Providing top quality care for those who cannot care for themselves.

image_pdfimage_print

According to experts, one in 10 children aged 5-16 has a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder and around one in seven has less severe problems that still affect how they feel, their relationships with family and friends, their education and job prospects.

Some will get suitable treatment though psychologists, CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) or through the NHS and as adults will be able to look after themselves, hold down a job and raise a family but some will have more intractable conditions such as severe autistic spectrum conditions and will need the intervention of specialist services which can provide intensive mental health support, care and accommodation.

Charlie was sectioned in 2005. He is now 34 and has learning disabilities and severe autism. He has limited verbal communication and it is often difficult to interpret the sounds he makes. He expresses his displeasure and anger by smearing faeces over the wall and ceiling and urinating in public. He also vomits a lot – up to 70 times a day. Sometimes this is a physical reaction to food but he also does it when he is frustrated.

But while Charlie has major physical, mental and emotional issues, he is one of the lucky ones. He lives at Options Malvern View, part of the Outcomes First Group, a well-established, specialist residential service accredited by the National Autistic Society.

After accommodation in other settings broke down, Options built Charlie a single occupancy flatlet where he has his own bedroom, bathroom, lounge, kitchen area and garden. It was a major undertaking. They couldn’t have skirting boards because he was strong enough to rip them off and use them as a weapon. The walls had to be scrubbable to keep the accommodation hygienic.

Staff work in pairs with Charlie around the clock and are using symbols systems to help address some of his communication needs. They have also weaned him off Coca Cola and adjusted his medication so these days he is calmer and able to take in what is going on around him.

‘The change in Charlie has been quite dramatic,’ said Nick Waller, house manager at Options Malvern View. ‘We have had far fewer violent incidents, less destruction of property. Soiling only happens a couple of times a week, usually when he is anxious, and he only vomits a few times a day.’

While Charlie will never live independently, hold down a job or get qualifications. Options can help him develop communication and some basic life skills so he will be able to lead a more fulfilled life.

AWARD nominations – Recognising those who change lives and build futures

image_pdfimage_print

Looking for awards to celebrate the achievement of some of those who work with children and young people?

The UK office of an Israeli charity called WIZO (www.wizo.org) has just launched its 3rd annual Commitment Awards which recognises people committed to using their skills and opportunities to address the needs of others. They are looking for individuals who can be of any race, religion or gender and nominations close on Wednesday 31 January 2018 so get your skates on.

The nomination process is quick and simple – just one form which you can download here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_s72CMa3fS6ZWtRVWpETXMxRFE/view

There are a total of 15 categories but here are some that might be of particular interest: Commitment to Education – Early Years’, which acknowledges an organisation, institution, teaching professional or childcare provider in early childcare and education services. Nominees will have generated exceptional spirit and energy in providing better experiences for children and families and will have made an outstanding contribution to the early years.

‘Commitment to Vocational Training’, which acknowledges an individual, programme or centre for education with a proven record of encouraging and believing in students who cannot easily be integrated into a regular educational framework. The successful nominee will have given students the tools to develop individual talents, reach their potential and to leave school to become skilled employees.

Commitment to Strengthening Parenting Skills
This Award recognises a practitioner, programme or facility that has been successful in educating, nurturing or counselling parents, giving them the support and tools to strengthen their parenting abilities and ensure family welfare.

‘Commitment to the Betterment of Others’, which acknowledges an individual aged 16-25 who has given time, selflessly, to make a difference to the lives of those around him/her. Examples could include those who have run fundraising events, worked on community-based projects or made time to leave a mark on someone else’s life.

Hip hop dance stars turn out to support Autism with Attitude street dance group

image_pdfimage_print

Big names in hip hop, many of them from the highly acclaimed TV show Britain’s Got Talent, have signed up to a benefit night for Autism with Attitude street dance group from Hillingdon Manor School. 

Boy Blue Entertainment, UMA, Definitive, IMD, Unity and all girl trio Code 3 who were semi-finalists in 2017 have all agreed to perform at the Broadway Theatre in East London on January 20th 2018. “It’s a fantastic line-up of mainstream and special needs acts,” said their dance teacher Jonathan Baron. “Some of the most influential dance companies out there are lending their support.”

Autism with Attitude, a talented and successful street dance group based at the Uxbridge school, have made history by being the first ever special needs dance group to get to United Dance Organisations (UDO) European Championships. This year the championships are being held 11-13 May in Kalkar in Germany.

The organisers are looking at the logistics, finding a local hotel close to the venue and trying to make sure everything is as calm and organised as possible so that the students, who are all on the autistic spectrum, can give of their best.

The first step is to raise money for the trip and Jonathan has been using his industry contacts, networking and taking the students to perform and participate in different events. “This is huge,” said Jonathan Baron. “We are taking 12 to 15 young people with autism over to Germany to perform in front of an international audience. All the artists I have spoken to are really proud of Autism with Attitude and are keen to show their support by giving their time and energy to make the fundraiser a success.”

Some of the students have never been abroad before but they are no stranger to the world of dance performance. They are all highly trained and work hard to build both their physical abilities and their people skills. They know that the staff at Hillingdon Manor School expect them to be ambassadors for autism, showing what young people with disabilities can achieve.

Autism with Attitude have certainly made an impression on the world of hip hop dance and will be meeting some of their idols. “Boy Blue are one of the most renowned companies in the UK,” said Jonathan. “Our students study them for GCSE; now they’re performing on the same bill.”

The performance will take place at 7:00 pm Sat, 20 Jan 2018 at The Broadway, Broadway, Barking, IG11 7LS.  Tickets are priced at £13.00 ( £9.00 concessions) and can be booked online at https://www.thebroadwaybarking.com/sales/genres/community/autism-with-attitude-fundraise

Brain in hand smooths the path to employment

image_pdfimage_print

It’s not easy to get a job these day and doubly hard for those who struggle to follow instructions or to engage in day to day social interaction that most of us take in our stride.

Erica, 46 from the Wirral was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when she was 32. She has been unemployed for the past six years. Erica finds social interaction at work hard, she feels people don’t always understand her and sometimes see her as being less intelligent, because of her facial expressions.

Alan, 26, lives in Nottingham and has high-functioning autism. He’s passionate about politics and one day would love to be a Green Party MP. For now, he is keen to find work in the political analysis field, yet despite gaining a degree he’s struggled to stay in work. Although he finds the work itself easy, he finds it hard to get past the interview stage.

They have been using an assistive technology support system called Brain in Hand which helps them to work on the things that he found difficult and find their own solutions. Brain in Hand Using is a smartphone app plus secure website and provides tools such as timetabling and a diary function.

The real strength is that users work with a support worker to identify stress points and work out possible solutions. This means that vulnerable people like Erica and Alan have strategies in their pocket and are less likely to panic.

See their stories here.

For more information about Brain in Hand see http://braininhand.co.uk/ .

Guest post: Helping Children Overcome Working Memory Problems

image_pdfimage_print

Former teacher Jackie Taylor shares her research findings

Having a sharp working memory is essential for success in many areas in life. The working memory (which is part of the short-term memory) is responsible for remembering names, lists, and other information just long enough for us to be able to use that information. There are visual and auditory parts of the working memory that help record the unique kinds of information one can encounter. However, there are many individuals who struggle with the use of their working memory due to the conditions they are managing.
For example, those diagnosed with ADD and ADHD can have difficulties with their working memory, which can make daily interactions and learning challenging. Not having the ability to recall information when needed is especially frustrating for children. At a time where learning is a top focus in life, it is essential for all parts of the memory to be working optimally. Thankfully, recent research has shown that there are certain brain exercises that can be used to improve the working memory for almost anyone.
Why is the working memory so important?
Because the working memory serves the specific function of being a mental “sticky note” (as many experts put it), it is extremely useful in learning. When children are required to learn and store new concepts or remember multi-step instructions, a strong working memory is necessary for success. If a child is struggling with his or her working memory, learning to read, being able to complete math problems, and staying focused become difficult tasks. Although there may be several contributing factors to these kinds of learning challenges, it makes sense to start with improving the working memory.
Research findings on improving working memory
To discover the best ways to boost the working memory, a study was conducted among 136 college students. The students were divided into three separate groups. Two of these groups “received training utilizing different working memory exercises, while the third was given challenging exercises that did not involve working memory exercises.” All members of the three groups were given an EEG at the beginning of the study. At the conclusion of the study (five days of training), it was discovered that students who had used the “dual-n-back” brain training exercise “showed a 30% improvement in their working memory.” In less than one week, these individuals were able to significantly boost their working memory simply by engaging in specific brain exercises.
Dual-n-back” (DnB) training programs
The study listed above shows the importance of choosing an effective brain training exercise when seeking to improve the working memory. While “dual-n-back” (DnB) training programs are relatively new, they have already demonstrated their effectiveness in this area. Numerous computer-based training programs were developed using this technique, including Brain Workshop and BrainScale.net. These programs can be used by people of all ages to help overcome the challenges of a weak working memory.
Training isn’t everything
When looking to help a child improve his or her working memory, the training by itself is not the only key to success. Instead, there are other elements of support that parents and teachers can provide. Encouraging children to regularly utilize brain training programs, as well as providing positive feedback, can make a major impact on their success. Additionally, consistency is also an essential element in improving the working memory of a child. If these programs aren’t used on a consistent basis, it will take a lot longer to reap the benefits and make a difference in the functioning of the working memory. Therefore, in addition to using proven techniques to enhance the working memory, it is important that parents and teachers provide one-on-one support to achieve the best results.