Category Archives: training

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Guest post: Helping Children Overcome Working Memory Problems

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.

 

Making it easier for students in Further Education to get funding

With the election just behind us, we can see quite clearly that post-16 is going to be back on the agenda. Whatever happens with Brexit, we are facing a skills shortage in the UK because uncertainty has encouraged some migrants to look elsewhere for job opportunities.

Who knows what will happen to Philip Hammond’s proposals for new T-level qualifications? Indeed, at the time of writing, who knows what will happen to Hammond himself?

Bob Harrison FE champion

Bob Harrison, chair of governors at Northern College and education adviser for Toshiba Information Systems Northern Europe, said, “The new Vocational pathways to Technical qualifications will provide enormous challenges for all those involved in 14-18 education, not just for schools but also for the awarding organisations.”

Whatever happens longer term, there is likely to be an impetus to get more students to train for apprenticeships, for jobs and for university courses.

At present FE is a minefield, especially when it comes to getting funding. It can be a traumatic experience for those who are most reliant on funding, that vulnerable group of students who are already at a high risk of withdrawing from college.

At most colleges in the UK the task of applying for financial support is a complex, paper-based process. Often FE students come from non-traditional backgrounds and may be deterred by complex forms. Some will lack family support, many do not have the financial literacy skills needed to make decisions about whether they can afford to come off benefits or give up a job, while others worry about the impact on their dependants.

New software could simplify the process. CAMS software, developed by Scottish firm Inisoft, is now available to further education providers in England and Scotland.

CAMS helps FE providers to streamline their funding application and approval processes. Colleges have experienced significant cuts to their administration budgets and this is likely to get tougher as access to the European Social Fund, worth millions to UK colleges, will end when the UK leaves the EU.

The software will rationalise and manage the entire student funding application, saving time and resources for both students and college staff.

Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft
Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft

Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft, said: “Further Education colleges often find that they are overwhelmed by the volume of enquiries from potential students and hampered by incomplete information or applications that are likely to fail based on a mismatch between criteria and grades. This takes time for administrators and makes life very difficult for students. By streamlining the process, we can introduce certainty and a rapid conclusion to application processes, giving potential students clarity and enabling administrators to respond more promptly to applications.”

CAMS software is already being used by 80% of regional Scottish colleges, delivering real costs and efficiency saving while improving the student experience.

For further information: http://inisoft.co.uk/

Yoga therapy for children with disabilities provides an oasis of calm

Set in the heart of Islington, just a five minute walk from Highbury and Islington station, the MahaDevi Yoga Centre is a unique place of tranquillity and peace.

The centre opened its doors just over a year ago offering yoga therapy to children with special needs from 6 week old babies to teenagers in wheelchairs.

It is a specialist centre for the Sonia Sumar Method. Forty five years ago, senior yoga teacher Sonia Sumar had a daughter with Down’s Syndrome. At that time in rural Brazil, there were not many interventions for children with special needs so Sonia used her skills and knowledge of yoga to help Roberta. Soon she could see the benefits as Roberta grew strong, well balanced and developed new skills.

After her daughter’s death, Sonia Sumar decided to develop her approach and share it with other parents who faced similar challenges. Now she works with children who have cerebral palsy, autism, attention deficit disorder and ADHD as well as children like Roberta with Down’s Syndrome.

The MahaDevi Centre offers 100 therapy sessions per week in the centre as well as treatment in schools, day centres, nurseries, hospitals and children hospices across London.

There are also regular Hatha Yoga classes every day and monthly workshops and 25% of each payment goes directly to the MahaDevi Fund. This subsidises the yoga therapy sessions for children with special needs whose families cannot afford the fees.
This little community is making a difference. “My son Derek is 8 and has Cerebral Palsy. When he started yoga therapy his muscles were so tight and he was unable to sit unsupported, with very weak core strength and generally floppy posture. The main change is his increased ability to hold himself up in a sitting position more independently. He has a lot more core stability and head and neck control.”
For more information or to make a donation, please visit http://mahadevicentre.com/

What could be more important than saving lives?

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

Thank you, Barclays!

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

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/

 

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.

Will cheap be cheerful for those who need communication aids?

The impact of iPads and Androids on the world of AAC was the big theme for the Communication Matters annual conference at the University of Leeds last week.

Communication aids which can play back pre-recorded speech or generate synthetic speech have revolutionised the lives of many of the 300,000 children and adults in the UK who will need Augmentative and Alternative Communication at some point in their lives.

ipad aacMany people who need AAC have severe and permanent physical disabilities from birth as a result of conditions such as cerebral palsy. Others have degenerative conditions which leave them unable to speak.

It is a disgrace that in a wealthy country such as Great Britain children and adults are being left without the power of speech simply to save money.

One solution is to find cheaper alternatives to the specialist aids. In recent times, companies have started to develop apps which will work with iPhones, iPads, Androids and other tablet devices.

Good news you might think.  The trouble is that the users need support, training for themselves and their carers, robust devices which will bounce off pavements and ongoing research and development to make the next generation of communication aids the best that they can be. Buying a tablet online and downloading an app does not even begin to address these problems.

Catherine Harris, Chair of Communication Matters, summed up the dilemma saying: “It is an exciting time for the sector. Developments in adapting technology have increased the range of options for people and the growth of access methods, such as eye gaze, provide people with alternative ways to use their equipment. However, these developments need underpinning by comprehensive assessment, funding of equipment and longer term support services if they are going to be really effective.’

My dyslexia book is proving popular

I have just received this lovely comment from handwriting expert Amanda McLeod, “Just to let you know it’s on my table and quite a few parents have looked through and then gone out to buy it. They like its practical nature.”

The book in question is How to Help Your Child with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia which is available from Crimson Publishing and has a foreword by Tom Pellereau who won The Apprentice last year.

Handwriting expert Amanda McLeodThe McLeod Centre for Learning is in Pimlico (London SW1). It is a centre for children who are under-achieving in English and Maths. Children attend mornings and are taught by specialist dyslexia teachers in small groups, or on an individual basis. Children attend up to four days per week and usually stay for two to three terms. They go back to their main schools for the afternoons.