In Haute-Savoie, a school adapted for children with neurodevelopmental disorders

In Haute-Savoie, a school adapted for children with neurodevelopmental disorders

That’s a goblin shark: it has a very long nose and very sharp teeth! explains Valentino proudly, manipulating his sculpture. This Monday afternoon, at MeeO school, it’s the plastic arts workshop: the students must represent a “treasure” and the 13-year-old boy, passionate about the marine world, decided to reproduce one the most eccentric species. He can name their names, their lifestyles, their slightest characteristic. “It’s like this: I’m autistic!” he exclaims. And it makes me feel good that I’m allowed to flourish with what I love, without anyone trying to slow me down or make fun of me. »

The teenager was educated for a long time in a traditional establishment where he did not find his place. In September, he joined My Extraordinary School (MeeO): created in 2016 and based in Annecy-le-Vieux (Haute-Savoie), this association offers a framework that is both academic and educational, entirely adapted to children with neurodevelopmental disorders. -development (dyslexia, attention deficit disorder or ADHD, autism, etc.), from primary school to the end of middle school. “Their difference is their strength: here, we make them understand that they are “differently capable”,” summarizes Félicie Petit, its founder and director.

Amazing talents

In France, 23% of children with disabilities do not have access to schooling*. A figure which can be explained by the absence of staff training and tools adapted to their learning, not to mention the difficulty in creating social bonds, which generate a real dropout. Félicie Petit understands this very quickly when her daughter, Brune, is diagnosed with Asperger’s autism. “On one side, there is the child, who loses all confidence, and on the other there are the parents: most of the time, one of the two stops working, constantly running between two appointments. you, and draws on his last strength to fill in the gaps! » she laments.

The situation leads to isolation, and sometimes even precariousness. But there is no suitable solution around her. She then decided to imagine her own, taking inspiration from a Quebec innovation, called “Giant Steps”. Thanks to the commitment of certain elected officials, public subsidies and private support, the adventure began a few months later with a dozen families involved.

Today, around fifty children, aged 6 to 16, are welcomed. In classes, which only have around ten students often grouped by skill, everything contributes to optimizing attention. “The lessons are reduced to 45 minutes and we constantly have to innovate to offer them a plan B, or even C, when it doesn’t take… It requires flexibility but is worth it! » smiles Perrine, a teacher of French, mathematics and science, for whom each lesson is also an opportunity to detect astonishing talents.

The rest of the day is tailored, closely, to children: the lunch break, for example, is done in a small group “and without too much noise, above all! » slips Milla, at the age of 11. A number of small tools and rituals are designed to meet the collective or individual needs of students. “The stress barometer, which allows them to better understand and control their anxiety, but also manual activities designed for some of our children who easily get into outbursts of anger or violence,” explains Aurélie, specialist educator.

*According to the latest Unapei study (2023).

An autonomous future

Vinn-Lucas, 11, has only been registered for a few months but his mother is already seeing benefits. “The stomach aches and morning tears turned into a big smile. I have the impression that he is finally able to project himself! » The children stay on average for three years, before embarking on various courses, part of which is within classical education. “This morning, we received the report card from a former student, now in ordinary middle school, with congratulations,” says Aurélie. It’s a real source of pride! “.

But MeeO’s mission is far from being a “bridge” to educational integration. Each afternoon is devoted to an opening or discovery activity with external speakers. The objective, for Félicie Petit: to allow these children to envisage, above all, “an autonomous and peaceful future” in society.

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