The thought of you made me scared,
how would I react to you,
how would I handle you,
you were a stranger to me,
a hurt child that I would not be able to understand or protect.
Scared I walked up to you,
scared I looked at you,
smiling you looked at me with those big brown eyes….. I knew then I lost,
lost in your beauty,
lost in the tender way you hold my hand,
lost in your smile that could light up the darkest of days,
lost in the words you speak even though you don’t say a word I understand,
You precious have changed me,
no more am I scared,
no more do I not understand,
you have stolen my heart from the moment I walked into your class you my autistic child,
you who have been robbed of a normal life,
you have changed my life,
through you I see the art,
through you I see joy,
the love and so much to gain,
you my dear are precious as night is to day.
Written by SACAP student Chantel Barlow after completing her fieldwork at the Johannesburg Hospital School.
In order to address the harsh realities that exist within South Africa a well-trained, inspired workforce of supportive counsellors is needed to service those people who fall by the wayside of accessible mental health services and make a meaningful social impact. At SACAP we believe that our fieldwork programme is the first step towards empowering our student counsellors. We have partnered with more than 100 NGOs, with a specific focus on those that make a social impact in their community. Our students spend time working at these NGOs, gaining valuable work experience and we would like to acknowledge our amazing partner NGOs through a series of posts featuring their work.
Johannesburg Hospital School: a brief history and overview
In 1923, a group of volunteers visiting sick children in the hospital, recognised the need for these patients to continue their education. For many years, volunteers ran the school informally, until 1960 when the Department of Education appointed qualified teachers and established a small but dedicated facility for these children.
Located on the ninth floor of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, the school enables over 100 children from Grade R to Grade 12 to complete their schooling in line with the national curriculum. Many of these children are undergoing treatment for terminal or long-term illness and are required to remain hospitalised for months at a time. At Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, they can obtain the medical treatment they need, while continuing with their education in a stimulating, cheerful environment.
In 2005, through the efforts of Professor Lorna Jacklin a leading paediatrician and neurodevelopment specialist, a second school was established at the CMI campus in Braamfontein. This school offers over 230 autistic and visually-impaired children, between the ages of 3 and 20 years old the opportunity to develop essential life skills to help them function, communicate and interact socially. Class numbers are kept small and a team of dedicated educators, including remedial teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists and teaching assistants provide these special-needs children with the education they deserve.
The school benefits from the support of the Gauteng Department of Education, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Works. The facility has grown to become the largest school for autistic learners in South Africa, and the only government school in Johannesburg that specialises in education for autistic learners.
Autism is a complex neurological disorder and developmental disability that affects communication skills and social interaction. Autistic children struggle with verbal and non-verbal communication, social skills, leisure and play activities. Intellectual and speech impairments may also occur.
One out of every 88 people is born with autism and it affects boys more than it affects girls. Autism cannot be cured, but it can be managed through interventions, to help integrate both the child and the family back into the community.
Due to the nature of Autism, many learners experience problems expressing themselves with words. During therapy sessions at the school, learners are encouraged to explore and express themselves using a range of materials. Working together on group projects fosters cooperation and turn-taking and teaches the children how to respect other’s opinions and perspectives.
SACAP students have assisted in addressing the sensory processing problems the children have, by increasing their tolerance for unpleasant stimuli and channelling autistic behaviours into more expressive and creative outlet. The sessions helped desensitise the learners to textures and smells they might normally avoid in everyday life. These sessions promoted communication, emotional growth and sensory integration, while fostering social interaction in a relaxed and fun environment.
Find out how to support and about volunteering opportunities at Johannesburg Hospital School.