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New Guidelines For Learners With Special Needs

Many learners with special needs will return to school on 6 July. The Department of Basic Education has released guidelines that schools catering to these learners need to follow. 

Schools catering for autistic learners, deaf learners and blind or partially sighted learners must follow the guidelines. Learners who are unable to attend school must be provided with the relevant teaching material and support. 

Autistic learners

The guidelines state that autistic learners must be treated with care, as wearing a mask may cause anxiety for the learners.

“Wherever possible, schools and educators are encouraged to communicate with parents and ask for their advice on their child and his/her preferences. It is also essential to note, that due to the nature of learners on the Autistic Spectrum, no learner should be forced to ever wear a mask if it causes any distress or anxiety, which is one of the particular challenges these learners can be faced with.” the guidelines state.

Deaf learners 

For deaf learners, the guidelines allow for transparent face shields to be worn, as learners need to be able to lipread. 

“Face shields need to be cleaned with warm soapy water and dried in the sunlight. Communication should be distributed to parents, learners, educators and all staff on taking care of the face shields.”

“Officials appointed to carry out symptom screening, in accordance with direction 13, in schools for deaf learners, must be able to communicate using South African Sign Language. Where this is not possible, a sign language interpreter must be available to ensure proper communication with the learners.”

Partially sighted/blind learners

In the event that officials are unable to practice social distancing from learners with special education needs, the Department of Education must provide them with personal protective equipment. 

“Officials who are unable to practice social distancing from learners with special education needs must be provided by the Provincial Department of Education with appropriate personal protective equipment, including protective clothing, where such provision is necessary.”

The department has advised for face masks and face shields to be cleaned regularly, as learners might spread the virus by wearing each other's masks. 

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