DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
This is the story of a 17-year-old student with cognitive/affective deficit disorder and learning difficulties, who is currently attending the 10th grade in a Science and Technology course with an Alternative Curriculum, in order to complete the 12th grade.
The family consists of four people, the parents, the student and one brother. His father and brother also have cognitive difficulties. The student comes from a poor socio-economic background: his father is often unemployed, or is sporadically employed and his mother work as a seamstress in a company. The qualifications of the parents are low, they have a low social-cultural level. However, they have been very collaborative and supportive in what concerns school and learning.
From an early age the student has revealed great interest in trains and he has developed an expertise in trains: types of trains, locomotives, railways, wagons.
There are benefits from the support of the Special Education Programme since primary school. In addition to student’s learning difficulties, he was shy and had a poor relationship with peers as he isolated himself. Due to that, the student was accompanied since the age of eight by a psychologist in the development appointments at Amato Lusitano Hospital. There was a period of interruption in the 5th and 6th grade, as he didn´t attend appointments. The student was then directed, by the school, back to psychological support in 2010, in the seventh grade, due to his emotional discomfort as he kept isolating himself, and interacted poorly with peers.
The psychological support, as well as the articulation between different professionals (special education teachers, a social worker, the class director, and other teachers) with the students of the class proved to be effective. In addition to having improved relations with peers, this student has improved his self-esteem, as school strategies highlighted his detailed knowledge on trains: the student guided colleagues on study visits to the train station and drafted an article for the school newspaper, produced and presented different works at school and in exhibitions related to the trains theme, which had reflections in his school integration.
The support of the School Social Services providing meals at school, books and school materials for the student as well as the School Project-RAFA (by supporting struggling families with food supplies) have been most significant to overcome the economic problems of this family.
The student is attending the center of resources for inclusion (CRI) at APPCDM (institution for mentally disabled children), since March 2011, with the objective of vocational preparation and screening to develop personal autonomy and professional orientation. This success has to do with the interaction of the involved agents in and out of school, the social worker, the psychologist, the special education teachers, and the APPCDM technicians, who support the student’s vocational identification and resolution, whether at high school or at APPACDM, where he attended with success classes in the gardening area (his favorite area), and he is attending classes in the locksmith area for vocational student screening. His future professional ambition is to be a ticket inspector, which he hopes to accomplish one day.
He occupies his free time with researching everything that concerns the train topic, be they paths of trains, locomotives, or wagons. He even has a homemade platform project with support from his father. He practices dance at João Roiz School and swimming through APPACDM support, activities which have also helped to consolidate his personality.