Lifelong Learning Programme

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In class with a student with learning disorders
Giacomo Stella
Fabbri editore
Milano 2001
Students with learning difficulties
Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dysorthography are disabilities that deeply undermine the fundamental skills of education, especially in the early years of schooling. Recently, scientific research has provided an important contribution regarding the clarification of such disabilities in the scholastic environment, by incorporating these “disorders” in the International Classification of Diseases, Disability and Handicap (ICIDH). The discovery of the biological cause of DSA (Specific Learning Disorders) resulted in a collective sigh of relief from those involved, who suddenly felt “Not Guilty”. Moreover, these findings indicated that based on their origin, such disorders persist over time. Therefore, rehabilitation or targeted intervention cannot “resolve” the problem, and it is wrong to expect sudden improvement or a rapid disappearance of the difficulties. This does not imply the inaccessibility of the subjects in regard to the functions regulated by the normal use of the automatisms, because our cognitive system utilizes strategies of auto-correction or compensation to cancel the effect of automatic errors. Fundamental aspects include rapid identification of the problem and its accurate definition; these aspects may be uncertain and unreliable before the start of schooling. They may be made during Primary School, but require longitudinal and phasic observations, which also take into consideration the response to interventions organized to support the attempt to recuperate skills that are not being manifested.
In the scientific field, there is skepticism regarding rehabilitation methods, as well as the possibility of re-educating a “defective” function with a biological foundation. The objective of making reading and writing errors disappear, or to expect the student with dyslexia to reach “the level of the class”, is therefore misplaced and destined to provoke frustration in the child, as well as in the teacher.
Measures providing for the use of instruments that allow for compensation of the functional weaknesses derived from the disorder prove to be effective, but these tools are not always available for all educational activities. In the absence of such tools, sometimes, the child’s disability cannot be reduced in any way. Therefore, oral testing strategies instead of written exams, a reduction in the length of the exams or longer test-taking times, and dividing the work assigned in smaller quantities are strategies that are highly recommended.
The publication was chosen because it reports on the ten years following the guiding principles of the Italian Law regarding DSA. (Law 170/2010) In this treatise Prof. Giacomo Stella, one of the leading experts of specific learning disorders in Italy, focuses on the fundamental problem that teachers must face in the presence of educational failure: the identification of the true nature of the school-related problems. These problems may be attributable to a specific disability of an endogenous nature or to other factors related to the educational-relational aspects of the child.
This document distinctly underlines the scientific nature of the biological cause of Dyslexia, and in parallel, highlights the widespread inadmissibility (as is inherent in the sphere of automation) as the main motive of non-recognition, and thus the non-acceptance on behalf of school operators. It is for this reason that the treatment is frequently supplemented using examples of school experiences (it is very easy to identify with one or more of these!), for which the correct interpretation consists in an evaluation of whether the specific problem presented by the child is expressed more or less independently of the request of the scholastic content. In the early years of schooling the speed and accuracy of the acquisition of the automatisms of reading and writing is experienced by the children themselves as a measure of their individual success. Therefore, it is necessary to reflect on the significant occurrence of low self-esteem frequently observed in children with certified or non-recognized specific learning difficulties. If you wish to obtain results, and if you truly want to help a child with specific learning disabilities, it is necessary to adopt a flexible and personalized learning program, accepting differences in performance in different learning contexts.
Regarding the effectiveness of “rehabilitation paths”, often offered by specialists on the subject of skill deficit recovery, the author shifts the focus of attention. The author moves from the perspective of “repairing the defect” to the strategy of “avoiding the obstacle”, citing how the brain is perfectly capable of enabling areas other than those which are biologically anomalous to achieve the final objective proposed.
Paradoxically, and contrary to what many teachers think, compensatory measures adopted for pupils with DSA should not be construed as an accommodation and therefore a shortcut or an external support for the execution of the task, but as opportunities to develop knowledge of functional, operational learning strategies with positive repercussions for all pupils in the classroom.
The publication was cited in the list, on the website of the AID (Italian Dislexia Association), in the section entitled Publications Recommended by the AID.
Name of Compiler
Name of Institution
Role in the institution
Special Education Teacher

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.