AN ETHOS OF CARE
It is no surprise that students travel from miles around Gauteng province to attend Bellavista School in South Africa. In the field of special needs education, institutions of its kind are rare. Bellavista aims to deliver the mainstream curriculum to those with learning difficulties, while still managing to address their individual needs. Indeed, it places great emphasis on the importance of educating the whole child. “We have a deep sense of care for each and every individual under our wing,” says Alison Scott, the school’s Principal. “Our staff members are highly trained, skilled and committed professionals with a deep-seated motivation to see and fulfil the potential in every child.”
The school allocates a multidisciplinary team to each learner in order to assess, monitor and devise a tailored intervention programme for them. This might include a speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist and/or a remedial therapist, as well as sports coaches and specialist educators. The school is careful to employ educational strategies that are supported by active research and evidence-based practice.
Learning barriers faced by students include dyslexia, dyspraxia and language disorders, as well as developmental delay and motor challenges, such as epilepsy, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. The school environment combines arts and academic subjects with sport and a variety of different therapies, depending on a child’s needs. These include Tomatis therapy for auditory intervention, EAGALA equine-assisted therapy for confidence building and RAVE-O for reading and literacy.
Bellavista School is relevant not only to remedial education but to best practice in education in its entirety. “We are committed to evidence-based practice,” says Scott. “The school is invested in cognitive education practice and actively uses Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment programmes as well as Cognitive Enrichment Advantage (CEA).” Recently, the school installed a state-of-the-art Snoezelen room. Here, lighting effects, sounds, music, aromas and textures create a soothing environment designed to stimulate the senses modulate behaviour.
While enrolment at Bellavista is diverse, the mandate remains the same for each learner. “To provide an educational intervention that will enable children to return to mainstream schooling in time,” says Scott. To this end, she and her team are committed to balancing the school’s ethos of care with the demands of providing a 21st-century education for children with learning difficulties.