Category Archives: youth and community

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/

Impact of dyspraxia on children’s moods

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.’

Refs
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?

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

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//

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.

Beside the seaside, beside the sea

Britain is getting more multicultural but is not quite as exotic as many children seem to think.

A recent survey by Travelodge showed that: ‘ Children seem to be completely clueless when asked to locate popular seaside haunts.’

40% couldn’t locst ivesate Bognor Regis (some think it’s in Europe)

35% couldn’t locate Newquay (some think it’s in the USA)

60% couldn’t locate St Ives (some think it’s in the Caribbean)

Six in 10 couldn’t locate Scarborough (some think it’s in the Mediterranean)

56% couldn’t locate Skegness (some think it’s in the Scottish Highlands)

Travelodge recommends ditching the Sat Nav and getting out maps.

You can see how the confusion starts. Bognor is in Europe after all, although it has a strong UKIP presence which perhaps wishes it wasn’t. Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed in ST Ives and Skegness is obviously where the monster goes on his holidays.

Travelodge surveyed 2,000 British children aged between eight to fifteen years old. This year 56% of families are flocking to the coast this summer. Top holiday destinations include Cornwall, Devon, Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth.

It’s a good idea to help children find where different towns and tourist resorts are in the UK but don’t throw away the Sat Nav.

Young entrepreneur saves young people from exam stress

Schools are like conveyor belts. Children go in at the age of 3 or 4 and come out at 16 or 18 having been weighed, measured and processed. As they get near the end of the line, many start to panic and thrash about as they worry what to do when they fall off the end.

Every year the examination season seems to start earlier and YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline receive calls from thousands of parents distressed by the exam pressures facing their children. National Revision Week started today – 20th April and already stress levels are mounting.

Gojimo, producers of a free exam app, surveyed over 500 students found that nearly a third (31.5 per cent) were already at level 5 which is ‘Terrified and freaking out.’ Despite exam terrors, many do not start their revision until the last minute. They know they should start 8 weeks before the due date but many leave it till just 5 weeks before. Even worse, 71.3 per cent of students claimed they get little or no support from their schools, although many teachers would claim that they provide advice and guidance but that the students do not listen.

George Burgess3Now there is a handy FREE revision app created by George Burgess who founded Gojima in 2009 in his last year of school. ‘Back then, I was a 17-year-old student working from my bedroom. I had one very basic app, helping students revise for their Geography GCSE exam.’

George was caught working on his new business in class and expected to be in trouble but ‘Instead Mr. Williams was fascinated by the whole project and asked how he might help or get involved. It struck me immediately that having a teacher write content would make it more reliable, and a lot more credible. I asked if he would be willing to write a bunch of Geography GCSE quizzes. He agreed. I had my first author.’

Obviously, George was just the sort of pupil who would have stayed calm under exam pressure and these days all candidates can benefit from his skills because Gojimo is now the UK’s leading exam preparation app with free assessment content for GCSEs and A-Levels.

Max is a champion of inclusion!

max blog
Max the Champion

 

Look at this picture. What do you see? Ordinary people going about their everyday life. At last: an inclusive book!

Max the Champion by Sean Stockdale and Alex Strick illustrated by cartoonist Ros Asquith shows a day in the life of a boy who is sports mad. Max also happens to have a hearing loss. He lives in the world most of us inhabit where there are people of different races and religions and some who have disabilities and additional needs.

It is lively and entertaining and comes with some free resources on http://www.maxthechampion.co.uk including sticker templates and a lesson plan.

There is so much you can do with this book. Use this page as a stimulus for discussion, drama and creative writing. Here are some suggestions to start you off.
1 In groups choose names for the characters.
2 Which character will find it hardest to go shopping?
3 Which character will face the most prejudice?
4 Choose one character and create a Day in the Life. Write or perform it

The possibilities are endless!
Max the Champion is a hardback book available from all good booksellers or from the publishers http://www.franceslincoln.co.uk/en/C/1/Book/5323/Max_the_Champion.html

Making a little bit of money go a very, very long way

It’s My Money Week and I have been hounding the good people at pfeg, the UK’s leading finance education charity for some case studies. From September financial literacy is going to be a compulsory element of the National Curriculum- and about time too.

I have talked to three schools which are all creating innovative projects for young people who are out of mainstream education and it is heartening to see how committed teachers are to developing money sense in the next generation.

The trouble is that so many of the resources schools have do not accord with life in the UK today. Budgeting and savings advice are all very well but they depend upon you having money to start with.

For those families trying to find their way through the maze of benefits there are no easy answers. If you are subject to the bedroom tax do you:
1 Move house and incur all those moving costs?
2 Stay put and lose 14% from your benefits?
3 Get a payday loan to tide you over and get a takeaway to cheer yourself up as you won’t be going out?

Pfeg and Money Saving Experts are doing an amazing job but it is an uphill struggle. Look at what Oxfam said last week:

‘Food banks are reporting that most of those accessing their services are low income families in crisis, many of which are working households. 62% of children in poverty are living in families where at least one parent has a job, indicating that wages are too low and that current Minimum Wage legislation is not adequate to lift people out of poverty through work.’

Walking the Breadline The scandal of food poverty in 21st-century Britain

Olivia Barker is making a difference in Kampala

Olivia Barker in Kampala
Kids Club Kampala

Olivia Barker is 23 years old and has a day job as a project officer for an international development agency.

For the last four years she has devoted her spare time to running a charity called Kids Club Kampala  which works with vulnerable children and women in the slums of Uganda.

Now her efforts have been recognised by Vodafone who have given her a World of Difference Award which will let her work for the charity full time in Kampala for four months.

She first visited Uganda in 2007 and was shocked by the living conditions. The slums are hotbeds of crime and violence. Sanitation is poor. Children often have only one or two items of clothes and do not own shoes so it is impossible to keep clean and away from infection.

After she left Uganda, Olivia kept in touch with local translator Sam and knew that money was running out. She returned with a friend and together they founded Kids Club Kampala. These days they support over 4000 children in 16 different communities throughout Uganda

Now, thanks to the Vodafone award, Olivia can focus on the charity and put it on a more professional footing. She hopes to raise money and make more people aware of the plight of these communities.

‘People live in very overcrowded conditions where disease and illness are rife. Many walk the long way around it in order to avoid the dirt and the open sewers,’ said Olivia. ‘I want to raise money so that these children know they are loved. I want them to have the chance to play, have fun and just be kids for a while.’

If you can help or would like to donate to the charity, please contact olivia@kidsclubkampala.org