As part of Disability Week, which starts on Monday 14 November, we spent an immersion day at the Jean Zay school in Limoges. Since the start of the school year in September, it has welcomed four students with multiple disabilities to a UEE (external learning unit). Two-way wealth.
Welcoming children with multiple disabilities in a school is a bit of a challenge. Some are in wheelchairs, do not communicate with speech, sometimes have visual impairments, incontinence problems or are tube fed.
“When the regional health agency approached us last year, because we were one of the few one-story schools in Limoges, we were a little afraid. We were afraid of the unknown. Going into this device, we were aware of the challenge. Today, it’s only positive”says Delphine Schneider, principal of Jean Zay School.
It is a great asset, for everyone. A great way to work with disability in school.Delphine Schneider
Principal Jean Zay School
Opened at the beginning of the school year in September 2022, the UEE (external learning unit) of the Jean Zay school welcomes 4 students with multiple disabilities: Youcef and Paul (age 7), Eloi and Molly (age 10). Molly, who was sick the day we arrived, is not pictured.
They have a dedicated space: an activity room, a classroom and toilets which are specially equipped during the summer. They are accompanied there, throughout the day, by a specialist teacher, Claire Aymard, and a medical-psychological assistant, Karine Nilawhich depends on the IEM (institute of motor education) of Couzeix where the four young people have been followed for several years.
This device enters the framework of education in a medical-social institution, which can be done in a center (UE) or externally, at school, in a common environment (UEE).
Paramedics also intervene in the unit every day – occupational therapist, psychomotor therapist and physiotherapist – because being involved in school should not make us forget the medical sessions these children need.
UEE children share time with other students, during breaks and canteen, but also during joint seminars (singing, reading) or sports activities (motor skills course with SM at the beginning of the year).
When we arrived, they were attending rehearsals of “La Marseillaise” by CM2 students who were to take part in the 11 November commemoration the following day.
Paul, Youcef, Eloi and Molly’s day always starts with small rituals: who is there today, how is the weather? Then come the stories and poems illustrated in a very creative way by the two speakers from UEE.
For each student, a a personalized six-month project is created. With simple objectives: knowing how to identify your first name between two by Christmas, following a horizontal line, recognizing shapes…
Until now, the four children were attended all day at the IEM in Couzeix, where the teaching hours were quite limited, 30 minutes of lessons a day, in between many medical appointments.
“There, they are with us all day, it’s more comfortable, we can go at their pace. And socially, they evolve very quickly. Paul, for example, tries to make sounds, to speak, because he hears other children talk. around him, which was not the case at IEM”says Claire Aymard, Mme.
Then comes the time for it canteen, another adventure because you have to go there by minibus adapted for wheelchairs. Karine, the medical-psychological assistant, accompanies the four children with domestic help from a private company, also called. For some, food must be mixed.
“At first we thought it would be complicated, because the canteen is a very noisy environment. But not at all, they learned quickly and it is part of the moments of exchange with other children.”says Karine Nila.
A successful integration
The arrival of students with multiple disabilities was prepared within the school. In June, 4 IEM children came to spend two days diving. The school students were then invited to ask all the questions they wanted about disability.
“At first we were a little scared. But they told us their illnesses, why they were like that. And at the beginning of the school year, after a few days, things were going very well, they don’t answer us. but at the same time we know that they understand us”Léon, Kathleen, Farah and Maël, CM2 students told me.
And in fact, the UEE kids seem perfectly integrated. As soon as the recess bell rings, a group of students spontaneously come to pick them up. They get news, push wheelchairs, give kisses.
ABOUT parents of four children, this device is experienced as a real possibility.
“Our son seems very happy to be here, he is always happy to come. He loves the contact with other children, it gives him confidence.”rejoices Arianne Vedrenne, Eloi’s mother.
“We feel that he is complete, more sociable. Smarter and more attentive too, he is progressing faster. For us it is a source of pride, a great joy, that he goes to school like the others.”says Mohamed Hammoudi, Youcef’s father.
Two-way wealth. Because here, the handicap is normalized. It is part of everyday life for the students, teachers and trainees of this model school. “It’s a win-win”, concludes the school director.
A new device, which is useful for everyone.
To date, there are only two ESUs dedicated to multiple disabilities in Limousin: that of the Jean Zay school in Limoges and that of the Louis Pons school in Brive, which opened ten years ago and served as a reference for the creation of that of Limoges.
But in total, in Limousin there are 30 contracted teaching units, in the first and second degree. They deal with other types of disability: autism, behavioral problems… 250 students benefit from this system at the Limoges Academy.
In general, there is 5056 disabled students in Limousinin UE (learning unit), UEE (external learning unit), ULIS (localized unit for inclusive education) or accompanied by an AESH.