Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | Caring and protection of particularly vulnerable groups | 9 November, 2012 - 09:10← BACK
Our work is to identify developmental delays and barriers to learning in children as early as possible in order to provide appropriate therapeutic support. We do this to ensure that they reach their potential and succeed at school, so that one day they can take their place as an independent, contributing members of South African society. Our Centre was started about 40 years ago and we offer multidisciplinary services to all cultural groups in English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sotho.
About 14 years ago, it became evident that many parents, particularly those in the lower-income groups were finding it difficult to access our services on weekdays as they would lose income if they took time off work to bring their child to the centre and often lived too far away. Therefore we made a policy decision to open a Saturday Morning Program in 1997. This program started very small and only operated from about 8-11 am on Saturdays. However, over the past 5 years, it has grown and is fully booked 3 weeks in advance. Often the amount of work done on a Saturday Morning outstrips any weekday. Up until now the major constraints are therapists available to work on Saturdays and office accommodation.
A wide range of assessment and therapy services are offered at the Centre's premises in Harris Crescent, Sherwood, Durban from 7:30-1:30pm on Saturdays with the following varied specific objectives:
The therapists use scientifically standardised measuring instruments (including culture fair tools) when assessing children. Results of assessments and therapeutic interventions are made available to parents/caregivers, schools and other relevant professionals in the form of detailed typed reports.
Arising out of assessments the following therapies & interventions are offered on Saturdays:
From December 2011 to May 2012, services were provided to 215 beneficiaries including children (aged 0-18+ years) and their parents, caregivers, childcare workers, students and professionals in related fields. Most children are, at the very least, developmentally delayed and/or at grave risk of experiencing learning disabilities or having emotional and social difficulties. Many children have physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, cleft palates, hearing and visual impairments. Others have debilitating (genetic, congenital, metabolic or neurological) conditions and syndromes, such as Epilepsy, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Down Syndrome, severe premature birth, chronic life-threatening illnesses, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and hydrocephaly.
This program is aimed at assisting the most financially disadvantaged and at risk children. Thus, a substantial group of the children have been infected/affected by HIV/AIDS, several have been orphaned, or have suffered from abuse and deprivation and are being cared for in Child and Youth Care Centres, by foster parents, relatives or sometimes living in child-headed households. Others are being raised by single parents. Many are living in deleterious and dangerous circumstances, without adequate supervision, exposed to violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse and rape. Many of the children live in conditions of abject poverty and rely on a daily sandwich from community-led feeding schemes at the schools.
Our challenges and learnings
Based on our experience the model we have developed is effectively meeting an identified need. We are constantly looking at ways of improving it though, given that there are usually financial constraints and challenges in terms of the availability of suitable staff on Saturday mornings. We are currently building new, larger premises and plan to expand this Saturday Program in an effort to remain accessible, considering the prevailing needs of our beneficiaries and their parents or caregivers. The other challenge we will seek to overcome is the recruitment of more high-calibre professionals, especially those speaking African languages, who are available to work on Saturdays.
In brief what we have learned over the past 12 months
27 Harris Crescent, Sherwood, Durban