Her daughter is diagnosed with autism, she starts a school to welcome children with learning difficulties

Félicie Petit is director of “My exceptional school” in Annecy-le-Vieux. A “brackets” school she started 7 years ago. She addresses the needs of parents who, like her, have to cope with the everyday life of a child with learning difficulties. She tells about her positive experiences on the set of “You are great” on France 3

It’s a school like no other. Félicie Petit is the director of “Meeo”, which means “My Extraordinary School”. Its goal is to support students who suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders and have difficulties following a traditional school education. It offers them something of a bracket in their school curriculum, with the idea of ​​allowing them to return to a more traditional school as soon as possible.

Félicie founded this school in Annecy-le-Vieux 7 years ago. This is where she was born. But it is rather in Thônes, in Haute-Savoie, where she lays the real beginning of her life. ” For me it is the place of rebirth, although I have only lived there for a very short time. It’s the little “cocoon” town, ideal for raising my four young teenagers. ‘ explains this mother.

She defines her own career. pretty messy », with a pinch of humor. ” I had trouble finding myself. In some countries it seems rather that it is quite a rich course “, she adds.” The main stations were philosophy, art history, commerce and interior design and this is where I am today as headmaster. Before starting this school, I was really searching for meaning. Today I put everything I could learn to good use».

It was my first child. And I could see that the mother-child connection was not made in the usual way.

It was Brune, his daughter, who inspired him to create Meeo. Brown is autistic. At the age of 6 ½ she was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Felicie remembers the symptoms perfectly. ” My daughter had the ability to speak, to express herself, but she didn’t use language to communicate. She had narrow interests and stereotypies, ie repetitive gestures or words. »

But she didn’t wait to see those symptoms to realize something was wrong. ” In fact, I understood it from birth. It was my first child. And I could see that the mother-child connection was not made in the usual way. However, she regrets that while medicine has made advances, it is not more effective at screening. ” A diagnosis at almost 7 years old is much too late. We now know that in autism, early treatment is extremely effective. »

As with many parents faced with this problem, the journey to this diagnosis was complex. ” And above all very painful. We go through psychiatric phases in which the mother’s parental functions are often questioned. Unfortunately, it is still very firmly anchored in the French system of thought. In hindsight, Félicie believes that France is thirty years behind in this area. ” Later I would realize all this. But the research led me to Quebec or Belgium, where we have been active for 20 to 30 years. »

Fifteen months later her little sister is born and the gap widens

One of the milestones was when her child started school at the age of 3. ” It was the shock of cultures. I realized that my child was not growing up in a normal way. Fifteen months later her little sister was born and the gap really widened. Even in kindergarten I was a little alarmed. Brune stayed away, uncomfortable with the noise and bustle. »

Strong signs that caused his parents to consult specialists. Brune very quickly showed signs of suffering at school. “ She couldn’t go full time. She hadn’t gone to the bathroom and had to sleep a lot because she was exhausted from spending time with other children ‘ commented his mother.

Then there is a fall and there the child can no longer go to school

For Félicie, autism requires unique care. ” Trained specialists are required. Both on the sensory level and on the daily accompaniment in autonomy… none of this can be invented. These are children who need a certain rhythm with certain tools. Not necessarily possible in a traditional school. ” At least not for all children ‘ she specifies.

Cases often differ depending on the individual. “ There are sometimes autistic children who decompensate. You’ve been stuck with the mainstream system and suddenly you can’t take it emotionally, socially, and on a sensory or energetic level. Then there is a fall and there the child can no longer go to school ‘ says Felice.

Ignored, these children can be devalued. At the Meeo school, the children who are admitted are sometimes autistic or have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysorthography, hyperactivity, HPI. ” In the traditional school setting, they end up breaking down. The result does not match their efforts. And eventually they can’t take it anymore. »

A child is not just a student. He is first of all… a child.

A breakthrough phase takes place. ” Self-esteem goes down and it’s a vicious cycle. The whole life of the child is affected by this school difficulty. Félicie Petit believes that significant societal changes are needed for these children. ” A child is not just a student. He is first of all… a child. As a child he has to find his place ‘ she recalls.

They are emotional sponges in need of immeasurable love.

In the face of these situations, parents are powerless. ” They have no answers to their medical questions. You realize that your child is suffering at school. And the problem goes beyond school. “We have great difficulty finding organizations that welcome them for sports and other activities. This is explained by the difficulties in getting in touch with others. These parents need help. »

Felicie Petit did not hesitate. She made the decision to found a school adapted to her daughter’s situation for a wonderful reason: ” They are children who sublimate you as parents. They need unconditional love because they don’t respond to requests we make to other children. They are emotional sponges in need of immeasurable love. »

It was a disaster in my life

She mentions the case of Brune, her daughter. ” She went through all stations. First in a traditional school where the staff didn’t know how to support him. Then we taught at home and had no choice. And one morning she gets up, sees her siblings going to “her” school and says to me: I would love to be a little girl again. It was a disaster in my life. “Paradoxically, it’s also the event that made her start.

She said she fought “in full swing” to found “another” school. ” We don’t give a second thought to the barriers that may exist. And luckily. The further you go, the more energy you gain, the more great people you meet.

In addition, the experience allowed him to find solidarity. ” It breaks that intense loneliness. This school is also used for that, in addition to taking in children. Show the parents that they are not alone, that they are wonderful. That her children are exceptional, with flames of life within them and a desire to live intensely. »

Meeo was founded in 2015 and opened its doors in 2016 after nine months of intense pregnancy. ” The Annecy-le-Vieux town hall was very receptive to this project. The sinews of the war were to find premises and funds‘ the director recalls.

She was also surprised to see spontaneous mobilization. ” Families and professionals traveled alone. Once they knew the project was being created, these extraordinary professionals joined us.” 16 families took part in founding the school.

These students just become their parents’ children. You no longer have to walk everywhere.

This facility accepts children aged 6 to 16 with different difficulties. They dealt with learning disabilities, autism, coordination, intellectual precocity. But Meeo does not replace traditional school. ” It is a totally innovative model that uses different tools and works hand in hand with national education for these children who are not in school. The facility is already recognized by the state health agency, which provides assistance with financing stays.

About 50 students are divided into two groups corresponding to elementary and middle school. ” The care is multidisciplinary, with teachers, educators and health professionals, experts in occupational therapy, psychology, paediatrics, etc.says Felicie.

« The idea is to address the general needs of these children. The approach, modeled after my personal experience with my daughter, is that these students just become “their parents’ children.” You no longer have to walk everywhere. My daughter went to school 6 hours a week. The rest of the time I found myself coordinating her life so that she lacked for nothing… »

In “my extraordinary school” the rules are not fixed. The children stay as long as necessary. ” They really are the ones giving us the signals. Children are naturally designed to live with others. In life, nobody wants to find themselves beside the system. »

Everything will be coordinated with the parents and the teams for his return to the traditional school. Then the child is followed up when they express the need. ” But it’s a bit like teenagers… They often don’t want to look back. And that’s a good sign. That means we did our job well. »




Video length: 51 sec

Félicie Petit responds to the question “very shabby”



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Seven years after opening, the demand is high and in reality it would be necessary to be able to accommodate twice the current capacity. But Félicie doesn’t necessarily want that. ” Our wish is really to stay in haute couture summarizes them. So far the results seem to be positive.

« It really is a win-win system. We have children with autism who struggle in relationship who are largely nurtured by other high potential children who have an overflowing empathy and need to use it wisely. It is a microcosm that shows inclusion is possible. Living together is possible. »

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