School gives hope to special needs kids

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The Hermitage Garden School is providing special needs children in Kenya a chance to receive Montessori schooling at a time when there are only 1,882 primary and secondary schools that are accessible to children with disabilities despite them being 25 per cent of the total children’s population in the country.
 
Catering to children with different disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, the school offers a wide variety of programs. “Which program a child will be admitted to depends on their age and condition,” said Carol Mwai, the administration officer of the school. “There are developmental assessment and individualized educational programs for children who are autistic, suffer from Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy among other disabilities.”

The school, which was founded in 2011 by Ms Faith Watari, started out as a therapy centre for special needs children but a year later expanded into a school so as to offer a wide range of services to their clients. Ms Watari wanted to help children with disabilities achieve their dreams despite their disadvantage.

The state of special needs education in Kenya is wanting, there are 50,744 disabled students enrolled in school and only 24,000 of them in special schools. It is this gap of special need education that The Hermitage Garden hopes to fill through its Montessori-based programs which according to a study by the University of Virginia is found to produces more mature, creative and socially adept children. This is because students learn by using their senses and focus is placed on personal development rather than exams.

Before a child is admitted to the school, they are first assessed to find out what kind of special care they need. “If we see a child can do without or rather does not need as much care and attention, we usually recommend schools to the parents which their children can be admitted to and ones that we know will cater for their needs,” said Carol.

The results from the developmental assessment for the children that will be admitted at the school, are used to plan an individualized training program which sets learning goals for both the parent and child. “The learning abilities of these children are slower compared to others” said Carol, “by employing this friendly system, the children learn at their own pace without the pressure of trying to keep up with other children.”

The school also does not mark the progress of a child by the class number (Class 1 or Class 8) they instead use names such as bumble bee that create a fun environment for the kids to learn and makes them excited to learn.

The school offer services such as an early intervention program for children aged 0 to 6 years that helps them integrate into mainstream schools in kindergarten and primary level. It is set up in a way that a child can receive intense Occupational Therapy, Speech & Language Therapy, Physiotherapy and Special education intervention.

Special education needs learning program for children aged 7 to15 years. This focuses on providing the children with an education, regardless of disabilities or special needs. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is prepared for each child at the start of every academic year, which describes their strengths and weaknesses, sets goals and objectives, and details how they can be met.

A vocational rehabilitation training program for young adults (16 years above), its aim is to enhance their employment prospects through a wide range of supportive services which will further prepare them to integrate into society. Programs on offer are full time, part-time courses, tailor made short courses.  “We also offer some programs such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, a multi-sensory room for sensory disorders, swimming, art therapy, play therapy, animal therapy, music, meals and transport, ”  said Carol. “For adults we train and assist them in job placement.”

The school is fully equipped including having well trained therapists.
For more information about the school contact them on 0717341342.

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