Desperate parents at risk of being duped

Desparate parents are being duped into placing their special needs children in “fly-by-night” schools due to the lack of facilities in the Eastern Cape.

This is according to Autism Eastern Cape chairwoman Joan Jorritsma.

Jorritsma said that with many children not having a school to attend, parents turned to private facilities.

“Parents are desperate and often enrol their children at any school or centre that will accept them.

“We have received disturbing reports of fly-by-night centres which do not necessarily have the best interests of the children at heart, where neither staff are qualified nor the management ethical in their care of vulnerable children.”

Autism Eastern Cape warned parents to check schools’ credentials and other details before placing their children somewhere not endorsed by a registered association.

This applied not only to children with autism, but other special needs children too, Jorritsma said. Parents should check: ý Whether the school or centre has the capacity to provide autism-specific education, care and support.

Whether staff are appropriately trained by accredited trainers, especially in the management of challenging behaviour. ý How challenging behaviour is managed. ý Whether the learning programme and teaching methods are appropriate for each special needs child.

If staff have the necessary skills and training to implement this in the best interests of the child.

Whether the staff have contracts and are registered with the state Unemployment Insurance Fund and/or SARS.

Whether the centre or school has latest audited financial statements available. Parents have a right to read these as they, through their school fees, are funding the centre.

Whether sound financial management is in place, with transparency and accountability.

Autism Eastern Cape urged parents to be aware of and uphold the rights of their children and to consult the authorities or associations for information on placement of their children at any school or centre.

Jorritsma said recent reports had shown that children at some unregistered centres had been locked up in bathrooms or physically isolated due to so-called bad behaviour.

This, she said, was illegal and very dangerous as it could result in tragic accidents.

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