Vera School makes provision for learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is now used widely in the United States of America and is also used in the formal diagnostic tool that we use namely “Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ” (DSM 5).
There is the existence of common core features and the disorder is presented as a spectrum. The DSM 5 does not categorise sub-groups as in the past but it requires that the clinicians specify the severity of the current symptomatology in terms of level of support required for each of the two main domains; social communication and social interaction difficulties; and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interest, or activities and sensory difficulties. The levels of support are divided into three categories of severity, namely; Level 1 – requiring support, Level 2 – requiring substantial support and Level 3 – requiring very substantial support, and these allow for discussion of priority areas of development and/or intervention. The DSM V also requires that clinicians specify if the person presents with ASD with or without Intellectual impairment and with or without language impairment. The aim is to develop a specific understanding of that persons presentation of ASD in order to intervene effectively.
How is a child admitted to school.
Your child would need to be seen by a professional in the field of health, education or social services. If they are of the opinion that the child needs to be admitted to an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) specific school, they will send a referral form to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) ASD central waiting list at firstname.lastname@example.org. The ASD WCED outreach team which is based at Vera School, manages this centralised waiting list. The outreach team will capture the child’s details on this waiting list.
Learners will be allocated to a school according to the geographical area in which they stay. The following schools cater for ASD learners: Ligstraal (Paarl), Chere Botha (Bellville), Noluthando (Khayalitsha), Beacon (Mitchels Plain), Glenbridge (Plumstead), Vera (Rondebosch East), Alpha (Woodstock). Before the allocation of learners to schools, all enquiries can be referred to the ASD WCED outreach team. After the learners have been allocated to a school, the respective school will contact parents of these learners.
The schools will contact the parents of the particular child to come to a screening interview (SI). During the SI, the child will be observed by a teacher, and a therapist while parents are interviewed by one of the school’s other professional staff members. This takes about an hour. After the interview, the interviewer and the staff who observed the child will meet to discuss their findings. The parents and child would be asked to wait for the outcome of the team’s discussion. If they only saw a few or no characteristics of ASD or if the primary diagnosis is severe global developmental delay, the findings will be forwarded to the ASD programme manager who is based at the WCED head office (HO). The programme manager will support the child and parents further. If the SI team saw characteristics of ASD or if they are not sure about what they saw and heard, the child will be invited for an observation period of 2 weeks at the school. Due to the huge number of learners on the waiting lists at the ASD schools, it cannot be guaranteed when the child will start the observation period. Older children and those who have been waiting for a long period of time, are prioritised. A few recommendations regarding interim interventions are made at the SI. No formal assessments with detailed reports are possible and available at the SI. The venue for the observation period is determined by the child’s physical address and whether the closest educational institution has a full trans-professional team. When the child comes for an observation period at an ASD school, it would be for 2 school weeks. The observation period normally starts on a Monday. The trans-professional team discuss their findings on the last Friday of the observation period.
The main purpose of the observation would be the placement of the learner in an educational setting by the trans-professional team. During the observation, formal assessments would be done by the school’s teachers, therapists and psychologists. At Vera, a feedback meeting happens on the first Tuesday after the observation period. This is done in a formal meeting. The diagnosis of ASD does not necessarily mean placement at an ASD school. The observation period determines what the most appropriate placement for the child would be. Here are some criteria which will determine whether a child is a suitable candidate for an ASD school: An ASD diagnosis; ability to function in a group of 6 to 9 learners; ability to display some independence skills; not to pose a danger to himself/herself or others; not to display excessive destructive behaviour; ability to display some imitation skills; ability to display some motivation. If the trans-professional team does not find the child to be a suitable candidate for a school, alternative interventions are recommended where possible. All reports of such a learner will be forwarded to the ASD programme manager at the WCED HO. The programme manager will support the child and parents further. Pro rata school fees are charged for the observation period. If the child is found to be a suitable candidate for a school, his/her name would be placed on the waiting list for admission. The child will be admitted to the school as soon as an appropriate opening in a suitable class becomes available. Immediate admission of a suitable candidate to the school after an observation period is possible but not guaranteed.