Behavioural Education Learning Skills

Social Integration of Children With Autism: Discipline v/s Freedom

Let us take a look at Nature If we observe the birds flying in the sky, they follow a pattern.

So do the herds of animals when they cross from one place to another.

Have we ever observed the busy ants moving in a queue after collecting their food? They do not jostle, push or try to go ahead of the others.

They have no teacher to teach them “discipline” and “order”. They learned it from the intrinsic sense that Nature has given them.

This intrinsic sense of discipline or social skill also exists in our children. But with all our concern for their well being, we try to “teach” them discipline for better adjustment in society. When left to itself a child will learn to tackle such a situation and will enjoy doing so.

The child feels irritated when the adult intervenes. In most cases, the solution that the adult thinks of is different from what the child had thought of and this disturbs the harmony of the group. So it is best to allow them freedom and observe. The child learns social skill/order only through daily experiences. It is only when the child has learned the social skill/order not out of our “training” or “teaching” but by his own experience that we can expect the child to settle down comfortably in the society.

A child with difficulty has a problem in settling in society. It is because we do not try to understand the child from his perspective. The child is not allowed by the adult the spontaneous development according to his innate nature.

Almost all educators and philosophers agree on one point that from 0 to 5 years the child’s first educator is nature, the second educator is the mother and then comes the teacher. Therefore it logically follows that the natural development in the child at this period of life should not be impaired by adult interference. “When adults interfere in the stage of preparation for social life they nearly always make mistakes”, said Dr. Maria Montessori.

In a child’s world, we can find the society in its embryonic state. If we seek the example of a cohesive society we will find it among the children who accept each other readily without the difference of caste, creed, color or intellect. The integration of an individual with the group is essential for a harmonious society and this integration can happen in
school only where children from different background, different age group and different intellectual abilities come together. A child likes to work in a group. If we observe him in the classroom…

The child likes to share

Left to themselves the children empathize with each other, accept each other despite differences and admire the strong points in each other.

On the contrary, the lack of this is reflected in the society where even children are excluded because of their “difficulties”. There is very little understanding for the child and because of lack of awareness, we feel that the “difficulties” the child is facing is almost insurmountable!

We cannot handle the child because we do not understand him. Dr. Maria Montessori observes, ”We know how to find a pearl in the shell of an oyster, gold in the mountains and coal in the bowel of the earth- but we are unaware of the spiritual germs the creative nebulae that the child hides in himself when he enters our world…”

The adult mostly focuses on the lacking in the child and desperately tries to combat it through rewards or punishments or putting the child in an unnecessary competition with his peers, coaxing and cajoling him to “perform”. We seldom realize that by correcting the errors of the child we may be just humiliating him.

Similarly, we try to teach the child discipline. What we are actually doing is to distract the child in our effort to discipline him, we undermine his confidence and add to his problems of attention deficiency instead of helping him out of it. A child always criticized or reprimanded by adults only become more aggressive or become a recluse from his environment.

A child provided with the time, space and the environment to bring out his best potentials can bring out his creative instincts. In such an environment the child is bound to settle down with ease.

The concept of an integrated class room with children exposed to muli-level learning we find the reflection of an ideal society.

In an integrated class room situation it is very common to see children readily extending help to a child having difficulty in coping. They copy homework for him, comfort him if he is disturbed and readily extend a helping hand. This is the picture of an ideal society where there is empathy, tolerance, and acceptance.

At home too, a child who grows up amidst many siblings is more social, disciplined and self-sufficient than a child growing up in a nuclear family.

Therefore it is clear that the child learns to fit into the social skill/order not through training or teaching but through experience. It is interesting to note how the children come together and little by little they become aware of feeling part of a group.

If we provide for the child, a free learning environment, the children learn to work with each other, share their materials, to wait for their turn-everything which contribute to the development of a healthy society.

Gradually, this attitude of sharing is carried by the child into the greater society.

In an integrated classroom environment where each child chooses his work with complete freedom and gets absorbed in it gives the impression of perfect discipline in the classroom. No adult is required to give commands. All that is to be done is to put the child in touch with purposive actions that are waiting for him and to prepare the environment for him.

In the environment of freedom, the child settles down to social integration. No sermons but the interior guidance is given by Nature is important. Growth comes from activities and not from intellectual understanding or information. How we educate the child in its early years is therefore important. What the child achieves in these early years of life does not depend on doctrine but on the internal directives received from Nature. This development can be evolved in the right surroundings of freedom and order.

– Pradipta Kanungo

Principle of Bloomingdale Academy


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