By: Heidi Kilian
On Wednesday the 6 June, the uShaka Sea World Education hosted the Ellen Tinkham School for a specialised course. This group had two unique factors that staff needed to consider when designing their programme. Firstly, the Ellen Tinkham School – Further Education College is based at Bodley House, Wayside Crescent, Exeter in the UK. So these students were coming to a new country to see the wildlife of South Africa. Secondly, the students were challenged by having Autism and careful consideration needed to be taken into account when designing their programme.
The Ellen Tinkham School are committed to putting the children at the heart of everything they do, through their holistic approach to education. They know that children learn best when they are in an environment that is responsive to their needs, and provides positive and stimulating experiences unique to each individual that also ensures their full educational entitlement. We were thrilled that they had chosen uShaka Sea World as part of their trip to South Africa and were determined to make it a memorable experience.
Students challenged by Autism may find new experiences a little daunting as autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain and can make communicating and interacting with other people difficult. The manifestations of autism cover a wide spectrum, ranging from individuals with severe impairments—who may be silent, developmentally disabled, and locked into hand flapping and rocking—to high functioning individuals who may have active but distinctly odd social approaches, narrowly focused interests, and verbose, pedantic communication. Our group from Ellen Tinkham had high functioning students, so we were able to create an interactive programme with an Aquarium tour, Dolphin show and Dangerous creatures interaction. The group found the Dangerous creatures interaction ‘excellent on many levels, a first time experience for many and well managed for our students’. The group valued getting to see the animals up close and personal, and they have walked away with wonderful memories of their day at uShaka Sea World.