Maj-Len Heikel, principal
040 809 17 55
Parisgränden 2 A 2
The school is a state school. The school comprises 11 years combining a two-year pre-school and a nine-year comprehensive school. We also cater for visually impaired children from nursery school to the matriculation exam. If needed we also assist students at the universities and colleges.
A visually handicapped child in Finland starts school at the age of six and school education is compulsary for 11 years. In state special schools there is a two-year pre-school in order to provide the pupils with as smooth a school start as possible. The main purpose of the pre-school is to teach the children to find their way in the new surroundings, and to use their other senses and to master the basic ADL (all day living).
For a visually impaired child even playing might be a problem. The task of the school is to provide the students with the basic knowledge given in the ordinary comprehensive school. When the students feel they are ready for it, they should have the chance of being transferred to an ordinary school, according to their own level of development. The introductory teaching of the mother tongue and maths differs a lot from that of the ordinary curriculum. These are also the most difficult subjects.
In our school we have decided on a curriculum that is adjusted to the needs of the students. This means that the curriculum does not necessarily follow the usual order of things taught in ordinary schools in the lower forms. Thanks to small teaching groups we can "tailor" both timetables and curriculums in our special schools. Every student gets the basic training he needs. Besides, he gets a great many things the ordinary school cannot offer. Every student has his individual curriculum since every child has his own needs.
A partially sighted student needs ergonomically adapted facilities with access to the right light, magnifying reading system as well as magnifying and speech programmes. Moreover, they require individual visual training and suitable material for their studies. A blind student needs his material in braille or embossed. They need speech synthesizers or braille displays for their PC's. All students have mobility and ADL during the whole of their time in school. The same services must also be available for the students in mainstream.
Since our school caters for the whole country it must be a boarding-school for those students who cannot go home every day.The boarding-house is an ordinary flat at 15 minutes' walk from the school. The nurses and recreation leaders (male and female) have succeeded in making the atmosphere as much like a home as possible. The children have dinner there, they do their homework and play like other children. Thanks to the many parks nearby, there is no shortage of activities during any time of the year. In the evenings the children play football, they go swimming go to the theatre when the homework is done.
In order to succeed in mainstream the visually impaired student must be prepared to make a whole-hearted effort. Furthermore, parents, teachers, classmates, school authorities, the teachers and staff of the special schools have to take an active role. An important task for our school is to arrange courses and give information to teachers with visually impaired students in their classes. We arrange remedial instructions to students and teach them to use new technical aids. We also give practical and pedagogic advice.
The computer together with all the various adaptations has made life much easier for the visually impaired. Today the texts can be enlarged, produced in braille or as synthesized speech. When written, the work can be printed as normal text, in braille or enlarged. It is fascinating to see how all the various systems can be interlinked. The new technology also gives the visually impaired easy access to electronic books and newspapers, to CD-rom material as well as a chance to use internet.