Elisabeth Bisbrouck, former school headmistress, is head of the education section at the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation. She will be holding a conference during the Day for Parents on September 20th.
Accompaniment is the common thread of my talk. It is a theme which remains valid in all aspects of life. It’s a theme of great richness and interest to people with intellectual disabilities.
Parents are the first educators of their children: who knows better than them how to proceed in everyday life? Who better than them knows the habits and the behaviour of their children? It is essential that parents should be given confidence in the education of their children.
The aim of accompaniment is to develop the capabilities of children. Each child has different and unique capabilities, and this is best verified when faced with the various causes of intellectual disabilities. These capabilities need to be transformed into skills progressively. Children need to be helped to push back their limits which, quite often, are more forced onto them than are really there. This works through pedagogy but also by valuing every type of learning.
I have the recent example of an adolescent boy living with Down Syndrome who was used to having a yogurt for desert. He waited for his mother to come and open it for him. However, this adolescent was capable of doing it himself; he had no motor disorder. Used to everything being done for him, he simply didn’t open it. Accompaniment consists in enabling him to acquire this simple gesture in order for him to become progressively more autonomous and push back what he considers as his limits. Other skills will follow; helping himself to sugar on his own and, in the end, gain autonomy and independence which, given his capabilities, is justified.
Finally, accompaniment also consists in considering people with intellectual disabilities for what they are: people. The capability of thinking and choosing is often one that is taken away from them. If a person doesn’t speak, it doesn’t mean that person can’t speak in a different way. Accompaniment also consists in helping people with intellectual disabilities to express and know what they want. They need to be taken seriously and given the possibility to say whatever they want.
The accompaniment of people with intellectual disabilities requires putting them in the centre of your life. The accompaniment must be adapted to each person in order to give a dynamic perspective to each of their life projects.
A whole programme, which will be the subject of Elisabeth Bisbrouck’s talk during the Day for Families.