Schooling and the educational pathway are tricky issues. As the child is a good receiver but rather a bad transmitter (poor speech ability, poor drawing ability, etc.), he/she does not fit easily into the traditional assessment systems at school. Enrolling him in a day-care centre, even for a few hours a week, is a major advantage when enrolling him for school. As long as it is beneficial for the child, the parents should invest as much time as possible in inclusive schooling for their child, i.e. in having him/her welcomed to pre-school just like any other child. (Consult the website Service-Public.fr : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/F14984.xhtml).
The school itself is not the only consideration: you have to discern the attitude of the people you meet there. Likewise, you must be able to distinguish between the existing structural arrangements (administrative formalities, public institutions), and how the resources made available are actually implemented (advice, solutions to practical cases), within the established structure.
Enrolling your child in a day-care centre, even for a few hours a week, is a major advantage when enrolling him for school later on: we strongly recommend making every effort to make this possible.
The child will go to pre-school between ages 3 and 6 (or even 7). The best school is often the one closest to home. In fact, a long drive to school doesn’t help the child to arrive in the best of moods.
In theory, small classes make for more available teachers and other staff members. The child has a short attention and concentration span, and needs to be supported when making an effort. If the child goes to a traditional kindergarten, you are advised to meet the teacher beforehand so you can introduce him/her to your child. Speak firstly about the child himself, not about his illness. Yes, he is a Down syndrome child, and acts or reacts in a special way (in the sense that, like all children, he is special), but he’s above all a child, your child. Tell the teacher what you know about him, and let the staff find out about him so they can tell you how they view him.
If the educators need medical information to do certain activities, you can point them to the centre’s or the school’s physician and specialised professionals who will know how to answer their questions.
The teacher may request the help of a learning support assistant (see the website Service-Public.fr : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/F14984.xhtml). This request must be filed with the MDPH (departmental home for disabled persons, see website: http://www.mdph.fr) with enough advance notice. The more you evidence your application, the greater will be your chances of a positive response.
As of ages 6, and sometimes 7, there are several options available depending on the child. He can continue his education in a special class in an ordinary school (and join in with the primary school classes for some activities), a special institution, or, on an exceptional basis, he can follow an individual integration pathway in primary school classes with the support of a learning support assistant.
It’s important to find the right balance between what the child can do and what’s possible to demand from him. The child doesn’t follow the same learning syllabus, he needs more time to learn, but he will still benefit from the school environment and be stimulated by the people around him.
Your child will go to school depending on the special classes, structures and institutions we can find for him and which suit him best: pre-school/primary, CLIS (see the national ministry of education website: http://www.education.gouv.fr/cid42618/mene0915406c.html), ULIS (see the national ministry of education website: http://www.education.gouv.fr/cid52478/mene1015813c.html), or IME (see the Legifrance website: http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do;jsessionid=B74690DEFCEAAB2E0815A5522DE8C07F.tpdjo09v_1?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006174436&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006074069&dateTexte=20120810) as a secondary plus high school (the ULIS are often part of a vocational high school), depending on the child.
No matter what type of school he’s going to, the child needs to be with his peers and with other children. When he’s going to a special school, an extracurricular activity (football, dancing, music, etc.) with children his own age often contributes to a beneficial integration. On the other hand, the right sport or special scouting help children integrated in a non-specialised school to make real friends amongst children like himself.
You must make the most of opportunities to inform the parents of children in your child’s class about his illness. The pupils should also be aware of it. Regular contact with the teacher is crucial throughout the year, whenever the child’s behaviour changes at home or at school. For a successful follow-up, it’s a good idea to hold a meeting two or three times a year between the various therapists and the educational team.
As from adolescence, pre-professional workshops help your child to acquire practical, hands-on skills like ironing, cooking or gardening, with a view to a future vocational induction. Because abstraction is very difficult due to the intellectual disability, school learning remains limited and does not allow the young person to pursue intellectual studies.
The way your child is being educated is often challenged. You have to think ahead and keep your bearings. In the event of difficulties, help can be had from associations, and from families in the same case. The system is such that the choices are made by the different commissions involved and not by the parents. If the decisions do not seem to be the right ones and the situation seems to be in a stalemate, address the issue with higher authorities (local education board, prefecture), to make them aware of what’s being requested. In general, requests of this sort are received with kindness.
The educational choices rest with the parents, although you may want to seek advice from the right people. Our children have the right, just like other children, to go to school and have an education that’s right for them.
Thanks to the “handicap” law of 11 February 2005 (see the Legifrance website: http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000809647&fastPos=10&fastReqId=1037226955&categorieLien=cid&oldAction=rechTexte), a refusal, which was frequent in the past, should no longer be possible (see the website Service-Public.fr : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/F14984.xhtml). In fact the new law obliges the nearest educational institution to draw up an individual project for the child. Several procedures allow ordinary school education to be adapted to your child: CLIS (see the national ministry of education website: http://www.education.gouv.fr/cid42618/mene0915406c.html), ULIS (see the national ministry of education website: http://www.education.gouv.fr/cid52478/mene1015813c.html) as a secondary plus high school (the ULIS are often part of a vocational high school), or IME (see the Legifrance website: http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do;jsessionid=B74690DEFCEAAB2E0815A5522DE8C07F.tpdjo09v_1?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006174436&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006074069&dateTexte=20120810).
CDAPH (Commission des Droits et de l’Autonomie des Personnes Handicapées; see the ministry of labour website: http://travail-emploi.gouv.fr/etudes-recherche-statistiques-de,76/statistiques,78/les-travailleurs-handicapes,88/les-mots-des-travailleurs,250/commissions-des-droits-et-de-l,3347.html), a division of MDPH (Maison Départementale des Personnes Handicapées; see the website Service Public.fr : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/F2006.xhtml), takes into account the parents’ opinion and allows them to take a more efficient role in making decisions about their child’s educational choices.
1) IMEs (Instituts Médico-Educatifs; see the Legifrance website: http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do;jsessionid=B74690DEFCEAAB2E0815A5522DE8C07F.tpdjo09v_1?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006174436&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006074069&dateTexte=20120810) are special education centres that take in mentally challenged people aged 6 to 20. They include the former medical-educational institutes and often the former medical-vocational institutes. They are intended for the general education of children ages 6 to 14 approximately, and for the general, pre-professional and vocational education of teenagers from approximately 14 to 20. These institutions often include boarding facilities.
2) Adults often live in special homes. Specialised educators help them through daily life, as needed, while teaching them how to be more independent.
3) Other types of institutions, like early medical-social action centres (CAMSP; see the website Service-Public.fr :http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/F1868.xhtml) or the special education and homecare services (SESSAD; see the website Service-Public.fr :http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/F14984.xhtml) are responsible for child rehabilitation. These programmes help them from a very early age onwards and can also be dispensed in other public organisations or by independent professionals in liaison with the physician monitoring your child.