Lifelong Learning Programme

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Personal Experience

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Parents’ pedagogy

Language: English
Country: Italy
Typology: patients and relatives
I have had the chance to take part in many meetings of the project "Pedagogia dei Genitori". Some have been held in schools with teachers and parents, others inside the classrooms with the students, in some cases they have been as refresher courses for teachers. I also took part in two presentations of the book written by Zucchi and Moletto, “Progetto Pedagogia dei Genitori” which contains a part about my son Stefano. The first meeting was two years ago during the happening ABILITY held in Turin, the second one was two months ago at the Pedagogic Library in Turin. On that occasion, there were a lot of teachers and some representatives of Turin City Hall, Doctor X and Professor Y, who is a well-known expert and has been in charge of pedagogy for many years in my city. When we go to these meetings as parents and sit behind the desk, I often feel afraid and deeply moved. The day before the meeting, I prepare a brief writing about what I am going to tell on that occasion and sometimes I repeat it aloud imagining to be in front of the audience, it reassures me a bit. It often happens to speak by heart, and, in particular, we, the mothers, are very good at it specially if the audience is really interested and sharing. At first, we are shy, but, after a while, we get warm and then it becomes difficult to finish our speech. Then, when I come back home, I think I would have added something more. When I come into the meeting room, I always see people looking cold or even hostile. Maybe because I do not know them or because I feel the teachers are afraid of what the disabled children's parents can tell them, maybe they are afraid of being judged or reprimanded. This is how a meeting is usually developed. After an introduction by Mr. Zucchi and Ms. Moletto, the atmosphere changes: as if by magic, it becomes warmer and the audience starts to take part, their faces relax. It seems that most of them were waiting to be asked and to listen to us and a sort of empathy is created: it is as if parents and teachers spoke the same language, the one for our children's welfare. Do not forget that teachers are parents as well and, for that, they have their own problems to bring up their children. During one of these meetings, I happened to be touched and, for that reason, I interrupted my speech about my son Stefano. When I took a glance, I noticed that most of the audience was crying and it was real sorrow, I do not know whether it was for what I was reading or for solidarity with me. I was deeply moved. I appreciated it, because it is a sign that people are not always as cold and indifferent as they are depicted, but they are able to be close to the ones like me with solidarity and participation. Two weeks ago, I went to Collegno, a town next to Turin, to talk in a secondary school, I was with another mother. The pupils were the same age as my older son, twelve, and I had expected them to be very noisy and absent-minded as they are described by their teachers. In that school there was a boy, in my opinion, seriously affected by Down's syndrome. When both the mothers and Mario, a university blind student, finished to talk, we noticed the Down boy looked excited, then Ms. Moletto called him in and asked if he wanted to speak. At the beginning, we could not understand him because he had some difficulties in distinguishing the various words, but it was later clear that he wanted to tell us his experience and what his hobbies were. His classmates listened to him carefully and, at the end, we all clapped our hands. Mirella, one Down girl's mother, was very good at explaining the students how important it is that they are close to their "differently able" classmates, because what they teach is learned and appreciated better because what they need is mainly their friends' love. I think two hours of dialogue are profitable because I am sure young people understand these facts better than adults, when they come back home many of them think over the words listened to at school. What I consider really necessary is to talk about it and explain in order to understand. The students of this class seemed a bit closed to this problem and some of them said they do not have any relationships with the boy, it was difficult to understand him and they did not understand the word "differently able". The students need to be awakened by their teachers and by their parents at home because, otherwise, they cannot suddenly understand the problem. It is also difficult for me to comprehend how my son can be "differently able"! Of course, we keep on hoping he will improve: we will try all the possible therapies and strategies again and again, we will spend money, time and strengths until we do not find the right path. I think this is the difference between the negativity and pessimism of many experts and the “parents” pedagogy. Now I would tell how the meetings at Stefano's school have been. Last year, thanks to the help of the Board for the school integration, we organised a refresher course for teachers and parents. The course consisted of three meetings: in the first, we introduced the project, in the second, we talked about the law regarding the integration, in the third, some parents of the Board told their experiences. I have to thank these parents: they were really numerous and they were really appreciated by the teachers who asked for other meetings. There were many teachers and they were very interested. This year we have submitted some projects for the Year of the differently able, through the group of study and work for integration. They chose the project "I tell you". Last week we met with the teachers and the professors Zucchi and Moletto, to check if everything for the project was all right and we were astonished because the teachers have already prepared all the papers. The children have told about Stefano and another child of the same school through poems, tales and pictures. It has been a useful work for everybody: the teachers themselves admitted they found out what they have never imagined. For example, a Stefano's friend wrote that Stefano does his homework using his hands, because Stefano uses the "easy communication", that is he uses his hands to point the pictures asked. Another interesting experience was the one at the "Perotti" school in Turin, where we met with a big group of teachers, parents of differently able children and not. During these two meetings, I have been really impressed by the large quantity of parents, larger than the one seen at Stefano's school. The last consideration: when we, the parents, talk to other disabled children's parents, we have to pay attention not to blame who is listening to us. When we tell our experiences we have not to highlight our capacities, we can make mistakes while bringing up our children and our solution is not right for everybody, because each child is unique. It is up to the parent who is listening to us to use our experience for his/her case, but we do not want to be "perfect parents". It is right to point out the obtained successes with our children, because we must always think positively and never be pessimist. It is also right to give vent to our difficulties, because it is important to let know how hard and difficult it is, sometimes, to be a parent, especially of a disabled boy.

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