The fourth annual conference, organized by the Lebanese Center for Specialized Education (CLES), was a great platform of hope to those suffering from specific learning difficulties and their families. Speakers, headed by Professor Olivier Houdé, explained how the brain responds during learning, in order to enhance children's cognitive abilities.
At the opening session of the conference, held at the Pierre Abou Khater Theater at Saint Joseph University, under the patronage and presence of Minister of Education and Higher Education Marwan Hamadeh and with the participation of actress Natalie Bay, Hamadeh said:"If love is motivation and responsibility is duty, I salute with all my heart Mrs. Carmen Chahine Debbane for her love and responsibility manifested in the support, care and endeavor to secure 104 classrooms for school support dedicated to address learning difficulties, located in public schools all over Lebanon, including a total of 30 inclusive schools. These classrooms are providing great educational services, but they require more effort and more spending on this pioneering educational humanitarian project. Yes, we need specialized teaching staff who do training and specialization and are constantly working in the existing support classrooms in public schools. We also need to increase the number of mentors and pedagogues who make visits to inclusive and other schools which include support classrooms".
He added: "This human effort needs to be accepted in the first place, pursued by the ministry and a decision our part to devote ourselves to this mission. We are ready to take the appropriate decision of dedicating elite members of the educational body to join the guidance body in the ministry, in order to train them in cooperation with the Education Center. Thus, we will take an additional step in caring for our generations, especially that each and every one of of us has difficulties to address, and our country itself is experiencing difficulties which we hope that will have a happy ending".
The founder and president of CLES Carmen Chahine Debbane welcomed the audience, before stressing that "our children are the most important thing in our lives. We wait for them to come to life impatiently. We get worried about them even before their birth. We watch their growing up closely and wait for their progress cautiously. But when we discover that some of them are different in the way they learn, and that they have learning difficulties, we parents go into a spiral of anxiety that is reflected negatively on the child".
She added: "Let's talk about Dys" is the slogan of "CLES" today, because talking about this subject is half of the solution, the other half is to resort to specialists who can help parents, children and teachers in school".
Before the start of the specialized lecture, a group of children presented a dance conceived in workshops within the program "Dance with CLES", in partnership with the National Dance Institute of New York, aiming at introducing dance to public and private schools and to help students with specific learning difficulties to gain self-confidence and trust others.
Kay Gayner, program leader and child trainer at NDI said: "Learning can and must be happiness. Learning can and should be joyful and rigorous. Children learn in many different ways and we believe that one of the most powerful ways of learning is by doing. So when they are dancing they are the art".
Then, Dr. Olivier Houdé professor of psychology at the University of Paris-Descartes, and the Sorbonne Paris City University, a specialist in cognitive development of children and learning based on his experimental study of brain functions and related technology, gave his lecture on the theme "Brain and learning at the heart of children's learning difficulties".
Houdé who has written over 500 scientific research works, including 24 books, explained to hundreds of attendees - pedagogues, psychologists, sociologists and educators - his theory on enhancing cognitive abilities, highlighting a new discovery of how the brain works during learning, through the images of MRI with certain educational and psychological techniques and the supervision of an educational - psycology team. He said that the brain of a child does not grow gradually, as Jean Piaget claimed, but rather in a dynamic, non-linear manner, likening this to the waves of the sea.
Houdé showed for the first time images of the brain while responding to learning, affirming that "every child has a wonderful brain and mind, but every child uses a different neurological path to learn". He added: "Some have more learning difficulties than others, and we have to help them. The term dyslexia is a functional word, thus we have to exploit advanced discoveries in psychology and neuroscience in order to understand the functional process of the brain".
French actress Nathalie Baye said that she had learning difficulties, especially dyslexia and dyscalculia. She talked about the importance of the parents' role in having absolute confidence in their children to overcome any difficulties. She recalled her personal journey with specific learning difficulties and how she overcame them through dance, theater and cinema.
It is worth noting that about 10 percent of students all over the world suffer from specific learning difficulties, namely writing dyslexia, verbal dyslexia, working memory dyslexia, dyscalculia, reading disorder, coordination disorder, hyperactivity and lack of concentration.