I accidentally pressed wrong keys and found myself on Véronique Langlands' comment wall where Heather Ward is asking 'I am a qualified language teacher and am doing an Advanced Diploma in Inclusive Education. I would really like to work with children who have learning difficulties- what system do they use in France-are there special schools ?' the question I refer to is the underlined bit.
I am concerned of course. I study children/childhood and whilst children's rights is central nowadays I have done bits and pieces on special education. Our oldest daughter is Down Syndrome. We spent five years in Wales before we moved here, she went to a normal primary school where she was integrated into her class most of the time and in the SEN unit other times. I became a school governor and took on the link governorship for SEN which put me in close liaison with the teachers, the parents, the education authority and specialists they used and also the children. I learned a great deal.
Here is France our daughter, now 11, has only recently begun to go beyond where she was in Wales aged 7. So my wife, who also studies children, and I began to look at special needs children here. There is a government website that will tell all. It is a psycho-medical model. Effectively, using the heading 'handicap' children whether they have physical mental or developmental issues are treated in one fashion. Thus, if you wish to put it this way, a child who is a potential Stephen Hawking (being seriously physically disabled and in a wheel chair) with all normal intellectual qualities, is highly likely to be lumped together with autistic, ADHD and other less capable children. Our daughter was helped to develop language by using Makaton, we got here and simply met with astonishment. Firstly they had never heard of Makaton and secondly signing is for the deaf alone as far as they are concerned.
So we rejected a 'special school' immediately. In the normal school she is in a CLIS (Classe d'Intégration Scolaire) which is anything but what its name suggests. The 'teacher' proudly told us she had been a photographer, did not do well, so did a one year course and became the CLIS teacher. She is now in her third year there with a couple of weeks extra training in that time. Her pedagogic speciality appears to be shouting at the children, a well known educational tool in Victorian circles. She has support staff most of the time, but they seem to come and go with lapses between. We know other parents and carers (some are temporary or long term placements with foster families) and the latter sometimes have children with them already in a CLIS elsewhere. Where or daughter is appears to be better than others!
Now we have the dilemma with secondary schooling. Fortunately SESSAD (Service d'Education Spécialisée et de soins à Domicile) are helping and a transition to college is likely after a second additional year at primary to catch up.
So, we have started to look at SEN and provision in France seriously and have a couple of articles in mind for international journals already. The root of what is wrong, our opinion only of course, is the médico-éducatif model which is not inclusive and more or less consigns children with any kind of handicap to life's big scrapheap.