Every end-of-year we receive a full report from the Lionheart’s school on his progress in meeting his IEP (individual education plan). As he is unable to attend a mainstream school, each year we try to set realistic goals for him – often something simple, like holding his own mug to drink from (we are still working on this, by the way).
Included in Trav’s report pack is a disc full of photographs of activities he took part in, during all four school terms. Often the photos take me by surprise, because they show him doing things I never thought he was capable of – like whisking a bowl of chocolate pudding! And drinking out of a water bottle! Our family came through for us in a big way this year, funding the Lionheart’s school fees – so it means so much to browse through these photos, and see his progress, and know that it is not all for nothing.
It has occurred to me that you might be curious about what a special needs school is like: I’m sharing these photographs to give you a look inside. (I’ve tried hard not to show any of my son’s classmates in these photos, to respect their family’s privacy.) Travis has been going to Wiggles & Squiggles Special Needs Academy in Boskruin, Johannesburg for four years now, since he turned two.
Without sounding like a brochure, some of the differences are:
- The school has ramps for wheelchairs and handrails for balance.
- You’ll notice by the doorways that there are symbols tacked up, that non-verbal children can point to – for instance: ‘toilet’. Children are taught to communicate with picture cards and hand signs.
- There is a therapy room and a music/sensory room. There is occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy on site.
- There is a very high staff-to-student ratio – much more than in a regular school. The classes are also smaller.
- As you can imagine, all the staff are trained for every eventuality – from dealing with an epileptic fit, to communicating in Makaton hand signs, to diffusing a kid’s meltdown if they have a sensory overload (this kind of thing happens with Travis all too often).
There’s more – but those are the basics. And now: picture story! (I have just noticed that he is wearing the same Disco T-Rex shirt in lots of these photos. I make no apologies... that shirt is awesome.)