“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt
There was a desperate need in Port Shepstone and surrounding areas for a school which would aim specifically to address the needs and challenges of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- There is little or no understanding or acceptance of children with autism in the community.
- Schools and teachers may also be unaware of the condition and these children are often labelled as badly behaved or perhaps having low intelligence.
- Children are often excluded from enrolling at mainstream schools as they are unable to deal with the child’s specialised needs.
- The result of this is that families are desperate and at a loss as to where to turn for help.
- Children with autism can be helped, but early intervention is crucial in order to enable each child to reach his full potential.
A small team of interested professionals and parents got together and started Autism South Coast, an organization promoting awareness of the condition of autism. Since April 2012, Autism South Coast has been running a support group for families, teachers and professionals interested in learning more about autism and how to overcome the challenges presented by the condition. Their vision of having a school here in Port Shepstone for children with autism became a reality in January 2014.
Anna Atkins – past CEO of Association for Autism
Sheryl Mulder – Head of Cornerstone Learning Centre
- The school opened in January 2014 under the name of Cornerstone Learning Centre.
- The school is registered as a Non Profit Organisation.
- Premises for the school have been kindly provided by the Norwegian Settlers Church. These premises are ideally situated in a highly central position, readily accessible from areas north, south and inland of Port Shepstone.
- The local branch of the Master Builders Association generously agreed to sponsor alterations and renovations to the existing buildings at the church. These renovations were completed in time for the opening of school in January 2014.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” Psalm 127 v1
First Things First:
- The first phase of the school opened at the beginning of 2014 with two classes, and 12 learners.
- There will be no more than 8 learners in a class with 1 teacher and an assistant.
- Initially children aged from 3 – 10 years will be accommodated, with the intention of adding classes as the children grow older.
- Teachers to be qualified and SACE registered, and will receive specialist training in teaching children with autism.
Vision for the Future:
- Cornerstone Learning Centre aims to create awareness in the community of the prevalence of autism and how to include these individuals in our society in a caring, non judgemental manner.
- Teachers, parents and other interested persons will be able to attend courses and workshops to be held at the school, with the aim of supporting individuals with autism wherever they may be attending school.
- Families will be able to come to the school for advice on where to go for assessments and therapy, and how to be able to help their child in their own homes.
- Cornerstone Learning Centre aims to ultimately develop a vocational training unit, additional therapy areas and resource and training centres for local schools, as funds become available.