Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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Cognitive/affective deficit disorder and learning difficulties
Luísa Fernandes
English and Portuguese
low secondary
Students with learning difficulties
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.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2014.05.29

Posted by Xariklia Chronopoulou (Greece)

Message: I would like to dwell on the fact that school teachers identified early the child's "problem" and beyond their own help, they also asked for help by psychologists.
There are various ways of coping with learning difficulties and most of them provide great solutions to the "problem".

Date: 2014.05.28

Posted by SORIN AIONESEI, "Alexandru cel Bun" High School, Botosani, [email protected] (Romania)

Message: They say you can judge somebody after you have seen how he reacts do difficult situations, how he handles intense stress. I believe that, mutatis mutandis, you can judge a society by the way it treats members with various disabilities, mental or physical.
The degree of civilization can be measured by the concern shown to people with this kind of problems. Totalitarians regimes have isolated people with disabilities. In Nazi Germany, thousands of people have been killed by physicians, because they were considered unfit for a world meant only for the Ubermensch, the Herrenvolk.
The more advanced a world becomes, from a spiritual, cultural point of view, the more preoccupied becomes with the fate of its weakest members. Humanity shows its strength when it understand that persons with disabilities are normal people, first class citizens.
Howard Gardner is well known for his multiple intelligences theory. Rather than confining intelligence to the speed of mental operations and different permutations, a sounder approach would be the acknowledgement of several types of intelligence: musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, existential and the list goes on.
The intelligence the student had was closely related to the field of trains. In an intolerant school, this would have been labelled as an autistic stereotypy. The sapient teacher understood that this was his intelligence, his path to a normal adult life.
I think his dream of becoming a ticket inspector is not so far, after all.

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.