OMU Spearheads International Project to Identify Special Talents Among Learners with Disabilities
05 March 2024, Tuesday - 11:50
Updated: 07 March 2024, Thursday - 11:48
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Spotlight on Specially Gifted Individuals with Learning Disadvantages!

Coordinated by Ondokuz Mayıs University (OMU), in collaboration with the Ministry of National Education (MEB) General Directorate of Special Education and Guidance Services and the Samsun İlkadım District Directorate, the Erasmus+ Program's School Education Partnership KA220 project titled "Twice Exceptional Students: Let's Recognize Those with Learning Disadvantages!" kicked off. The project, which sees participation from Türkiye, Bulgaria,  the Czech Republic, Italy, and Poland, aims to develop the "Twice Exceptional Awareness Training Program," create a socio-emotional training program, transform digital content, and establish an e-learning platform.

The inauguration event, held at OMU Atatürk Culture and Congress Center, was attended by notable figures, including Rector Prof. Dr. Yavuz Ünal, MEB General Director of Special Education and Guidance Services Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Otrar, OMU Vice-Rector Prof. Dr. Selim Eren, University Secretary-General Prof. Dr. İdris Varıcı, Atakum District National Education Director Mehmet İrfan Yetik, İlkadım District National Education Director Özer Ersoy, along with academics, teachers, and students.

Rector Ünal: "The project is precious in terms of providing inferences that everyone can benefit from"

Rector Ünal emphasized the project's significance: "This initiative is precious; it facilitates inter-institutional collaboration and fosters a shared culture that benefits everyone. Therefore, I want to congratulate our academics who have supported the project from the beginning and all stakeholders for their contributions. During the 2-year project duration, significant steps like developing the 'Twice Exceptional Awareness Training Program,' creating a socio-emotional training program, developing digital content, and setting up an e-learning platform are planned."

"These are just a few of the successes we have achieved in a short period of time"

Highlighting the incontestable role of education in OMU's mission, Rector Ünal continued, "Education is an unarguable priority in OMU's mission, not subject to debate or delay. Upon taking office in 2020, we undertook a comprehensive revision in education to meet contemporary demands, significantly focusing on research and development (R&D) and education. Our efforts have not only covered significant ground but have also been recognized in the literature. According to the University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP), OMU advanced from 31st place in 2020 to 26th within two years. Following that, in 2021, we became one of the first five universities accredited by the Higher Education Quality Board (YÖKAK). Subsequently, we regained the 'Entrepreneurial University' title, last awarded in 2014. Finally, the Higher Education Council included our University in the Research University Candidate Monitoring Program, marking a series of achievements in a short time."

Rector Ünal concluded his speech by expressing openness to teacher requests, highlighting that these projects will establish a quality culture.

Rector Advisor Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şentürk: “We Started with a Story of a Colleague’s Child”

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şener Şentürk, advisor to the Rector and a faculty member of the Faculty of Education, shared the origin story of the project, stating, “The concept of 'twice exceptional' refers to individuals who are simultaneously gifted/talented and also have specific learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social-emotional developmental disorders, or speech and language disorders. If we talk about how this project began, it started with a problem, like every project. In 2007, while working for the Ministry of National Education in Merzifon, we were inspired by the story of a colleague's child, which formed the foundation of our project. We then progressed on how our diagnoses should be supported and established an association in 2008. During this period, we closely monitored the social development of the children.”

“We Launched This Project and Won a Grant of 250,000 Euros”

Underlining the research conducted for about five years on the social programs of the children, Şentürk continued, “The issue we focused on is the psychological challenges children face at a young age and their misunderstanding by their peers, as well as their inability to understand their peers. In this context, we specifically focused on contributing to their development by concentrating on the children’s growth. We had the opportunity to support our children in a coordinated manner with guidance counselors and tried to grow with the children and ourselves during this period. Firstly, we organized training for preschool and primary school teachers, then participated in Samsun Science and Art Center activities. We collaborated with the Ministry of National Education on materials and organized information festivals. Our main goal was to create a network where gifted children could communicate with each other and create an environment that would contribute to the social development of children from all over Türkiye. Academically, we presented papers at national and international congresses and published articles, books, and theses. Ultimately, by launching this project, we won a grant of 250,000 euros,” highlighting the comprehensive stages of the project.

General Director Assoc. Prof. Dr. Otrar: “The Main Theme of Our Gathering Today is Awareness and Noticing.”

Another speaker was the general director of the MEB Special Education and Guidance Services Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Otrar. He pointed out the importance of awareness, sensitivity, and consciousness: “Being part of this important project arouses beautiful feelings in me. The main goal we want to emphasize is how we view human nature. The main theme of our gathering today revolves around awareness and noticing. We come into the world with many elements to notice, and we do not get to choose these elements. At this point, the main axis we need to position ourselves on is what we do or do not do related to education. The focus of our strategy today is the concept of awareness, and actually, everyone wants to be noticed,” he remarked.

“We Want to Contribute to the Integration of Children Who Need Special Education with Society”

Talking about the human-centered approach of Anatolian culture, Otrar shared information about their goals and ongoing efforts:

“We can’t educate people effectively without understanding the characteristics they bring. We must not forget that each individual has different learning styles. The project's general goal is to improve special education services in Türkiye and contribute to integrating children who need special education with society. Our aim with this project is to increase access to education for children who need special education and gifted children, create opportunities, and improve learning environments to support their integration with society. The presence of assistant teachers in the education of special needs children is extremely important. Indeed, not only in special institutions but also in schools with inclusive education, there must be special teachers. I must also mention that we will update our legal changes regulations in the coming days. Moreover, we prepare guidance programs in our special education schools and develop artificial intelligence-supported tests.”

Panel discussion with experts

An Expert Panel Was Held Following the opening program of the project, a panel titled 'Education of the Gifted and Twice Exceptionals in Türkiye was organized and moderated by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şener Şentürk. Participants included Prof. Dr. M. Serdar Köksal on 'Current Approaches in the Education of the Gifted,' Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sema Tan on 'Twice Exceptional: Myths and Realities,' İdil Kefeli on 'A Different Perspective on Life: Being Twice Exceptional,' and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Otrar on 'MEB's Projection on the Gifted.'

The program concluded with the presentation of certificates and gifts.

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