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This report is written by Dr Anne-Marie Montarnal, France

Summer Seminar 2014, a ” Miracle in San Marino”

organized by EDA and the University of San Marino

I had the impression, at the moment of my arrival, that San Marino, the splendid old City and the great landscape all around, had never been so beautiful. During the following three days, the excellence went on with the quality of the conferences, speakers coming from eleven different countries, for the first time a poster session, the participation of three experts running special schools for SLD students (specific learning difficulties) Anny Cooreman Headteacher from Eureka in Leuven, Belgium, Catherine Quilici (FEED) from Paris and Claire Malnoury from St. Charles at Schiltigheim, the very kindly receptions offered by the University of San Marino, the qualities of the lunches and the social dinners, the beautiful conference hall – an old little church –thanks to all these facts, you may understand my subtitle : “ Miracle in San Marino “ .

I propose to present here a few very short practical notes, (sometimes only keywords) I have taken during some conferences, they do not be considered to replace the abstract made by the authors to which you may you refer.

Anny Cooreman, Head teacher, Founder and Director of Eureka School : ”A comprehensive approach for LD-students with a long term view on personal development. “

The speaker underlines the importance to work with the parents, it is important to take in account their feelings. They feel frustrated, but they have not to be angry with their child with SLD. The parents may have   experienced the same difficulties during their childhood. It is very important for them to learn how to help their child.

The teachers of the SLD classes have to choose small interventions with large effects, they have to rethink the methods, choosing other approaches adapted to the different special needs of each pupil. The importance to use ITC facilities . For the basic knowledge, teachers have to teach on the way the student learns and need to take enough time.

Anny Cooreman says to the pupils : “ help yourself”, look for the help you need, how can you solve your problem, find out your compensating strategies and adjust your environment (using computer ). What helps you most to memorize (mind mapping for example ) , integrate a team in working together, use peer tutoring. The pupil has to change his way to look for himself, he will find out the way he compensates best, and will access to the self knowledge of the way he learns.

Teachers and parents have to help the student to create future in looking for talents, in sustaining the talents and training abilities. They have to ask the pupils what are their dreams and stimulate entrepreneurship.

Creativity must be used not only by the student but also by the teachers in the way to teach according to the difficulties and the possibilities of each student.  

 

Eleni Livaniou « ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder co-morbidity issues in learning and behavioral profile : the role of the teacher. »

ADHD – Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder- can be often associated to milder form of autism with social communication deficit and unusual behavior .

Attention deficit can be associated with :

  • impulsivity and difficulties to control motor activity, motor coordination ;
  • difficulties in proceeding : audiovisual perception, memory – short term and working memory, alertness, and inhibition ;
  • difficulties in social interaction
  • deficit in speech and language – in organizing the language
  • deficit of the cognitive development of the child as they have difficulties in regulation their attention,
  • impulsivity : they do not recognize the consequences of their actions,
  • sensory processing difficulties, weakness in spatial awareness,
  • behavioral problems,
  • social cognition deficits : difficulties in the non verbal communication, difficulties in working in group.
  • The learning difficulties of the ADHD students share many difficulties with the ASDas they have difficulties in planning and in the flexibility abilities.
  • They have difficulties to answer to the questions : what, how, where, when !

Children under stress due to SLD may exhibit the same symptoms.

Familial cases are found : - 76% for ADHD and 90 % for ASD, that shows the importance to assess the parents and the child !

It is important to change the class environment, to teach specific learning skills step by step, learning context must be simplified, need of stimulating material. Teaching must lead to social behavioral skills and social competence.

Catherine Quilici : “From the negative spiral of failure to the positive logic of succeeding”

Catherine Quilici underlines the importance to explain to the children with SLD how the brain works in order to become active and more effective learners.

It is important that they learn “how to understand a text “ , for them reading a text is a difficult puzzle. To read they have to be able to decode, to recognize the words, access to the meaning, be able to repeat the text, spot the keywords, the pieces of information, the areas involved. Reading is a complex process needing inferential skills , control skills and inhibition skills .

Intelligence is not sufficient to learn to read and write, a “double punishment” for the SLD learners (climb the tree !) - if equity is to ask all the animals to climb the tree, it will be easy for the monkey but not for the elephant - To speak we need 5000 words, to read we need 4 times more.

What is to be done to access to reading : to be able to read between the lines and to build a consistent picture.

Catherine Quilici suggests a tool box : guess a word, find the etymology, say the definition. Understanding is translation into his own words.

Reading a text means to be able to answer : who – what – where – why – how .

The huge importance of oral language. Explaining orally a text using drawings, showing the pattern of the story, being able to answer the question : am I not sure, almost sure, quite sure. Different ways can express what is understood.

Asking questions : are you able to understand, in which category belongs the text, what will follow next ? Make the analysis and justify. Learn to review, working in groups : discussions with peers and the teacher.

Eva Gyarmathy “Online portal for supporting social inclusion of people with dyslexia, the Literacy project. “

ICT is dyslexia friendly : with the choice of letters and fond , with the use of shorter sentences, topic easily understandable, assistive technology and accessible format.

Text to voice or voice to text !

How can we choose to be the best at the exam?

The use of a self assessment : fast test of achievement

Giannis Karagiannakis Mathematical learning difficulties : Dyscalculia or other factors”

I didn't take any notes during Giannis brilliant conference, but I will never forget the Model presented and the shape of the profiles projected on the screen.

The Model takes into account four domains :

- core numbers,   - memory

-visuo-spatial       - reasoning (logic and synthetic planing )

based on this Model, the speaker presented the different profiles of students with dyscalculia or difficulties in mathematics.

Looking at the shape of the profiles, very different from one student to another, it was so easy to understand that the help to be done should be adapted to each student on his area of difficulties. It means how important is is to make such profiles in order to adapt the intervention strategies.

26 % of adults with MLD are unemployed or depressed.

                                                               *   *   *

Just before leaving San Marino, I had a last look at the landscape which appeared to me as a big puzzle : green and yellow fields, dark shape of mountains, the red of the houses in the villages, and over this, a second puzzle made by the shadow projected by many little clouds navigating through the sky of this wonderful sunny day. This made me remembering that one of the speakers had compared the puzzle difficulties with the   difficulties to read and write of the dyslexic students.  

           Anne-Marie Montarnal

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