LearnEnjoy démocratise l’accès aux meilleures stratégies éducatives, pour que tous les enfants aux besoins particuliers y aient droit sans discrimination, limites levées par internet et les nouvelles technologies. Gaele Regnault cible tout particulièrement les enfants avec autisme ou autre handicap.
LearnEnjoy compte 40,000 utilisateurs des supports pédagogiques adaptés. L’association a permis d’accompagner et de former 600 familles jusqu’à présent ainsi que 2000 professionnels. Aujourd’hui LearnEnjoy dispose d’un système d’évaluation reconnu par l’éducation nationale. L’association a également mis en place une plateforme de partage de vidéos pour apporter un service aux familles isolées. Aujourd’hui LearnEnjoy compte 10 collaborateurs.
QUI EST-ELLE ?
Française et Malgache, Gaële a grandi et voyagé sur 4 continents. Elle fait ses études à l’EM Lyon et poursuit avec 20 années d’expérience en marketing et direction de projets. Mariée, elle est mère de 3 enfants. Gaele a découvert l’entrepreneuriat social en cherchant des solutions pour l’un de ses enfants.
Autism in France is characterized by a twofold situation with a recurrent under-capacity of the system to welcome all autistic children in educative and social centers, and thousands of parents are left without any viable solution. Gaële has based her entire educational approach on technology for a massive and rapid spread of her solutions among the autistic population. For a few hundred euros and a tablet, parents and professionals can access, without any prior training, thousands of adapted educational exercises covering the child developmental stages from 12 months to five years.
Gaële builds legitimacy around these methods, proving that children who benefit from them do progress. First, she engages top universities to lead scientific research and prove the efficiency of her work . Secondly, she paves the way for a deep transformation of practices in the medical system by working closely with public institutions and developing key partnerships with professional organizations and care centers on the ground. Providing her solutions and training to every stakeholder within the ecosystem of an autistic child, she also makes it possible for ordinary schools to welcome these students, here offering a large-scale solution to the under-capacity of specialized institutions.
There is a strong lack of available places in specialized care centers and psychiatric hospitals; 13,000 children do not have the possibility to be taken care of in an institution. Though the authorities are trying to fill the gap, the means are still not sufficient. While 8000 children with autistic disorder are born every year, the HAS plans to create only 850 “places” in specialized centers over the next three years to take care of children. This has dramatic consequences: parents have to take care of their children themselves, at home, without the necessary professional support. More and more decide to place their children in private for-profit institutes located in Belgium that often do not meet French health norms, are very expensive, and choose a medication-centered care approach over educational methodologies. In 2013, the Europe Council has sentenced France for the second time for mistreatment of autistic children.
Born in the US in the 60s, behavioral approaches to autism remain very marginal in France. The first specialized center basing its care approach on behavioral methodologies opened in 2005. Today, over the thousands of specialized centers that provide medical care and education to mentally-ill children, financially supported by public authorities, only 25 officially apply behavioral methodologies. Even those 25 centers struggle to be properly equipped with adapted tools. International trainers are rare, and obtaining an international certification (for ABA for example) is both costly and time consuming. Only three universities in France deliver local certifications, which are not properly recognized. For parents who take care of their children at home or caregivers in specialized institutes, applying such behavioral approaches is complicated and requires both training and time to imagine, design, and produce a high quantity of support materials such as images, drawings, etc.
The behavioral approach still lacks the legitimacy in France needed for it to be recognized and adopted more broadly by parents and medical professionals. Health and social professionals usually have a bad opinion of existing behavioral approaches (which they claim to be close to ‘animal dressage’) when they are in fact often unaware of their contents. An increasing number of professionals are starting to use small parts of such methods, sometimes without even knowing they’re applying them. The use of pictograms, core to behavioral approaches, is increasingly recognized as a good practice by a large number of professionals that do not know such tools come from behavioral approaches. There is also an obvious lack of transparency and collaboration between medical staff and parents, thus harming the necessary continuity in childcare. Parents struggle to build relationships with medical staff and to access comprehensive information about their own child. The education system remains closed to children with autistic disorder; teachers, inspectors and education officers are not trained to include children with mental disorders in the classrooms, and lack the necessary human resources to do so. Only 20% of autistic children have access to the traditional academic system, despite a law voted in 2005 that states education is a right for all children, whatever their handicap. In comparison, 80% to 100% of children have access to the traditional academic system in countries like the United Kingdom and Italy.
LearnEnjoy’s app toolkit has been developed with the help of a team of experts that gamified the exercises and adapted them specifically to children with autism, increasing their visual attractiveness, strong ‘reward logic’, and encouraged interactions between children and parents or caregivers.
These three apps cover three levels of difficulty, and two playing modes allow either the child’s autonomous use of the app or for the parents to play side-by-side with their children. All applications have intentionally been developed for tablets, an interface that is not only considered attractive but is also increasingly used by both children and adults. Furthermore, tablets have been proven to facilitate concentration, understanding and learning when dealing with autistic children.*
Such tablet applications are accessible to all parents at an affordable cost - a few dozen euros compared to hundreds or thousands of euros in monthly fees for placing an autistic child in a specialized institution. The costs for professional care centers is also very low thanks to 1) partnerships with tablet manufacturers and suppliers that equip children for free, and 2) access to the national funding system for professional training to support and monitor caregivers in the use of educative program.
Eventually, this new technology will allow new tracking opportunities to measure progress. To increase the use of LearnEnjoy’s apps by parents, Gaële organizes trainings throughout the year. Already, in a span of 12 months, 300 parents have participated in workshops. Gaële is now looking to create a physical space to systematize trainings and supervision solutions on a much bigger scale. Her strong connections with the main associations of parents with disabled children and her capacity to leverage the power of word-of-mouth also enable Gaële to increase awareness of LearnEnjoy’s outcomes. During the past 18 months, the tablet applications have been downloaded more than 12,000 times, and entered the first ranks in the “Education” category of the App Store.
Gaële actively contributes to discussions led by the government on the subject of autism in France. Beyond her lobbying activity, Gaële is now developing a network of major partners working concretely in the field of mental disability, and has already signed partnerships with two main actors in the education and medico-social spaces: the INS HEA (a higher education institute working around the academic inclusion, education and training of disabled individuals) and the FEGAPEI (a national federation of 4,000 care centers working with people affected by mental disorders). Through these partnerships, her objectives are to offer trainings, evaluate the impact of the use of behavioral techniques on autistic children, encourage practitioners to change their practices, and involve families in the process. Such partners represent a very high spread potential: thousands of specialized institutions, tens of thousands of medical professionals, and hundreds of thousands of potential beneficiaries with mental disorders are in direct contact with such organizations.
The basic technologies used by LearnEnjoy are a good way to equip teachers with concrete tools that, due to new public policies, they are required to introduce in their classes. They also build bridges between the professional sphere (education, health, medico-social) and families, to re-establish a much-needed dialogue between parents and caregivers through this unprecedented basis for discussion. Gaële works in close contact with the Ministry of Education to link the results obtained through her tablet applications with the standard indicators they use to evaluate the academic level of children. She thus builds a strong set of tangible arguments that parents can use to help schools better support their children. In this way, Gaële is enabling access to quality education for autistic children throughout France.
Subsequently, she decided to gather a group of parents, in her city and surroundings, joined a young and dynamic association, and together they created a brand new institute. Gaele acted as a project coordinator leveraging on her professional experience in Project Management. In a few months’ time, Gaële and the team raised sufficient funding and obtained the legal agreements to open. The center now welcomes -on a full time basis- 15 autistic children. It is often mentioned as a model to follow for other French institutions. In expanding her knowledge of behavioral approaches, Gaële realized that parents lack solutions to implement them: books are often complicated, tools need to be created over and over, etc. After meeting with a widowed parent that had no time to take care of his young autistic child, she became convinced that implementing behavioral approaches should be made easily accessible to everyone. Her strong background in developing IT solutions led her to imagine a tablet-based solution that any parent or professional could use without specific training.
In parallel, Gaële aimed to connect her autistic son to the traditional school ecosystem, and faced strong difficulties in securing him a place in a class. After being turned down a few times, she wrote a “blurb” about her son, and finally convinced a school to accept him based on concrete and pragmatic knowledge that he had developed. Gaële is also very involved with the well-known activist organization “Agir et Vivre l’Autisme”, of which she is Vice President, and continuously builds close relationships with influential people in the education and health sectors.