AWARD nominations – Recognising those who change lives and build futures

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

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




The Family Guide to Dyslexia Discussion Cards – Secondary

discussion cards secondary




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.