Svetlana, you have been working in London with families, adults and children for many years. What attracted you to le Sallay Academy?
I’ve been working successfully in London for more than 7 years. I love what I do and find it adds meaning to my life. However, I'm always looking for new projects to widen my experience and try something new. The Academy is a perfect opportunity not only to learn something new, but to share my own experience. I see the future in flexible studying. I believe Le Sallay Academy will make it possible. And I want to be part of it.
Svetlana, could you please comment on the format of Le Sallay (study camps + distance learning) in terms of educational and mental stress?
I do see a lot of potential in Le Sallay’s approach. It will provide additional flexibility for parents and students. It could resolve many individual issues, that conservative educational systems struggle to cope with. I’m thinking of sensitive children, shy children, children with special educational needs, children and families who travel and are mobile geographically.
Despite this I expect there will be a need for involvement from their families who will need to create additional motivation for learning. Teenagers also usually want to socialize with their peers. Distance learning could limit students’ opportunities to meet other children in real time. However, I believe that Le Sallay will give students more free time to meet their communicative needs, than ordinary schools ever do.
As a psychologist you also work with children diagnosed with various forms of autism and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). What’s different about working with such children?
ADHD is a very complex condition. So is ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). There are many different strategies to use for both schools and families. ADHD is different in every person. So, every child should be treated differently considering his/her personality and how the ADHD is presented. However, every child should be loved whether he/she has been diagnosed with ADHD or not. My personal approach is to put the child's personality in first place rather his diagnosis.
ADHD and ASD are different conditions. They have many common traits, though. From my experience children with ADHD as well as ASD have problems dealing with emotions, behavioral problems, and problems with recognizing adults’ authority. Therefore, I focus first on earning child’s trust. When students trust me and find the time we spend together pleasurable, they listen more and try to achieve more.
Children with ADHD have difficulties in concentrating on tasks and instructions. I try to use the whole variety of visual reinforcements and split complex tasks into parts to make them more manageable.
Children with ASD may have high abilities in academic disciplines, but find it difficult to understand some rules in the classroom. I often use videos, board games and toys to model real social situation. It can be very helpful to use those methods together with conversation.
I believe it is important to teach children how to identify and express their feelings. It is very beneficial not only for the students themselves, but for all the other people around them too.
Children with these disorders often fall into the category of 2E. Twice-exceptional students (2E) are diverse learners who can be described as gifted in a specific area such as math, but also diagnosed with a learning disability in the area of language, say, or often with ADHD and/or anxiety. These co-morbid disabilities often present themselves as a paradox to many parents and educators. Do you have a lot of experience with such children? Can you share any outstanding success stories?
I do see a lot of children with high functioning autism, children who we would describe as gifted but have difficulties in social interaction. Usually they have behavioral problems in schools and need additional support to understand social rules. Every child has his or her own problems. So, I try to identify those problems and target specific goals.
There are not usually any success stories of the ‘breakthrough’ kind, as most changes occur little by little. However, thinking of “my children” I'm very proud of how they have changed, how happy they are at universities, how loved and accepted they are by people around them.
Le Sallay is implementing an inclusive education model. How do you see your work at the Academy? How do you plan to work with 2E students at study camps and remotely?
I see my role as a mentor and friend for students and parents rather than as an educationalist who insists on my own view of “what’s best”. I believe that close cooperation and open dialogues can create the warm and supportive atmosphere, where trust grows. I will use my whole panoply of professional methods and techniques (which I regularly update) to help overcome any possible difficulties.
Children who need special support will be assessed personally. Many different options can be offered. That could mean a regular camp-Skype schedule, or specific recommendations for parents, or a different learning schedule (shorter working hours, different motivational methods, sensory integration etc.)
What is the most important and interesting thing about your work?
The most important thing in my work is to help people understand each other, to make the world a more welcoming place. It sounds very simple, but that’s how it is. I see many parents who are locked into fear and anxiety about their children. I see many children struggling and feeling lonely. However, I see that the acceptance of people, with all their differences, can and does grow. That motivates me to work harder, study new things, try new methods. It makes me more confident as a professional and feel my life is full of meaning.
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