Please note this video is only available in French. You may enable English closed captioning by clicking on the CC located at the bottom right of the video player.
What was it like when Mathieu was first diagnosed with a learning disability?
MATHIEU: In grade 2, it was Miss Lyne (the therapist) who told me. I was a little shy. Since I’ve known, it has helped me better understand how I learn.
MOTHER: He found out in grade 2. I asked a consultant to help me with the process. I was realizing that he was aware that he was different than the other students. I didn’t know how to explain it to him without hurting his feelings or lowering his self-esteem. Following meetings with interveners, he reacted well. He finally understood that it was not his fault. It was because of his learning disability. He is aware he learns in a different manner, but that everything is possible. We created a video and presented it to the 3rd grade class (at the beginning of the school year). It was a success. We have known since he was very young and we started meeting with a speech therapist since he turned 3 years old.
TEACHER: Mathieu has been aware of his challenges since preschool. Last year, at the end of grade two, he created a video with the help of his parents to explain to his classmates his learning disability. However, he was not yet ready to present it. This year, in grade 3, he wanted to show his short video to his classmates. As a teacher, I facilitated a discussion about everyone’s differences leading to the introduction of Mathieu’s video. Following the video, the students asked Mathieu questions. He shared the difficulties he experienced in various areas. Mathieu’s mother explained what dyspraxia is.
We often discuss our differences in the classroom and emphasize the inclusion of everyone, with or without learning difficulties or learning disabilities, in a healthy and positive manner.
What are Mathieu’s strengths?
MATHIEU: I am good in math and social studies. I like to play hockey and play catch with my friends and neighbours. I think I am very nice with my friends and that I am determined.
MOTHER: Mathieu is very determined and applies himself well. He has a good sense of humour. He knows that I’m always there for him and that helps him feel safe.
TEACHER: Mathieu is a student who is always attentive in the classroom and who wants to succeed. He is proud when he accomplishes a task or answers a question on his own. He is very friendly toward his peers and respects the rules in the classroom. He loves mathematics, social studies and science.
What are Mathieu’s needs?
MATHIEU: I need help with French, in reading and writing. It is difficult because I try to say a word and the wrong word comes out.
MOTHER: He needs help with writing and reading. He has a tablet with software that helps him. It is easier for him to complete a task when the teacher provides short directions. Visual supports and graphic organizers help him a lot with organizational skills and understanding new concepts; these are strategies that help him process information better.
We are always afraid that he is not at the same level as his peers, that children will laugh at him because of his learning disability (speech, language, reading). We are afraid that one day we will no longer receive the help and support we get from his school and how it will interfere with his future academic success…so that one day he can find a job and have a nice future!
TEACHER: Due to his dyspraxia, it is difficult for Mathieu to organize his ideas in his mind and to verbalize them correctly. He often needs to take his time because the first answer he gives is rarely the correct answer, although he knows the right one. With the help of questions, he can come up with the correct answer and better express what he intended to say.
Regarding his writing, Mathieu uses assistive technology to help him organize his ideas and write complete and coherent sentences by spelling words without missing the syllables.
Reading remains a challenge for him. His comprehension is better when he reads in his mind but we have to guide him with questions. Kurzweil helps him understand texts and assists him with reading.
What strategies did you learn to succeed at school? How did educators help you learn these strategies?
MATHIEU: I sound out words. I refer to a word wall. I reread words that are difficult and WORD Q helps me out a lot. My teachers taught these tricks to all of my classmates.
What is the impact of having a family member with a learning disability?
MOTHER: It requires a lot of work and patience. It is very important to be accepting of the situation. Certain moments were difficult because I had to, and still do, give him more time to do several tasks. This situation often led to his brother misunderstanding and feeling jealous. We have experienced several moments of frustration and hopelessness while he tried to say a word or explain something to us that we could not understand. We worried when he began school because it was very difficult to understand him when he spoke. He was not able to complete a sentence with three words. We are very proud of his progress (his friends accept him the way he is). We are very appreciative of the support we’ve received from the staff at Renaissance School.
What should educators know?
MATHIEU: Teachers need to explain difficult words so I can better understand.
MOTHER: The most important things a teacher must know, to help a student with a learning disability in the classroom, are:
- Respect and understand their limits.
- Good communication between parents and teachers.
- Motivate and reinforce the student.
- Set realistic goals for the student.
- Have confidence in the student and encourage them to take risks. Demonstrate through gestures and motivating words that they are just as capable as others.
TEACHER: The most important things a teacher must know, to help a student with learning disabilities to succeed in the classroom, are:
- Never hesitate to ask parents and staff questions to better understand the child, know their needs, and learn strategies that work well.
- Acknowledge and celebrate small accomplishments and the student’s progress.
- Ask for help when searching for best practices.
- Familiarize yourself with various types of assistive technology.
- Collaborate with parents, special education resource teachers, and other team members at your school.
Can you provide an example of a success Mathieu experienced in the classroom?
TEACHER: I shared my classroom experience with my colleague, who had a grade 6 student with a learning disability and ADHD do a presentation in her classroom with the support of the special education resource teachers. This was also a success!