Serena and Adry's story

Name: Serena
Location: Spain
Occupation: Doctor, psychologist and voluntary English teacher

Name: Adry
Location: Spain
Occupation: English language student


Serena runs Callitability, an educational volunteer project where she has been preparing groups of students with intellectual disabilities for GESE exams since 2019, and Adry is one her students.

Serena was first motivated to start her weekly English classes back in 2019.  She had noticed that English is frequently removed from the school curriculum of students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, “restricting their access to this learning opportunity even though no scientific evidence supports the mistaken assumption that learning a second language would be detrimental to the acquisition of their mother tongue”.

“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as if these students don't get the chance to learn English, a language that is considered essential for education, promotion and employment here in Spain, how can they enjoy the same opportunities as others?”

Serena is a doctor, a psychologist, a TEFL teacher and a mother of three. “My eldest son has Down syndrome and his successful experience learning English encouraged me to take a step forward and give other young adults with intellectual disability in my community the chance to learn a second language too.”

"With the provision of the appropriate support, everyone can learn. My students are an example of enthusiasm and determination. The classes are fun and practical; we use the Trinity College syllabus as a guide. When I asked my students why they wish to learn English they mentioned work, travel, understanding music, meeting friends…are those reasons not the same as for everyone else?"

The spectrum of ability within the class is as wide as in any other group of adults. Strengths and difficulties are present in each student. Labels and diagnosis are not the focus; what matters is what works for each student. 

We make exam preparation classes very practical.  For example; when we talked about body parts, I brought my medical gear (white coats, stethoscope..) to class and through roleplaying the students assumed doctor and patient roles. This task gave them the chance to express how they feel about going to the doctor, which some students had a lot to say about. It became a place to share feelings and experiences with English as the vehicle.” 

For me the exam is key because it gives some shape to what you’re doing. When we were doing Trinity exams for more than 25 years in my family’s summer school in Ireland, we chose Trinity because the syllabus was an ideal guideline. With this group, GESE is more flexible for the needs of my students because it focuses on their conversational skills. 

“Adry is so motivated and is such a fighter. It was hard for her to start again but she keeps pushing. It’s really easy to just give her a little bit of help and she’s on her way. "


Adry, who had a life changing accident at 16, is one of Serena’s students. She got a distinction in her GESE Grade 6 exam recently and is already preparing for Grade 7 with Serena.

“My first experiences with English were when I was 7 years old when I was in primary school. I took Trinity exams all through school and my uncle also gave me English classes.”

“I had an accident when I was 16 years old, and I was in a coma for some months. Some of my family talked to me in English when they visited me in the hospital, and my mum used to play English music. They noticed that my breathing changed when I listened to Queen’s Radio Gaga!  When I came out of the coma, my first words were ‘Hello I’m Adriana’ in English!

“I need to learn English for work but it’s difficult to find English classes for people like me. If you fight, you can do it! In my classes with Serena, she is prepared and adapts the classes for me.

"Before the exam, I was very nervous, but in the exam, I was so relaxed from the beginning because the examiner was so polite! 

“Now I’ve taken my Grade 6, I can understand songs better – I really like listening Bon Jovi especially!”

“I’m preparing for my Grade 7 now and if I pass, I will continue taking more grades.”


Serena was first motivated to start her weekly classes for adults with special educational needs after noticing that no-one in her area was offering English classes to students with disabilities.

Adry, who had a life changing accident at 16, is one of Serena’s students. She got a distinction in her GESE Grade 6 exam recently and is already preparing for Grade 7 with Serena.

Find out more about Trinity GESE exams
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