Education Support without Limits is based in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Helen McCormack Laas is the director of Education Support without Limits and is an expert disabled education lecturer, mother, consultant, writer, and teacher.
My Story, My Passion
I started Education Support without Limits in response to the high need for support that parents and children have needed.
As a parent, I have two gorgeous children who, like myself, march to their own drum. I have shared the tears, the sleepless nights in hospital, hours of therapy, trial by homework, small successes, laughter, and love.I have known the frustrations
- of not knowing where to turn,
- of not knowing what services were available,
- and what could be done to help.
As a parent, I learned that I needed the support and guidance of those who knew the system.
With visible changes in the education system moving toward inclusion, we now have the opportunity to offer that support to children in the mainstream, full service and special schools.
I didn’t intentionally decide to become a specialist in special needs education, but special needs children,as they were then known, always found me. In my very first class in a mainstream preschool, I taught one sweet boy with a cognitive impairment and another with Autism. Once I entered special needs education, I never expected to become passionate about inclusive education.
In those days, I believed that learners with special educational needs belonged in special schools from grade 1, but I also believed that if a child was in my class, I was responsible for teaching them.
In 2003, I entered the special needs education environment and in 2004, began teaching full time in a Special Needs School for children with physical disabilities. I taught there for seven years, but I learned more during those seven years than I think I had in all my years of study previously. It was during my Honours studies (2004/5) that I became exposed to the discourse of Inclusive Education. I experienced a paradigm shift that set me up for one of the most dramatic life changes to come. When I started working at the Special School, I taught grade R (K), by the time I left, I was teaching high school including grade 12.
When I started working at the Special School, I taught grade R (K), by the time I left, I was teaching high school including grade 12. With my experiences including every grade across every phase, the wealth of learning that I had received was a true gift in teaching and understanding children who had a myriad of disabilities. Especially in 2007, after having been bitten by the wheelchair basketball bug, that I ended up in a motor vehicle accident that left me using a wheelchair myself. There have been two great women in my life who have been my role models.
Throughout, there have been two great women in my life who have been my role models. My anchors …and the greatest influences in what I do. The reason that I am the independent woman that I am today: My mother and my grandmother. Both always taught me to work hard and believe in what I do. As a young child, I travelled rural South Africa with my
Ouma (grandmother), in her mobile clinic, taking medication to farm workers. Some of my earliest memories are of mothers and children waiting under a tree in the blazing heat, on the designated day and hour, for care. And I here, under her patient guidance, learned to care for others. These experiences moulded me into the person that I am today… learner, teacher, and mother.
For the last six years, I have presented at local and international conferences, run workshops, consulted to the Department of Education and lectured in Inclusive Education, IT for Educators and the Teaching of Literacy and have developed a passion for integrating these into the classroom to develop support for everyone involved in the learning process… more than teachers, children and parents!