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Students with disabilities that enroll in high school are students that come from mass schools, thus having studied English, preferably (ideally) according to their abilities, or from special schools, where no English have been studied. In high school, they have the choice of opting for enrolling in a mass class (integrated in a regular class of over thirty other teenagers without disabilities) or a special education class (of ten to fifteen teenagers with disabilities, where teaching activities are adapted to each class). Such choice is ideally made by parents in the benefit of the student, according to their educational needs, social skills and degree of readjustment.
In theory teaching must be adapted at the level of each class, moreover, each student, with or without disabilities, but somehow they must require the same learning skills, using the best methods and techniques in best learning conditions, by teachers who never get tired or burdened with personal problems, documents or inadequate behavior, who always smile and have endless spare time and financial resources.
In practice teachers are asked to adapt fifty minutes and four / five / six activities to thirty different levels of English communication skills, to thirty social skills, to thirty psychical and psychological moods, to thirty different interests and motivation (if any), to different styles of learning, to different types of intelligence, to different levels of intelligence, to different social and behavioral background and habits, to different types of disabilities and still manage to have individual learning conversations with each student, once or twice a week, with few (if any) material support from the institution, with piles of documents and statistics that need preparing, writing and analyzing daily, and keep balance regarding abuse, violent language and behavior all around, student’s hunger or lack of proper clothes, lack of toilets in the building, lack of water or electricity in the building, not mentioning the social view of teachers as not producing anything tangible to society, therefore paid as unqualified workers that have to commute but learn and have exams more than an entire family in a lifetime and all with a smile and an empty pocket.
Teaching English has taught me that teaching on paper has little to do with the reality of teaching a young Romanian generation today. Among the answers that I get each year when asking teenagers whether it is useful or not to learn English, is that illiterate people are rich and famous, so learning is outdated, cunning is the ability they need in a greedy society, not languages, and since they do not properly speak Romanian, it is not advisable for me to imagine they will learn English. However, I continue teaching, hoping that the conditions will improve and society will progress towards civilization even in Romania.
Since the testing has been done in a school that is unique in the county, a short history is required. “Albatros” School Center for Inclusive Education Constanta provides a team of teachers aiming to facilitate access to education for children from disadvantaged groups, to offer support and rehabilitation. The staff involved in children’s education includes professors, support / itinerant teachers, psycho-pedagogue and special psycho-pedagogue teachers, as well as a social worker aided by a nurse. It addresses pupils aged over fourteen from: regular / mass education; inclusive education; special education. The present school was founded on December 15, 1955 in order to qualify as tailors and shoemakers the people with physical disabilities, starting with a section for sewing and a section for shoemakers, with a relatively small number of students. Between 1955 and 1960 it was called The Special Professional School nr.17 and The Middle Special Accounting School. They were two separate forms of education, where 247 students graduated and 242 students respectively (within five years). Between 1960 and 1965 it takes the form of a boarding school and canteen: The Middle Special Technique Accounting School, where graduation was possible after six years of schooling. In 1965 it is established as the Special Economic High School of Constanta, with classes lasting for four years, where students with motor disabilities could attend classes. In 1983 it is established as the only institution of special and professional education for students with neuropsychological deficiencies. It was an institution for special education of students aged 14-20. Working as a special educational system, therapy and compensation, it was unique in Constanta County. On October 13, 2003 it changes its name to Arts and Crafts School, while the 2007-2008 school year turns it into “Albatros” School Center for Inclusive Education Constanta. Nowadays it has a number of over 300 students with physical, sensorial, mental or no disability, in its high school building in C.S.E.I. “Albatros” Constanta, in addition to over 300 students in the branch of Special Secondary School Sanatorium Techirghiol and 40 in the branch of Sanatorium School Mangalia.
“Albatros” School Center for Inclusive Education Constanta provides secondary school for hospitalized pupils in Techirghiol and Mangalia, high school, professional school and post-high school levels for pupils in Constanta and areas around the city. After graduation students can take the National Baccalaureate Exam and enroll in University or study further in a Post-Secondary School in C.S.E.I. Albatros. During high school students can achieve different degrees attesting their qualification levels, as follows: in the area of Tourism and nourishment the students become qualified as: hotel worker, cook or pastry confectioner. This field of work is the third most important in the national economy and still growing, offering large opportunities of integration in the work field. The qualification offered by this school involves raising the quality of training by learning new skills, since the school cooperates with many economic agents from the city. The area of Aesthetics provides qualifications such as: manicurist, pedicurist, and hairdresser. Post-Secondary School offers a range of three specializations: Cosmetician Technician (special class), Masseur Technician (special class) and Nutritionist Technician (mass class), all free of charge.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder manifesting itself in the first two years of life, being 3-4 times more common in boys than in girls. Most children with autism also suffer from mental retardation. Among those with low intelligence, the boys-girls rate tends to equalize. This disorder affects language, play, cognition, social development and adaptation skills, causing ever deeper delays for children of the same age. Autistic children do not learn as other children learn. They seem unable to understand the simplest verbal and nonverbal communication, sensory information leaves them confused, and they are characterized by varying degrees of isolation from the world around them. They develop an excessive interest in certain activities and objects that interfere with everything, at any time, since they tend to be repetitive, and they are very little interested in other people, they generally do not notice and imitate them.
In over a decade of teaching teenagers, teaching English to teenagers in the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, has proven to be as interesting as difficult, in the context of individualizing teaching according to specific abilities, likes and patterns in a group of thirty and sometimes over thirty teenagers, all with different levels of language acquisition, different interest, different motivation (if any), different abilities and learning techniques. Autistic students frequently encountered difficulties in abstracting rules, inhibiting irrelevant responses, containing emotions while performing a didactic task, distribution of attention, offering feedback, understanding a joke in native language, deciphering the answer of colleagues, writing or remarks, as well as the simultaneous holding of more information while making a decision. Some create their own words and phrases that can only be understood by people familiar with the child’s way of communicating, thus a permanent communication with families dictates the speed and length of his development and advancement in any area of his acquisitions, language not being an exception.
Children in the Autistic Spectrum Disorder do not express the desire for interpersonal contact with even the closest people, are not interested in discussing with others, do not show concern in expressing their feelings or emotions, do not express their desires; do not feel the need to be comforted or praised; he either seems careless about the objects and people around him, either manifest language and vocabulary that may seem violent to others, which makes establishing rapport very difficult for teacher and colleagues. Most such students do not look the interlocutor in the eye, not establishing a visual contact, giving the impression that he is distracted or uninterested. Rarely, the adult can capture the attention or interest and may have visual contact only for very little time, more by means of objects that are of special concern to the student, depending on the severity of the diagnosis. It is very difficult to work in pairs or in groups since they do not play with other children, preferring solitary, stereotypical, poor, unrelated games in their native tongue. The autistic teenager may have gestures, attitudes, facial movements, or stereotypical posts that he can maintain for a long time. Dealing with teaching material he may either reject it (through yelling, spitting, leaving the place, jumping, covering their fingers with their sleeves so that it cannot touch them etc.) or accept it, examining it as a foreign object, smelling or touching them with their tongue, singing, listening to the noise they are making, seemingly fascinated by what they discover.
Language (verbal and nonverbal) has lost its communication function, the pupil has semantic difficulties in understanding the meaning of words or sentences in Romanian and English, and / or has difficulty in using language in an appropriate context. They have difficulty understanding some words, and if used, the new vocabulary can only be added in a certain context and in association with something he has previously learned. An autistic student can learn new words only relying on perceptual similarities, more than functional attributes; he may have difficulty in understanding the words in several ways, and arguing why a certain word is called that, or why “cold” means “rece” when it sounds like “cald” and why “library” doesn’t translate into “librarie”. They have a tendency to repeat new vocabulary (known as immediate echolalia), which is useful for further learning. Sometimes they may develop a strange attachment to a handout, a pen, a piece of material. They may react at or against the paper rustle, against the creaking of the chalk, or can spin or touch endlessly an object only for the sound it produces, which will interfere with the flow of the activities. Any change in stereotype and ritual may lead to extreme anxiety and agitation, pulling their hair, hitting their chest or desk, biting their finger and so on.
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