‘Moi Aussi’ – Integrating Students with Disabilities

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 ‘Moi aussi, parfois je ris, j´ai peur, je doute, je rêve aussi,
Moi non plus, je n´aime pas être exclus,
Je suis ici, moi aussi.’

This is the refrain of the Moi Aussi Chanson, written by Eoghan O´Sullivan, a former Ecolint Foundation Alumni Officer, for the Moi Aussi exhibition. But let´s start at the beginning……..

This article is about integration of students with disabilities and an exhibition, which addresses this topic. Integrating students with disabilities can have benefits both for the disabled students, and for those without handicap, as well as for their parents and teachers.

Students without disabilities progress in social cognition and develop a greater understanding and acceptance of diversity as a whole. They also experience increased self-esteem and improved self-concept. When students with disabilities are educated with their peers without disabilities, they learn age-appropriate social skills by imitating students without disabilities. These students learn to be more independent and acquire developmentally advanced skills.

En Bref interviewed Laura Mulcahy, founder of Moi Aussi and mother of two kids, including Emer who has Down Syndrome:

En Bref: Please tell us about the Moi Aussi Association.

Laura: The Moi aussi Association of Switzerland was founded in January 2017 and is focused on raising public awareness of the everyday lives of people born with Down Syndrome and to promote their full inclusion in all areas of society.  We aim to promote deeper integration and understanding of people with Down Syndrome in education, sports, the workplace and every aspect of society.

En Bref: We are currently showing your second exhibition on the Ecolint school premises.  What was the idea behind this outdoor exhibition?

Laura: For this exhibition, Moi Aussi, My Story, photographer Hayley Hay captures the lives of five individuals with Down Syndrome spanning five decades.  She gives us a glimpse into the personalities, family backgrounds, activities and interests that make them who they are.  All of our participants are members of our Swiss community; all leading full, positive and loving lives as valued members of our society. Like you and me, they want to learn, they have interests, hobbies, talents, they have friends and relationships, bringing much joy and enrichment to the people who love and surround them.  And our exhibitions are always outdoor, public exhibitions.  We want to invite the public to get to know our participants, learn more about Down Syndrome and encourage inclusion in all aspects of everyday life.

En Bref: Why are integration and inclusion so important?

Laura: Moi Aussi is a simple request for inclusion, with the aspiration that society will increasingly and proactively include people with Down Syndrome in all of life’s opportunities. We believe integration and inclusion are important for all people, regardless of ability, race, colour, gender….  As an example, integration of children with disabilities into mainstream school, can lead to a more broad minded acceptance by our children of our children, creating a more empathetic and tolerant society.

En Bref: With all your experience in the field of integration/inclusion, what are your experiences of integration/inclusion of people with Down Syndrome throughout the world?

Laura: The inspiration of the exhibition comes from Ireland where a similar exhibition, called “Here I am”, was launched in 2015.  The exhibition and subsequent book did much to raise awareness, discussion and understanding in Ireland, and it is hoped a similar result can be achieved in Lausanne and in Switzerland more broadly.  When the exhibition leaves Lausanne, it will tour multiple locations around Switzerland, lasting approximately one year.

 En Bref: How is integration of people with Down Syndrome in Switzerland working?

Laura: Integration in Switzerland is improving, but the challenge continues to be that integration is determined on a cantonal basis.  For example in the canton of Vaud, integration of children with Down Syndrome in the Public School System is mandatory and is fully supported by teaching assistants, special education teachers and so on.  In the canton of Geneva, integration in the public school system is not yet mandatory leading to decisions being made for each child on a case by case basis.  Switzerland is far behind other European countries like Ireland, Holland and the UK, to name a few that have an integrated educational system for many years.  And it is through these countries that we can learn and understand the challenges as well as the successes.

En Bref: Do you already have ideas about what comes after Moi Aussi, My Story?

Laura: The next couple of years for Moi Aussi will see the current exhibition touring around Switzerland, as we did with our first exhibition in 2017.  Depending then on funding, we also want to make a music video of the Moi Aussi song for a Christmas release, a project we are targeting to kick off in September of this year.

En Bref: Thank you for the interview Laura, and we are looking forward to your future projects.

With the help of ecolint and the PTA Kermesse Grant Fund, this exhibition is currently at La Châtaigneraie showing 5 people, 5 stories, 5 decades! It´s installed outside Secondary reception/Léman hall until the end of the school year, including during Kermesse. Come and have a look at these five special and amazing people’s stories.

If you want to experience integration of adult people with Down Syndrome or other difficulties why not have breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea/coffee at the tea room “Au Fil de l´Eau” in Versoix. All food is prepared and served by young, special people.

Or find nice end of the year presents at “Au Coin de Ma Rue”, also situated in Versoix. The boutique offers a big variety of jams, chutneys and preserved food, but also homemade pasta and syrups, tea, spicery etc. The gifts will be nicely wrapped by the boutique staff.

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For further information about the Moi Aussi Association:

– Laura Mulcahy, La Présidente, +41 79 732 7511         www.facebook.com/moiaussi.org

By: Gina Roiser-Bezan (Text and Photos)

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