DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
In my time as a teacher, I met many types of children, some brilliant and quick-witted, some average, and some simply unable to perform as well as everyone else because of a natural impairment caused by various types of accidents. In this last category, I encountered children with sight, hearing, speaking, or walking disabilities. Despite the fact I was not trained specifically in dealing with such cases, in my desire to teach them the things I teach normal children, I consulted various books on the subject, contacted people who have dealt with such cases before. I am glad to report that I managed to do almost everything that is required by such cases in order to help the children integrate well in society and receive a good education, obtaining positive results every time.
Not long ago, as primary school teacher, I took on a new generation of 1st graders. On the first day, a family came to me to enlist their 9-year old in 1st grade. I asked why they haven’t done this earlier (the usual age is 6 or 7 in our country), I asked why they haven’t brought the child at school like everyone else. They explained that Aurica was diagnosed with infantile spinal paralysis, rendering the girls unable to walk on her own, let alone come to school every day. The doctors recommended a form of home schooling.
Despite her impediment, the girl wanted to learn, wanted to be part of the world she lives in, and her parents were willing to do everything in their power to make that happen. I accepted the challenge. It was my duty as educator to give everyone a fair chance at education.
Beside teaching her reading writing and the other subject that are normally taught in 1st grade, my other concern was integrating Aurica into a social group, into the classroom full of pupils. She would not attend classes like the rest, but she was their colleague and she was going to have to be an active part of that group. The first step was to tell my pupils about her. I was bombarded with questions. Why is she not coming to school? What is her name? How old is she? What is she like? I told them the whole story; about her illness, about her daily program, about the things I teach her. The children were curious to meet her so they invited her at school. They even came with a few ideas to surprise her.
I considered important to inform the children about Aurica’s condition and prepare them for the moment they will interact using activities and games that mimicked the lack of certain senses and abilities – hearing, sight, walking and moving properly. Through these games, the children understood her situation better and were prepared to have direct contact with her.
When Aurica came to school in a wheelchair, the children were thrilled. They offered her sweets, toys, books, crayons. They introduced one another, showed her the classroom, and recited poems, songs, played. The day bore a strong emotional charge, both for the pupils and for me as their teacher. A million things could have gone wrong that day but did not because the children were prepared to face the situation. The children liked Aurica right along and invited her come back to school for other extracurricular activities. After that, many of them would visit her every day with silly excuses. They played, talked about lessons.
The parents were invited along with their child to all extracurricular activities in the school: exhibitions, artistic shows etc.. Aurica registered significant progress in learning the notions of the first year of school. She was invited to participate the end of the year ceremonies, the ABC Show, an artistic program we usually put on in the conclusion of the 1st grade. Aurica played a character in the show, she had fun with her friends and felt like an integrated part of the world.
In the case of a handicapped child like Aurica, teaching is not an easy task. There are a million factors to consider before embarking on this perilous mission, from the child’s abilities and limitations, to the parents’ situation and power to help. It is important to implicate the family in every step of the educational process because, in the end, they are the one spending the most time with the problem child. That is why I provided them with materials about didactic methods used in teaching various notions, and insisted in their active participation in the child’s school experience, as well as the various artistic programs we undertook during the school year.
In addition, Like in Aurica’s case, where she needs to be taught home because she cannot bear the effort of coming to school daily, it is important to wipe away the feeling of being excluded from society caused by her disability. My efforts were directed at integrating her in a social group, in the classroom of pupils. A child like Aurica must be taught, beside reading, writing, mathematics and sciences, ways to work past one’s disabilities and have as close to normal a life experience as possible.