Core Clinical Services

Multidisciplinary assessments and therapies offered, under one-roof, on weekdays, on-site. (Tests are administered in a culture-fair manner to learners whose 1st language is not English.)

1. Cognitive and Scholastic Skills Assessment & School Placement and Referral

The major objective, of the team of psychologists is to establish the child's basic cognitive potential and where his/her strengths and weaknesses lie. The scientifically standardised measuring instruments applied in each case also point to areas needing further investigation such as language deficits, auditory perceptual & processing delays, memory weaknesses and visual perceptual or fine/gross motor co-ordination difficulties. The outcome of this initial assessment may lead to other more specialised and focussed assessments being conducted. The results of these assessments may be utilised to guide appropriate school placements and referrals. Through observing the child's presenting behaviour during the testing procedure, the psychologist can ascertain and document his/her ability to remain focussed and concentrate adequately, his/her degree of restlessness and impulsivity or whether he/shee appears to experience spells of "blanking out". These reports aid paediatric diagnoses of conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, petit mal epilepsy and other neurological conditions. Emotional factors such as excessive anxiety, depression and poor self-esteem, which may be hindering a child's academic progress, also show up in the process of intellectual assessment.

While the vast majority of assessments conducted assist in identifying barriers to learning such as specific learning disabilities in children with at least average cognitive potential, we are also called upon to see to children at both extremes of the continuum, from children with "exceptional abilities" to those that are cognitively handicapped. These children can then be slotted into appropriate education programs. We are also often requested, by means of a thorough holistic assessment, to guide parents and educators on whether a child, who is eligible to enter Grade 1, is "school-ready". Our statistics show that while the majority of our clientele are drawn from the middle childhood age range (7-12 years), we continue to strive towards as early identification of delays in development as possible and educate pre-school teachers, child care workers and clinic sisters to this end.

Scholastic skills assessments indicate at what chronological age and grade level a child is functioning in reading, spelling, maths and written skills and they show up the nature of hi/hers barriers to learning and where the gaps lie. An important outcome of scholastic skills assessments is ascertaining whether a child's scholastic skills are commensurate with his/her intellectual potential. When a child is underachieving and there is a significant gap between his skills and actual potential, or a specific learning disability is identified; recommendations are made either for remedial teaching lessons to close the gaps and support development or for placement in a more appropriate learning environment such as, a remedial school, when the deficits are severe and longstanding. Sometimes in cases of immaturity, it may be suggested that it would be best for a child to repeat a grade to consolidate his foundation skills. When an intellectual assessment provides an explanation as to why a child is a "slow learner" and not coping in a mainstream class i.e. that he is a "learner with special educational needs", an independent education program, a special class placement or referral to a Special School may be recommended and implemented.









2. Psychological (emotional, behavioural and relationship) Assessments and Psychotherapy & Play Therapy

Separating psychological assessments from intellectual testing creates an artificial barrier between these co-existing, interactive features of a child's functioning. The reality is that many children who find it difficult to cope with schoolwork also experience emotional and social difficulties; the most common being a drop in self-esteem mirroring poor scholastic progress. Therefore, quite often in the process of obtaining an all-round view of a child's functioning, a psychological assessment will complete the profile put together by the multidisciplinary team. The psychological assessment (implementing a whole battery of tests) is geared to establish whether the emotional/social/behavioural difficulties the child experiences are significant enough to indicate the need for play therapy or psychotherapy in the case of the older child.

Psychological assessments provide an extensive picture of the child's difficulties, which guides therapy. Sometimes these assessments, together with the intellectual assessment assist in the identification of various syndromes and disorders, such as autism, which in turn leads to appropriate interventions and educational placements.

Apart from the issues of poor self-esteem some of the other difficulties dealt with at the Centre are:

  • anxiety disorders such as phobias, bedwetting, encopresis (soiling)
  • eating & sleeping disorders • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • separation anxiety and school refusal emanating from circumstances such as unstable home circumstances or being exposed to incidents of abuse, crime and violence
  • children who have experienced loss or traumatic events, such as death, divorce or abandonment
  • children who lack social skills or are angry, oppositional and given to anti-social acting-out behaviours, such as, aggressive and destructive outbursts, lying, stealing, truanting and substance abuse.

3. Speech & Language Assessment and Therapy

Speech & language assessments involve ascertaining the quality of speech production, hearing screening, receptive and expressive language and auditory perceptual and processing functioning. Cognitive development and scholastic progress in the early school photo5years are heavily dependent on receptive and expressive language ability, listening skills and adequate auditory perception and processing. A child's social development is very much influenced by his ability to communicate with intelligible speech and to have pragmatic skills such as making eye contact, greeting, initiation and maintenance of conversations and turn-taking. Many of the children referred to the Centre have a history of otitis media, which often leads to temporary hearing losses, which retards language development. Poor concentration also leads to word finding delays, fluctuating auditory perception, poor listening skills and short-term memory, which create obstacles to learning. Deprivation and a lack of stimulation also impacts on the quality of language. Apart from offering speech & language therapy at the Centre, referrals to audiologists, central auditory processing therapists and ENT specialists also arise out of assessments. We cater for hearing-impaired children in our School, with hearing aids or cochlear implants, so have been challenged to develop new expertise in this area.

4. Assessment & Therapy by Occupational Therapistphoto6

Occupational Therapy assessments enable the identification of sensori-motor, gross & fine motor deficits and visual perceptual difficulties, which impact on all areas of physical development but also compromise scholastic learning ability such as reading, spelling, maths and handwriting. The earlier the deficits in these skills can be identified and therapy started, the more chance there is that the child's overall development, in particular his ability to learn, will not be compromised. Areas of delay are overcome and skills enhanced and strengthened through therapy and home programs. There is an increase in children presenting with sensory processing disorders, which are also screened for during an O T assessment.

5. Vocational & Career Guidance

Vocational & Career assessments are available to high school learners and school leavers to guide them in their subject choices and then for facilitating decisions regarding suitable career paths. This would in turn narrow down the type of tertiary courses that would be most appropriate. This guidance service to adolescents and young adults is offered as a preventive measure to reduce the school dropout rate and ensure students emerge from tertiary institutions with marketable skills yet at the same time entering a field that will provide a suitable fit with his profile of abilities, interests and values.

6. Parent Counselling

Parent and caregiver counselling is often directed at helping parents understand their children's developmental needs so they can respond more appropriately or become more supportive to a child who has been exposed to a traumatic experience or some form of loss or change, such as created by divorce or death. Frequently parent counselling takes the form of helping parents come to terms with the pain, disappointment and hardship created by their child's learning difficulties or the diagnosis of a complex disorder or syndrome. More realistic expectations for the child's performance can then be developed as well as more practical, useful approaches to supporting the child at his pace. Parent counselling often focuses on managing sibling rivalry, improving family relationships and addressing unstable home circumstances. A common plea from parents of very young children is for assistance in acquiring the skills to manage behavioural issues such as tantrums and non-compliance regarding bed-time, bathing, dressing and eating routines.

illustration7 copy

Back to top

Birdwood School

Admission Policy of Birdwood School

1. Introduction:

Birdwood School has functioned as a Developmental Unit catering for children with developmental delays, since 1973, as part of the services of the Children's Assessment and Therapy Centre Trust. Birdwood School was previously called the Kingfisher Pre-Primary Developmental Unit (hereafter referred to as Birdwood School) and has undergone a name change as the Children's Assessment and Therapy Centre has moved to new premises and has also undergone a name change. The new name is the Sherwood Children’s Centre and this name has been registered for change with the Directorate of Non Profit Organizations. The Centre and School is currently located at 868 King Cetshwayo Highway, Sherwood.Byrdwood LOGO Final fix resized

Birdwood School currently has 4 classes with a capacity for 54 learners.  This will increase each year as we add another grade.  An application has been lodged with the Kwa Zulu Natal department of education to register Birdwood school for grades 1 - 5.

Birdwood School provides a learning opportunity for children with developmental delays and learning disabilities. In order to qualify for acceptance to the school children need to undergo an assessment either through the Centre or as outpatients to the Centre. On the recommendation of an assessment by an Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language therapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Paediatrician, Paediatric Neurologist or another professional or a combination of the aforementioned professionals, a child deemed to have developmental delays or learning difficulties will be considered for an Observation period at the Birdwood School in order to determine whether they would be a candidate for placement at Birdwood School. The observation period is not a guarantee of placement.

2. Observation Period:

A two week observation period is conducted during which time the educators and case Psychologist assess, observe and monitor the child within the Unit. At the end of the two weeks a case conference with the educator and case Psychologist is held to determine whether the programme offered at the school suits the specific needs of the child. Parents are given feedback following the observation period.

3. Admission Criteria:

photo8Birdwood school offers a remedial programme for children with cognitive potential falling in the average range. If an intellectual or developmental assessment is performed and a child is not performing in the average range, it is at the discretion of the case Psychologist/Principal/Director to determine whether to grant an observation period or not. Once the observation period is completed and the child has been fully observed and assessed, it is at the discretion of the case Psychologist/Principal/Director to determine whether the child would benefit from the remedial programme being offered, given their cognitive potential and developmental delays.

Specific admission criteria:

  • All children accepted for observation and placement at Birdwood School need to be fully toilet trained as facilities and limited staff capacity do not allow for nappy changing.
  • All children accepted must be verbal or have the potential for speech as identified during the observation period or by the Centre's Professional staff. All children undergoing an observation period, with a view to placement, must appear to be capable of coping with a structured pre-primary school programme. If they are not able to cope with the level of structure offered, alternative schooling options will be discussed.

4. Age Requirements:

Children are considered for an observation period from the age of 3 years 6 months but this will be dependent on the extent of the developmental delays indicated in the assessments and at the discretion of the case Psychologist/Principal/Director.

Children more than a year older than the average age for the grade will not be considered for observation or placement at Birdwood School.

5. Diagnostic Categories:

Children falling into the following diagnostic categories are considered for an observation period and placement at Birdwood School:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (see Admission criteria under heading 3 above)
  • Medical conditions eg. Epilepsy
  • Hearing Impairment (Cochlear Implant and hearing aids)
  • Visual Impairment (not blind children as our facilities do not allow for full classroom support)
  • Syndrome diagnoses or organic/metabolic/congenital disorders (where cognitive impairment is not a significant feature)
  • Sensory Integration Disorder or sensory processing difficulties
  • Auditory Processing difficulties including Central Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Developmental delays caused by events, such as, extremely premature birth, near drowning, accidents, serious illness
  • Other diagnostic categories causing delays in development eg. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Aphasia, Dyspraxia

6. Advantages of Birdwood School:

Birdwood school offers a small class environment for children with developmental delays and learning difficulties who may have difficulty coping in a large class environment.

  • Classes accommodate between 10 – 12 children (with a maximum of 15 from Grade R upwards)
  • Birdwood offers Speech and Language therapy and Occupational therapy on site, during school hours which maximises therapist/educator liaison and assists parents practically, as they do not have to take children to therapy after school. This also facilitates the multidisciplinary treatment approach offered at the school. Please note: therapy fees are not included in the School fees and are charged at medical aid rates
  • The School follows the CAPS syllabus and is consistent with mainstream education in KZN. This facilitates a child's placement back into mainstream education once they leave Birdwood
  • The children at Birdwood are closely monitored with a review process occurring in May and November where each child's progress is discussed in detail with their case therapists. Progress Reports are issued at this time
  • The School offers a rich pre-primary and primary school experience, including outings, activities, extra murals, and events eg. Grandparents' day, a school play, etc.

7. Fees:

Estimated for 2015 are R24,000.00 this will be confirmed later in the year.
In addition, therapies (claimable from medical aid) are charged according to rates provided on Fee Structure page.

Monthly costs for After-school care are:
12:00 am to 5:00 pm = R740.00
12:00 am to 3:00 pm = R570.00
12:00 am to 2:00 pm = R470.00
Casual use of after-school care = R25.00 per hour or part thereof

Back to top


Saturday Morning Program

A range of the core clinical services offered, under one-roof, on-site, on Saturday morning 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Community Outreach Program

Services offered free-of-charge, mainly-offsite, in low-budget community schools to previously disadvantaged, at-risk learners, and in child and youth care centres.

1. Literacy & Numeracy Development Groups
These groups are directed at building (receptive & expressive) English language proficiency skills, to enable mostly Zulu-speaking learners attending English medium schools, to progress better. In addition numeracy skills are enhanced. The vision has been to target schools with learners from mainly impoverished homes.

The teachers identify the most at risk learners as candidates for the groups and the therapists endeavour to dovetail their program with language content being covered in the classroom. As the children in the group catch up to the rest of the class they exit the program and other children join. Principals of the participating schools have provided encouraging feedback about the positive effects of the program. Evaluations are completed on individual attendees on 2 occasions during the year to monitor progress and ensure the efficacy of the program. Specialised 2nd language English literacy programs and computer-based materials are used by therapists as a basis for this intervention. We also have a resource library of large storybooks and other materials that our facilitators draw from.

2. Remedial Assessments & Therapy

Remedial teachers provided remedial assessments and small-group remedial teaching with the aim of assisting children who are lagging behind in the early schooling phase (when foundation skills are being laid down) to strengthen the weaker areas of scholastic ability.photo16

3. Occupational Therapy – Assessments & Group Therapy

Assessments and group therapy focuses on identifying deficits and then building gross motor, fine motor and visual perceptual skills in learners to improve their scholastic skills and task application.

4. Psychological Assessments, Individual Therapy and Life Skills Groups

Psychologists conduct educational and psychological assessments and provide some individual therapy but mostly do group therapy at community schools and child and youth care centres. Children tend to be grouped around specific areas of need, such as those experiencing loss and abandonment, sexual abuse, gross deprivation and neglect. Otherwise efforts are made to build life coping skills in general, such as building supportive friendships, problem-solving, conflict resolution and anger management. In some cases group therapy extends to caregivers managing difficult behaviours in children in residential care.imagesphoto14

5. Workshops / Talks provided to Parents / Caregivers, Professionals & Children

The Centre’s professionals provide talks and workshops on relevant subject matter, such as overcoming the challenges of educating 2nd language English-learning in an English medium environment, helping parents of autistic children to manage difficult behaviours better and providing educators with knowledge and skills to help learners with motor, language and perceptual delays and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

6. Intern and Student Training

 Since 2003, the Centre has been accredited by the Professional Board of Psychology, as an Internship site. Mainly, Zulu-speaking interns are referred to us from a range of universities. The University of KZN has also relied on us for the practical training of Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy students. We regard the high-quality, intensive, practical training and supervision we provide to interns as part of a wider community service. We also provide work experience to high school leavers considering entering related professions.


 Back to top


Contact Us

Physical Address: 868 King Cetshwayo Highway,
Sherwood, 4091, KwaZulu-Natal

Postal Address: P O Box 30149, Mayville, 4058

Telephone: 031-2085117

Fax: 031-2085204

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.