The core business of Vera School is to deliver a broad, balanced and relevant learning programmes to our learners, that takes account of the quadrant of impairment. The quadrant refers to the impairment in social interaction, communication, imagination (narrow and restricted repertoire of behaviours and range of interest) and sensory processing. Due to the challenges of the learners at the school, most of them are unable to access the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), as prescribed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The school’s learning programmes are aligned with CAPS. We define a learning programme as everything that happens at the school, home and hostel, involving the education of our learners. Our entire staff complement, parents and significant others are regarded as important role players in delivering a consistent and tailor made learning programmes to each learner. We plan our learning programmes as a whole school. We incorporate the following learning areas:
Social Interactive Behaviour
Language and communication (including functional literacy)
Imagination and thinking development
Daily living and independent skills
Gross motor, Fine motor and Perceptual skills
As learners on the Austism Spectrum vary with regard to their experience of educational barriers and priorities for support and intervention, and Individualised Educational and Development Programme (IEDP) is the backbone of curriculum delivery, recording and reporting at Vera School.
Due to the challenges of the learners, most of them cannot access the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), as prescribed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). However, the learning programmes, lesson planning and assessments are in line with CAPS. Some learners access certain aspects of CAPS depending on their abilities.
An IEDP is drafted in a collaborative, complimentary way by a trans-professional team consisting of:
- class teacher
- teacher assistant
- occupational therapist
- speech therapist
- principal/deputy principal
- Any other person who might be a stakeholder in the process, on condition that the parents give consent.The team is trans-professional and not merely multi-professional, as there are no rigid boundaries between the contributions and functioning of team members. A role sharing model is implemented.Assessments by professionals are not done for the sake of assessment or to establish functioning levels solely. Assessments serve to enlighten our understanding of learners and the knowledge gained needs to be integrated into operational recommendations and outcomes for them.There are no formal pre-discussions of learners before an IEDP-session. The IEDP session is a dynamic interaction between the team members as they feed their contributions into the process where applicable. This does not exclude preparation by team members.The IEDP is formulated in positive outcomes based terms.
SMART is the acronym used in guiding IEDP formulations with the following meaning:
- Attainable /Realistic
- Time bound
All members of the trans-professional team are present when formulating a new IEDP or reviewing an existing IEDP. A review lasting 3 hours happens +/- every two years. There is an IEDP discussion every Thursday (12h00-15h00) and Friday (09h00-12h00).The IEDP is refined after the team meeting and typed up. Parents get a copy of the document for approval and to use as a working document.
Formal reports are drafted by the professional team members when needed.
There are two opportunities every year when parents and teachers focus on feedback discussions on the IEDP. Parents have the opportunity to see their children’s teachers on an individual basis at least twice a year. The focus during these meetings would be the learners’ IEDPs. Parents are required to bring their updated copy of the IEDP along to these meetings. These meetings are compulsory.
Teacher record keeping and weekly reports are in synch with the IEDP of each learner.
New learners to the school will have an IEDP meeting approximately one term after admission as the trans-professional team need to get to know the child. The observation assessments and teacher insight into the child will serve as a base line for discussion.
Where applicable, learners can be involved in the formulation of their own IEDP.
Should the need arise for more discussion or feedback on a learner’s IEDP, effort will be made to meet the need. Professional judgment will be used to determine who should be present at such discussions.
Our Outcome Based curriculum strives to attain the following six critical outcomes for our learners:
1. Establish and maintain social relationships
2. To communicate effectively using whatever mode the learner is capable of
3. To manage behaviour and emotions
4. To develop learner’ understanding, thinking and problem solving abilities through the use of all available senses and experiences
5. To manage activities of daily living as independently as possible
6. To take part in recreational activities and work in the community
Vera offers a wide range of teaching techniques. We aim to respond appropriately to the
differing curricular needs of our learners. We are aware of current thinking and research in the field of Autism and where appropriate we offer an eclectic and new approaches to learning. We use TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children), ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), Makaton, Information Technology, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) a Low Arousal Approach to behaviour management and Music and Movement.
We have two occupational therapists at the school. Much emphasis is placed on sensory modulation. We have a state of the art sensory modulation room. We strive to have a good understanding of the sensory needs of each of our learners. Relevant staff members are involved to deliver a sensory diet driven by the child’s needs.
Occupational therapy is offered to address perceptual and motor difficulties of our learners. A role sharing model whereby other staff work under supervision of our therapists, is followed as the case load is too high to otherwise deliver an effective service. The occupational therapists play a pivotal role in the vocational phase, activities of daily living and after school placement of learners.
A corner stone element in our learning programme delivery is the use of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) systems. Our staff are the leaders in our country in the use of PECS and Makaton. PECS is used to augment and support communication of the learners. Makaton is used to augment the communication of staff and parents. Our two speech therapists are committed to support parents and staff to implement PECS and Makaton across the day. We acknowledge that most learners with autism prefer the visual over verbal modality for learning. We are continually making efforts to create a visually explicit school environment that will enhance clear communication. The speech therapists are very much involved in the social skills aspect of learning programme delivery. The philosophy is to develop communication and social skills within context. Often the therapists will offer support and expert guidance in the classroom or other environments.
The teachers and teacher assistants are involved in occupational and speech interventions.
Individual therapy (both speech and occupational) is only offered in exceptional instances by senior university students under supervision.
We provide a variety of opportunities to foster health and well-being for our learners and staff. Regular physical development lessons, bicycle riding on a specially constructed track with real life traffic signs , judo, swimming, horse riding (on a rotational basis) and training in our school gym are some activities offered. A selected group of senior learners attend the local Virgin Active gym on a weekly basis. Structured physical education lessons, pitched at the level and aimed at the needs of our learners are presented.
We have a beautiful labyrinth in our main quad to stimulate the relaxation response. Music plays an integral part in the learning programme. We have a collection of drums that most of our learners enjoy playing. There is much singing throughout the day. Eurhythmy lessons to live piano accompaniment are offered weekly.
Sexuality education takes a high priority and is presented in a structured way throughout the year. Teachers are empowered to deliver the programme on a needs basis and in an age appropriate way. Parents give informed consent and are offered guidance to fulfill their responsibility with regard to this aspect of their child’s development.
As part of our social learning area learning programme, we have regular outings to everyday places and places of special interest. Socially acceptable behaviour is taught in context. We use persona dolls, puppets and social stories to support learning.