Feuerstein's success stories

12th April 1996 at 01:00
* Jemma Winton, 21, suffered severe brain damage in infancy after being repeatedly shaken by a nanny. She is now living in a sheltered community, and has a life of her own. She "communicates brilliantly" says her mother, Cheryl Winton, and is an independent thinker. Things were not always so hopeful. Before the four years she spent in Israel as a pupil of Reuven Feuerstein, Jemma made little progress in special education in England.

"By the time she was 10, I was really getting worried," says Cheryl Winton. "I felt that I was losing her. She'd had speech therapy, music therapy, art therapy, dance, physio. But she wasn't learning. She couldn't have a conversation or look you in the eye. She and I had no relationship. It was a disaster."

Cheryl Winton took her daughter to Israel, where she was assessed by Professor Feuerstein. He recommended she live with an Israeli foster family; she needed the company of younger children to learn from, he said. He also had faith in her. "He believed in her. He wouldn't believe this child was imbecilic, which was what they'd all said," says Cheryl Winton.

"And not only does he help the child, he helps the parent deal with the child. That is very badly missing here. Nobody else does it. They taught me to stop feeling so guilty, how to deal with her temper tantrums and talk to her and look into her eyes.

"Reuven changed our lives 100 per cent," she says. "Without him there's no question that Jemma would be as she is today."

* Jenny Antoine is the parent of a child with learning difficulties. Last year, she spent several weeks at the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning Potential, and had a brief training in the techniques while teachers worked with her child.

"Some things are off-putting. There are queues of people and it's run on a shoestring so it's quite chaotic. Boys are allowed to be quite rude and rowdy. But Professor Feuerstein is an angel, a wonderful man. He absolutely loves children.

"During the assessment, Professor Feuerstein works with the child. He's not interested in how well they perform but in how they perform the task how well-focused they are, how much perserverance they have. There's no element of testing, no burden of success or failure.

"They have this slogan 'Just a minute! Let me think'. They get children to assess how they did, to become aware of themselves and how they're doing. So the child slows down, and starts to value what they're doing and how they're doing it.

"They don't use coercion, really. The children do the exercises and you'd think they'd be bored rigid but they're not. It is hell for a child to be unfocused and distracted and unable to complete a task. Actually, children want praise and satisfaction.

"The bedrock is that you find determined optimistic people who are looking for a way through problems, and you start to feel hope. Your own optimism blossoms, and you start to see your child blossom."

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