I am a teacher and every day I live relationships with teenagers who, sometimes silently others a bit undisciplend, ask for answers to their deepest needs, often unheard.
One of the most critical problems in school in recent years is the so-called BES (Special Educational Needs), ambiguous acronym invented to define learning difficulties. There would be already something to say on the term “needs”, but I would especially observe that the etymology of the word educating tells us of a “draw-out”, do anything to bring out something which is within the other, it should not mean setting limits by telling them what they can never achieve. Even more ambiguous is the word “special” because in reality we are all special as we are all different. Words make sense and it is necessary to choose the right ones in order not to confuse.
As Valeria Verna clearly explained, the organic origin of DSA (Specific Learning Disorders) or ADHD is not confirmed by any research. On this lack of confirmation, however, laws and ministerial circulars have been issued and they force teachers to follow protocols that I personally have always considered absurd as well as humiliating: I have to tell some of my students that they can never reach the levels of others. I don’t have to do anything to help them “pull out” all their potential: I have to observe rules that determine what they can never do. And the most tragic thing is that the kids themselves will believe this. And that’s how in the specialists’ diagnoses there are notes such as “anxiety disorder”, “low self-esteem”, statements that perhaps explain the effects on kids caused by the acceptance of never being able to be like others. They might be comforted by being told that after all even Albert Eistein was dyslexic, but they’re not told that no teacher has ever applied to the future Nobel Prize for Physics those “dispensative and compensatory measures” indicated by Law 170 of 2010!
Teachers have been turned into assassins of dark instigators: neuropsychiatrists, legislators, even parents who are not given the opportunity to try to get into a crisis to find out what went wrong and potentially try to straighten it out.
I started teaching in primary school, where I’ve worked for the first ten years of my career and over time I witnessed the breaking of BES, a label that din’t exist at that time. This doesn’t mean that there were no problems in teaching to read and write and to count, but teachers had enough time to spend with kids, different for everyone, without bringing into play the neuropsychiatrist at the first difficulty in orienting the letters of the alphabet or in putting them together to form words. Nowadays, I see that those young students read and wrote better, after five years of elementary school, compared to many of the teenagers who are now in my high school.
Data from the Ministry of Education show a significant increase in the last ten years of diagnosis of DSA “changed from 0.7% in 2010/2011 to 3.2% in 2017/2018”. Moreover, still according to data from the MIUR, it turns out that the highest increase was recorded in the regions of Northern Italy. We should consider this aspect as well. Taking organic causes for granted, we should think of a genetic mutation caused by air pollution!
What happened in these years? What was lost?
The topic is complex and is also, and above all, determined by political choices: economic cuts have led to crowded classes, fewer teachers, less time for everyone, with the obvious consequence of a decline in the quality of teaching.
My memory goes back to the many coloured and scribbled pages, all different, that filled my days and through which every child sought corageously their way. It goes back to those eyes shining on their face after every little conquest. Now there seems to be no longer time for this. But, I wonder, what happens in the mind of a child who is told that he has one leg missing and will never run like the others?
Not to mention the so-called ADHD. Here again a memory. First year of elementary school. Mirko, a very intelligent child, used to spend his time clearing the desks of his classmates and couldn’t sit for more than ten minutes. I spent the first part of the year with him sitting on my legs because that was the only way he could calm down and there he used to draw with amazing confidence and ability. I could do it because I wasn’t alone: a good colleague used to work with me for a few hours of the day. At that time there were the so-called co-presence, introduced on purpose to be able to deal with the most difficult situations, then abolished. That child is now a great architect! Today he would have been labeled as an ADHD carrier and maybe even given drugs!
Looking for the causes, without stopping at the evident symptoms, as Valeria Verna observed, is a task which must involve all the specialized professional figures dealing with childhood and adolescence. But parents and teachers have to find the courage to put themselves into crisis and understand that children and kids, problematic or not, always look for answers in them, even those answers which, for some adversity, couldn’t have before. It is necessary to get into crisis so that kids do not extinguish that beautiful and clean curiosity that makes their eyes shine and that is the engine of every human development.
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article.