Piece of Mind is an early childhood development and special needs center specialising in learners on the Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as learners with Down syndrome. Piece of Mind offers a specialised and unique development milestone curriculum, designed to stimulate learners’ love of learning, increase self-confidence, and enhance all necessary development milestones.
1. How is that you are involved with autism in Jozi?
We are a Early Childhood Developement and Special Needs Centre, specializing in the education and development of learners on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. We take a holistic approach to each learners’ educational and emotional well being.
We believe a human being does not consist out of only one dimension, we are social, emotional, physical, sensory and psychological beings. We strongly believe when all of the aforementioned is addressed an autist is able to be integrated into the society (inclusivity).
2. How can we as a community in Jozi make play more inclusive for autists?
– Development through sensory play.
Sensory play areas should be established at all schools, centres and could even be at shopping centres. If a variety of sponsors are available a soft play area at each shopping centre could be established with different sensory boards, texture boards and sensory play stations.
Sensory play areas could also be established with little funding. We spend on average R250 a month for 8 learners on basic sensory play items such as shaving cream, macaroni, rice, maize and paint. You could even just use mud, leaves, stones and grass to stimulate the various senses.
The importance of sensory integration should never be undervalued.
– Events should be Autism friendly, thus the autistic individual could play in an interactive environment.
Events should have a room and/or area that autistic individuals could escape to if they become over stimulated.
All of the above will be possible once there are more autism awareness and acceptance.
3. What has worked for you & your organisation to facilitate play in autism?
We almost always focus on the sensory integration of a learner first. Therefor determining the sensory problems if any; proprioceptive, vestibular, visual, auditory, tactility, olfactory and oral.
We then focus on it by means of different therapies and then mainly sensory play.
We do sensory play on a daily basis.
Sensory play to initiate communication: We mix different words/ pictures (depending on age of learners) with maize/ paint/ mud, etc. and the learner is instructed to find the words/ pictures mentioned in a story.
Sensory play during sports: We will create a mud field and play soccer/ netball/ rugby, bowling, etc. in the mud.
Sensory play with different oral textures: Learners are encouraged to taste various fruits/ vegetables/ meats.
We have seen immense development by making use of the learners own body (senses).