Special needs - Unexpected hurdles

It seems that finding a school that will take into account my child’s special learning needs is an an obstacle course? Is this true?

An obstacle course maybe not, but the task can be even tougher in France than it is elsewhere. For one thing, the perception of special needs is somewhat different here . Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, for example, doesn’t exist for teachers and schools in France. Articles on TDAH (the French acronym) can be found in medical journals or on-line and some parents here are convinced that their children’s performance in school is affected by it. In the classroom, however, it is considered as a behavioral problem. This might change, but certainly not in the near future. I might add that, given the very organized, structured methods used for teaching hand writing and graphic skills at an early age and the predominance of these aptitudes in the national curriculum, it seems possible to me that some of the learning that goes on in French classrooms might work in favor of certain ADHD children. This routine requires concentration on detail and self–discipline that are certainly difficult for a ADHD child, but the tasks are designed for his age and the instructions are simple 2 and 3 step movements to be repeated over and over again to perfect them. For a ADHD child, working in a familiar framework such as this can help him to focus.

My child is Dyslexic. Will my local public school take this learning difference into account?

Dyslexia is recognized as a challenging problem in the classroom and the Ministry of Education has shown interest in the subject for several years now. However, there are still no special education teachers in public schools to help children suffering from mild or moderate forms of this learning disability. The sturctures that exist are separate and they are only for students who are in great difficulty. Certain private schools are much more likely to take these students into account. Regardless of the type of school you choose, the situation should be discussed with the child’s teacher and with a doctor or pediatrician who can prescribe the necessary testing and subsequent sessions with a speech therapist (orthophoniste), the professional in France who is trained in special education.

What solutions are available for children with vision or hearing impairment?

Children affected with vision and/or hearing impairment fall into still another category. There are learning institutions in both the public and the private sector which have been specially created with a staff and a curriculum that meet the particular requirements of these children. The drawback for non-French speakers is that French is, of course, the language used. Integration classes are also available to help young disabled students gradually move into mainstream education. Good support can be found from associations such as SPRINT that help English speaking families find solution for their differently abled children. Your options will depend somewhat on what is available in the region or department you live in.

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