Project Plan




Something incredible happens when people come together for a common charitable cause. More often than not, community-grown projects are birthed from a real personal need or goal, with the collaborators deeply invested in seeing this need met and the project succeeding. The Lusito Portuguese Association for the Mentally Handicapped is such an Association.

Lusito, a non-profit organisation, was established in 1979 by a group of Portuguese parents who saw the need for a school for differently-abled persons within the Portuguese community. The main function of the Lusito Association is to raise and manage funds for the purposes of building, maintaining and managing the existing Lusito School. To this end, Lusito’s best-known fundraising event, the Lusito Land Festival (“Lusito Land”), was launched. Lusito Land has become a South African favourite and a must on the entertainment calendar. It’s the ultimate cultural experience for the entire family. From Portuguese folk dancing and top local artists, to mouth-watering food and a funfair for the crianças, festivalgoers are able to indulge in a taste of Portugal and celebrate at leisure under an African sky. 100% of all funds raised from Lusito Land go directly to the school.

The Lusito School’s MissionStatement is:

“To equip each learner for their passage through life.”

Our mission, as the Association, is to support the Lusito School in this significant and far-reaching task. Together, we’re striving to give learners (and their families) the support, tools, therapies and input to live their best lives.

The Lusito School, located in the south ofJohannesburg, started as a small day care centre and has developed into a fully-fledged school for the differently-abled.Today, the school has more than 80 learners who come from South Africa and other parts of Africa. The school no longer offers this crucial service solely to the Portuguese community, but supports differently-abled people from all cultures and backgrounds.It provides exceptional care and education to its students at a fraction of the cost, as fees are subsidised to a great extent. This lifts the financial burden of these specialised services off the shoulders of parents.

In order to achieve their mission, the school’s collaborative approach draws on a team of qualified, competent, dedicated and caring individuals for the holistic benefit of each learner. The team includes:

  • The Lusito Association Committee
  • Principal
  • Class Teachers
  • Class Assistants
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech Therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Parents

In fact, the joint responsibility between home and school, parents and professionals, is what ultimately makes the difference in the life of each child. Parents of learners are offered invaluable support. They are kept up to date with their child’s progress and educators are available for consultation and guidance.

A functional programme is individually designed for each learner, where personalised goals are set and specific needs are catered to. The programme is then followed for a period of six months, at which time it is reviewed and updated to accommodate new goals. The full academic team is involved in this process together with the parents.

The school follows an adapted learning programme – a curriculum developed within the context of the Revised NationalCurriculum Statement. All classes aim to stimulate psychomotor and perceptive capabilities, develop skills needed for daily living, and improve communication, language development and social integration. Other curricular activities include:

  • Hydrotherapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Alternative Communication
  • Music
  • Pottery

Presently the school cares for learners with different syndromes and disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, DandyWalker Syndrome, Prader Willi Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Angelman Syndrome, various learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and other syndromes.

The school has now been divided into two sections namely, The Stimulation Centre and The Workshop.


The Stimulation Centre seeks to engage learners on a sensory and physical level, helping them to move in, and interact and integrate optimally with the world around them. A number of effective therapies are used to do this including Gross Motor Development, Hydrotherapy, Reflexology and Sensory Stimulation.


Moving is not just about getting from A to B. It plays a very important role in learning effectively and functioning well in daily life.

Gross Motor therapies are aimed at improving the learner’s hand-eye co-ordination, postural mechanics, speech and concentration, social and emotional development, and
spatial awareness. Exercises to improve neural function, the basis of scholastic development, are also performed. Making movement easy and fun for learners is essential.


Active hydrotherapy is essentially movement in water for therapeutic purposes. This form of hydrotherapy can either be assisted, which means that the therapist helps the learner to
bring about the movement (passive movement), or unassisted which means that the therapist helps the learner bring about the movement him/herself (active movement).

Today, hydrotherapy is a widely accepted and popular form of treating various conditions thanks to an upsurge in research. Treatment in water is often an integral part of the total physical and psychological care of many conditions and a very important part of the rehabilitation process.


This hands-on therapeutic approach uses non-invasive and holistic techniques, which includes a combination of reflexology, stretching & positioning and aromatherapy.

The primary outcome is to alleviate stiffness in joints and muscles, which is extremely beneficial to our learners. The learners experience a release of ‘feel-good’ hormones through the positive touch therapy, which often encourages them to be calmer within themselves and more relaxed physically.


We constantly learn about the world through our senses and by interacting with it. In our Sensory Room, learners are encouraged to explore and play in different environments and, in so doing, discover and interact more meaningfully with the world around them through the 5 senses.

Because of physical, sensory or intellectual challenges, many disabled people have not had the same opportunities to explore and interact with their environment. The goal of treatment is either the creation of function where none exists, or improvement of function where it is delayed or inhibited.


The Lusito School believes that it is important to give their learners as much independence as possible and a place in society outside of the school. The Workshop prepares learners for everyday life (both in terms of function and productivity), equips them with fundamental life skills and helps to promote independence and self-reliance.

Tackling issues such as numeracy, literacy, personal hygiene, independent living, personal development, social skills and safety enables and encourages learners to be more interactive with other members of the community and more integrated in society. Developing each learner’s potential in this way also improves their overall quality of life and equips them to face challenges they may come across. The activities that have been developed for The Workshop have been adapted from varied sources and are tried and tested as good practice models.


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