Category Archives: disability

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The face of hatred

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Campaign – Make a noise for selective mutism

To donate, please text MAKE 15, followed by the amount, to 70070 
Shannon went up on stage one day at the age of 3 to sing in front of a big audience. No sound came out of her mouth but there was nothing wrong with the speakers. Shannon was paralysed by anxiety and was physically unable to get her words out.shannin

 

Most children will have an experience like this, especially when they are very young but for Shannon it was the first sign of a condition called selective mutism. At least 1 child in 150 is affected and it is caused by extreme anxiety.

It is also three times as common in bilingual children. Figures from 2013 show that 1 in 6 primary school pupils in England do not have English as their first language. In secondary schools the figure stands at  just over 1 in 8 (Naldic http://www.naldic.org.uk/research-and-information/eal-statistics/eal-pupils). Figures are likely to increase and more teachers will find themselves working with pupils who have this condition. It can be frustrating.

Children with selective mutism can appear to be confident (even cocky) but then freeze with a blank facial expression (which can look challenging and confrontational) when speech is expected from them. It is not a matter of choice for them. It is a condition triggered by stress and anxiety.

To highlight this condition, SMIRA, the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association, is launching the ‘Make a Noise’ campaign to help children find their voices. Think of creative ways to make a noise. Take a video on your phone, post it to social media and ask viewers to ‘text MAKE 15, followed by the amount, to 70070’.

SMIRA has a special Makeanoise4SM page on facebook where you can upload your video, or use your chosen social media outlet adding the hashtag #MakeaNoiseforSM or tag @InfoSmira on Twitter.

See http://smira.org.uk/make-a-noise-for-sm.html for ideas of activities.

Money raised will be used to develop training for health and education professionals and for those involved in the care and welfare of selectively mute children.

Life changing technology

Technology used in the right way at the right time can change lives. it helps people to pass exams and get jobs. it also gives them back their self-respect and independence as this story shows.

Pete Gustin 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from All channels open: Inside The Inclusive Radio Revolution first published in Access magazine April 2015

http://www.accessmagazine.co.uk/all-channels-open-inside-the-inclusive-radio-revolution/

 

Neither mad nor bad, just dyslexic

IMG_0656.1This time of year when Christmas cards come though the letter box seems to me to be the one occasion when handwriting matters. While e-cards are in vogue and a great money saver, there is something special about digging out the best pen, or even a half decent biro, and doing Real Writing.

According to an article in the Guardian,  research  commissioned by online stationer Docmail earlier this year revealed that the average time since an adult last scribbled was 41 days. But it also found that one in three of us has not had cause to write anything “properly” for more than six months.

Many claims are made for the power of handwriting on our psyche and development. Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva who said: ‘Children take several years to master this precise motor exercise: you need to hold the scripting tool firmly while moving it in such a way as to leave a different mark for each letter.’ He believes it helps with reading and learning the alphabet.

Now I have spent a lot of my working life with people with dyslexia who often have dreadful handwriting which they struggle to read and have seen the way that touch typing can transform composition and spelling as people move from thinking in terms of individual letter shapes to writing whole words so I am not excited by such assertions and I do not accept that handwriting helps develop muscle memory whereas computer don’t.

I am also quite shocked by notion put forward in the article  by historian Philippe Artières that doctors and detectives in the late 19th and early 20th century found signs of deviance among lunatics and delinquents, simply by examining the way they formed their letters.  Quite possibly these people were neither mad, nor bad but simply dyslexic.

However, I will admit that handwriting is very individual and personal compared to word processing. I am amazed how many people’s handwriting I can still recgnise at a glance after a gap of many years. I am also saddened when I open a card from an old friend and see how their handwriting has started to break down with age .

Handwriting is our personal mark, it reveals something of our identity and as such is very powerful. We need to be careful how we use it.

Growing the next generation of readers

What is the role of a library in a special school where many young people are likely to have literacy problems? Liz Millett obviously knows the answer. She has just won a School Librarian of the Year Award.

Winner Liz Millett at school
Liz Millett Winner of a School Librarian of the Year Award

Liz works at WeatherfieldAcademy in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, a special school for students aged 7 to 19 with moderate learning difficulties and additional complex needs. Many of the children come from backgrounds where reading is not a priority. She set up the library in 2009 and her role is to make sure that the 3,000 books will fire up the 112 pupils and turn them into enthusiastic readers.

Nowadays there are so many different forms of entertainment that reading for pleasure is not high on many children’s agendas. Liz finds she gets the best results by tapping into their interests so she spends time talking to children: ‘One of my students, a 13-year old girl, improved her reading levels by 23 months in a year. Once I realised that she loved horses I found her collection of horse and pony books and she just ate them up. At the moment I know that one little boy is obsessed with lorries so I pick books out for him.’

Liz has set up a rewards system to motivate pupils. She had built a relationship with Weatherfield’s local public library and adapted the idea of the Summer Reading Challenge. Children are given a set number of books to read and those who persevere and meet the target are presented with a certificate in assembly. There is also an end of term Library Trophy for the most enthusiastic reader.

She tries to encourage parents to enjoy reading too and this can be hard work as some of them have problems with literacy. Like most special schools, WeatherfieldAcademy takes pupils from a wide area and many live up to 20 miles from the school. Liz builds personal connections very slowly and encourages them to email her as the school is promoting an online facility for children and parents to choose books together at home.

The school’s uses the Creative Curriculum up to Year 9. Last term’s topics were ‘Sport and Life’ and ‘Health and Fitness’.  Liz helps teachers to find appropriate resources and creates displays to reinforce topics. She also ensures that each pupil develops information literacy skills to the best of their ability, with colour-coded shelving alongside the simple Dewey system so that pupils can find their books independently.

The School Librarian of the Year award recognises the fact that Liz has made such great progress since taking over the role in 2009: ‘I’ve been given more and more responsibility over the years and I’m always busy but the difference you make to individuals makes it worthwhile.’

 

 

 

Consign volunteers to the scrap heap

I hate that phrase ‘volunteer opportunities.’ Of course it is fine to be a volunteer if you want to – many of us have a passion for a cause and are willing to give up our time, run marathons, bake cakes to raise money for a charity. But we do get a touch narky when the charity phones us up and starts pressing us to make a regular commitment aka a direct debit, especially when we know the cold caller is being paid good money to pile on the guilt.

It is loathsome that so many commercial companies are now routinely using volunteers to do essential work. This boosts their profits and takes a job away from someone else. In fact it is what we used to call exploitation. We also have a modern day Slavery Bill. I am just waiting for the moment when some company – possibly a pound shop or a highly profitable supermarket- says that a person who has no choice other than to work for their company for no wages is not a ‘slave’ but a ‘volunteer’ who gives of their time freely.

This week I watched Mary’s Silver Service on Channel 4 where that shameless self-publicist and entertaining red head launched a pop-up employment agency for out of work pensioners. I love the idea of helping people find jobs and it is such an antidote to the age of volunteering we are now in.

Charity Hft offers paid work to adults with learning disabilities
Ethical car cleaning offers opportunities for adults with learning disabilities

So I was delighted to receive a press release from a charity I have worked with in the past telling me about their latest employment venture.

Future Clean is a social franchise purchased by Hft which specialises in helping adults with learning disabilities. They have opened a car cleaning service in Gloucester giving people with learning disabilities the chance to learn new skills in paid employment. New employees typically stay with Future Clean for about a year, building the skills and confidence to move onto further employment, creating spaces for new learners.

If it is possible to develop businesses which employ people beyond retirement age and those with physical disabilities and learning difficulties AND TO PAY THEM, there is no excuse for those companies that exploit people into working for no money with the excuse that it makes them more employable.

Being ‘work ready’ does not mean surrendering your basic employment rights.

Hate crimes, mate crimes

Brent Martin
Brent Martin murdered and stripped (BBC photograph)

It was one of the saddest articles I have ever written. Sometimes you just cannot believe what savages human beings are. Humiliation, abuse – physical and verbal – violence, mutilation and murder and all because people are perceived to be different.

Access magazine has just published my article which they have called Healing the Hate . The piece looks at some of the crimes and the steps that the police and housing associations are taking to keep people with disabilities safe from harm.

‘Mate crime’ is a relatively new term. It is sometimes known as ‘cuckooing’, because the ‘mate’ in question will often move in to a disabled person’s home with the intention of taking their money, food, clothes, and in some cases, stealing prescribed drugs from them to sell on.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission produced a report on disability-related harassment titled Hidden in Plain Sight, they define hate crime as disability-related harassment as unwanted, exploitative or abusive conduct against disabled people that has the purpose or effect of either::
– violating the dignity, safety, security or autonomy of the person experiencing it, or
– creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment.

We don’t really know how many people are affected. In our ‘inclusive world’ they disappear. Schools don’t know how many disabled pupils are bullied; local authorities and registered social landlords don’t know how many antisocial behaviour victims are disabled; health services don’t know how many assault victims are disabled; police don’t know how many victims of crime are disabled.

Why does it happen? Because we let it. We turn a blind eye. We like to raise money for ‘disabled kids’ but when they grow up, the politicians stoke the fires by referring to them as ‘benefits scroungers’. They are the same people with the same disabilities but are on the other side of the divide.

An article can’t do that much. It won’t change the world. But if people read it, at least they can never again say that they didn’t know it was happening here in Britain today.

Deaf awareness at the education Show

Stephen Briggs from Get Deaf Aware
Stephen Briggs from Get Deaf Aware

Signature is the new name for Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP). I got my BSL stage 1 qualification with them many years ago. Then that was their main function. They accredited courses on Deaf awareness and British Sign Language. Mostly these were for individuals like me who needed to communicate with deaf people as part of their work

At the Education Show in Birmingham last week I met Stephen Briggs from Get Deaf Aware. The whole world of deaf awareness has grown and developed beyond recognition. Now they have a full range of e – learning courses from as little as £10 a course.

They run courses for retail, transport, health and public sector but are now doing so much more for schools too. With more deaf children in mainstream than ever before it makes sense to accommodate their needs and what could be  better than  letting Deaf children study their native language at GCSE level and give BSL the status it deserves ?

Make use of e-learning and get your staff to do a Get Aware course It can be completed in an hour, is simple and fun and there are no time limits or deadlines.

Business was brisk at the Education Show as more schools signed up to make their staff deaf aware. P’raps it  would be a good thing to so in your school as well?

Tablets transform lives for deaf people

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research at the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), showed me some of the advances in technology for deaf people when I was writing my article for Access magazine.  See the full article here ian noon

iPads and similar tablet technology has revolutionised life for deaf people and let them use services in a less ‘special’ way.

Ian uses an app to call a taxi, and now uses Twitter to receive live updates on train services and send queries to his local operator in the event of a delay;. He uses it on a plane to watch films with subtitles instead of just getting half the story.

Many films are available with subtitles, but cinemas are, however, still commercial businesses that want to keep regular audiences on side. They tend not to schedule subtitled screenings at weekends or on ‘Orange Wednesdays’, which is when Ian’s hearing friends usually want to go. He can therefore see some of the latest films at a nearby cinema, but only if he is content to go on a Monday or other less busy time, and then probably on his own.

He is hoping the Google Glass headset will make a difference to his life. Their ‘subtitling specs’ should soon be available. Wearing them he will be able to see subtitles which are invisible to others.

The Ed Show Cometh

The Education Show is coming very shortly (20-22 March) and I have to say it has improved immeasurably over the years. Although it is on my doorstep at the NEC in Birmingham it used to be my least favourite show.  I felt it was very unfocused offering everything form sink plugs to robust crayons to school visits and the latest high tehc offerings from computer manufacturers. It is now a lot more fun.

Things I have loved in recent years have included seeing the tallest man in the world folding himself up to get in a lift, seeing Peter André lecturing a group of head teachers about why ‘Education is Very Important’ and seeing a man demonstrating the delights of wok cookery. What with the flashing chopper, hissing oil and sizzle of vegetables it must have given school bursars and staff health and safety reps much to think about.

darawebThis year the Ed Show has gone all cerebral on us. Not the Fonz or a footballer but instead Professor Brian Cox on Thursday. Presumably he will be talking about Life the Universe and Everything and How Things Can Only Get Better. And indeed they will. Because on Friday we have the lovely Dara Ó Briain discussing the importance of Maths & Science.

I have lined up nine seminars I want to cover including Dyscalculia Strategies and Solutions, Introducing Enterprise to Children through Play and Working with Children Who Have an Acquired Brain Injury.

I notice that this year there are 33 exhibitors for science but only 6 for food.  Sadly, the man with the wok has had his day.