The TES SEN Show – SNJ will be there! (Early bird seminar offer)

You might have seen a logo top left on the site about the TES SEN Show in London on 11th & 12th October.

SNL12-mini-imageThe big news is… SNJ will be there! Large as life, Stand 45, me and our Debs and maybe some other contributors as well, as it’s over two days. Even better – it’s FREE to attend the show and  workshops.

There are also seminars which attract CPD points for practitioners and there is an early bird rate until 24th July so don’t delay!

We’re so excited to be invited and are currently figuring out what to have on the stand – but you can guarantee we’ll cover lots of SEN resources about the things we write about – and of course the very excellent SNJ pens! It’s worth coming just for one of those.

We aim to be the most informative stand at the show – so why not let us know what kind of resources you think would contribute to a great stand in the comments below?

Check out the information below for all you need to know whether you are practitioner or parent. And don’t forget to stop by and say hello if you visit!

TES Special Educational Needs Show, London
Business Design Centre – 11th and 12th October 2013

Come celebrate a world of SEN at the UK’s longest running SEN show!

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TES Special Needs London is back this autumn and it’s bigger and better than ever. It has the resources, ideas, advice and CPD to provide teachers, SENCOs, support staff and parents with the tools and skills to help all achieve their goals.
Special 21st year

  • Join us to celebrate 21 years of being 100% dedicated to SEN. Celebrations include VIP/Celebrity host, My SEN mobile app, Cake, Presents, special show discounts and competitions galore.
  • New CPD Seminars Always 100% dedicated to SEN: within our inspiring 2013 CPD seminar programme you will learn about the latest issues from top SEN professionals.
  • Fantastic free workshops
  • Discover thousands of resources to compare and buy for every kind of special and additional educational need.
  • In celebration of our special 21st birthday, we are giving all those attending the fantastic ‘My SEN’ mobile app that will ensure you get the most out of your TES SEN show experience. My SEN will be available for download to all attendees in August.

Register for free and get your hot seminars tickets now before the summer holidays begin!
Early bird discount ends 24 July after which only standard ticket price will be available.

  • Visit our new website for all the latest news.    

 

10 Tips for Developing Your Child’s Language Skills

Vanessa king

I recently met Vanessa King, when she joined our Women in Business Network group in Farnham. Vanessa is a qualified teacher, parent, toastmaster and an expert in teaching confident speaking and is passionate about engaging with young people of every age to improve their opportunities through her new venture, Smart Talkers Surrey.

She believes that competent communication is key to self-confidence and the ability to create the life you want. Her core belief is that every child, regardless of gender, and regardless of where in the world they live, has a fundamental right to fulfil their potential, and to have the chance to avoid a life of missed opportunities.

Speech difficulties are extremely common among children with special needs. While some need specialist speech and language help for many years and others will never speak, for many, (and this probably applies to many adults too!) simply being helped to develop confidence in their speaking skills can be hugely beneficial.

She’s written for Special Needs Jungle about how, as a parent, you can help your child do just that.

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Being able to communicate our thoughts, feelings and ideas is the most important achievement of our lives and it never ceases to amaze and delight me to realise that such a complex feat is achieved within our first 5 years of life. This skill is not something that develops on its own, however. There is a lot that parents and carers can do to help children develop their language skills. It’s never too soon or too late to start!

  1.  Talk together every day. Talk to your child whenever you can, as you go about daily activities like cooking, bathing, dressing, eating, travelling to preschool or school, getting ready for bed.
  2.  Get down to your child’s level. Ensure your child can see your face when you are talking to them. This helps them focus, lets them see and hear your words better and encourages them to copy you.
  3.  Follow your child’s lead when you talk. Take some time to see what holds your child’s interests. Watch what they look at, touch, hear and reach for and talk with them about these things.
  4.  Talk about what you are doing and ‘think out loud.’ Talk in simple words about what you are doing as you do your daily activities to develop your child’s vocabulary, for example “I am cutting carrots into circles.”
  5.  Be positive. Use lots of encouragement and tell your child what they have done well. Use specific words. “I like the way you used your words to ask for that,” and “The red colour in that picture looks great.”
  6.  Model new words. Tell your child the names of things they have not seen before. Teach them new action words when you do things together. Teach them describing words by talking about what they see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Include words about size, shape, colour and feel.
  7. Recast your child’s errors. If your child makes a mistake when talking, repeat the sentence, fixing the mistake to show them the right way. Use a positive tone and repeat it a few times but keep it natural. For example, child: “I runned,” adult: “Yes you ran, you ran very fast, you ran right to mummy.” Try repeating this same word a few more times later on, so your child gets lots of chances to hear it the right way.
  8. Use lots of repetition. Young children learn though repetition. Repeat new ideas, words and concepts over and over. Repeat stories and songs too. Repeat new words and ideas in different places, times and situations to help your child learn the full meaning and understand different ways the word can be used.
  9. Read lots of books together. Reading to your child is one of the best things you can do to help them learn. Make it a part of your day every day. Read new books but also old repeat old favourites. Choose books which suit your child’s age, language level and interests. Talk about what you read and ask your child questions.
  10.  Embrace new experiences. Try new places, games, songs, books and activities with your child. Do something special and different every chance you can as this opens up new words, ideas and concepts to talk about.

Smart Talkers helps your child become a confident, successful and effective communicator. If you would like further information about the courses we offer parents, childminders and Foundation Stage teachers, please contact Vanessa at smarttalkerssurrey@gmail.com or phone 07769 114 755. If you are elsewhere in the country or even in some places overseas, there are various other locations to access Smart Talkers.

Find Vanessa’s site here  and her Facebook page here

 

Volunteering: The best way to spend your summer

We’re heading off for Italy this weekend and because both boys have special needs, we’ve always rented a villa with a pool and taken their Grandma and Nonno along to help out, so that we can all have a break without worrying about potential public meltdowns.

But imagine if your child has a serious physical illness or disease that makes it difficult to go anywhere without a high level of medical support? Pressure on families like these can be immense and no one needs a break as much as them.

Barretstown, based in Ireland, is a specially-designed camp that provides Therapeutic Recreation programmes for children with serious illnesses and their families. But to make it possible, the camp needs thousands of caring and energetic volunteers every year. My colleague, Rob Pleticha, whose day job is Online Communities Manager for RareConnect at EURORDIS, the European rare diseases organisation, is one of them. He volunteers every year to help children who are living with illness or rare diseases. A short time ago, he spent a week at Barretstown and he’s been kind enough to write for Special Needs Jungle about his experience and the camp.

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You arrive the night before the training. It’s dark but the trees are bright green, the horses are so comfortable, they lay down in the pasture sleeping, and the cabins spread thorough out the grounds emit a warm glow. You sleep well in the Irish night as fresh air fills you.

You’ve come to Barretstown in Ballymore Eustache, Ireland to participate as a volunteer “cara” at an eight-day camp summer session. 120 kids from 7 countries will arrive in two days. They all share the common experience of living with a serious medical condition at a young age.

Barretstown is a member of the European Global Organisation of Serious Fun Children’s Network camps founded by Paul Newman. The five camps in the European network allow over 3,000 children from 26 countries to attend summer camp and have life changing experiences. The services are always free of charge to families.

(more…)

Tourette’s Syndrome – the facts and resources

A condition that is often misunderstood and that is sometimes seen alongside ASD or ADHD is Tourette’s Syndrome. Often inaccurately characterised as sudden, unexpected outbursts of swearing, which is easy to be the butt of comedian’s jokes, Tourette’s is, in fact, a neurological disorder that can affect different people to different extents.

I was interested to learn more about it and I thought you might be too, so I asked Michelle Kelly, Groups Support Officer for Tourette’s Action to write an article for Special Needs Jungle to explain exactly what Tourette’s is and how it’s treated.

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Tourettes Action – Who we are

Tourettes Action is the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with Tourette Syndrome (TS) and their families.

We want people with TS to receive the practical support and social acceptance they need to help them live their lives to the full.

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Lots of people have heard about Tourette Syndrome (TS) but there are still lots of misconceptions about the condition even though we are becoming increasingly more aware of it. Tourette Syndrome is an inherited neurological condition and although relatively rare, TS affects around one in every hundred school children and a total of around 300,000 adults and children in the UK. The condition is characterised by tics which are involuntary and uncontrollable sounds and movement. A common misconception is that people with TS tend to swear uncontrollably but in fact 90% of people with TS do not and their tics are manifested in other ways, whether verbal or otherwise.

The key feature of TS is that tics are uncontrollable and whilst they can be managed or supressed for a short amount of time they will eventually surface. Symptoms tend to present themselves at around about the age of seven and seem to peak at the onset of adolescence, between the ages of ten and twelve. Tics might start around the head and face and might involve blinking, for instance, or touching and jumping. Vocal tics tend to appear a little later on at around the age of eleven and might involve spoken words or sounds, but can also include coughing and sniffing.

There is huge variation in the nature of tics and the extent to which people with TS will experience them. Tics can change frequently and as one tic seems to disappear another may begin. The severity of the tics can change too and an individual may experience them to a differing degree throughout their lives. It is also thought that the tics can be made worse by stressful events and anxiety. If you would like more information about the causes of tics you can click on the link to our leaflet called what makes us tic?.

The good news is that for many children, the symptoms of TS disappear on reaching adulthood but for approximately half of people with TS, the symptoms will persist. Although the condition is chronic and long-lasting, it can be managed and does not have to impair an individual’s ability to live life to the fullest. Some have suggested that doing something as simple as concentrating on an absorbing task has helped to ease their symptoms a little, or even completely. What can make matters more complex, however, is that TS is also linked to other behaviours and co-morbidities such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Managing Tourette Syndrome

Many people who have received a diagnosis of TS will not require medication to manage the condition and will not be significantly affected by their symptoms. There are medications that can help, although as is the case with any medication there are also possible side effects which must be taken into consideration. These medications can have success for some people, however, and so it is important to assess the impact on an individual basis. If you want to learn a little more about the kinds of medications that exist you can click on the link to our medications page where you will find lots of helpful information.

Psychotherapy can also help because it can provide practical ways for people with TS and their families to learn to cope with the symptoms of the condition and its impact on daily life. There are behavioural therapies that exist that can help an individual with TS to manage their tics so that they can become more socially acceptable, or in the event that they are causing pain, become less painful. You can find out more about behavioural therapies by visiting our behavioural therapies page.

There are plenty of relaxation techniques that can help to alleviate some of the stress that may be causing the tics or caused by them. The benefit each form of therapy will have will depend largely upon the individual and their own personal preferences but you can find plenty of useful information on our website or by visiting our forum to see what others have to say about their experiences of TS.

Get in touch to find out more

If you are a parent or carer of a child that you think might have TS and you would like to know who to get in touch with, we can provide you with a list of consultants in the UK. If you would like to know what support groups exist in your area then we would be happy to put you in touch. If you would like to contact Tourettes Action please click to visit our contacts page. You will also find plenty of information about events that are happening around the country and details about how you can get involved.

Useful Resources for Schools

Please find links below to our Key Facts for Teachers leaflet and a link to downloadable presentations on Tourette Syndrome that can be used in schools for teacher training and peer awareness.

http://www.tourettes-action.org.uk/storage/Tourettes%20Action%20-%20Key%20Facts%20for%20Teachers.pdf

http://www.tourettes-action.org.uk/ts-presentations

Feed a child with an old phone

Just a heads up about this in case you missed it on the news.

Two meals in my hand

A new campaign has been launched by NetMums and Kids Company to help provide meals for children who are going hungry. This isn’t in some far-flung developing nation hit by natural disasters we’re talking about – it’s this country of our own, that’s been hit by a very man-made disaster. I would like to say how shocking this is, but, with the stories I’ve been highlighting recently, I’m sad to say it’s all too familiar, though no less disturbing.

Imagine being a ten-year-old in the UK. Your mother has left you alone with your younger siblings. You are starving, but she is too disturbed to notice. The neighbours know about your hunger and through the letterbox they throw in biscuits, but are too frightened to alert social services because your mother’s boyfriend might harm them. The biscuits make for a good day, on a bad day you draw pictures of food and swallow the paper.

This is a true life example of the children that find their way to the charity Kids Company where they no longer spend the day alone and hungry but are fed, played with and cared for. They have to go home at night, but at least they can come back the next day. And the next.

But instead of wondering how it’s possible to make a difference, root around in your cupboards for those old phones that you not longer use and take them to your local Orange or T-mobile store.

 The campaign, led my Kids Company’s Camila Batmanghelidjh and the NetMums website want you to donate your old mobile phones because with the help of  Orange and T-mobile, each phone donated is converted into cash to pay for a meal for a hungry child.
I’ve got two phones on my desk that I’ll be donating. What about you?

Place2Be – the charity that makes a lifetime of difference to children in schools

A while ago, I came across a great charity, working across the country to improve the emotional well-being of children, their families and the whole school community. The Place2Be was established in 1994 in response to increasing concern about the extent and depth of emotional and behavioural difficulties displayed in classrooms and playgrounds.

Today, Jonathan Wood, Place2Be  National Manager, Scotland, tells Special Needs Jungle about their work and why it is so vitally important:

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Why school-based counselling support works: Place2Be

You are a busy classroom teacher, juggling the demands of a young family at home with a boisterous class of 8 year olds at school. Your class takes a lot of energy to settle down for work each morning – and at each subsequent break throughout the day.

It’s Monday morning and Amy is in tears again, even before the bell has gone. Recently fostered after a placement with her grandparents ended violently, you have to remind yourself that it is only a year since Amy’s mother died from a drugs overdose. If you didn’t, your exasperation might seep out as you comfort her just enough to get her into class.

Once in there, disorder rules. At the heart of it, two boys are baiting each other. One of them, Sam, is not going to back down. You suspect he is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, as yet undiagnosed – that mix of over-sensitivity and bullishness – and his feelings have been hurt. And Amy’s crying again.

The other children have responded to your presence and start to settle down. So that just leaves Sam and Amy and you to deal with.

How do teaching staff cope with extra-curricular demands of this nature? Who offers them support to ride the emotional roller-coaster that whizzes and plummets through the school curriculum on bad and not-so-bad days?

In Place2Be’s experience, most teachers cope by simply carrying on. Support for the emotional impact of children like Sam and Amy can be hard to come by.

Founded in 1994, Place2Be provides a whole-school service, offering therapeutic and emotional support to children and parents, and on-site consultancy formally and informally to teaching staff. We work with 500 schools across the UK. How would we respond in this situation?

We might expect to meet up with this teacher at break or lunchtime and talk through with her how her morning went. We may suggest strategies for her to support Sam, including that he come and see us in Place2Talk, our drop-in, solution-focused self-referral sessions for children (10 minute sessions at break time). We may bring forward Amy’s session with her Place2Be counsellor, recognising that she is not coping well at the moment. We may simply listen to the teacher.

And indeed, Sam did come to the Place2Talk and together we worked out painstakingly and rationally how he might take control of similar situations and not rise to anyone’s bait. And over the next few weeks, Amy played intensively with the doll’s house in the Place2Be room, in which she installed dolls representing herself, her mum and her grandparents. There were fights and tears, but it wasn’t until a new set of parents moved into a room in the house that Amy’s mum and grandparents could move out, leaving her there. Amy’s foster parents have since applied to adopt Amy, and the tears before class have stopped.

Teachers know that some children arrive at school not ready to learn. But knowing that is not the same as having the time, the resources or even the skills to manage all the issues that children can bring.  This is where a service like Place2Be can make the difference by attempting to provide that responsive space for schools at every level in a direct and non-stigmatising way.

Find Place2Be here

Special Needs Jungle a WINNER in BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards!

So normally, I have posts about great resources but this post is about me, me, me!

Last night, in London at the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2012, Special Needs Jungle won the BiB awards in the ‘Change’ category. The judges said:

“The contents are well focused and relevant. I see this blog being actually a useful communication tool for parents who face such difficult circumstances.”

I’m the blonde in black!

I really wasn’t expecting to win as some of the other finalists looked pretty slick, so I hadn’t thought of anything to say when SNJ was called out.

But suddenly as I was on the stage, I knew what I wanted to say – I asked the hundreds of mum bloggers there last night to try to do something to help all those children who aren’t lucky enough to have dedicated parents like them – namely Looked After Children, or as I’ve been finding out, not-very-well-looked-after-children.

If we all just do one thing, even if it’s just writing a blog post about it, or re-blogging something you’ve seen from this blog (there’s a post coming up on Monday from child psychologist, Charlie Mead that you are welcome to use portions of, or even the whole thing, on your own blogs), then that will be hundreds of one things.

If you’re a bit more ambitious and have more time, you can find out about the situation in your own area and write about that. Bloggers, together, have power and while it’s lovely to write about those things that interest us, whether it’s crafts, music or our own kids, sometimes it’s good to have a call to action to benefit others.

If you’re interested in helping me, whether you’re a blogger or a reader, get in touch at info@specialneedsjungle.com. I’m sure between us we can come up with something!

It was a great evening and if being a winner can highlight special needs a bit, then even better.

There. It wasn’t all about me, after all.

Getting troubled kids riding high with the brilliant Wave Project

While I was doing some research for DysNet, I came across a fantastic project that uses the beautiful Cornish coast to help young people in difficulty. The Wave Project is such a brilliant idea and is a volunteer-led organisation that uses surfing and the sea to improve the emotional health of young people.

Surfing with The wave ProjectIt is a non-profit making community interest company that works with pro surfers and volunteers to inspire and motivate young people who, for different reasons, are experiencing difficulties in their lives.

The charity’s clients include children and young people with mental health difficulties, emotional problems or learning disabilities – as well as those who are simply under lots of stress due to extraordinary circumstances. Its unique 1:1 surfing courses are delivered with support from a fantastic team of dedicated volunteers, who provide motivation, support and encouragement.

The Wave Project is evidence-based, and works with mental health professionals and psychologists to refer clients, and independently evaluate its projects to ensure that they provide lasting and meaningful benefits for its clients.

The surfing projects are all about creating a positive vibe. They are designed to bring clients out of their comfort zone and get them focused. But they also provide an opportunity to give them a fun experience, meet new people and get lots of encouragement.

The Wave Project believes that mental health should not come with a price tag. That’s why all of its projects are free of charge to clients. The charity raises the funds needed to deliver the courses for the young people and use professional services to take referrals. Its funding comes through direct fundraising, grants, trust funding and personal donations. Its backers include the NHS, BBC Children In Need and Cornwall Council.

The charity also depends heavily on its dedicated volunteers who give up their time to support its work with vulnerable young people.

‘They are all amazing beyond words,’ said Project Co-ordinator Joe Taylor. ‘Without them, we simply couldn’t deliver our activities to the standards we have set.’

The charity also recently launched The Wave Project Surf Club. Some of the children who had previously taken part in one of the courses enjoyed surfing so much that they were inspired to set up the club to provide them with ongoing access to the sport.

Joe, who founded the charity, said: ‘This club is the first to be run by and for children who have suffered from difficulties in their lives, and I am lost in admiration for the young people who have taken part.

‘Their ability to confront the difficulties facing their lives and respond in a positive way by launching their own surf club is a statement of how much young people can do.’

The Wave Project only takes referrals from people working in professional services or charities, such as psychiatrists, psychotherapists, counsellors, youth workers, charity organisers and SENCOs; that is how they know that the young people they work with have a genuine need. The charity is always keen to talk to professionals who work with vulnerable children and young people, so please contact Joe for a chat if you would like to refer a client. Alternatively, do so direct through the website using the simple referral form, and someone will call you back. All information about clients is of course managed in the strictest confidence, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Volunteers also being sought to take part in the projects. For more information about these opportunities, please email info@waveproject.co.uk. For further information, please contact Joe Taylor on 07584 124873. More information about the Wave Project can be found at www.waveproject.co.uk.

 

Launching DysNet – and how the right education helped one man make a difference, despite disability

For the past two months, in addition to my special needs work, I’ve been working on an exciting project to launch an online community network for people living with limb differences.

DysNet is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, Geoff Adams-Spink, about whom I’ve written on this blog before. It’s aimed at bringing together people around the world affected by dysmelia (congenital limb differences) to share information, knowledge and resources. Today, Geoff writes about his life for Special Needs Jungle and demonstrates that, with the right support and education, it is entirely possible to live a rich, rewarding and independent life.

From Small Beginnings

First let me declare an interest: Tania Tirraoro the award-finalist writer who hosts this blog is a good friend and a professional contact.  She and I trained together as journalists on the South Cornish coast way back in 1988.  Back then, Tania was vivacious, tenacious and keen to get on.  More than two decades later, absolutely nothing has changed.  Or has it?

Bringing up two boys with Asperger’s has directed her considerable energies into the field of special needs education.  As someone who spent most of his childhood at special boarding schools, she has asked me to share a few thoughts about my experiences and about the current debate about special schools vs. inclusive education.

Geoff Adams-Spink

I was born half a century ago with disabilities caused by the morning sickness drug, thalidomide.  The drug left me with extremely short arms, flipper-like hands and very limited vision in the one eye that I have – the other is completely absent.

Back then, children with physical disabilities were destined for special schools – mainstream either wasn’t geared up or wasn’t prepared to gear up to support us.  My parents were told in no uncertain terms that my safety couldn’t be guaranteed if I attended the same local schools that had served my two sisters and my brother perfectly well.

So, aged five, I was packed off to Penhurst school in Oxfordshire which was run by NCH – now NCH, Action for Children.  I recently revisited the place and found it transformed.  It no longer supports children with the sort of disabilities I have.  All of the students have profound and multiple learning disabilities or PMLD.  The 26 children require intensive support from the 150 or so staff.  The cost of a place there can only be guessed at.

And this has set me thinking about the current debate about special needs vs. inclusive education.  It seems to me entirely ridiculous that anyone should assume that one approach should be adopted exclusively.  If we are, in the words of a former Secretary of State for Education to “respond to the needs of the child” there is surely room for a mixed economy.  Plenty of children – myself included – would probably manage perfectly well in mainstream education with a few minor adjustments.  Others would be left in the margins and need the specialist support of staff who know how to encourage children with different needs to achieve their potential.

This is not simply about physical compared with learning disabilities: two children with, superficially, the same level of impairment could well require different responses from the system.  My nephew, for example, has Asperger’s and managed quite well in mainstream education.  But he has the benefit of supportive parents who have equipped him with the knowledge to know how to regulate his behaviour and manage his condition.  He’s also a big strapping lad who has no shortage of confidence.  Another child with the same level of Asperger’s may well struggle in the same environment.

Is there life after special education?  You bet!  I out-grew Penhurst quite quickly and was sent to another boarding school aged eight.  This establishment had an approach that – at the time – was quite revolutionary: that disabled children (the majority were vision impaired though some had physical disabilities as well) should be encouraged to acquire certificated qualifications.  I left the place after nine years with eight O-Levels and went on to study for A-Levels at an FE college and then on to university.

So how have mine and Tania Tirraoro’s paths crossed again?  Tania is now an expert in the use of social media.  After 22 years working as a BBC journalist, I am now Chairman of a European organisation that represents people with limb difference.  We have an ambitious project to create a global network of those affected by dysmelia (as limb difference is officially known) and to link this network with a knowledge base and another network of dysmelia experts.  Spreading the word using social media is a no-brainer.  And our choice of Tania to establish our social media networks to help us achieve our goal was equally simple.

On Monday May 21, Tania is helping us to launch DysNet – an online community that will help people to conduct conversations in five languages. We’ll have a knowledge-sharing website and a secure community forum on RareConnect, run by EURORDIS & NORD, the world’s leading rare disease organisations.

I wonder whether, when my distraught mother left me at Penhurst for the first time, she had any idea that her son would get so much from his special education.

DysNet Website  | DysNet Twitter | DysNet Facebook | DysNet G+

Home educating a child with special needs

Many parents who have children with special needs seriously consider home educating their child. It throws us lots of issues – especially if they are statemented. Today. home education expert, Fiona Nicholson, who has given evidence to government committees on the subject of elective home education, talks to Special Needs Jungle about these issues and how to go about teaching your SEN child at home.
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Some parents decide when their children are very young that school is unlikely to meet their needs. But most children who are home educated did go to school for a while first. When it comes to the crunch, many parents feel they have no choice but to home educate because of problems in school, especially when children are bullied. Children with special needs are often singled out because they are different.
Fiona Nicholson, Ed YourselfThe school day can be very long for a child with special needs and children always come home tired or angry. Many parents say it’s less tiring to home educate because they can go with the flow more. It may mean that parents have to give up their job in order to home educate, so I do get asked a lot of questions about the benefit system.
Children with special needs have an equal right to be educated at home. A significant number of autistic children are home educated and the National Autistic Society has information on its website about home education.
One parent told researchers: “the number of HE families in the UK is growing rapidly, as many are literally forced to it by bullying in the schools that the school system can’t/won’t protect their children from, and/or by the failure of the schools to decently address special needs. We are one such family, and know many others. We are not choosing home education as an alternative lifestyle choice, but have been left with no other acceptable option.” Another parent commented “regrettably, we would never have considered home ed until forced into it because of bullying. We now wish that we had always home educated her.”
Home education isn’t a decision which is taken lightly. Parents are anxious about how children will make friends and they do worry about whether they are keeping children wrapped in cotton wool or protecting them from the real world.
In fact there are many social opportunities for home educating families. The internet is widely used by parents to link with others in their area and nationwide. There is also a thriving internet community specifically for home educating parents with special needs children. Parents who are just thinking about whether they could possibly manage to home educate and what it actually involves can join and ask questions from parents who have already made the transition.
If the child is a registered pupil at a mainstream school, the parent  wishing to home educate should send a written request to the school for the child’s name to be taken off the  school roll. You don’t have to ask for permission. It’s the same process whether the child has a statement of special needs or not. The statement will need to be modified to take off the school’s name and to say that the parents have made their own arrangements.
If the child is a registered pupil at a special school, the parent does require  consent from the local authority before the child’s name can be removed from the school roll. Some local  authorities will ask for further information about how home education will accommodate the child’s special needs.
Even when children have a statement of special needs, the local authority doesn’t have to help or provide services once the child is out of school. On the other hand, the statement isn’t enforceable on the parents, as long as they are making provision for the child’s special needs. This gives families more responsibility but more freedom as well.
In England the Department for Education has said that the local authority can claim back money spent on SEN support and the latest Government rules say this can be agreed on a case-by-case basis with the family. The total amount that the Council can claim is the same as schools receive for each pupil. However, it’s totally up to the local authority and not many have taken it on board yet. You need to be mentally prepared for the possibility that you’ll get nothing once your child is out of school.
Once parents are home educating they obviously have less opportunity to go out to work and earn a living. Carer’s Allowance is payable to people who are caring for  a child or adult receiving Disability Living Allowance at medium or higher rate. Home educating parents – including lone parents – are entitled to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance if they are prepared to agree to the qualifying terms and conditions. Home educating parents can also claim Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for self-employment which can include working from home.
Links: 
My website has a lot of information about home education law and SEN and also about state benefits http://edyourself.org/

Shortlisted for BritMums award – Why SNJ is all about CHANGE

Thrilling news – The Special Needs Jungle blog as been shortlisted in the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards “Change” Category

The Special Needs Jungle blog is all about change – changing the SEN system for the better and bringing information and resources to the attention of those who can use it to change their families’ lives for the better. It’s about amplifying the voices of families and professionals involved or coping with special needs issues – there are so many out there, but they far too often go unheard or unheeded. I am passionate about using this public forum to spotlight their views.

Special Needs Jungle has changed my life too, in ways I never imagined.

Me with Sons1 & 2. Image by Angela Melling

I started Special Needs Jungle back in 2008 when my younger son was going through the statementing process. I had amassed all this knowledge about the process and decided to write it down in a form that could help others, so I tentatively started the Special Needs Jungle blog. A year later, when I came to apply for my older son’s statement (they both have Asperger’s), I used my own site to refresh my memory of what to do!

One morning last September, I sat up in bed and knew that I had to write a book explaining in greater detail to parents facing the stressful and exhausting statementing process, just how to sit down and start setting out their child’s story. The book, Special Educational Needs – Getting Started With Statements,  took five weeks to complete, including examples from real, successful applications as well as contributions from other parents with their own stories. It has been very well received, the Kindle version of it hitting the top spot in the special needs category several times.

Last week, I spoke at a special needs parents’ coffee morning in Guildford and took ten books along with me, thinking I might sell a couple if I was lucky. Within minutes, they were all snapped up! There are more speaking engagements coming up, including at the ‘Towards a Positive Future’ conference in June. I’m on just before NAS President, Jane Asher, which everyone says is better than being on after her, as she’d be impossible to follow!

Through SNJ, I have been able to highlight SEN issues, great practice, fab resources and the most amazing, dedicated people who are working to help children and young people facing sometimes extreme challenges. I do not make money from or have sponsored posts on the blog – every guest post is given and accepted free of charge or payment and I only feature posts that bring something useful or inspirational to families caring for special needs children. It is a privilege to do so.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but a percentage of anything I make from book sales will be donated to my boys’ independent special school, More House School, who are trying to raise a million pounds to fund a School of Engineering, so that its boys can leave with real skills that will benefit themselves and the UK economy. My donation won’t be much – as authors know, not many make a million, especially from such a niche book, but it will be a small contribution to say thank you for everything they do for my sons. If you have any links with engineering companies who might like to sponsor such a worthwhile project, do let me know.

I’ve also, this year,  joined the committee of Family Voice Surrey, a parent-carer forum involved with the development of the new SEN Green Paper to make sure that the proposed changes really do make life better for families with SEN and disabilities. We are one of many such forums across the country, all of whom donate their time to help others.

And there are rewards: next month, as a result of the skills I have learned from working online and in social media, I will start work as PR and Community Manager for EDRIC, a European NGO aimed at helping people with Dysmelia – congenital limb reduction – across the whole of Europe. It’s a challenge I’m really excited about and it will also bring a wider context to Special Needs Jungle.

If you get time, and if you think Special Needs Jungle is a worthy recipient of the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Change Award, please click this link and vote for me. 

Roaming the Special Needs web this week…

Another busy week in the news and blogs – here’s some of my favourites as well as a round up of posts on Special Needs Jungle in the past seven days. Add yours in the blog comments below

Want your SEN product or service listed on the Special Needs Jungle site?

Special Needs Jungle has lots of visitors every day ranging from parents & carers to SEN professionals. It has many email subscribers and is also available for subscription on Kindle.

The site has a page where links to SEN sites and resources are listed. If you would like to have your SEN resource or product listed, please use the contact form to get in touch.

This service is free for parent support groups and SEN/Disability charities. For other companies, there is a £20 a year donation fee that will go to More House Special School in Farnham for its fund to build a School of Engineering.

More House School educates boys from 8 to 18 who might be bright but who have some form of learning difficulty that impedes their progress in mainstream school.

If you know of a company who might be interested in taking advantage of this offer, please forward this link to them.

Kosovan special needs parent group appeal

A Kosovan special needs parent group has been in touch with the UK website Netbuddy, looking for help. They are asking for donations of special needs related items, so if you have got anything you can spare that you think might be useful, please send it to 7 Wildwood Road, London NW11 6UL by 2 March or drop it off in person to the same address on either 19 or 26 Feb.

One to One Childrens Fund, which is a UK charity working in Kosovo, will take your offerings there for us. This is an opportunity to help families and carers like ourselves, who are managing with far fewer resources and very little support. Please help!

Items that would be of use include:

* Sensory and cause and effect Toys * Adapted Toys * Clothes * Toiletries * Glasses * Adapted Cutlery/cups/plates * Adapted clothing * DVD’s * CD’s * Waterproof Mattress covers * Bibs * Feeder aprons * Sleep suits * Changing mats *

Anything else you can think of gratefully accepted!

Many thanks,

Emma and the Netbuddy team

Get the Special Needs Jungle Blog delivered to your Kindle

I’m delighted to announce that Special Needs Jungle is now available as a Kindle Blog subscription. For just 99p a month you can have every post delivered wirelessly to your Kindle or Kindle app so that you can read it offline whenever you want, even if you’re not near your computer.

It means you’re always connected to important SEN news, views and information as well as guest posts from interesting contributors.

If you’re Kindle enabled, whether it’s through a Kindle, ipad or smartphone app, subscribe from the links below:

UK:

 

 

US:

SEN Stories in the news this past week

Recap of SNJ posts and other news about SEN this week:

A new SEN Advice service from Contact-a-Family

Contact  a Family, the national charity that helps support parents with disabled children has launched a new SEN National Advice Service.

This service will help families whose child may have special educational needs – we will be able to provide advice and information on any aspect of their child’s education. Help is available through their helpline 0808 808 3555, or post a query on Facebook or Twitter and a SEN adviser will get back to you. Alternatively drop us an email: helpline@cafamily.org.uk.

The service is available for anyone who thinks their child may have special educational needs – whether or not they have a disability or has already been identified as having SEN.

The Contact A Family Service can advise on:

The SEN process – including:

  • Early years
  • School Action and School Action Plus
  • Individual Education Plans (IEP’s)
  • Statutory Assessment/ Statements
  • Annual Reviews
  • Transition planning and education after 16
  • Appeals

Other general education issues as they affect children with SEN, which include:

  • Transport to school
  • Bullying
  • Exclusion
  • Medical needs in school
  • Attendance at school
  • Home Education

You can find out more about the service and Contact A Family in general here: http://www.cafamily.org.uk/families/SEN.html

2012 brings a School Run SEN Qn’A and a win for Pat! #specialneeds

SEN-Getting Started With StatementsIt’s January 6th and my boys are still off school; they finally go back on Monday. It’s been an interesting Christmas break with my eldest having a party for 12 of his closest teen pals at our house (my sister who was staying with us cleared off to the pub). This was preceded by just minutes by my 12 year old slipping off his bedroom ‘Balcony’ (he doesn’t have one) and me seeing him tumble past the kitchen window to the floor. He was mercifully unhurt, though I had to reach for the Christmas sherry at 4pm.  No surprise that I was almost catatonic by Christmas Day. Still, Jamies’ turkey was a hit, the gravy went down a storm and the brandy for the pudding ended up in my glass.

The teenage years bring their own set of issues and these are intensified by their Asperger’s. They are both completely different in their needs and idiosyncrasies – as they say, if you’ve seen one child with Asperger’s, you’ve seen one child with Asperger’s. Finding new ways to parent in adolescence is challenging and exhausting. 2012 looks to be an interesting year for us!

It’ll also be interesting to see how the SEN Green paper progresses though its pathfinder stages in the coming months. Our LEA, Surrey and that of neighbouring Hampshire are among those chosen to test run the proposals and Special Needs Jungle will be watching closely.

When the changes, in whatever form they come, are implemented, I’ll have to update my SEN guide to Statementing book. The name will have to change for a start, though I’m quite certain all the advice to parents having to gather evidence to prove their child’s needs will stay exactly the same. They may abolish the word ‘statement’ but if you want your child to get high level SEN support, you’re still going to have to prove your case and my book can help. Nothing is going to change in the next few months anyway, so if you’re thinking about applying for an assessment, don’t delay – the process is long and often arduous so start gathering your evidence as soon as you can.

I’m soon to be hosting a Q&A on The School Run website about statementing – get your questions in now and I’ll be answering them during the week beginning 16th January.

If you’re interested in the book – and it’s sold quite a few copies it seems, so there’s a lot of people who are looking for advice – it’s just £6.99 on Amazon or £5.18 for Kindle. If you fancy a free copy, I’m offering two for people taking part in The School Run Q&A, check out their site at the link in the para above.

Also, congrats to Pat Bolton Arkless who won the free copy in my Christmas giveaway. Son2 wafted down from his Technolair that he’d scented with cinnamon Glade, graciously leaving his 32″ TV (thanks to fab pre-Christmas sales) Xbox experience to select a name from the hat. Pat, it turns out, runs Parent Power in Gateshead that helps families with special needs kids, so I popped an extra copy in there to help her very valuable work. And now I’ve found her, I also cheekily asked if she could find time to write a guest post about her work. Even though she’s a busy woman, she’s kindly agreed so we’ll feature this in the coming weeks (No rush, Pat, if you’re reading!).

So, Happy New Year to you all and if you have any ideas for great posts, or want to write one suitable for here, get in touch!

Resilient Parenting – A Guest post by Lesley McCall, NLP & Hypnotherapy Practitioner

Happy New Year! At this time of the year, we’re often thinking about how we can change our lives, and those of our children, for the better. I’m delighted to have a New Year guest post from Lesley McCall, an NLP practitioner and Hypnotherapist. She is experienced in helping people with parenting issues and with children who have special needs.

_______________________                       

Lesley McCall

Nobody ever warns you do they?  When you have a baby it’s all excitement and blue sky with no hint of a cloud. Nobody ever warns you of the pain you will feel when your child is struggling – it’s like having your own little voodoo doll – they get hurt and you feel the pain. Suffering by proxy.

However if we can learn to be resilient parents it will help our children be resilient too and many studies have shown that resilient children make happier adults.

So what makes us resilient? The short answer is learning to cope with adversity. The gardeners amongst us know that if you raise seedlings on a warm windowsill with no draughts then they grow ‘leggy’ and weak. These seedlings will wilt as soon as they face the cold winds of outside and will struggle to survive. Far better to allow them some cool breezes now and then while they are growing to prepare and strengthen them for the outside world. In the same way our children would never have learned to walk if we had never let go of their hand.

So how do we become resilient parents? How do we maintain our perspective when our children are unhappy?

Think of it like this – if you are drowning then you can’t save anyone else—all that happens is that you both drown faster if you try. But get yourself into a boat and you can pull them in too.

Some Techniques that may help:

1. Positive Future Pacing

Anxiety is all about the future – anxious people imagine all sorts of disasters approaching. If all you can see is oncoming disaster, no wonder they are scared. When your child has challenges it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing the worst – but that’s no use to either them or you.

The truth is that you really don’t know what lies ahead. No matter what you have been told by medical professionals, health workers, well-meaning friends – they don’t know for SURE how it will turn out – nobody does. If someone tells you that in all probability such and such will happen say ‘How do you KNOW ?’ Always believe in the best possible outcome – you never know, it might happen.

2. Challenge negative thoughts – yours and your child’s.

The most influential person you listen to is you– so be careful what you say to yourself. Challenge negative thoughts – are they really true? How likely are they to happen?

3. Learn to be selfish from time to time- without guilt

Your child needs you to be strong – if you are stressed to the point of illness how is that going to help them? So take care of yourself so you can take care of them – eat well, learn to relax, take time out for you when you can. This all makes you stronger – better able to support everyone else.

4. Think Straight- perspective!

Don’t make problems worse than they are – and don’t invent them. If it hasn’t happened then don’t think about it – it may never happen.

5. Reframe the negative to the positive

‘My child can’t do ….but they can do

‘This is never going to happen…..but something better might’

‘I can’t see a solution to this ……yet’

6. Remember – you and your child see things differently.

What hurts you might not bother them. Your child is not you. For example: if you are an extrovert then you might hate being on your own but if your child is an introvert then they may need to be alone to ‘recharge’ their batteries. They may not see being alone as a problem. Do not impose your ‘model of the world’ on them – they have different ideas, beliefs and views to you. If they say they are okay – believe them.

Finally always remember that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. If you offer your child unconditional love, support and approval then you – and they – are doing well.

If you would like my free relaxation techniques please contact me on

Lesley@thirdattic.com or contact me via my website, www.lesleymccall.co.uk

Christmas Giveaway – a copy of my SEN Book

SEN-Getting Started With Statements‘Tis the season and all that, and I’m giving away one copy of my SEN book, Special Educational Needs – Getting Started With Statements.

All you have to do is hop on over to my Special Needs Jungle page on Facebook and give it a ‘like’ If you already ‘like’ it, leave a comment on the page saying you want to be entered.

I’ll get my son to emerge from his Technolair bedroom on New Year’s Eve to pick the winner at random. And if you know my son, random is his middle name.

Merry Christmas!

https://www.facebook.com/SpecialNeedsJungle

SEN & Special Needs Stories I’ve spotted this week

Here’s my usual round up of the more interesting special needs stories in the UK this week.

SEN Magaine: Better Futures group calls for ADHD assessment at second-term exclusion 

WebTV: “What’s the difference between a problem child and a child with a genuine problem such as ADHD? – Video « Special Needs Jungle

BBC News:  Slow starting pupils ‘don’t catch up’  This makes interesting reading

Dept of Education: New Studio Schools to bridge gap between school and work  I think this is a great idea- do you?

Made For Mums: Choosing the right school for your child with learning difficulties @MadeForMums

National Autistic Society: Autism journal available free for limited time FULL of interesting research look while it’s free

Not As Advertised Blog: Advice needed for teenage party for AS son with new girlfriend! See my post

The Observer: It’s our narrow view of education that holds pupils back | Yvonne Roberts | Comment is free

OnMedica: GPs to be offered help in identifying autism – About time!

National Children’s Bureau: Strong opposition to cuts to disabled children’s benefits 

If there’s an interesting site you think I should know about, please send me the link.

Tania

 

“What’s the difference between a problem child and a child with a genuine problem? – Video

I’m delighted to highlight a programme about identifying a child with ADHD. Do you recognise your child from the descriptions in the video?

“What’s the difference between a problem child and a child with a genuine problem?

Watch our webTV show where Lorrine Marer, Behavioural Specialist and ADHD Coach, shares her practical advice on the subject.

With Christmas just around the corner, children are sure to become easily distracted, excitable and impatient at the thought of all the presents they soon get to unwrap.

Along with all the added stress of present buying and manically organizing Christmas parties, this time of year can also be a nightmare for mums and dads when it comes to handling their child’s behaviour. This could not only be affecting home life but also having an impact in the classroom and proving to be a distraction for other children at school. Furthermore, figuring out whether your child is just being a typical excited kid at Christmas, or whether they might need specialist help with their behaviour, can be hard to decipher during the festive season.

So how can you really tell whether your child is suffering from a genuine problem or whether their inability to focus is just ordinary child behaviour? Do you feel at your wit’s end, or do you often think you might be reading too much into the way your child behaves?

If you answered yes to any of the above then watch our webTV show on Monday 12th December at 2.30pm with Lorrine Marer, behavioural and ADHD expert who will give her practical on the subject.

Watch our webTV show on: http://www.studiotalk.tv/show/whats-the-difference-between-a-problem-child-and-a-child-with-a-genuine-problem

SEN stories that caught my eye this week (w/e2nd Dec)

Here are some stories I liked this week as well as some of my own SEN posts from the week that you may have missed (how very dare you!)

Did I miss your SEN story? If so email your RSS feed to me via my contact page

SEN Lawyer Links

If you are looking for additional help, there are free services such as IPSEA and SOS!SEN as well as the NAS Advocacy Service is your child has ASD. You may decide, however, that you would prefer to use the services of an SEN Expert Lawyer. Below are the names of some such experts. If you are an education lawyer not on this list or you know of a lawyer that you can personally recommend, please contact me

  • SEN Barristers –  Gulshanah Choudhri has a child of her own with Down’s Syndrome, so as well as legal expertise, she has a personal understanding of the SEN issues. She stresses that, due to recent changes, she can offer a full service from initial consultation through to Tribunal, if necessary.

“With Gulshanah fighting in your corner and bringing her incisive mind and laser like cross examination skills to bear upon proceedings, you can feel confident that she will expose inconsistencies in the expert witnesses of the LA. I for one have had the privilege of seeing her in action and cannot commend her services highly enough.” Barrie Griffiths, Portsmouth

  • Douglas Silas Solicitors -I have met Douglas and he is dedicated to the SEN cause. He also has an extremely informative website. (North London based)
  • SEN Legal  Principal Solicitor is Melinda Nettleton and she is supported by Karen McAtamney and Adam Ottaway Friel. (Suffolk based)

“SEN Legal represented us and managed to secure us a placement at More House School. We definitely couldn’t have done it without them. Sally Brockaway

  • Maxwell Gillott – Quoted in Chambers and Partners 2011: Education: Individuals, Elaine Maxwell has been advising on provision for severely disabled pupils. Sources say she has a “phenomenal understanding of the issues that parents dealing with SEN face.” (Various locations)
  • Anthony Collins LLP I have met Inez Brown of this company and she is very well informed, highly experienced and committed. They are based in Birmingham
  • Children’s Legal Practice “We have acted in connection with numerous appeals to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal. These appeals have included cases involving statutory assessments, contents of statement, ceasing to maintain statements and Part 4 of the statement.” (Hampshire based)
  • AM Phillips “As both a professional, working within the field of education law, and as a parent of a son with special educational needs, I understand the pressures that parents experience on a daily basis.” (London, Wales)
  • Sinclairs Law “leading experts in the field of Special Education Needs (SEN) & Education Law, acting throughout England & Wales.” (Birmingham, Cardiff, London based)
  • JMW  “JMW Solicitors are experts in all aspects of special educational needs law; for over a decade JMW Solicitors’ medical negligence team has been dedicated to this tricky area of the law.” (Manchester/Salford based)
  • Moore Blatch “Let our wealth of experience in this niche area of law work for your child” Leena Hurloll, Senior Solicitor (South)
  • CDLaw (Robert Love) “Christopher Davidson’s experienced education law team is dedicated to helping ensure that your child receives the education he or she needs.” (Cheltenham based)
  • Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP “Fisher Jones Greenwood’s education law advice service is available to anyone with concerns about a child’s or their own education.” (Essex based)
  • Turners Solicitors “We specialise in representing parents of children with special educational needs whatever their diagnosis” (Wales based)
  • Langley Wellington “Langley Wellington has a very experienced team dedicated specifically to all aspects of education law.  The team’s success rate in SENDIST Appeals is around 90%.” (Gloucester based)
  • Match Solicitors “Match Solicitors are experts in assisting children with special educational needs.” (London based)
  • Stones Solicitors “Do you  have matters relating to schooling which you are concerned about or do you know others who might? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then Stones is able to offer advice on all Education Law matters.” (Devon based)
  • Allen & Co “Education law is our primary area of expertise. Advice and help is provided on school admission appeals, exclusions, school transport, special educational needs (SEN), equality and discrimination matters and more general education or school issues.” (Buckinghamshire based)
  • Education Advocacy “Education Advocacy is a specialist legal consultancy, which provides legal support and guidance to parents of children with  special educational needs.” (Somerset based)

“We used Nigel Pugh of Education Advocacy. He was very reasonable and I do not feel the outcome would have been the same without him. My son is now fully funded at a special school”  J Faux

  • Advocacy & Mediation “We are experts in supporting parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities”

“I can highly recommend SEN advocate Fiona Slomovic of Advocacy & Mediation. Fiona helped secured a place for my AS son at a Cambian AS-specific school with a waking day curriculum without going to tribunal. I recommend her to everyone. She is highly experienced and wins most of her tribunals” A Elliott

Why I’m backing the call for a revolution in ICT teaching

My younger son (or Son2 as he’s known around here) is a 12 year old computer wizard. He has so much computer equipment, wiring and accessories that I have nicknamed his room, ‘The Technolair’.

Ze PurpleGentelmanne (Son2)

At school he does ICT where much of the subject matter he could actually teach the class himself. At home he is part of the army of Minecraft addicts, he makes his own amusing graphics on DeviantArt and animations that he uploads to YouTube. He has taught himself how to do all of this.

Today I heard on Radio 4’s Today show about how some of the biggest firms in hi-tech, including Google and Microsoft, are calling for major changes in how the UK teaches computing to give Britain the skills it needs to compete. I whole-heartedly endorse this. While learning Office-based programs like Word, Excel and Access are very useful, my son, who has Asperger Syndrome and enough challenges in his life as it is, could use a leg up by being taught coding.

The problem, here, is that do our Secondary School level ICT teachers have the up-to-date skills in coding to teach young people? If not, schools need to buy in some expertise or training. And, if companies like Google and Microsoft are calling for a revolution in ICT, perhaps they would like to put their hands in their pockets and offer some funding to provide these experts, or the training opportunities for our existing ICT teachers to help them create the computer geniuses of tomorrow.

In my son’s case, even an after-school club would be enough to give him the basics and he could take it from there himself. For young people with certain difficulties such as him, any help in their areas of strength should be given the utmost priority. He already wants to build a computer from scratch but even though I’m a little bit geeky myself, such a project may be beyond me, especially as he has a unique learning style and his brain works in ways that are hard for most people to fathom.

There is a project called http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/ that has lots of free resources for teachers and young people including an exciting-looking competition called Codebreaker. There is also a cheap computer system called Rasberry Pi whose developers are designing an ultra-low-cost computer for use in teaching computer programming to children. Their first product is about the size of a credit card, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 (£15) for a fully-configured system. There is an informative article in The Register about it.

As soon as I can, I’m going to get one of these babies for Son2 for whom we are currently designing a new larger bedroom to his precise specifications. The new, improved Technolair will no doubt be raided by police at sometime in the future after he has taken over the internet – which is why he needs expert guidance in focusing his computer genius for good, not mischief. I am joking here, but the serious point is that we need the coding experts of today to help disseminate their knowledge in practical ways to the next generation inside schools. That takes investment and the will of companies such as Microsoft, google and the Double Negative company of Alex Hope, who spoke on the Today programme this morning, to turn words into action today.

Alex Hope is also the co-author of a report called Next Gen, described as a landmark report setting out how the UK can be transformed into the world’s leading talent hub for video games and visual effects. he clearly knows what he’s talking about so hopefully people who can make this a reality will listen.

Now, will Government and IT companies please form an orderly queue and get on with it?

1-2-3 Magic – the discipline system that saved my sanity

When you have children on the Autistic Spectrum, finding an effective solution to help with discipline is not easy. Out two AS boys are high-functioning but often did not realise that they had reached the limits of what was acceptable behaviour. Our sanity as parents was sorely tried at times until I came across a book recommended to me by Nancy Williams of The Studio ADHD Centre near Dorking. Nancy does amazing work with the young people that come to her, including our eldest who, at the time, did not have a full diagnosis.

The book in question was 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (Advice on Parenting)
by Thomas Phelan. If you’re thinking, oh it’s just counting, and that doesn’t work with my kids, then you might be surprised to find, as we did,  you’ve been doing it the wrong way.

The system is all about getting control back in a calm and effective manner and helping your children understand that you set the boundaries, not them. In order for it to work, you MUST be consistent, and carry through consequences religiously. This means consequences must be proportionate and deliverable.

We explained to the boys, as the book tells you to, that we were using a new system for discipline, what it entailed and that if we reached ‘three’ there would be consequences that they didn’t very much like. This included removal of privileges, electronic gadgets, TV time, Xbox for a set period and it would be stuck to. Whining about it would result in no discussion, just another count. Well, it was worth a try and, although I will let you read the whole system for yourself in the book, I will say it certainly worked for us.

In fact, when the boys started up and my head felt like it was going to burst, instead of losing control, I would just say calmly, “Ok, that’s a one.” No discussion, no further attention paid to the culprit while he digested the number. I felt instantly back in control. The decision to behave or not was his and he knew if he continued, two would follow one as surely as night follows day. After a few goes, it began to work so well that we rarely got to three.

It works because it is unambiguous. Children know what it means and they know you mean it and will follow through. This is good for children on the spectrum who need continuity and stability. I can’t say if it would work for children whose autism is more profound as I only have experience with my own boys. But it certainly has the potential for great succcess with Asperger’s and ADHD kids. And it works for parents too. It gives you back control without being overbearing. It helps you draw a line in the sand: this behaviour is acceptable, that behaviour is not. I would never claim to be an expert in behaviour, I’m just recommending to you what worked for us.

These days we don’t have to use the system much but it still works. The other day, my almost 14 year old was driving me insane. Suddenly, I remembered the 1-2-3 Magic system. “Okay, I said, that’s a one for you.”

He stopped what he was (annoyingly) doing and looked at me. “Are you counting me?” he asked incredulously.

“I think you’ll find that I am,” I replied, in a mild tone that did not reflect how irritated I felt inside.

“I’m thirteen!” he said. I shrugged and raised my eyebrow. He looked at me some more, then went off to do something else that was not annoying. Amazing, and proof that a system well-implemented and consistently applied can work.

The book has developed into a series. There’s a 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers: Effective Classroom Disciplines , workbooks and one we’ve just bought, Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage, and Let Go of, Your 13-18 Year Olds that I will report back on. It’s hard to know with our Asperger’s boys what behaviour is as a result of their AS and what is just teenage-ness. I am confident this book will give me some tips that I will be able to apply.

I’ve just found Thomas Phelan on Facebook and Twitter and he also has a newsletter.

Buddy Brilliant! – NetBuddy – A Great Special Needs Resource

www.netbuddy.org.uk is an award-winning website for parents, carers and learning disability professionals. It is a space to hunt for practical ideas, swap tips and access information on everything from brushing teeth to challenging behaviour. Like all good ideas, it’s so simple it’s hard to believe no-one thought of it before. So what gave Netbuddy’s founder, Deborah Gundle, the idea? Goalkeeper trousers!

Deborah’s son Zach has a learning disability.  “When Zach was little, so much of my time and energy was spent solving day-to-day problems,” says Deborah. “One day, I was in a sports shop buying football socks for my other son and I spotted some goalkeeper trousers. They were padded around the knees and the hips, and were perfect for Zach, who was about seven or eight by then and still crawling.”

That’s when Deborah decided to start writing down her ideas for other people to use, and encouraged her friends to do the same. But it wasn’t until several years later, when she met Linda Goldberg – former CEO of the learning disability welfare charity, Cosgrove Care – that the idea for Netbuddy was born.

By-you, for-you resource

Together, Deborah and Linda started collecting practical tips and suggestions from parents, carers, teachers, therapists, health workers – anyone with first-hand experience of learning disabilities. The idea was to create a ‘by-you, for-you’ resource, which people could add to and develop themselves. They wanted Netbuddy to be a place where people could share their ideas, knowledge and experience in a real, practical way.

Netbuddy went online in September 2010, and the response from the learning disability community was immediate. “This is such a brilliant idea! Nobody really knows how to cope with the day-to-day nitty-gritty unless they’ve experienced it personally,” wrote one parent. “I wish there had been something like this when my son was young,” said another.

Since launching the site, tips have been coming in on all aspects of caring for people with learning disabilities; everything from bed-wetting to hair cuts and new sections are being added all the time.

“We respond to what people want to see on the site,” says Linda. “If we get lots of tips in an area we haven’t thought about, we simply create a new section. That’s the beauty of Netbuddy – it’s completely interactive.”

If there is a lot of information on a specific topic, it is used to create an ‘information pack’. The latest packs are on sexuality and relationships, holidays for people with learning disabilities, arts and leisure opportunities and apps for the ipad.

Interactive forum

In addition to the tips sections and information packs, Netbuddy has a forum where people can post specific practical issues they may be having, or share their own break-through moments. There is also a thread for people to celebrate their good news within a community that understands the hard work behind those successes. Netbuddy’s forum hosts an ‘Ask an expert’ section, where people can post specific questions to specialists in their field. Currently, there is a learning disability occupational therapist, an adaptive technology specialist, a parenting siblings advisor and a speech and language therapist – all have proved very popular.

“I think the reason Netbuddy has really hit a chord is because there is nothing else quite like it,” says Deborah. “It’s there 24 hours a day so you can get practical help whenever you need it. It works because people in the learning disability community like to support each other. If there’s an opportunity to help someone else, they nearly always will.”

The challenge now for Netbuddy is to encourage more professionals to start using it – teachers, doctors, nurses, pediatricians, social workers, therapists, health workers and others. Some have been quick to see the potential, like health coordinator Kath Ingram, who regularly checks Netbuddy for tips.

“I love the tips on teeth cleaning, which can be so problematic for parents and paid carers,” she says. “I’ve printed out information from Netbuddy and ordered samples of recommended items to show people on visits.”

Professional help

For doctors, there are sections on encouraging people to take medication, hospital stays and medical appointments. The communication section has obvious uses for speech and language therapists, and there are lots of tips on dressing and clothing for support workers. But it’s not just healthcare professionals who stand to benefit. Teachers can also pick up useful tips from Netbuddy – activities to do in the classroom or ideas for keeping class outings safe and easy.

“Netbuddy is a goldmine of useful information,” says Deborah. “We hope people will use that information and share it with carers – either print it out or pass on the email address. When you help a carer you directly help the person they’re caring for, so it’s really important to support carers.”

 For more information visit www.Netbuddy.org.uk

My article in SEN Magazine – order a trial copy for free

I’m very excited as I have an article in the new edition of SEN Magazine. It’s in their ‘Point of View’ section, entitled “Recognising The Problem”. It’s about how, in order toaccomodate a child’s special educational needs, it is imperative first correctly to identify the problem. This is often difficult when a child has complex needs or a ‘hidden disability’ and the teacher is not trained or motivated to recognise the signs, particularly in otherwise bright children.

I anticipate it will be available online on their site at some point in the future but this is a great publication for anyone connected with Special Educational Needs and you can order a free trial copy at the moment by clicking here: http://www.senmagazine.co.uk/component/chronocontact/?chronoformname=trialcopy

 

You can follow SEN Magazine on Twitter and Facebook. They regularly publish informative and useful SEN articles that are useful for both parents and professionals.

Really good site

If you’re trying to get a statement for your child take a look at this website. Douglas Silas runs a firm of solicitors specialising in SEN tribunals. I didn’t use his services myself, but I did use his large selection of free factsheets and sign up to his emails which proved very useful. I’ve added a link also in the ‘useful links’ section and it’s well worth taking the time to visit his site.