Lifelong Learning Programme

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Success Stories

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From a Nightmare to a Dream
High Secondary School
Students with learning difficulties
- main actors involved
The main "players" are: the student's parents, the class coordinator , the teacher of Italian, the school responsible for DSA ( Specific Learning Disorder), the doctor of the ASL ( Local Health Authority)

- when, where and how the story took place
The story takes place between the first and the second year in a class of an Art secondary school. We are a German family, living and working in the province of Grosseto as farmers. Our son has attended all the schools in Italy and, at home, we speak fluently our mother tongue. Up to now we have been offered a primary school really "suitable for children", but in the middle school my son expressed a remarkable uneasiness: he can not pay attention in the class, he needs to move all the time, often drops objects around him. We would like to point out that the school housed only 37 pupils, but the first thing that impressed everyone who entered was the loud noise and a general situation of unrest. Teachers begin to complain about difficulties in the management of J. and, after a medical examination at the ASL, a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder) was drawn. The certification mentioned problems in reading and writing that, in our opinion and according to the teachers, came from specific problems of the boy. For 3 years, once a week, I (the mother) went to talk to the teachers and heard, from them, just a list of negative things, such as the problems of the whole class induced by my son. The management of J. gave endless worry to the school, where there was a climate exactly opposite to that existing in the family.
The passion for everything that concerns drawing led to J.'s application to the Art School, with a lot of anxiety on our part, and of course on our son, but, from the very beginning, teachers there did not immediately mention all the problems of the past. When we have talks with them they tell us that J. moves very little in the classroom even during the morning breaks. Teachers take note of J.'s bilingualism and they also say that his oral tests are very good in almost all subjects.Maths, instead, is the subject where J. finds more difficulties and gets some poor results. We would like to highlight the fact that that our son is able to express himself in an original manner when more creative activities involving the handling practice are suggested (at home he always tries to solve mechanical problems to agricultural machinery!). The results in the professional area are more than excellent, his products are original, in spite of the fact that middle school assessment in art education was at the limits of sufficiency. The first year of secondary school ends with problems in mathematics only: in the summer, every day, my son and I have done exercises, my help at home is constant, because I am aware of J.'s difficulties in understanding texts. Earlier this year I was contacted by the new class coordinator and the school responsible for DSA students, as the teacher of Italian remarks the lack of “meaningful content” in J.'s written tests. They want to examine in depth the boy's conditions and, following their suggestion, we have J. examined by the doctor at ASL. There he is diagnosed with a serious form of dyslexia and dysorthography: our son has the same time reading and interpretation of the written message of a 2nd grade child!
Today J. is finishing his second year of secondary school and he has positive results even in the common area subjects.
- Give evidence of the possible explanation of the success
In conclusion, the reasons why we consider our story a success are:
1) the appropriate choice of secondary school, though this choice was not shared by the teachers of the middle school
2) the disappearance of emotional distress, which had arisen in previous years with the attitudes of hyperactivity and strong lack of attention, largely determined by the serene atmosphere of the learning environment in secondary school
3) the "new" framework of J.'s specific issues: we were shown the regulatory aspect of DSA and the class council prepared a PERSONALIZED LEARNING PLAN, in which we decided educational strategies in the class and at home, such as the use of the recorded lessons, subjects taught and presented as Power Point files, a longer time allowed for written skills, division of the final (summative) test in more formative tests. We want to emphasize that in the current school it does not seem to be “at school” and there is not an air of compulsion from above, rather it seems as if everybody shares the same rules simply and without much effort.
- Analyse the interaction between the different actors Involved
As parents, we are very present in the school life of our son and even though we were not aware of his problem before, we supported him with his homework because we saw him in distress. It was really important the frequent and continuous e-mail contacts with the class coordinator and then with the DSA responsible, who informed us in time of any issues which had arisen. The teacher of Italian was able to trigger a specific intervention within the planned recovery for the whole class, in which J.'s responses to stresses targeted were regularly observed and compensatory measures were activated for the study of syntactic rules and for the understanding of narrative texts.

- Identify and describe the potential transferability of the experience
The basic elements are:
1) The learning environment that fosters "Non-standardized intelligences "
2) The timely collaboration between the family and the various components of the school
3) The Italian legislation (Law 170/2010) which allows to accompany students in difficulty towards educational success.

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.