Impact of dyspraxia on children’s moods

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Imagine your school aged child struggled to climb stairs, brush their teeth or use cutlery. Wouldn’t you want schools to be aware of their problems and make allowances or, even better, find solutions so they were not singled out in the classroom?

‘Dyspraxia has a significant impact on all aspects of daily life from the moment a child wakes up,’ explains researcher Professor Elisabeth Hill from Goldsmiths, University of London.

dp-bkWhen I wrote the book How to Help Your Dyslexic and Dyspraxic Child I interviewed parents and children and came to realise that dyspraxia could have an impact on the whole family. Matt was described by his mum as ‘an unhappy little boy. He did not make eye contact and his language problems got in the way of making friends. He was also chronically inflexible and had he most explosive tantrums if things didn’t work out as expected. This can be very humiliating when it happens in public.’

Dyspraxia also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD) affects 5–6 per cent of children in the UK. In addition to motor skill problems, latest research shows that young children aged 7-10 with dyspraxia have poorer social skills than their peers, and 60 per cent of children find it hard to make friends and are less willing to play with their classmates.

‘Coordination and movement is absolutely fundamental to a child’s early development,’ Professor Hill explains. ‘We found that children that stood and walked independently sooner were rated as having better communication and daily living skills at ages 7-10. In fact, as soon as a child can raise their head independently and look around, or stand and attract adult attention, then they have far more opportunities to interact with the world and gain social skills. Children with DCD are generally slower to achieve these important early motor milestones or miss them completely – indeed 23 per cent of our sample never crawled at all. This delay may underpin many of their later social difficulties.’

Initial findings from a survey completed by primary school teachers across England also demonstrate that two-thirds of children with dyspraxia are more anxious, tearful, downhearted, nervous of new situations and less confident than their classmates but researchers believe that some teachers are not aware that poor motor skills may go hand in hand with poor social skills.

Teachers need to be vigilant especially in early years’ settings because the sooner the child receives help from an occupational therapist the sooner they can develop functional, transferable skills which will improve their self-esteem and help with their social interactions.

Professor Hill believes parents need to help children set targets: ‘Parental support could be targeted at identifying what is important to the child to achieve, breaking down the task into manageable chunks, and supporting skill development through short but regular practice sessions.’

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The role of motor abilities in the development of typical and atypical social behaviour: a focus on children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Research funded by The Leverhulme Trust. Principal Investigator: Prof Elisabeth Hill, Postdoc: Dr Emma Sumner.

What could be more important than saving lives?

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I have agreed to give money to St John Ambulance once a year. It is a respected charity with a high public profile at sporting events, festivals and big community gatherings. But that is not why I have signed up.

They have a new campaign to help children in primary schools become life savers.

first-aid-for-children2St John Ambulance believes that every young person should have the chance to learn vital lifesaving skills. Their research shows that seven out of 10 pupils wouldn’t know what to do if someone they knew was hurt. Children want to learn these new skills and parents are keen too. In fact, 95% of parents agree that these skills should be taught to secondary school pupils.

teresa pearceTeresa Pearce, Labour Party MP for Erith and Thamesmead, proposed an Emergency First Aid Education Bill so that first aid, including CPR, would be taught in every state-funded secondary school.

Over 14,000 people joined the campaign by writing to their local MP and 40 MPs turned up to support the Bill but the Government opposed making it mandatory for every pupil.

However, St John Ambulance has devised training for both primary and secondary schools. There is a set course https://www.sja.org.uk/sja/pdf/St_John_Ambulance_Student_First_Aid_Primary_courses.pdfthat covers choking, bleeding and CPR but schools can set their own with help from trainers.
• The courses meet National Curriculum requirements for Science, PSHE/Citizenship and PE.
• Trainers have first aid knowledge,
• Experience working with young people
• A valid DBS check
• £4 can give a child a 60-minute first aid lesson in school

The Big First Aid Lesson Live shown in June has been an inspiration to many schools. Now you can watch it on demand at: http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/schools/big-first-aid-lesson.aspx

Brain training boosts brain power

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Cognition does not sound very exciting but in fact it is the bedrock of learning. Cognition is the ability to plan and organise, problem solve, remember things, and focus, it has an impact on all aspect of peoples’ lives including their ability to learn, cope with everyday situations and their mental wellbeing.

mycogIt is one of those things that is noticeable by its absence for example Gena who turns up with all the wrong things in her school bag. We all do this from time to time but not every day!

I have written several articles about memory. This is another aspect of cognition and changes to exams by the government have put a premium on recall skills, project work and continuous assessment have been phased out in favour of end course externally marked exams. Literacy has become synonymous with spelling and for those pupils brought up on phonic it has proved to be a severe test of an 11 year olds’ memory.

With all these changes and challenges Peterborough City Council are to be commended for turning the tables and putting in the base skills instead of bemoaning results at the end of a key stage.

MyCognition, a leading cognitive assessment and training company, is working in partnership with Peterborough City Council to deliver personalised brain training to thousands of the city’s students and pupils in primary and secondary schools and City College Peterborough.

The three-year partnership, the first of its kind in the UK, will give students and young people in up to 70 of Peterborough’s primary, secondary, further education and special schools access to MyCognition’s online portal.

MyCognition’s science-based programmes work by assessing an individual’s cognitive function and personalising the online training games to focus on and help to improve areas of greatest cognitive need.

Areas covered include:
• Concentration (Attention) – Selectively focussing the mind on one task at a time, blocking distractions
• Speed & Accuracy (Processing Speed) – Ability to perform sequences of tasks with smoothness, accuracy and coordination.
• Calculation & Problem Solving (Working Memory) – Finding solutions to complex problems. Short term storage and the use of information
• Memory (Episodic Memory) – Recall of times, places, and contextual knowledge.
• Planning & Strategy (Executive Function) – Managing all cognitive abilities to plan for the future.

School pupils whose cognitive function scores are low, including many with special educational needs, will be given access to Unique, a personalised programme for children aged 8-18 years with learning and behavioural difficulties to boost their performance in the classroom. The 12 week programme can be used at school and at home and it is hoped that parents will get on board and encourage children to persevere.

As well as working with Peterborough Learning Partnership, MyCognition is currently developing programmes for Claydon High School in Ipswich, Royal Free Hospital Children’s School in London and Notre Dame Primary School in Greenwich.

Iain Simper, CEO, Peterborough Learning Partnership said: ‘As educationalists we need to look beyond subject specific difficulties and address underlying causes which could be associated with poor cognition. We believe that by improving the cognitive function of our students, we are also improving their life chances.’

For more information, please visit http://www.mycognition.comhttp://www.mycognition.com//

Tourist in Thailand

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Last November I won the CIPR Award for Outstanding Business Education Journalism 2015 for a series of articles about Apps for Good, a scheme that gets primary and secondary pupils to create an app, plan their pitch and show how they would bring it to market. I already had a trip to Hong Kong and Australia in my sights and decided to use the prize money to visit Thailand on the way home.

I soon learned that April is not the best month to visit Bangkok. With temperatures of 38 degrees and high humidity, I spent my time scurrying between the tourist attractions and anywhere with even a hint of air con.

thailand4I found that £500 goes a long way in Bangkok as my prize paid for four nights in a hotel, a half day guided tour of the city, canals and temples plus a full day visit to the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi to see the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, the Allied War Cemetery and Museum and a trip on Death Railway followed by an elephant ride.

Along the way I talked to locals and discovered a little about life behind the tourist sites. Thailand means Land of the Free and celebrates the fact that this country is the only one in south east Asia which has never been colonised by a foreign power.

Some of the anxieties expressed by Thai people are very similar to concerns in the UK right now. They respect their King – now the longest-reigning living monarch in the world- but are not so sure about his heir, so much so that there is talk of changing the law to allow his sister to take the throne.

Immigration is a key concern. Many complain that the Chinese have bought up property as an investment and as prices have risen, young people cannot get on the housing ladder. The average age for marriage is now over 30.

They also worry that legislative changes to the rules on migration for countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will allow free passage of other nationals into Thailand, especially from the Philippines. ‘Filipinos speak better English than Thais,’ explained my guide Michael, ‘and they are also noted for their good voices so they are likely to corner the market in professional singing jobs.’

The minimum wage in Thailand is just £5 per day but the top jobs which many young people aspire to are as plastic surgeons and cosmetic dentists. This is a country where looks count. The most popular anti-ageing cream is Snail White. Yes, it really is made from snail slime and is also reputed to be very good for acne, rashes and reducing the appearance of scar tissue. I didn’t buy a pot. Some things just don’t travel well.

Feeling Fearless in Deutschland

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Holidays for disabled people have had an unfortunate image in the past. They have been good value but definitely short in the glamour stakes.

In the UK there has been an emphasis on seaside holidays, perhaps with an underlying belief that blustery winds, strong doses of ozone and temperatures below the seasonal average are somehow good for those who are not very mobile. Many of the popular resorts do not boast a convenient rail connection and are not handy for motorways so a slow journey along A roads has also been part of the fun.

They seem to do things differently in Germany as I found out when I went to the German National Tourist Office stand at Naidex. They were showcasing Feeling Fearless the latest addition to the GbikeNTO’s website www.germany.travel/barrierfree .

I met representatives from Germany’s biggest barrier-free hotel, Haus Rheinsberg, https://www.hausrheinsberg.de/eng/hotel/ a superior 4 star hotel located in the beautiful surroundings of the Brandenburg Lake District. Yes the rooms and communal areas are designed for wheelchair users but they also factor in fun: ‘The restaurant provides high quality regional cuisine and meets special dietary and nutritional needs. The hotel bar offers a counter that has the perfect height for wheelchair guests, and our dance floor offers plenty of space for wheelchair dancing.’ Now that sounds like a holiday.

Go boating www.accessible-brandenburg.com offers ‘Barrier-free Aquatic Adventures’ including canoeing, boat trips and chartering house boats. For those who prefer dry land there are bike trips in Potsdam or you can just enjoy the culture, scenery and food in Lower Saxony and Thuringia.

Fiona-Jarvis-Founder-Blue-Badge-StyleI met Fiona Jarvis, founder of Blue Badge Style. She runs a website which rates places based on style, accessibility and disabled facilities. She was enthusiastic about Feeling Fearless and is thinking of having a go at skiing for the first time.

She is just the sort of tourist that Klaus Lohmann, director of the German National Tourist Office for the UK and Ireland. He said: ‘Our new webpage is designed to open up ideas for what you can do- not what your can’t- whether it’s cycling, tacking a climbing rope course in a forest or skiing. We are trying to make holidays in Germany as free from obstructions and as enjoyable as possible.’

They are definitely doing something right, because Germany has just recorded it sixth, record breaking increase in tourism in a row. So maybe give Skeggy and Weston Super Mare a miss this summer and give Germany a go.

Thank you, Ma’am!

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HelpKidzLearn from Inclusive Technology is an award winning collection of software for people with the most severe disabilities. Not only is it a vital resource for learners in the UK, but also it is proving to be a firm favourite in the United States and 148 other countries. Now its success has been crowned by the Queen. To mark her 90th birthday she has given Inclusive Technology the most prestigious International Trade award in the UK – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016.

Martin Littler, Chairman and CEO of Inclusive Technology, has been a pioneer in the field of technology for children and adults with severe learning disabilities (SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or those without speech who need alternative or augmentative communication (AAC) who perhaps can only make a single voluntary movement or sound.

hklLast month the HelpKidzLearn development team received the 2016 Education Resource Award for Special Educational Needs including ICT for their work on harnessing Eye Gaze  technology to meet the needs of learners with complex needs. Eye-gaze technology is the closest equivalent we have to thought-operated hardware so far, and is already surprisingly affordable. Inclusive Technology’s myGaze costs just £875 and is having an impact not just on children but on adults as well.

Just looking around a computer screen moves the mouse pointer and gazing at an area performs a click with no physical effort needed. Support workers can now use eye gaze to identify where the user is looking when different images, prompts or questions are asked, giving an insight into what users can see, what they are interested in looking at and some indication of their understanding skills.

Sean Carroll, IT/Assistive Technology Consultant at Sensation Communication and Technology Solutions, describes its impact: ‘James has sat in his chair since he was 19 with very little to occupy himself with, and even when at school I don’t think his independent access skills were attended to very much at all.’ Now with an Eye Gaze tracker James is able to access some online games and his parents are delighted to discover evidence of new skills.’

Yesterday Martin was on TV with his colleague Sandra Thistlethwaite who is a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, and Dan Woodman, deputy head teacher at Richard Cloudsley School in London. They were talking to the presenter of London Live about the impact of the technology on children’s lives. ms and xx

‘Children need to play, have fun and communicate,’ said Martin, ‘but this technology also lets children who are non-verbal use on-screen symbols and words to build language, create messages and take part in conversations with families and friends. The award is a huge pat on the back for our team of developers, teachers and therapists.’

Martin and his managing director Sukhjit Gill will collect the award at a Buckingham Palace reception on July 14, 2016.

 

 

Thank you, Barclays!

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ATEC is coming! Barclays are sponsoring an Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) to be held at Jury’s Inn in Oxford on May 17th.

It is fast becoming a Go-To event for those who assess and support people with disabilities in universities and the workplace and more importantly for people who need assistive technology for work, for study or to communicate with others.

TDebra Charles smallhere is loads of good stuff for people with dyslexia: Debra Charles is doing one of the keynotes. She is
CEO of her own smartcard technology firm Novacroft, the company behind the Oyster Card, and believes that her success is because of, and not despite, her dyslexia.

Find out about the latest versions of Claro and TextHelp, mind mapping from Matchware and Inspiration, The C-Pen Reader which reads text from print books and Notetalker that lets users capture information from a lecture or a meeting.

global autocorrect smallAs someone who uses Autocorrect on Word and types entirely in abbreviations, I am keen to see Global AutoCorrect which works with all programs from presentation software to emails, the web and social media. It frustrates me when I have to type every letter on Facebook. Maybe now I won’t have to.

There is some whizzy new technology. David Finch from Star College in Gloucestershire will be talking about a project called Ember. The idea is to reduce employer or mentor support and help trainees to work more effectively and more independently.

There is also an assistive robotic arm called JacoTM developed by The ACCESS Research & Development Department at Hereward College with charitable funding from Npower.

I am also keen to hear Abi James of University of Southampton and BDA New Technologies Committee. I often wonder why some people embrace technology while others reject it from the off. I used to think it was all about training and support in the early days, now I am not so sure. Abi is researching this area and will be leading a discussion on the role of professionals to improve the take up of technology.

Book your place now at http://www.ateconference.com/
Tuesday, 17th May 2016 Jury’s Inn 30 Godstow Road, OX2 8PG

The Grumpy Sheep improves performance skills at Stannington First School

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Caroline Hoile, a qualified music therapist and teacher, is now one of the foremost children’s songwriters in the UK. Her company, Grumpy Sheep is based in Newcastle upon Tyne and began publishing in 2000. Her musicals, Christmasnativities and songbooks go off to primary schools and nurseries throughout the UK and abroad, as well as to music stores and bookshops, church groups and theatre groups, and are performed by thousands of children each year.

Over the years Caroline has noticed that her musicals give children the chance to develop and show a different side of their characters. They have to work individually and /or in a team. Taking part in a musical gives them an opportunity to dance, act, speak in public and sing,’ said Caroline. ‘Apart from the obvious musical skills children develop, good songs are a great teaching tool – and because they’re having fun, children don’t realise that they are learning!’stannington grumpy sheep

Helen Stokoe is head teacher at Stannington First School in Morpeth, Northumberland. She is something of an expert as her children performed the world premiere of Squirrels! the Musical. This is entirely appropriate as she explained: ‘We have red squirrels living in the churchyard which is opposite the school.  The squirrels have also been seen in the playground and the children keep a tally chart recording squirrel sightings.’ The school was working with Katy Cook of Red Squirrels North East, a conservation partnership, to increase their knowledge of all things squirrel just as Caroline Hoile decided that this would be an ideal subject for a Grumpy Sheep musical.

‘We have used numerous Grumpy Sheep plays before, including ‘The Most Disgruntled Snowman’ and ‘The Hoity-Toity Angel’ and were very excited at the prospect of being the first school (in the world) to perform Squirrels! the Musical,’ said Caroline. ‘On looking at the script we soon had the parts allocated and set about learning the songs.’

What did the children at Stannington First School get out of it? ‘Collaboration, confidence in performing, listening skills, learning things by rote, just having fun!’

 

 

Social networking and gaming dominate young lives

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ICT and Me was a research project published in September 2015, it was conducted by The National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland (NCB NI), with the support of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. It was a longitudinal survey in Northern Ireland, studying the link between young people’s levels of access to, and usage of, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and how this subsequently impacts on GCSE attainment.

Read the full report here http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/1229655/ict_me.pdf

ch in NI

 

Key finding 1

Access to a computer/laptop at home is not an issue for the vast majority of young people with at least 95% reporting having access. However, despite the fact that only 5% report not having access to a computer or laptop, when scaled up across the top 40 schools in terms of deprivation, c.1,000 young people are potentially without access, placing them at significant disadvantage.

Key finding 2

Young people spend a significant amount of time online each day with one-third of young people spending four hours or more online in Year 1 rising to 40% in Year 2 of the study.

“I’m constantly on it to be fair.” (Pupil)

“You just always have to have a check to see what people are up to.” (Pupil)

“I always be checking my phone, even when I wake up in the middle of the night.” (Pupil)

Key finding 3

Social networking and gaming were identified by parents/carers and teachers as activities that could most negatively impact on young people’s attainment. Findings from this research confirm a link between extent of gaming and GCSE attainment, e.g. only two-fifths (41%) of pupils who reported using a portable games player a couple of times a day achieved 5A*-C GCSE grades compared to over three-quarters (77%) of those who reported rarely using one. No relationship was observed in terms of social networking.

Key finding 4

School staff were particularly concerned about extent of gaming, reporting a number of issues relating to attendance, punctuality and motivation. Particular issues identified in relation to male pupils with gaming addiction noted in some instances.

Just over one quarter of pupils stated that they play online games alone (27%) or with others (29%) on a daily basis. Further analysis of the survey revealed that males were more prolific users of a computer/laptop for playing games (either alone or with other others) with 42% of males playing games alone every day compared to just 12% of females. This finding is comparable with the literature which shows males are more likely to play online games than girls (Kids Life and Times survey, 2009; Mascheroni and Olafsson, 2013).

Key finding 5

Almost three-quarters (72%) of the young people surveyed as part of this study stated that they feel safe online. This corresponds to findings published by YouthNet (2011) which found over 75% of young people thought that the internet was a safe place. Parents/carers who participated in the focus groups/interviews appeared much more concerned for their child(ren)’s safety whilst online than the young people themselves –

Key finding 6

Social networking can negatively impact on young people’s concentration, distract them from their homework and can be a platform for bullying behaviour. Indeed many of the young people noted that Facebook, in particular, distracted them from their school work.

A study published by YouthNet (2011) suggested that it is common for young people to multi-task, with 90% likely to use different technologies at the same time.

“Definitely people would be texting and doing their homework at the same time or eating or watching TV whilst on Facebook at the same time.” (Pupil)

“If someone messages you on Facebook, then you go on your newsfeed and you end up spending half an hour on it looking at funny photos and videos and before you know it, it’s bedtime.” (Pupil)

The face of hatred

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the defendantIn 2014 my article Healing the Hate  was published by Access magazine.

Just this week, a 25 year old man who used social media to harass a man because of his disability has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment.

Saul Nyland, from Whitworth in Rochdale, pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment of the 31 year old victim who has a severe speech impediment and some physical difficulties caused by an accident in childhood. The defendant and victim work in the construction industry and have worked alongside each other on several sites in the past year.

The victim is a plant operator and had set up a number of Facebook pages offering advice and information about diggers and tractors. The sites had attracted a number of followers.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that between December 2014 and July 2015 the defendant harassed the victim on social media and by phone.

Lionel Cope from Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: Nyland targeted the victim and harassed him because of his disability. Nyland subjected the victim to a tirade of abuse online including posting a number of photo-shopped images of the victim which were hugely upsetting to both the victim and his partner.

“When the victim blocked Nyland online, he began ringing the victim on a nightly basis, mocking him for his disability and threatening to harm him. He also started to post abusive messages on the Facebook site of the victim’s partner.

Saul Nyland was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment, with a Victim surcharge of £80, and a Restraining Order of two years. An extra two weeks was added to his sentence because of the hate crime uplift. He was sentenced on Monday 25 January.