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Everyone is special at the SOWLE Centre

| October 30, 2013 | 3 Comments

“SOWLE Centre began because of a little boy ready to enter reception year in January 2011. He had been diagnosed with Down syndrome and his parents were struggling to find an appropriately stimulating learning environment for him,” says Samantha Bird, principal of the centre.

Whilst SOWLE’s focus was initially children with Down syndrome, Bird quickly became aware of the overwhelming need of quality schooling for children with a range of special needs. Before she knew it, 18 children were enrolled and could benefit from her vast experience, which includes nine years of teaching children with special needs in the UK.

Space enough to grow a unique curriculum
SOWLE has plenty of space to grow, situated on a plot in the Benoni Small Farms area in Gauteng. Neighbours are not plentiful, and Bird has taken care to build relationships with neighboring Kathstan College and Arbour and Rynfield primary schools. More neighbours will inevitably come, as SOWLE continues to unroll and refine its unique curriculum. Bird explains: “Our school caters for children who do not ‘fit’ into remedial education classes as they are most conventionally classified.

This is because these children may be more than two years behind in their development, but also too highfunctioning to fit into most known special needs centres that offer care and skills to severely disabled young people rather than education. The unique environment and curriculum at our school afford the children the ability to learn through hands-on activities and play, rather than mainstream ‘paper-based’ learning. “We adapt the environment and learning styles we offer to suit each child, rather than trying to mould a child into a tableand- chair-based environment.

Our ongoing observation-based assessment ensures that learners are constantly challenged, and progress is a focus. Our on-site therapists, who run their own practices but work closely with SOWLE for two days a week, offer feedback after sessions on how, as educators, we can implement therapies into our daily activities and routines, ensuring continuous, therapy-oriented learning throughout the course of the day.”

Patience paid off
This pedagogical approach allows SOWLE its unique student and teacher diversity profiles. Eighteen children aged as young as four, who might have Down syndrome, global delay,1 verbal apraxia, echolalia, mild cerebral palsy, mild autism and undiagnosed global delay are cared for until the age of 13 by five teachers with experience in augmentative and alternative communication and primary/early years and special needs education.

Careful planning and providence have helped SOWLE get past its financial and staffing issues. “Financial issues were overcome by the amazing support from both families and local businesses, who saw that there was a need for a school such as ours to exist. Finding therapists who are passionate about the sorts of learners we have meant being passionate and waiting for the right people to cross our path.”

Patience has paid off. Bird reports that consulting therapists and neurologists have been impressed by the progress made by SOWLE students in independence, cognitive ability, communication, reading and writing. “Opening a second class this year with more children and staff was a joy for me,” she adds.

Growth the goal SOWLE Centre is a new ISASA member. Having the school’s independence protected by the organisation gives her peace of mind, says Bird. “It means that we have the freedom, within the boundaries set by the South African Education Act, to provide the appropriate environment and curriculum for our children’s special needs. “We intend to continue to grow the school and grow up with our children, taking them into functional adulthood.” 

Reference: 1. See UsefulInformation/ TypesofSENDisability/ GlobalDevelopmentalDelay.html.

Category: Summer 2013

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Comments (3)

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  1. Bianca Cicero says:

    Good day

    We would like to visit the school on the 17.06.2016. We need a school for my child, please contact me via email. What is the school fee per month and hours?

    Thank you

  2. Leentjie du Preez says:

    Keep up the good work. There is such a great need for an a-typical LSEN school like yours. I’ve been desperately looking for a place for a very special little girl I’ve worked with, and SOWLE might just be our prayers came true. I would love to visit the school some time for future referrals.

  3. Rethabile says:

    hy my name is Rethabile Msimango from Tsakane in Gauteng I have a 4 year old little boy who have a special need,he doesn’t talk so I’m wondering if you could take him.

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