About Knysna Association for Persons with Disabilities
The Knysna Association for Persons with Disabilities is an association working with people with disabilities. Their aim is to create a better community, lifestyle and workplace for persons with disabilities and for these people to achieve their potential, dreams and goals. One of the programs of Knysna Association for Persons with Disabilities is Child Care and Education where they focus on children between the ages 0 – 18 years who are affected by a disability.
The values and principles of inclusive education underpin their work in helping children with disabilities and their parents’ access to this right. Children with disabilities should as far as possible, receive the support they need to learn and progress in their local ECD (Early Childhood Development) centre and ordinary school together with other children from their neighborhood. Building an inclusive education system will ultimately help build an inclusive society.
The Knysna Association for Persons with Disabilities promotes access to education through: lobbying and advocating; walking a journey with parents, empowering them with knowledge of their children’s right to education whilst supporting them in their efforts to access this right; collaborating with key stakeholders as they strive to make the right of education a reality for as many children with disabilities as possible.
For some children who have exceptionally high support needs (especially those living in rural areas), access to mainstream or even special schools, is just not feasible. Knysna as a community has a huge need for a centre or school that caters for children who live with disabilities.
Challenges these children currently experience:
- Children with disabilities do not receive equal education opportunities;
- There is a lack of ECD centres specifically catering for children with disabilities.
Barriers preventing children with disabilities in the Knysna and surrounding areas from accessing equal education opportunities
- There are no Special Learning Centers specifically catering for children with severe disabilities in Knysna;
- Poor socio-economic living conditions: children with disabilities place an additional financial strain on household incomes because parents need to look after their children 24/7 and cannot afford to pay someone to look after their child with a disability;
- The mainstream schooling system is largely inaccessible to children with severe physical disabilities;
- LSEN (Learners with Special EducationalNeeds) units are under resourced.
The current situation for Disabled Children in Knysna and surrounding areas
In Knysna a child born with a disability is destined for a life of dependency. For the poor this burden can be extreme. Children with disabilities can be a social, financial, mental and physical burden to their families. Through lack of knowledge and skills of the family, the children do not get the appropriate help they need. The children do not go to school and hardly leave their homes. Therefore, they are not challenged and do not develop mentally or physically.
Although the Constitution of South Africa protects the rights of people with disability and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, limited facilities currently exist in the Greater Knysna Municipal Area for the disabled. The inequity is reflected in Municipal infrastructure as well, and resources will have to be made available to ensure greater accessibility. Public amenities such as libraries, community halls, municipality buildings and road infrastructure are badly designed for disabled people. The Knysna Municipality currently works in conjunction with the Department of Social Development and Knysna ADP to develop focused social development programs to up-scale representation of people with disabilities within our community as well as in municipal decision making processes.
Based on the information above, we can conclude that many disabled children in the greater Knysna area do not the appropriate support. This project would like to contribute to the improvement of the current support. Knysna APD’s vision is to start a Special Education Center. The center will include special education and physical stimulation.
The target group for the disabled support group will be children in the age of 0 – 18 with a mental and/or physical disability in the Knysna area.
We currently have 30 children with disabilities, which includes 15 children with cerebral palsy, 5 with Down syndrome and 10 with spina bifida, physical disabilities and autism.
The overall goals of the Special Learning Center project are:
- Improved quality of life for children with disabilities in Knysna and surrounding areas;
- Increased and more appropriate support for disabled children and their families;
- Increased social interaction between families with disabled children in Knysna and surrounding areas;
- Integration of disabled children and young adults into the wider community;
- Education and Life Skills Development.
- To create an atmosphere that is stimulating, encouraging, safe, clean, healthy and adaptive to each child with a disability’s individual needs; to empower and encourage the children with a disability to develop to their full potential by improving their physical or mental performance and thus enjoying a better quality of life;
- To assess the mental and physical health of each child, provide daily attention; to measure the abilities of children and put the activities that suit their needs, and to utilize their capabilities to the maximum limit possible;
- To take care of children with disabilities on daily basis and to assist them and to alleviate their families’ burden; enabling the parents, especially the mothers, to be relieved of 24 hour care and help them go to work and take time for leisure;
- To develop skills of the disabled and helpless children, so that as they grow, they can be self-reliant, skilful and capable in the family and community;
- The Knysna ADP Special Learning Center’s long-term objective is to provide these underprivileged children with the opportunity to live independently in the future; to provide individualized care and counseling to the parents of children with disabilities;
- To train the mothers on the way to look after their disabled children; to enable her to provide physiotherapy, speech therapy, functional therapy to rehabilitate the children with disability;
- To organize the public awareness program for changing the negative feeling of society towards children with disabilities.
Activities to be carried out:
- Main/refresher training to staff team:
Knysna ADP will work in partnership with other care centers such as Sterreweg (in nearby Plettenberg Bay) as well as Western Cape APD to train staff that shall be involved in the implementation of the mainstreaming of children with disabilities;
- Review meetings with the parents of children with disabilities:
The review meetings will become a platform for the parents and the staff team to share their experience with the children with disabilities. This in turn will help in improving the quality of care provided to the children;
- Training to parents of the children with disabilities:
Quarterly training by experts in the application of rehabilitation and stimulation therapies for parents and families of the disabled;
- Training & Support Services to the parents/childcare workers:
To work in partnership with local physiotherapist and occupational therapist to train parents and staff to supplement the treatment offered (especially to children with cerebral palsy), for example with children need more exercises during growth spurts;
- Outing/Exposure visits to children with disabilities:
Quarterly outings/exposure visits for children attending the day care center to different places. It will educate the children in social norms as well as merely entertain and stimulate them;
- Awareness among the public on Disabilities:
To sensitize the people in the community as well as concerned school authorities, government and non-government agencies/organizations. The awareness program will also focus on disability prevention and management;
- Planning meetings with staff team and project manager:
Monthly planning meetings to check the process and progress made with regard to the children;
- Evaluation and assessment:
To study the effectiveness of the day care center and relevance and scope of continuing the programs;
- Parent counseling:
The Knysna APD social worker will go out for home visits and counseling in the families.
Special Education Center
In order to have an effective program, Knysna APD would like to bring different disciplines under one roof. The primary focus will be on special education with additional support, such as occupational therapy and physical stimulation, group therapy, etc. All the disciplines will be working tougher for the same goal. Each child will have a specific treatment plan with individual goals that the whole team will work towards.
The Special Education Centre will comprise of 2 classrooms for education and training and will be situated at Hornlee Primary.
The center will provide education appropriate to the needs of the individual children. The children will benefit from day-care with basic skills training such as walking, talking and small, manageable domestic tasks. A program of skills training will also be available.
A long-term goal of the program is to be able to influence policy at governmental level. Through this, special needs education will be given a higher priority in Knysna enabling all children with disabilities to access appropriate support and education in their area.