Dot’s Learning Centre, based in Durbanville in the Western Cape, provides individualised support and attention for learners who find it difficult to develop fully in a mainstream learning environment.
The centre was originally opened by Dorothy Nortje in 2012, before being acquired by Curro Holdings in 2017. Doors opened at the new premises in April 2018. Since then, the centre has grown 30% to date, demonstrating the great need for facilities for children with learning barriers.
Why choose Dot’s Learning Centre?
Through smaller, more manageable classes, Dot’s Learning Centre ensures that every individual child gets enough time, attention and individual focus from teachers.
Dot’s Learning Centre is a registered Independent Combined School and teaches a Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) aligned programme for learners from grade 1 to grade 12.
With Dot’s Learning Centre, no learning situation is seen as too difficult, but rather as a motivation for which a new learning strategy must be developed. “Learners do not all learn the same way, and as a result, we have developed a model which takes into consideration how children are stimulated to learn and how they process and retain information. To see a learners’ development and growth on the academic front is a great passion of mine,” Nortje notes.
She explains that the recent addition of a counsellor and Occupational Therapist (OT) ensures that support services are available to all learners between 8:30 and 14:30 every day.
Dot’s Learning Centre is registered as an examination centre for matriculants through the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI). It also assists home schoolers with the CAPS curriculum, and supports remediation lessons with qualified specialists.
Dot’s Learning Centre benefits from the infrastructure of the Curro Holdings Group – the biggest JSE-listed independent school operator in South Africa.
New sensory room
“Many of our students have difficulty regulating themselves and processing the various sensory stimuli around them (sound, vision, smell, taste, touch, movement),” explains Chrismarie Whitehead, OT at Dot’s Learning Centre. “This influences their ability to pay attention to tasks and activities in class and therefore negatively impacts their learning. A sensory room is a therapeutic space that helps these students to regulate themselves and improve their ability to process the sensory stimuli around them.”
The room will be filled with different equipment to help students calm and focus themselves, enabling them to be better prepared for learning and interacting with others.
Equipment includes swings, which provide vestibular (movement) input and help the child to learn about their body and the movement of their body in space.
Balls encourage the development of planning, the timing of movements and coordination, while tactile (touch) bins are filled with rice, beans and other textured substances, promoting the development of fine motor skills.
Soft play objects, such as rollers, wedges, blocks, and crash pads ensure that the students receive proprioceptive (deep pressure and sense of the movement of limbs) input to help them develop the sense of where and how their body is moving in space.
Sound puzzles and music stimulate the auditory (hearing) system of the students who struggle to discriminate auditory input.
Various puzzles and games are used to stimulate the visual system and therefore improve visual perceptual skills, which play an important role in the development of reading and writing skills.
Items such as pegboards, tweezers, Play Dough, lacing cards, and construction toys are used to develop fine motor skills.
The importance of sensory play
“The sensory system forms the basis for the development of the skills necessary for engaging in all the different areas of daily life,” Whitehead says. “For a child to be able to attend to tasks in a class environment and participate optimally in all areas of their lives, their sensory systems need to be integrated.”
For example, some children have difficulty processing auditory stimuli and therefore they struggle to focus in a class where other children are talking. Their sensory difficulties need to be addressed to enable them to perform school-related tasks.
“Furthermore, the sensory system is responsible for improving attention and calming the body when a child is upset,” Whitehead says. “Children with special needs often have difficulty controlling their emotions and are therefore prone to having meltdowns where they become so disorganised that they are unable to function. The development of the sensory system can, therefore, help to calm them when this happens and ultimately enable them organise themselves.”
It is for these reasons that Dot’s Learning Centre has created a sensory room to benefit all learners.
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