Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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Dyslexia and self-esteem
Students with learning difficulties
Aspects to consider:
 Period and place in which the experience took place :
The events described took place during the current school year; the student is in the second year of the High School specializing in the Study of Art in Grosseto.
Main actors involved (special focus on the profile of the student)
Student Profile
1. The student has been in possession of disability certification since Middle School (as provided for according to the Italian Law n. 104/92), for the recognition of social disadvantage due to dyslexia and dyscalculia, with severely impaired short memory. She was diagnosed with a significant anxiety-inducing component that impedes learning, accompanied by a strong lack of self-esteem. In Middle School, the student always received the aid of support teachers in the classroom together with other students with severe cognitive impairments. She arrived in High School with poor basic skills, but with consolidated digital skills and a good ability for logical organization.
2. THE CLASS: The class presents difficult interpersonal dynamics; students are present who manifest difficulty in socializing with their peers, who together with the student are excluded by the group.
3. THE TEACHERS: The teachers took note of the aggravation of the general situation compared to last year and frequently adopt teaching methods that promote the contributions of those most vulnerable in the context of teaching/learning.
4. PSYCHOLOGISTS OF TERRITORIAL HEALTHCARE SERVICES: Teachers contacted the Psychologists to have resources in order to promote a constructive approach to inclusion in the classroom; the psychologists collaborated with the teachers and organized meetings specific to the needs of the school that were held at the Listening Center.
 THE FAMILY: The family is very attentive to the needs of their daughter, but they are not able to assist her in homework, nor are they economically able to provide for home tutoring.
 Description of the factual events
 My work with the student involves the teaching of Math. The student demonstrates difficulty in the technique of numerical computation because of dyscalculia, but has good ability in the logical and intuitive retrieval of number facts. She strongly feels the discomfort of diversity because she considers this subject as an “intelligence indicator” and fears the judgment of her classmates as soon as she enters the classroom. Together with the class teacher, we decided to avoid my presence in the classroom and proposed to the student the possibility of individual study. We began working on the same arguments as the class that I proposed in a de-structured manner, enabling her to participate directly in the construction of learning. I proposed exercises of increasing difficulty, always within her grasp and capabilities. The principal objective was to increase her level of self-esteem, to avoid the snowball effect of the progressive accumulation of errors typical of dyscalculia (correcting as we went along, the exchange of symbols, the inversion of the numbers, numerator/denominator, etc.). During the lessons in which I was not present, the student slowly began to take important notes and to demonstrate sufficient skills in following proposed topics. The event that symbolized the student’s awareness of her own abilities occurred during the oral exam of a classmate. The student intervened to assist a classmate in difficulty, demonstrating to the teacher an ability to interact effectively in the content required.
 Actions carried out to identify the causes of the students difficulties
I tried to investigate the motive of her inhibition and almost total rejection that the student demonstrated last year in this subject matter; I tried to distinguish as much as possible the current learning in respect to previous studies, and found it to be more related to automatisms of calculations.
 Actions carried out to solve the situation
Every time that I tried to work on calculations, the student demonstrated closure and I immediately understood the importance of incorporating procedures involving a “parallel” course of action, in which we address the specific case of the calculation only in conjunction with the needs required according to a topic proposed in the classroom, promoting the rational use of a calculator.
Problems encountered
The student needs consistent positive reinforcement. She is emotionally dependent on the successful results of assigned work, for which in the case of the least amount of difficulty encountered in achieving the task in individual work, she abandons the assignment both at home and at school. Moreover, based on her short-term memory difficulties, she needs appropriate compensatory instruments for class tests; yet, to avoid being considered “different” or “privileged” by her classmates, she refuses the opportunity to consult materials that I prepare for these exams.
 Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents
THE COLLEAGUES OF THE CLASS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: The colleagues are aware that the student’s refusal is strongly conditioned by disinvestment due to a low level of self-esteem and pay more attention to the emotional component of learning. Based on this prospective, the Integrated Sciences Teacher, also responsible for Peer Education, has initiated a cooperative learning approach in the classroom.
THE SCHOOL COORDINATOR: The teacher in charge of the school complex has been available for meetings with class parents, to motivate the promotion of alternative educational strategies, a fundamental cultural value of our school.

 Results achieved
The student’s approach towards all subjects has significantly improved; there is still great difficulty regarding individual study, for which constant assistance would be necessary. Until today, the student undergoes testing using the same content as the rest of the class (although reduced in the difficulty level of calculations). The teachers’ objective is to assist the student in reaching the required standard subject matter foundations necessary to begin the course of the second three years of High School;
 Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
STRENGTHS: the presence of the student in the classroom represents a motive for classroom teacher to constantly research new methodologies to guarantee significant learning.
WEAKNESSES: the student still relies heavily on the judgment of her classmates. Although the possibility to change classes was offered to the student at the beginning of the school year, she refused this opportunity- it is uncertain whether she refused to challenge herself (I hope so!) or… based on a “tendency to isolate herself from the group”.
Still on some occasions, she refuses to intervene in class, despite the fact that she is able to respond.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2014.06.03

Posted by FELLI [email protected] (VOCATIONAL INSTITUTE ………… COUNTRY:ITALY …)

Message: The experience of the colleague of the Art School is really interesting.
Her story is based on a student in possession of the certificate of disability from the middle school, due to dyslexia and dyscalculia, with memory impairment.
In our opinion there are three points of interest for the success of this story:
1. Having carefully observed and analyzed the real causes of the total rejection of mathematics by the pupil;
2. Having worked hard on the girl's self-esteem, avoiding moments and situations of embarrassment;
3. Having been able to involve the whole class and the girl's parents, explaining and justifying some choices, but, above all, sensitizing students and adults to otherness, which is a fundamental cultural value of our schools.

Success stories like this quite rarely happen, especially because of the lack of time to raise the awareness of parents and the lack of availability of colleagues concerned with such problems, rather than simply concerned with finishing the year's syllabus.

Date: 2014.05.30

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

Message:  Indeed, one of the most importand problems that teachers face when working with pupils with special educational needs is those pupils' low self esteem, difficulty in relating to their peers and rejection of group activities because of accumulated frustrations, inferiority complexes and of the conviction that they are 'different" from the others. Together with spacial educational needs pupils' integration in the Romanian mass education system, it became necessary to perform personalised educational curricula that consist of adjusting the national curricula in order to pursue differentiated approaches of tasks. The first and foremost preoccupation of the teacher should be either avoiding further failure that might trigger lowering self-esteem and motivation. This is why it is necessary to pay more attention to rewarding each success, no matter how small it would be.

Date: 2014.05.23

Posted by Stéphane Fortemps (Belgium)

Message: More and more, we also try to coordinate a specific help to bring to the child with learning difficulties. The help is essential as a tool to reach success but also as a mean to prevent demotivation, despondency, depreciation feeling and finally school dropping out. Bringing a support while avoiding to stigmatize/mark the learner is important.

Date: 2014.05.22

Posted by Stéphane Fortemps (Belgique)

Message: Nous essayons également de plus en plus de coordonner une aide spécifique à apporter à l'élève atteint d'un trouble d'apprentissage. Cette aide est essentielle comme outil de réussite mais également comme moyen de prévenir la démotivation, le découragement, le sentiment de dévalorisation et in fine le décrochage. Apporter un soutien en évitant de stigmatiser l'apprenant est important.

Date: 2014.05.06

Posted by Panagiota Filippatou (Greece)

Message: I congratulate the teacher, the school, the psychologist for their attitude to this situation.
I think that is one of the best success stories I have read at these pages.

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.