Vera School offers various co-curricular activities to learners during the school day, to support learning skills on their IEDPs. These activities are run by external instructors in collaboration with Vera teachers and teacher assistants. Parents are charged according to the co-curricular activities their children participate in, however, the school also pays a portion of the costs. Parents may opt-out of certain co-curricular activities in consultation with the multi-disciplinary team. Not all classes participate in every activity each week. The following activities are offered at Vera School:
Small groups of combined classes attend a 30 minute session on alternate weeks. A Yoga instructor leads the groups, supported by the class teachers and assistants. The sessions are based on traditional yoga, which originated in ancient India. However, Vera is a secular school and so there is no emphasis on the spiritual practice of Yoga, but rather on the physical exercises and relaxation techniques which form part of the discipline. Exercises can be further adapted according to specific learners’ abilities, to allow for optimal participation. Teachers are also encouraged to use Yoga techniques in the class where relevant and appropriate. Some of the possible benefits of Yoga include increased flexibility, balance and muscle strength, as well as decreased anxiety and an improved ability to manage stress.
Drumming occurs weekly in the assessment centre at the Vera School hostel. Groups of 2-3 classes, together with their teachers and assistants, attend a 20 minute session led by an external instructor. Each learner is given a Djembe drum and is encouraged to follow and maintain the rhythm demonstrated by the instructor. Examples of skills which are addressed through drumming include joint attention, imitation, the co-ordinated use of the 2 sides of the body (bilateral integration), and listening skills.
Judo sessions take place weekly. Classes are grouped according to similar age and skill level and attend a 30 minute session with a Judo instructor. Judo is generally categorised as a modern martial art and a combat sport, however, at Vera it is used in an adapted manner as part of our physical educational program and involves floor exercises (e.g. animal walks) and ball skills. Only the older and lower support learners are taught mild ‘combat’ skills such as throws. The instructor leads the groups, supported by the class teachers and assistants. The sessions are based on the learners’ skill level and various exercises are done according to the learner’s abilities. Some of the possible benefits of Judo include increased motor control and coordination, muscle strength and imitation skills.
The South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA) offers weekly horse riding lessons free of charge to various special needs schools. 2 groups of 8 learners are transported by a teacher and teacher’s assistant to SARDA’s premises in Constantia. All learners 12 years and younger will have an opportunity to attend horse riding for 1 year. Groups are determined annually by Vera staff, according to a waiting list based on learners’ age and date of admission. Amongst other benefits, horse riding has been found to assist in the development of learners’ postural control and balance, and also provides calming sensory input through the rhythm of the horse’s movements.
Voluntary Programmes and Services
External organisations offer services to our learners on a voluntary basis during school hours or at the hostel. Not all learners can be accommodated; however, learners are given the opportunity to be exposed to such programmes on a needs basis determined by the multi-disciplinary team involved. Learners rotate to accommodate and allow more learners to be exposed to these programmes. These include:
Virgin Active Gym Class
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. This is especially true for learners with autism, as they do not only benefit physically from fitness programs, but exercise has also been found to improve self-regulation, reduce challenging behaviour and reduce high levels of anxiety common in individuals with autism. Virgin Active at Kenilworth Centre kindly supports Vera School in our efforts to provide our learners with opportunities to exercise, by offering a free 30-minute class once a week. The class incorporates cardio-vascular exercise with basic strength training, and is run by a Virgin Active instructor. 2 groups of 11 learners attend the class on alternating weeks, accompanied at all times by 2 Vera staff members. The classes offered by Virgin Active form part of the broader physical exercise programme offered at Vera School. Please see the section on facilities for further information.