DOCUMENTARY. The school of difference. Immersion in an Autism Elementary Education Unit in Pas-de-Calais

Their names are Lucas, Alexandre, Martin, Adel or Kilian, they have an autistic disorder and attend the Berlinguez school in Courrières. A so-called “normal” school that they have integrated thanks to a still recent device (the UEEM). Meeting with a team and a school that is very committed to inclusion.

Children with Autistic Sphere Disorders (ASD) learn through imitation, so it is essential that they attend school as soon as possibleNoémie Courtais, coordinator of the UEEA system and specialist teacher at Courrières is formal.

Let’s start by familiarizing yourself with these acronyms.
UEMA = Autism Kindergarten Education Unit
UEEA = unit of education in primary school for autism
UECA = Autism College Teaching Unit

When we talk aboutunits and not from classes, it’s because it’s a complete system involving the whole school that welcomes them. The team of educators that previously followed these children in a specialized environment is now integrated into the school, in a classroom where they work on their socialization and communication skills, together with their classmates and teachers during the day, sometimes accompanied by a school life assistant (AESH). This daily inclusion time increases over the year.

As a result of the 4th autism plan of 2015, the kindergartens were established. Facing a 50% success rate, new units are opening all over the area, soon followed by elementary school units.
It is in one of the latter that Marion Desquenne melted at the start of the 2020 school year. An exciting adventure to follow, with ups and downs, fears and successes. But especially with proud and relieved parents for the future of their child. It’s a battle won in part for them, and for the next generation.

Alain Winckler, director of the Bourlinguez school, admits to receiving dozens of calls from distraught parents wanting to enroll their child. Unfortunately, places in each unit are very limited. In 2020 there were only 10 basic units for several thousand ASD children.
But despite the very encouraging results, Education Nationale and Haute Autorité de Santé (and their regional branches) continue their efforts to train teachers, AESH and coordinators.
The Courrières school was the only UEEA in Nord Pas-de-Calais, but for the 2022/2023 school year, 2 new basic units will open: in Fourmies and Beuvry.

There is no autism college unit yet, but a college DAR is being tested in Amiens. The DAR or “Self-regulation device” supports children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), as well as all children, to acquire autonomy and learn to learn” (autoregulation.fr). The support team is in the facility and can help any student, autistic or other skilled in the so-called ordinary classes.

Between efforts to detect ASD early, opening units in kindergartens; primaries and a self-regulatory system, France is slowly catching up.

According to figures from March 2022 from the Ministry of Solidarity, Autonomy and People with Disabilities:

  • More than 42,000 autistic students were in regular education at the start of the school year in September 2021.
  • 336 specific classes have been created across the territory: autistic kindergarten (UEMA) and elementary (UEEA) units of study.
  • The national strategy has also stimulated the development of different forms of education: 33 schools have introduced an innovative self-regulation system.

86 new classroom openings are already planned for the start of the school year in September 2022.

A relief for many families in Hauts-de-France who until now had to go to Belgium to find a solution.

Information Including School is a toll-free number to support you in the education of children with disabilities: 0805 805 810

The school of difference
Thursday, September 1, 2022 at 10:45 PM on France 3 Hauts-de-France
Repeated on France.tv
Directed by: Marion Desquenne
Co-production: Flair Production/France Televisions.

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