Focus on intellectual disability in March


With March being Intellectual Disability Awareness month, Plainsman spoke to Cape Mental Health (CMH), a non-profit organisation which has provided mental health services for the past 100 years.

CMH spokesperson Chanelle Albertyn said four out of every 100 South Africans were affected by some level of intellectual disability – ranging from mild to profound inability to walk, talk, feed themselves or use the toilet.

“We are committed to challenging socially restrictive and discriminatory practices affecting the mental health of all people. Our work is underpinned by a commitment to quality, excellence and professionalism at all times,” she said.

Training Workshops Unlimited (TWU), a project of Cape Mental Health, operates in Mitchell’s Plain, Athlone, Khayelitsha and Retreat, providing skills and employment training for more than 515 people with intellectual disabilities.

The programmes ranges from respite care and stimulation programmes for participants functioning at a lower level to open labour market preparedness, employment, and support for higher-functioning participants.

The Eagles or Whales is a structured stimulation programme at the Mitchell’s Plain Workshop for very low-functioning people with intellectual disability in need of high levels of care, including assistance with feeding, going to the toilet and mobility.

It also provides respite for the parents and caregivers.

The life-skills programme is a full-time structured programme for low- and medium-functioning people with intellectual disability. The programme provides training on self-care, practical work skills, leisure time and the use of community resources and services, and prepares trainees to progress to the work skills programme.

Their programme includes sports days and has weekly themes.

The work skills programme is a full-time structured training programme at all four training workshops for higher functioning trainees.

Specialised manufacturing training takes place in woodwork, printing, sewing, concrete products, wire and beaded products. The work skills programme is the highest level of training at workshop level and prepares trainees to enter the TWU

Siyanceda Programme, where they are trained and coached to enter the open labour market. Siyanceda is a bridging programme designed to assist trainees to progress from protective employment to employment in the open labour market . It provides job-coaching, counseling, follow-up, employer education and sensitisation.

Employers who provide work for people with intellectual disabilities are offered support.

Sonia Peters, senior training instructor for TWU, said the special education and care programmes are aimed at meeting the special needs of each child.

“This is achieved by an appropriate assessment, a good individual education plan and consistent implementation. The education of a child with such severe disabilities is facilitated through play and, in many cases, by means of a sensory curriculum. Emphasis is also placed on the acquisition of life skills such as eating, toileting, washing, dressing, and good social interaction.

“The programme operates within a structure that supplements daily nutrition, provides school transport, and affords access to medical and therapeutic support from local hospitals and other NGOs,” said Ms Peters.

Ingrid Daniels, director of CMH said the organisation has extensive experience in providing best practice programmes in the disability sector, and is currently working with relevant stakeholders to provide an accredited and structured post-school qualification for adults with intellectual disability that will empower them with skills and career development opportunities.

“Significant funding is required to fund this innovative programme and the organisation welcomes on board potential funding partners,” she said.

For more information contact Cape Mental Health on 021 447 9040, email or visit