According to Autism South Africa, about 1 in 88 South African children are affected by autism – and growing. In a recent study, it was estimated that every hour a child with autism is born in South Africa (www.autismsouthafrica.org.za). These children often need special care and education to cater for their needs. However, in 2009 there were only two existing Autism-specific schools in the Western Cape, both of which had long waiting lists of over 100 children.
Therefore, in September 2009, a few parents and professionals from Paarl got together and saw the need to open a school for autism in the Boland area to cater for the autism community surrounding Paarl and Stellenbosch. With lots of support and donations from the Paarl community, and guidance from Above, we opened our doors on 18 January 2010 at the Drakenstein Dutch Reformed Church. We started with 4 children and two tutors.
Vera School for learners with autism sent their outreach team for the first term to train and guide the tutors to deliver quality services on an individualised level. The school developed an Individualised Educational and Development Programme (IEDP) for every child for curriculum delivery, recording and reporting. An IEDP approach to learning allows the child who would normally struggle in a mainstream classroom access to specialised education and facilities optimized for the needs and special abilities of the individual learner.
By June 2010 we raised enough money to appoint a qualified teacher, who could also act as our principal. During February 2011 another teacher was appointed and later an assistant. This allowed the school to enroll more learners and our dedicated staff have stayed with the school for 2011. Presently there are 5 qualified teachers, 3 facilitators, 1 class assistant, a bio-kineticist, a speech and occupational therapist, a music therapist as well as the secretary. There are 36 enrolled children – 28 boys and 8 girls, which mostly come from previous disadvantaged communities. More children are currently being assessed by the psychologist for possible placement. Currently we are getting an average of 2 enquiries per week from parents with children on the Autism spectrum. We therefore urgently need more funding to appoint extra assistants and teachers to ensure that we continue to do quality work with every learner.
- The executive mayor of Drakenstein presented the school with a Mayoral award for service to the community in 2011.
- Boland School for Autism registered as an Act 18A Non-profit organisation at the beginning of 2011 with registration number 089-279-NPO.
- The school numbers increased from 21 to 36 in 18 months. 2 Learners were referred back to main stream and are doing extremely well.