Beyond Learning Difficulties: the Unique Difference, a Step towards Inclusion

Beyond Learning Difficulties: the Unique Difference, a Step towards Inclusion
On 17-18 March 2007 in Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Aula Maxima, the Centre for Inclusive Education and Save the Children UK held Bulgaria’s first ever international conference dedicated to inclusive education. The forum’s motto was “Beyond Learning Difficulties: the Unique Difference, a Step towards Inclusion”. The conference was held as part of the National Information Campaign on Inclusive Education in Bulgarian Schools under the slogan “One School for All!”, which was launched by the team of Save the Children and the Centre for Inclusive Education from 1 January through 31 March 2007.

The conference was focused on learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. It was practically oriented and the participants were both specialists (speech therapists, psychologists, resource teachers) working directly with children with learning difficulties and a wider range of teachers and parents. The participants had the opportunity to learn the latest developments in this field, which is still unpopular in our country, to get familiar with the achievements of leading European experts from the United Kingdom, Poland and Bulgaria, and with the latest research and existing therapies in the field, and also to discuss and arrive at common solutions to specific problems encountered during the work with children with learning difficulties.

The key speakers were Dr. Ian Smithe, Chair of Wales Dyslexia Association, Professor Vanya Matanova, Chair of the Bulgarian Dyslexia Association and teacher at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, and Dr. Joyce Hargrave-Wright who gave a lecture on lateral thinking.

Dr. Joyce Hargrave-Wright explained in her lecture: “In 1989, a 43 year-old dyslexic from Argentina, studying for a doctorate in the United Kingdom, described her thoughts to me:

‘To think of dyslexia as a writing/reading handicap is to fail to recognise the essence of the problem.   Dyslexia for me is a communication problem.  I have lived my life trying to understand why my behaviour is uncomfortable to others…
Because people judge us through common (expected) patterns, we do not make ourselves understood, yet our behaviour is in accordance with how we see the world.’ This perspective is a reflection of my own perspective that dyslexia is rather ‘an effective difference’ than ‘an affective disability’”.

Iva Boneva, Director of Save the Children UK and the Centre for Inclusive Education, shared: “It is impossible for us to imagine what it is to have dyslexia. These children are perhaps the children of the future: they find it difficult to read and write, however they perceive any piece of visual or sound informationsuch as that coming from screens for example - much more easily, quickly and comprehensively.

The partners of Save the Children UK and the Centre for Inclusive Education in holding the conference were, besides the Ministry of Education and Science, also Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, FPI Hotels, Congress Technic OOD, Bulgarian Dyslexia Association, Logos ABV.

One School for All

One School for All is our most encompassing and wide-reaching cause, our raison d’etre. Our ultimate goal is comprehensive introduction and application of the principles of inclusive education.

Inclusive education is a process of changing the school environment based on respect and acceptance of other people. It implies wise management of school processes in a way which makes children feel supported to develop their capacity and to overcome hardships; which makes teachers feel encouraged and confident that they are able to cope with the growing challenges, while parents are able to assume their responsibility and role in partnership with schools.