This department is headed by Ms Neliswa Khumalo. The team is multi-disciplinary, consisting of both full and part-time remedial therapists, speech therapists, an occupational therapist and a number of facilitators. These professionally qualified individuals are equipped to support boys who may present with learning difficulties at any stage of their schooling.
The unit is committed to using a diverse range of educational programmes and approaches, to cater for a spectrum of learning needs, while taking into account the available resources and the best interests of our students. Academic Support is offered through “In–Class Support” (an Academic Support Teacher goes into the classroom to support boys through individualised instruction and small groups) or “Withdrawal Support” (An Academic Support Teacher removes an individual boy or a small group of boys from the main classroom to work on targeted skills). Individual Academic Support lessons are at cost to the boy’s parents and there is a set fee. This support is focused on remediating and consolidating the development of the core skills, rather than re-teaching the same curriculum content as presented by the subject teacher in the mainstream classroom. Alternatively, if it is believed that a student requires intensive academic support to help him cope better in the classroom, an individualized programme is then put into place, taking into account the available resources. An Academic Support Specialist or Facilitator will then work with the student, individually, at allocated times.
A streamlined step-by-step process is followed in order to diagnose and meet the specific needs of each boy. Recommendations from a full Educational Psychological assessment, teachers’, as well as parent referrals are taken into account when considering admission into individual academic support lessons. Therefore, parents have a responsibility to share information about the learning needs, strengths and challenges of their child so that effective intervention can be provided (this includes previous assessments, psycho-educational reports and history of remedial intervention, for example). When and if information is withheld from the school, effective teaching and learning becomes difficult and appropriate support cannot be provided.
Cordwalles acknowledges that every boy is unique, with individual strengths, challenges, interests, abilities and learning needs. This unit underpins the reality that, for some, learning difficulties are very real and that with understanding, accountability, empathy and the re-enforcement of skills, boys can be equipped with ways of overcoming these obstacles and are able to grow in confidence and to flourish. Once all options and interventions have been explored, there may be circumstances in which, Cordwalles recognises that it might not be in the best interest of the student to receive education and support in our setting, and then the students’ participation within our educational context may not be possible.
In support of the school’s mission, the department is also committed to providing a nurturing learning environment which will inspire and educate these young boys to become MEN of significance.
Occupational Therapy at Cordwalles
Our on-site Occupational Therapist, Kim Mitchell, runs her practice from Cordwalles in a private capacity. Elizabeth Anne Lee has recently joined the Academic Support Unit to work alongside Kim. Occupational Therapy (OT) focuses on the child as a holistic individual and therapeutic goals aim at assisting the child to thrive in all four areas of daily living: self-care, school, play and sleep. All therapy sessions are play-based and child-centred, which makes for lots of fun and laughter! Reasons for referrals often include the following: sensory processing difficulties, global delays in pre-school foundations, delays in gross motor and fine motor development and often the most common one: messy handwriting or the inability of a boy to put his thoughts onto paper.
The Occupational Therapist will always form an important part of the child’s multidisciplinary team. Referral agents for an Occupational Therapy assessment are in most cases the class teacher, the Paediatrician, the Educational Psychologist, the Speech and Language Therapist and/or the parent. The responsibility for contacting Kim for an OT assessment is solely that of the parent. An assessment will usually be followed by some form of OT intervention, including at least one of the following treatment plans:
- Individual weekly OT sessions. The duration of the sessions will be discussed during the parent feedback session.
- Home Programmes. If no direct intervention is indicated, a home programme will be provided to assist and equip parents in specific identified areas.
- Classroom intervention. Kim visits our Inky Grade RR and Grade R classes once per month and various activity ideas are provided to the class teachers to help with school readiness foundations and to identify and assist boys who need additional help. In our Junior Primary phase Kim visits each JP classroom once every six months, monitoring each boy’s progress and providing the class teachers with useful tools to incorporate in their daily lessons and/or to assist specific boys.
Kim and Elizabeth both follow an open-door policy and all families are welcome to contact them about relevant concerning matters.
Speech and Language Therapy at Cordwalles
Cordwalles has two, private, part time speech and language therapists: Cynthia Morrish and Kristen Buys. Reasons for referral to speech therapy include:
- Delayed or unclear articulation
- Delayed language skills (both verbal and written language)
- Difficulties processing auditory information such as poor listening skills, difficulties following instructions and difficulties retaining auditory information
- Delayed phonological awareness (these skills form the auditory building blocks for literacy)
- Difficulties with social communication
Referral agents are the same as those mentioned for OT. Once the parent has contacted the therapist, the child will be assessed. Depending on the results of the assessment and therefore the needs of the child, speech and language therapy is provided on either an individual basis or in a small group. Cordwalles have been proactive in trying to bridge the gap for some of the second language learners by employing the speech therapists to run weekly language stimulation groups. Selected boys in both grade 1 and grade 2 attend these groups in order to improve their vocabulary and grammatical skills.