FLUTTERBYS was established as an early intervention centre for special needs children in 2005, by Natalie Jamieson Engelbrecht and expanded to our current premises in 2007. In 2014 we were registered as a special needs school with the Department of Basic Education as the school grew to cater for children 7 years and older. Flutterbys currently accommodates children from 1 to 18 years of age.
“In understanding my own learning disability, I began researching, adapting and incorporating the Montessori Method and Multisensory Remedial Techniques as part of my Master’s Degree in Special Education, whilst facilitating a very special little boy for whom the centre was eventually created in Centurion during 2005.
The research for my Masters Dissertation was influenced greatly by Montessori and her vision and methods relating to children with learning challenges. It was also during this time that I was fortunate to be exposed to the remarkable impact of Sensory Integration Therapy. I found that the Montessori Method, Multisensory remedial techniques and Sensory integration were compatible with each other and by combining the approaches I was able to create an approach that addressed all the underlying learning areas I feel need to be addressed no matter what diagnosis a child has.
Every functional skill a person develops requires foundation skills and it is often these foundation skills that are lacking or underdeveloped, at Flutterbys we ensure first that these skills are developed to their greatest potential.
Being based primarily on Montessori philosophy Flutterbys aims to firstly respect and love each child as an individual by catering for all planes of development (spiritual, mental, emotional and physical), the absorbent mind and the sensitive periods in a specially prepared environment that fosters security, provides boundaries aiding regulation and a motivation to learn.” Natalie Jamieson Engelbrecht
“Shaun is the reason for all of this, without him the 100+ children who have benefitted from Flutterbys would never have had the opportunity to grow and thrive. Shaun was diagnosed at 18 months with Autism and is what would be categorised on the severe end of the spectrum. His parents were told to rather institutionalise him and not expect him to attain much, this included ever taking care of his personal hygiene or speaking.
Shaun’s parents refused to accept the doctor’s advice and began the journey to get him whatever he needed to reach his potential. In 1999 Autism was just beginning to be understood and therapeutic approaches were in their infancy.
I began working with Shaun as a part time job in 2003 and this little 4-year-old stretched me beyond what I thought was possible. The methods of the day didn’t work, and quitting was not an option so Shaun and I battled our way through day after day.
I spent hours at night trying to figure out how to reach him or teach him a new skill, until I finally began to trust him to guide me. Our relationship is a bond like no other I have in my life, often silent it is felt and sensed even now with us living on two different continents.
I also had the privilege of working with some very forward-thinking therapists and his parents who would not take ‘its not possible’ for an answer. When he reached school age and we couldn’t find a suitable environment for him, I was simply told ‘make a plan’.
‘Make a plan’ became my motto, but not without my parents who gave up their property for me to open a school, my husband sacrificing his career to ensure the kids have a well maintained safe learning environment and the most inspiring team many of whom whose life experience includes overcoming learning challenges, has grown into a family and community beyond my wildest dreams.’
Shaun was at Flutterbys for 16 years and by the time his parents were transferred to the USA he was catching the Gautrain to and from school. Shaun is 21 now and we regularly communicate via WhatsApp, YES!! he can read, speak and take care of himself. He graduated high school and now has a job in the catering industry.
And once again as far away as he is, he is pushing me to do better, he would not have had the opportunities he has now if they had stayed. The resources available to the special needs community there are far in excess of what we have here.
So what do we do? WE MAKE A PLAN. I will never accept limited resources standing in the way of my kids thriving and Flutterbys is proof that the spirit of UBUNTU, the spirit of our people can make it possible, but only if we work together as a community.
Flutterbys is my heart and my soul, every child is as dear to me as if they were my own. I have shed many tears and had my heart crushed many times only to have be uplifted by a first word or a little face beaming with pride at accomplishing something new.
People with special needs should hold a special place in society, spend an hour here and you will witness what it is to be human, what compassion and tolerance is, what perseverance and courage are, what acceptance and love is.
They are here because we need them because they teach us more than we know and they change the world. Einstein did, Bill Gates did, Stephan Hawking did. And so did Ludwig Van Beethoven, Ray Charles, Cher, Tom Cruise , Walt Disney, Thomas Edison , Whoopi Goldberg , James Earl Jones, John Lennon, Marlee Matlin , Isaac Newton , Richard Pryor , Theodore Roosevelt , Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Vincent Van Gogh, Stevie Wonder, Dan Aykroyd, Hans Christian Andersen, Benjamin Banneker, Susan Boyle, Tim Burton, Lewis Carroll, Henry Cavendish, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Temple Grandin, Daryl Hannah, Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Michelangelo,, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jerry Seinfeld, Nikola Tesla, Andy Warhol, Ludwig Wittgenstein……..”
Natalie Jamieson Engelbrecht
Our vision encompasses a multidisciplinary approach to individualised education catering for any child who does not fit into the conventional education system due to their own specific challenges which include;
School Creed: SUCCESS
To laugh often and much.
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends.
To appreciate beauty.
To find the best in others.
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition.
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson”
Teaching & Therapeutic Methodology
The primary philosophy of Flutterbys is that the system of education must fit the child and not the child fit the system. Through an eclectic approach the child’s ability to learn is unlocked. The Differentiated CAPS curriculums for learners with profound intellectual disabilities (PID) and severe intellectual disabilities (SID) are taught using the Montessori Method, Sensory Integration and the DIR/Floortime approaches.
The Montessori Method and approach to teaching involves a systematic system of concept development from the concrete to the abstract using specifically designed equipment and materials covering various subjects and areas of development including:
- Practical life: independence skills, behaviour modification, class economy
- Cosmic studies
Sensory integration originally develop by Jean Ayres includes the application of various therapeutic techniques to assist the child’s entire sensory system to regulate itself in order for the child to reach the correct levels of arousal for concentration and focus so as to improve general functionality including communication, perceptual and motor development. The systems addressed include:
- Gross motor development
- Fine motor development
This approach was developed by Dr Stanley Greenspan, who theorized that six basic developmental levels or milestones lay the foundation for all learning and development. By ensuring the child acquires all the developmental milestones irrespective of age, huge leaps in development and learning can be made. This is the key because it is during the acquisition of these six milestones that a child integrates all the information they have received and processed from their sensory systems and is especially important for:
- Social development
- Emotional development