young adults with intellectual disabilities in India.
This research should examine life after school for young adults with intellectual disabilities in India. But, first, we need to identify a snapshot of the post-school destination after the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) in India.
- Inclusive citizenship: refusing the construction of “cognitive foreigners” in the twenty-first century.
In such research, we should argue that claims for full inclusion and citizenship for the growing number of people with significant intellectual, cognitive, and psycho-social disabilities are unrealised because of cognitive ableism embedded in law, policy, and social practice that construes people as “cognitive foreigners”, excluded from belonging on this basis.
6. Innovative ideas
Innovative ideas in the research are fundamental like:
- Cross-Cultural Perspectives
- Quality of Life
- End-of-Life Care:
- The Supervisor Training
- Work Quality and Staff Enjoyment
- Supports Intensity Scale
- Clinical Judgment
- Consent for Self-Advocates and Support Staff
- Adaptive Behavior
- Teaching Practical Communication Skills
- Positive Behavior Support
- Behaviour Support Plans
- Health Promotion
- Crisis: Prevention & Response in the Community
- Efficacy of Special Education and Related Services
- Daily Choice Making – Make my choice
- Teaching Self-Management
- Teaching Problem Solving
- Teaching Goal Setting and Decision Making
- Increasing Variety in Adult Life
- Teaching Students with Severe Disabilities in Inclusive Settings
- Teaching Buddy Skills
- Social Inclusion at Work
- A Family-Centered Approach
7. Research on Support Areas
The researchers should also think of doing some research on support areas and support activities like-
- Human Development Activities
- Teaching and Education Activities
- Home Living Activities
- Community Living Activities
- Employment Activities
- Health and Safety Activities
- Behavioural Activities
- Social Activities
8. Annexure of suggested issues
- Accessing Curriculum
- Accountability Systems
- Adaptive Technology
- Arts Instruction
- Assistive Technology
- Career Readiness
- Child Find/Eligibility
- Chronic/Complex Conditions
- Classroom Management
- Common Core
- Communication Disorders (Deaf/Hard of Hearing)
- Compliance and Ethics
- Cultural Diversity
- Data-Based Individualization
- Distance Education
- Diversity in the Field
- Early Childhood (Ages 0-5)
- Early Intervention (Ages 0-3)
- Educators with Disabilities
- Elementary Level (Grades K-5)
- Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Functional Behavioral Assessments
- Gifted and Talented
- High Leverage Practices
- High support needs
- Independence/Life Skills
- Individualised Education Programs (IEPs)
- Instructional Planning
- Instructional Technology
- Intellectual/Developmental Disability
- International Programs
- Learning Disabilities
- Legal guardianship
- Linguistic Diversity
- Literacy Instruction
- Member Updates
- Mental Health
- Middle School (Grades 6-8)
- Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
- Multiple Disabilities
- National Trust schemes
- Online learning
- Open Schooling/learning
- Peer Support
- Physical Health
- Position Statements
- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
- Positive School Climate
- Poverty, Homelessness, and Insecurities
- Professional Collaboration
- Professional Development/Training
- Progress Monitoring
- Quality of Life
- Residential Care
- Remote Learning
- Secondary Level (Grades 9-12)
- Severe Disabilities
- Social Skills
- Specially Designed Instruction
- Student Engagement
- Supported decision making
- Teacher Effectiveness
- Think College
- Transition Age (Ages 18-22+)
- Transition to Adulthood
- Transition to College
- Twice Exceptional
- Universal Design for Learning
- Visual Impairments
- Volunteer Leadership
- Working with Families
- Working with Colleagues
- Government of India, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, National Statistical Office, Social Statistics Division, Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), in India – A Statistical Profile: 2021
- The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
- National Education Policy 2020
- AAIDD, Critical Issues in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Contemporary Research, Practice, and Policy
- SAGE Publications, Inc, Special Education in Context, People, Concepts, and Perspectives
- Anthony F. Rotatori, Festus E. Obiakor, Jeffrey P. Bakken, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Current Issues and Trends in Special Education, Identification, Assessment and Instruction
- Jessica Gust, How to Select the Right Research Topic in 5 Easy Steps
- Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 15, 2011, Pages 1955-1959, New trends in the education of children with disabilities