The story of Gemma

Gemma is an 11-year-old girl with congenital heart disease, who attends the sixth grade of primary school. Her school experience up until the third grade was very good. The teachers met her specific educational needs and helped her a great deal. She was very happy and motivated, loved going to school and obtained excellent academic results, although she had an additional dysphasia problem.

Everything changed after third grade, when Gemma had difficulties understanding some of the different subjects that were taught in school because of the increasing number of days that she was absent while receiving treatment. Gemma also has some immaturity in her development, since she has been admitted to hospital for long periods of time.

Some teachers act as though they do not understand Gemma, others ignore the situation and some care too much and overprotect her. The teacher taking physical-education classes acts in a contradictory way: sometimes he demands  too much of her (even threatening her with failing if she cannot do some exercises), and other times he does not let her participate in class. The result is that Gemma does not want to go to school.

Her relationship with classmates is also difficult. At an age when physical activity takes more relevance in the children’s social relationships, Gemma is being forced to participate in these physical games.

She responds in a protective way, knowing that her physical activity is lower than that of other children, but she does not feel intimidated because her parents have convinced her that physical force is not everything, and that words can sometimes be more effective and convincing in social relationships than can physical ability. Besides, Gemma speaks very well, so her parents’ advice makes her stronger, although the school situation remains the same.

How did Gemma’s parents handle this situation? First, they supported Gemma, they tried to motivate her and raise her self-confidence. Second, they talked to the highest representatives of the school to ask for their support, but they responded in a negative way. Finally, Gemma’s parents decided to ask the Menudos Corazones Foundation for help, so that their child could receive psychological attention. They also hired the services of a psychopedagogue to help Gemma with her dysphasia. These medical attentions have had a positive effect on Gemma. Her psychologist has even prepared a report for the school to inform the teachers that Gemma’s efforts should be considered, not only her academic results.

Actually, Gemma’s development is positive thanks to the combined work from the parents, psychologist, pedagogue and Gemma herself. Her parents have decided to change school for the next academic year, because of the negative reactions that they have received from the teachers and the main education representatives during the past few years. They hope that in the new school their opinions will be considered and that Gemma will be supported at school.

Author(s): Montse Mireles
Last updated: 2008-09-22