Dyspraxia.lu has delivered training to one of the European schools, and will provide it at one of the international schools
When Samia Hedeili’s son was diagnosed with a learning disability, often referred to as a “dys”, she read everything available. So did mother Magali Netrval. They soon discovered that to help their children, they would need to educate teachers in Luxembourg.
“My son was diagnosed at 8 years with dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder,” says Netrval. “Despite years of practice, his handwriting was barely legible. However he was verbally bright, and could read and speak three languages. After diagnosis, we started with the iPad and overnight his class work improved dramatically. He could express himself and his anxiety subsided.”
It was at the International Forum on Learning Disabilities organised in Luxembourg in early 2016 that Hedeili discovered there was “next to nothing in place to support dys children at school”. She admits that the country’s lack of specialists, coupled with the multi-cultural environment, makes it harder for dys children.
Both mothers believe Luxembourg needs more professionals with qualifications to diagnose dys--which includes dyspraxia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthographia and dyscalculia--particularly in English. “Organisations specialised in helping SEN [special education needs] children are overwhelmed with demand. SCAP says on its website that it is refusing new patients and Dys-positiv in Colmar-Berg has long waiting lists,” says Netrval.
Hedeili met the French association Cartable Fantastique, whose mission for the last ten years has been to support children with dys, at the international fair. She discovered the best way to assist children was to train teachers to better understand dys difficulties and explain the reasonable adjustments that could be made in the classroom. That’s when she began an informational website, dyspraxie.lu.
Netrval made contact with Hedeili in 2017, specifically to promote a training course “the iPad for dys children” to teachers in Luxembourg: “A couple of us mums started the training directly with our children and their teachers. We used simple applications such as SnapType Pro and Notability.”
“Our main focus now is to help all schools see the benefit of the iPad for DYS children,” says Netrval, adding that dyspraxie.lu has worked with medical professionals to improve the tools available for children with dys.
“We try to stay constantly abreast of new assistive technology and assess new software and apps. We translate them into German and English if necessary,” says Hedeili, who hopes to meet with the Ministry of Education and the Centre for Development and Learning to improve dys support in the grand duchy.
To date, dyspraxia.lu has delivered training to one of the European schools, and will provide it at one of the international schools. Their course will also be available to any teacher in a Luxembourg state-run school through the IFEN online teacher training catalogue in 2019.
“Teachers have been very enthusiastic. The iPad is a pragmatic solution that provides immediate support. Pupils do almost all the preparation work, so the teacher doesn’t have to invest time adapting class materials,” says Hedeili. She points out that the University of Luxembourg launched a new master’s in secondary education in 2016 which includes classes about dys, but teachers recruited from neighbouring countries may not have had such training.
“We raise awareness of DYS difficulties and the solutions available, but we need more volunteers and more donations to buy iPads and run teacher training,” concludes Netrval.