What is a learner facilitator, when do you need one, how much does it cost? Your questions answered.
It has becoming increasingly common for children with special needs to go to mainstream schools. There are many benefits to inclusive education, but it can be hard for children with learning difficulties to cope in the classroom. A learner facilitator can help.
What is a learner facilitator?
A learner facilitator is a trained professional who guides and mentors a child with special needs at a mainstream or special school. The facilitator may help the learner with specific academic tasks, as well as with social skills and behavioural issues.
In other parts of the world, learner facilitators are called teaching assistants, para-educators, special needs assistants or learning support assistants.
Also read: ADHD demystified
Does my child need a facilitator?
If your child is struggling to cope at school or is making the transition between home schooling and mainstream education, his teachers and therapists may recommend a facilitator.
Some schools may put pressure on parents to employ a facilitator – but it is against government regulations to make this a requirement for admission.
Facilitators can help children with a range of learning challenges, including ADHD, autism, sensory disorders and language disabilities. But just because your child has one of these conditions, doesn't mean he automatically needs a facilitator: it really depends on your child's specific needs.
Also read: Ask me about Down syndrome
How do I find the right facilitator for my child?
Decide what the role and character of your child's facilitator should be. Should she help with academic work only, or keep an eye on your child's behaviour and social interactions as well? Should she have specific occupational and educational training, or simply be somebody who loves children and have lots of patience? Your child's teachers and therapists could help you decide.
Word of mouth is a good way to find a facilitator: teachers, therapists or other parents in similar situations could point you towards the ideal person. You can also advertise.
But beware, warns Willie Erasmus, a clinical and child psychologist who trains and supports facilitators in Cape Town. Advertising too freely can lead to responses from untrained and unprofessional people. He suggests that parents approach an agency or a network like the Learner Facilitator and Tutor Network (LEFTNET).
How much will it cost?
The government doesn't fund individual learner facilitators, so it's up to the parents to find the money. The amount depends on a facilitator's qualifications, experience, role and hours. According to LEFTNET a trained facilitator can ask from R100 an hour, or R5000 a month for a full-time position.
This puts facilitators beyond the reach of many parents. However, there's often room for negotiation. According to Erasmus, some schools are willing to make concessions regarding school fees, while others employ their own facilitators and ask parents to contribute a portion of the salary.
There are even companies who fund learner facilitators as part of their social outreach.
If your child is eligible for SARS' tax benefits for people with disabilities, you may also be able to deduct the facilitator's salary from your taxable income.
Have you had experience with a learner facilitator? Please send us your stories to email@example.com.