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Schools for learning disabilities (Special Needs Schools)

There are so many different options that can be chosen to support a child with Special Education Needs (SEN)I n need of extra learning and everyday help. The South African government defines special needs schools as schools that “caters for students who have special educational needs due to severe learning disabilities, physical disabilities or behavioural problems. The South African constitution states that every single person has the right to accessible education, and special needs schools are an important way of ensuring this right.


Schools for learning disabilities are schools specifically designed for children on the neurodivergent spectrum or children with various learning disorders. Special needs schools are meant to help the child feel safer, more understood, understand information taught to them, and helps children build confidence in their skills and their education.


Unlike mainstream education systems, special needs schools focus on individual education so that the educational goals for each child considers their abilities and their learning styles.

Classes at these schools will be smaller, and the child will be given a safe environment in which they do not feel out of place. The smaller classes also prevent sensory overwhelm from a class full of 20 or more students, allows teachers time to explain and answer any questions in detail, and makes the child more likely to ask questions and communicate if they are not overwhelmed by the number of people listening to them. This is in addition to the benefit that the teacher who is working with your child is going to be specialised in understanding the child’s needs and the way their mind works. When in a space where they are validated, supported, understood, the child feels safe to try even if they make a mistake, which is a pillar of learning support.


A school for learning disabilities is also more likely to cater for the child’s sensory needs and boundaries.  This creates a classroom that lets the child use stim toys, provides frequent breaks, presents visual schedules, alongside having clear, visible class rules, and strict routines that are followed daily.  There is the worry that going to a smaller school may prevent the child from reaching the full extent of their social skills, but it is actually going to reduce the stigma the child experiences around their disability in a time where they are learning skills they need without the pressure of performing at a level that does not cater for their unique abilities. By socialising with children who may understand their experience of being neurodivergent, the child is likely to develop confidence in social interactions.