Archive | Education RSS feed for this section

ITS TIME THAT OFSTED PUT A STOP TO ILLEGAL EXCLUSIONS AGAINST CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

20 Feb

Yesterday was a rather productive day.

Its a day that two years ago, I longed to see.

Yesterday was all about reaching out, creating awareness and getting heard.

It was those important factors above, and a few more besides that encouraged me on the given tasks I had been set. Tasks I thought would never happen but was now about to suddenly surface.

The task was that of sharing our story with the world.

Two years ago I felt as if no one would listen. I was able to successfully bring every aspect of our story to light and people would take notice… Every aspect but this one! Now I’d been given an opportunity to change this.

It all began when the charity “Contact A Family” sent me an email with an attached survey surrounding the topic of “Illegal exclusions from school” Of course I had a lot to say on the given subject. I hoped that others affected would have too. The results could finally prove the extent of the problem and finally a campaign set in motion.

Thankfully this is what happened! The results have lead to the charity “Contact A Family” launching a national campaign highlighting the results of the survey entitled “Falling Through The Net”…

The charity’s Falling Through The Net survey, collected the opinions off over 400 families of children with disabilities or additional needs.

The results indicated that more than half (53%) of families have been asked to collect their child during the school day because there are not enough staff available to support them.

• More than half (56%) of families have• been told by the school that their child can’t take part in a class activity or trips because it is unsuitable for them.

• Almost a quarter (22%) are illegally excluded every week and 15% every day.

• More than half (53%) of affected disabled children are falling behind with school work and 43% feel depressed because of illegal exclusions.

• Half of parents (50%) are unable to work due to being called to school frequently.

The charity is making the following recommendations to improve the situation:

• Where exclusion is necessary, schools must follow statutory procedure to ensure decisions are lawful, reasonable and fair.

• The most frequently illegally excluded pupils with a disability or additional needs are those who have conditions which affect behaviour. Schools should take early action to tackle the underlying cause, and to put in support before a crisis occurs.

• Schools and teachers should work closely with parents to understand a child’s condition or disability and their extra support needs and ensure the child gets the help they need.

• Ofsted has an important role in identifying unlawful practice in the course of an inspection. School should be offered additional support to help them improve their practice. A grading of “inadequate” should be considered if schools continue to illegally exclude children with a disability, SEN or additional need.

Looking back through some of my blog post that I had written back when Little man was being regularly excluded from school (both officially and unofficially) I am reminded of the sheer frustration and anger this situation was causing for both myself and my child.

I’m reminded of them painful days full of tears and disbelief as we struggled to get of a never ending rollercoster of emotional terror.

My post remind me that I am in fact a much stronger person than I myself give credit too. Despite the forming of depression and a certain degree of hopelessness, I never once give up… even though I often found myself close to the edge I remained there by a thread… A very thin one.

It wasn’t just our family feeling the pressure, although at that specific moment in time I felt like the only one and that felling was a somewhat lonely one! There was many more like me and it was during those months that followed that I discovered many others like myself living in fear of the daily phone calls from their child’s school demanding they collect their child for whatever reason.

The Boy With Aspergers Facebook page which is an addition to this very blog has some 5,800 + members, many looking for the same answers, huge numbers struggling to work together with their child’s school in a productive manner. Instead these parents found themselves on our page asking the same question… “Are they allowed to continually request I collect my child from school and bring him home?”

Yes, they are…. But only if the statutory procedures are carried out by the school. Its when they fail to put these procedures into action to ensure such decisions are lawful, that they then become unlawful.

What happens to the schools who chose the latter? In most cases if not all… Nothing!

You see the Education Act states that it is a parents responsibility to ensure their child is educated once they have reached compulsory school age. If parents fail to ensure regular attendances AWOs (Attendance and Welfare Officers) likely step in and local authorities proceed to take parents to court if they fail to fulfil this parental requirement (for whatever reason). This can leave parents with a hefty fine to pay or even in some cases a prison sentence to serve. The thing is parents can be found guilty of an offence under section 441 or 441(a) regardless of the reasons behind the absences. Its simple if you are (a) the parent of the child and (b) they never attended school everyday regardless of the reasons, then that parent is automatically found guilty of 441 (the lesser charge of failing to secure school attendance) and will end up with a fine or find themselves on some type of parenting order. Its the law, plain and simple!

My point?

Your child’s school phones you up, sometimes on a daily basis and requests you collect your child as they are unable to contend with their challenging behaviour. You take your child home as the school requests you do, only the official routes are not put into motion… There is no exclusion letter setting out the reasons for your child’s exclusion. This therefore means that the local authority have not been notified and your child’s school have broken the law. Maybe you don’t know this at the time but when you eventually discover this to be the case you take action. Written complaints to governing bodies, LEA officials and ofsted! Yet nothing at all happens… Instead the school seem completely disregard it all and continue to operate in such a manner! How is this allowed to continue? If parents are taken to court and hit with hefty fines then why ain’t schools? After all laws are laws.

When I was called at the ridiculous hour of 8.30pm and asked that I keep my child away from school on the same day as a planned Ofsted visit I had finally been pushed enough. I took myself and child to the school and as he throw himself around the reception area in sheer anger and frustration I just stood demanding I speak with the visiting ofsted officer.

Next thing I knew she was stood behind me, placing her arm around my shoulder as she lead me to an empty class room for a chat. I remember it all becoming to much and I sat telling her through sobs and tears, the extent of the schools treatment towards myself and my child, paying particular attention to the ongoing illegal exclusions (including the one he was currently meant to be serving). I passed her evidence I’d collected, diary notes and some written thoughts from the little man himself. She agreed that the schools activity was illegal and promised to investigated. I tried making contact with the officer as the weeks turned to months but never had any luck. I was horrors with the schools final report and grade of a “Good” school. There was absolutely no mention on the subject. It even stated the schools understanding of children with SEN and certain disabilities. To say I was horrified is an understatement! I then lost every bit of faith I had left in a failing system.

Yesterday morning I gave a live radio interview to Paul Ross on the BBC LONDON 94.9 Breakfast show.

That same afternoon I found myself agreeing to a LIVE TV interview with SKY NEWS. Now I’ve done TV interviews before and have appeared on the news as well as sharing stories in national and local newspapers, but a LIVE interview was something new to me and admittedly as I stood waiting to enter the news room my stomach did an array of huge summersaults making me feel a tad sick!

I had to constantly remind myself of the pain we suffered… How awful life was for little man during those dark days attending mainstream school. I then collaborated a huge mass of messages in my mind, all surrounding the questions parents of excluded children would leave on our Facebook page messages I’d read on the Facebook page all searching for answers and support.

I just had to remember that by doing this I could help contribute somehow to making a difference for children like my little man and their family’s too! This combined with the great encouragement given to me from some great supportive people across social networks such as twitter and Facebook, was the virtual kick in the butt I needed to get in that news room and go for it.

Thankfully I was joined by Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family and the whole thing went pretty well.

20130220-040441.jpg

So… Here’s hoping together we can bring much needed changes to the way schools deal with the challenging behaviour of children with additional needs.

Would be interested in hearing from others who like myself and many others have had fight this battle. If your interested in featuring in a post I’m planing on this subject please email me via the address on my contact page.

Links to media articles on this subject…

An article on the guardian blog from a teacher who says illegal exclusion needs to stop! Click Here

An Article in the guardian newspaper (I myself contributed too under a different name) plus it features the wonderful Mama Owl (aka Juile Sheppard) and her beautiful boy Logan. Click Here

Enable – The official Contact A Family Report featuring mine and little mans experiences Click Here

Contact A Family Article on their findings Click Here

I’m afraid I haven’t been given the permission to broadcast the Sky News Clip as yet. It was showed at 1:50pm on the 19th Feb 2013 live on Sky news (Sky and freeview). If you are a Sky account holder You maybe able to view this on Sky Go today if you would like to see it. I will share on the blog as soon as I have permission to realise the clip.

Advertisements

#Win 1 Of 4 Copies Of Alphablocks Phonics First Steps on DVD

16 Feb

Here on ‘A boy with Aspergers’ we are firm believers in education from an early age. That’s why we love the Alphablocks.

Gone are the days when children’s programmes lacked in educational value! Now children’s TV is full of exciting yet educational programmes allowing your pre-schoolers a good head start ahead of school.

One of those shows is that of Alphablocks, the successful show first brought to our screens by CBeebies.

But wait! As of the 25th February 2013 Volume 1 – Alphablocks Phonics First Steps will be available to purchase on DVD.

20130216-014955.jpg

Has you’re little one(s) not yet had the opportunity to see the Alphablocks? Well, here’s a little more about them…

Alphablocks open the door to a magical world of reading. How? Well
These 26 living letters who fall out of the sky discover that if they hold hands together they can make a word, which then magically comes to life!

The Alphablocks are Based on best-practice phonics, your child will laugh and learn with the little letter people and their adventures, songs and all
kinds of fun and games.

Volume 1: Phonics First Steps, also comes with a FREE Alphablocks, Alphabet poster for your little one to enjoy. The DVD introduces the first letters and sounds that children are taught at school and starts them off making simple words. With repeat viewing, children can build key phonics skills and boost their reading confidence – while having lots and lots of fun.

Features 18 episodes, to find out more visit http://www.alphablocks.tv

I’ve kindly been offered 4 copies to give away to our lovely readers. So… Who wants to win one?

Compulsory Action
Simply tell me in a comment the fun ways in which you make reading fun!

You can also gain additional entries by doing any of the below. Enter as many as you like but do leave an additional comment for each action you take. Note you can only gain additional entries once you have completed the compulsory entry above.

Tweet: “I want to win the Alphablocks Phonics First Steps volume 1 DVD with @Clairelouise82 & @AbbeyKids”

Pin the competition on Pinterest (leave the link to the pin in your comment)

Follow @AbbeyKids on twitter (comment with your twitter handle)

Follow @Clairelouise82 on twitter (comment with your twitter handle)

Subscribe to the blog via feed burner (comment with the email you subscribe with)

Subscribe to the A boy with aspergers (ABWAblog) on youtube

Competition will close at 11:59 on the 10th March 2013.

Also keep an eye out for our review of the DVD coming after the release date of the 25th.

Winners will be drawn at random from all valid entries submitted. Competition open to all those in the UK only. Winners must leave either an email address or twitter handle with their comments so that I can easily contact them in the event that they win. Winners have 72 hours to respond to the winning notification or another winner will be drawn in their place.

ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions

No… My Son Hasn’t Become Addicted To Gambling Because He Won A Raffle

25 Jan

20130125-111914.jpg

If you read the blog regularly then you will already know that little man won an iPad mini just before Christmas with Vivo miles (his school reward system). If you didn’t read my blog post about the win, you can find it Here!

So… Recently, well a few weeks back in fact, I came across an article (well more than one actually) regarding the online raffle that my son won. The article told how a parent had reported Vivo Miles to the Gambling Commission after the parent accused the popular school reward scheme of encouraging gambling when they allowed pupils to take part in a raffle for high-tech gadgets.

Pupils were able to purchase raffle tickets from the points they had been awarded by their teaching staff. These tickets are paid with by points but worked out to the Equivalent of around 5p each in money.

It is said that the parent complained having discovered her son had taken part in the raffle without her permission. She was concerned about this and complained that her child had been allowed to gamble, spending his well earned points on an online lottery!

Now, before I go any further, I wish to make a few things known and noted…

Firstly… Yes… Little man did win an IPad mini on this very raffle, and No… this has no inference on my current thoughts and opinions on the subject. I have read the articles, given it some thought and done some research.

So, the articles are not that positive, the papers and online sites did well to highlight the less then positive factors within this story! As always things could have been better explained and other important factors included… But hay, where’s the juice in that?

Now… I understand the parents concerns, especially if she had no indication of her sons entry into the online raffle, but what everyone is forgetting to ask themselves is why didn’t she know?

As mentioned within the articles, shools pay to join the Vivo Miles reward programme. What it fails to mention is that each school receives a programme tailored to its specific needs and more importantly… budgets. The schools independently select items to be placed on the they’re schools profile. Pupils can then make selections from the school’s rewards and exchange these items for their points. Every item is pre-selected by members of staff within the school, So, this therefore includes the inclusion of the raffle itself.

The staff in charge of managing their online profile are the ones who have a duty to inform parents of the raffle… Not Vivo Miles. Vivo deal directly with the schools, even the rewards are sent directly to the schools as opposed to pupils home addresses.

I wish to add that Little mans school informed us, the parents! About the online raffle as soon as it went live. My daughters school (Mainstream Primary) don’t use Vivo miles but do always ran a school Christmas raffle! Here’s the difference….

My son’s school informed us by letter. They explained ticket prices and how the raffles would be run.

My daughters school also sent out letters stating the school office had raffle tickets for sale. The note states the price and suggestion that we give our children money to buy tickets when at school!

In many ways I struggle to see the differences! Only that little man would act more independently when deciding how many of his points to spend on tickets. I actually think this teaches some independent and decision making skills to the child.

Yes… The prize was nice! But also educational! For a child like little man on the autism spectrum, an iPad mini is a great tool, one that many schools are actually giving to pupils to use at school (costing them large amounts from its budget).

My daughters school also had great prizes on offer, some more expensive than others.

I also checked out some other school raffles by doing a google search and discovered that some schools were offering really elaborate prizes, such as hotel stays, bottles of champagne and games consoles. Again most of these schools wrote that children could come into school with the money to buy tickets. The only difference here is that parents know what they are sending the money in for, but its still an exchange of money and if anything a more realistic form of gambling due to the visual aspects of it! I was fully informed about the Vivo raffle and could have therefore stopped little man joining in anytime, just as I could have chosen for my daughter to opt out by not supplying her with the funds for the ticket (regardless of if its her pocket money).

The biggest issue I see is the schools mistake of not informing this parent of the Vivo Miles raffle (as it seems they didn’t).

I wonder if the parents who did have an issue with the online raffle feel the same when it comes to school tombolas. Kids can spend their pocket money on 3 tombola tickets for a pound. They can do this without a parents consent. Children open the tickets in the hope their raffle ticket ends in a 0 or a 9 to have their pick of prizes from the table. There is no limitation on the number of tickets kids can buy and although the prize is not an ipad its a relevant, its taking a gamble all the same! I my opinion its worse as the temptation is laid out before their very eyes.

For me the term lottery is a strong one!
As far as I’m concerned proceeds from the raffles that were in its 3rd month of trails were donated to charity.

Vivo also encourage children to donate points to their chosen charity & our kids are free to do so if they wish.

Now, I did hear that during the trails there was some sort of mix up. It has been stated that Vivo Miles insisted the raffles were only open to pupils in the 500 secondary schools subscribing to the scheme, but admitted that two primaries had also “inadvertently” been included.

What can I say… This is a careless mistake but one that both Vivo and the schools in question need hold accounting for.

It is rumoured that the parent who made the complaint is a parent to a primary school child aged 7 years. It is also noted that she was surprised when her child had told her he had participated in the raffle. All I want to know is why no one felt the need to monitor this child’s Internet usage. A child at 7 could run into allsorts of trouble, what with inappropriate website and child grooming! I for one would be monitoring my 7 year olds internet usage. Was this mother not regularly checking the sites her child visited and did she not feel the need to view her child’s Vivo profile at all. I have even seen a thread on a forum where it is said that primary aged children were making comments on the Vivo Facebook page, yet Facebook is a social networking site for children age 13+. In one sense these parents are rightfully complaining about their child taking part in an online raffle but in another sense happy for them to have free run of the net and chat on Facebook? Its our job as parents, along with those teaching our children, to protect them and teach safe Internet usage.

There is yet more rumours, one being that Vivo miles didn’t plan on giving all the money to charity. I was told in writing that the money would go to charitable courses when I was informed about the raffle. As of yet I haven’t had any reason to suspect otherwise.

Lastly… As noted, my opinion have no bearing on Little mans win. I spent a long time in a relationship with someone addicted to gambling and it tore apart my life for sometime. If I believed I was allowing my child into that world then I wouldn’t have allowed him to participate.

Since his win, my son has not become some over compulsive gambler. He doesn’t cling to me, dragging from my legs kicking and screaming begging me to buy him a scratch card or anything! His iPad has become a great communication tool, a place he can store a visual schedule that’s totally mobile and personalised to his needs, somewhere to store notes to remember important information, a learning and resource device, and of course a place to play Mindcraft… (Com on his got to let of steam somehow).

I’m confident in stating that little man has become much more independent since using Vivo miles. Having attended schools who’s past reward systems failed (let’s not forget this little boy with aspergers was left with no school as not one mainstream school said they could meet his needs) he has now been lucky enough to have discovered a programme that works for him.

Since attending special school his never again been excluded and considering this was a weekly occurrence, it would seem evident that Vivo mile, along with good teaching has given my son the opportunity of educational success.

Little man actually brought all the family small Christmas gifts with his points before buying any raffle tickets (see… he was budgeting). If Vivo miles were able to have continued the raffles would he have entered anymore? Maybe, maybe not! He hasn’t mentioned wanting to and if he wants something he knows how to bleb on about it. Why am i so confident that Vivo Miles haven’t created a gambling monster? Given he entered just the one raffle out the 3 or 4 that were run and the fact his not searching for more makes me confident. His plan has always been to save his points for next years Christmas shop… Now does this look like the ideas of a newly formed gambler?

No… It doesn’t!

He won a raffle, lots of kids do and will continue to do so for years to come!

We won’t apologise for that and I won’t admit to allowing my 12 year old child with Aspergers gamble… Because that is simply not the case!

Reference: Related Mumsnet forum thread

Also another blogger from across the pond has some interesting points on this story: Chellie’s World

Tips for preparing preschoolers with Aspergers for full time education

13 Jan

School isn’t an easy place for the child on the autism spectrum. Here’s some tips to prepare preschoolers on the autism spectrum for what lies ahead as well as some tips designed to help you, the parent, find the right school for your child.

20130113-053047.jpg

1- If possible introduce your child to a play school or a nursery setting so that they are given the opportunity to get used to being around other children. If you don’t, then you run the risk of problems when it becomes compulsory that your child is educated.

2- Introduce social stories that are centred around that of your child’s first day at school. Continue using social stories that cover school in general… especially trips, sports days and other activities that don’t happen on a daily basis.

3- When deciding on what school to send your child, take your time looking into the different options. If your child has a statement you also have the option of looking into special schools.

4- If possible take your child with you to look at schools. They may only be a pre-schooler but its important to see how the school sits with them. Be sure to choose a school that has experience of educating children on the spectrum and one that offers all the support your child will require.

5- Check ofsted reports as well as online reviews its important to do lots of research when it comes to schools.

6- Ask teachers if you could possibly take some pictures of the school and classroom setting (obviously not the children)! It would also be great if the class teacher and head teacher wouldn’t mind you taking a picture of them (the teaching staff). With these pictures you can build your child a social story that is centred around the school they will attend.

5- Pictures like those above could also be added to a child’s visual timetable. You could even create them a travel book. Inside this book you can display pictures of the teacher, toilets, playground etc… This would allow the child to use visual clues throughout the day in a number of ways. It would be an especially great tool for the non verbal child.

20130113-053146.jpg

6- Engage your child in role play. Have fun playing a game of schools, therefore preparing your child for the real deal.

7- Prepare your child for the world of education by starting out early. Giving a child a head start in education is a wonderful gift regardless of whether they have autism or special educational needs. Counting games and colour matching, arts and crafts and reading are all great ways to learn and will help your child practice concentration techniques needed for the classroom.

8- If your child has poor sensory processing then start introducing them into the world of sensory play. By playing a number of sensory games, over time such exercises could help your child adjust & adapt to different types of sensory stimuli.

20130113-042241.jpg
Above image from my autism and sen pinterest board (pinned from the awesome site Carrots Are Orange

9- If your child is yet to be diagnosed then do all you can to get professionals to see your child as early on as possible. Lots of children are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum much later on once attending school. Children with Aspergers can often find themselves struggling in primary or even secondary school, while parents are battling the system for that of a medical diagnosis or a statement of SEN… quite often its usually both. Though, it should be noted that some traits of autism, especially Aspergers Syndrome may not surface till much later on, once a child is in school. Its not always a struggle to obtain the diagnosis. Good schools and SENCOs may be the first to spot a problem and therefore refer you to a specialist for an official diagnosis.

10- Children with Aspergers prefer a good set routine. School is a very structured setting and the child on the spectrum will really like this aspect of their school day. However, there are times when routines have to be slightly altered and changes need to take affect. We have found that unannounced supply teachers upset little man more than anything (even when he does have warning he still finds it hard to adjust)! Be sure that your child’s teaching team fully understand the importance of routine and the need to inform you of changes asap. Of course there will be times when changes are unavoidable and occur last minute but the earlier you know the better prepared your child will be for the change… However big or small it may be.

School is a substantial part of a child’s life. It is a place they will attend 5 days per week, for an average 6 and a half hours per day. Its imperative that they are comfortable in their learning environment. As parents it is our job to see that they are!

Little Man Wins An iPad Mini On His School Reward System (Vivo)

15 Dec

20121215-180022.jpg

I’ve written a number of posts on the ups and downs little man has experienced when it comes to the introducing of a new behaviour and reward programme.

Mainstream school struggled to find something that worked for him as an individual. Smiley faces and star charts don’t mean a thing to little man. What his mainstream school failed to understand was a sticker or a promise isn’t enough for him. Little man requires real visual evidence of rewards, ones that encourage and therefore lead to results.

It was only once little man had started at his independent special school for children with autism and Aspergers did we find a system that worked for him.

However, this system isn’t just a way to improve behaviour, encourage participation in tasks and have children producing good work… Though it does do all three, It also helps children like Little man gain independence, building the skills needed for everyday life.

So, what is this system? Its title is Vivo Miles and its being used in both special and mainstream schools around the country.

Vivo Miles is a points earning system that in a funny kind of way, operates like a store Loyalty card, such as a reward card… Nectar or clubcard. Only children don’t earn points by shopping but instead doing a host of other stuff that their teaching team then rewards them for by handing out Vivo points.

The system works well with children like little man who are on the autism spectrum because its very visual. It connects to an online site where each school and child have their own personal profile. Teachers log on and reward points or hand out paper points that allows pupils to add the points to their account. Children can get a vivo card and pin. They can independently log on and access their personal profile from desktops and smartphones. Here they can spend their points online and even earn interest if saving points. The Vivo system isn’t just some little online gift store. Schools can choose reward items to be added to their catalogue from the huge Vivo selection. Little man can buy store gift cards, mobile top up, toys and other various merchandise.

The system is extremely innovative. Pupils can see all points rewarded. This includes the teacher who has rewarded them, the amount of points given and the reason behind them receiving the points. I love looking through the points history which kind of reminds me of an online banking statement. I’m able to read all the positive stuff his achieved and his able to have the independence to make online purchases (given his got enough points). He can even independently donate to a number of charities if desired.

Each vivo point is worth a penny so children can save for bigger items or just purchase smaller items frequently. All products are dispatched to the school and pupils receive a dispatch confirmation email and a delivery date just like you would if doing your online weekly shop. What’s more they ain’t charged postage.

Parents can also create an account that connects to their child’s and are even able to make a private pledge to their child that is linked to their progress at school, to increase motivation. This idea is an excellent way for schools and parents to work together to help their child reach their full potential. Here you can read more on the parental sides of Vivo

20121215-173816.jpg

I took this statement from the Vivo site that I think highlights the independence side of things really well…

“• Early personal finance lessons… Vivo is designed in such a way that it looks and feels to students a lot like their first bank account. With the currency being the’ Vivo’ and good old fashioned hard work being the way to earn ‘Vivos’ it presents a unique opportunity to teach some important personal finance lessons. Saving up for something over a longer term, earning interest, budgeting and managing an account are all covered by the Vivo system.
There is even an option to purchase a Vivo visa prepaid card for your child to take their first steps into the world of financial independence without the temptations of credit.”

I saw little man on his Vivo profile last week. I asked if he was buying himself something with his points and he repiled that he was actually purchasing some Christmas presents for myself and his dad. My heart skipped a beat and I felt myself welling up a little if honest. It was such a grown-up thing to do, and lets not forget a sweet one too.

To know he had been really trying to do well, earn points and buy gifts for others really impressed me! I’ve never send him do this kind of think independently, given he is useless at saving money when its in his hand etc the points system has really helped him to save and think of others. Sat in front of me was this little independent 12 year old who had come on leaps and bounds in the space of a year or so.

Well… Here’s the totally amazing part! Vivo were also running a raffle at the time. 5 vivo points equalled one raffle ticket. Little man told me the first prize was for an iPad mini with 20 runner up prizes of festive snowflake craft stamps. He had some points left after his little shop and he had fun buying a number of raffle tickets which amounting to around £1.50 or so. Then on Wednesday little man was home from school having been sent home earlier in the week as he was pretty unwell. It was this day we received a phone call which his dad took on his mobile. Given he was out a message was left that stated Little man had won the raffle. He called me and gave me the number that had been left on his voicemail. Just as I was about to call assuming it was just a stamp he had won, an email pinged in my inbox announcing he had won the iPad mini. At this point I hadn’t yet said anything as I was unclear of his prize and he would have driven me crazy asking questions but with the email at hand I passed him my iPhone and told him to read the email (yes, his come along way with his reading too).

Well, the expression on his face was priceless. We called them up and spoke to a lovely lady who confirmed his prize. Little man requested that he speak to her to say thank you which he did followed by the words “You are a very nice and attractive lady” as I apologised for the slightly weird comment she told me not to worry, my little guy had made her afternoon… Lol.

He wasn’t in school on the Thursday as he was still unwell but on Friday his iPad was presented to him in assembly and he came home iPad in hand feeling somewhat pleased with himself.

20121215-174456.jpgLittle man playing with his new iPad

If this isn’t a reward system that truly rewards a child than I don’t know what is! Its not just the win of an iPad his gained but also the Recognition for his efforts in school, improved confidence and some great independence skills.

20121215-174703.jpglittle man checks out Mindcraft on the iPad

Well done Little man… Proud just doesn’t cut it.

School’s interested in using Vivo Miles or those who want to know more can check out the website here.

Little man has created a rather funny little video on an iPad App and uploaded it to his Youtube. Please give it a view and a like as it really would make his day.

This is NOT a sponsored post I choose to write the post to show others what benefits can come from using the right reward system, especially when your child has SEN.

Aspergers and Control

21 Sep

Control we all like to have it, though some more than others. It’s important to maintain control of our life’s, after all what a pickle we find ourselves in when we lose our grip.

So what’s life like for a person who feels the need to control everything around them. Is this the type of somebody that one classifies as a control freak?

My little man is a child who has this uncontrollable need to control his surroundings. From what I’ve learnt about Asperger’s syndrome and the way the mind works I understand this has a lot to do with predictability ‘Making the world a predictable place to live in’.

I sat and thought about how my own child uses control, Who he uses it with and importantly where and when!

Since little sister came along and taught the little man about the joys of play, I’ve observed him in numerous situations. I’ve watched him during games that require lots of imagination, games like schools and shops. It’s these games in particular that the little man will come across as somewhat bossy as he try’s to control the whole game using his sister as an actual play object. Once they’ve played it one way they have to play it the same way every time.

Thinking about it little mans need to maintain control of absolutely everything is quite extreme. At times it’s like living with a husband! It’s even the most simplest things that he must control. A great example being the television. Yes, sometimes I have to remind myself who’s the patent here! He will just come in switch over the tv regardless that I’m sat watching it. He will then try to argue his case.This does have a lot to do with him just wanting to watch something but its when I say no things go OTT! He goes crazy at the thought of backing down and losing control of the situation.

This is why his very particular when it comes to creating a Birthday and Christmas list! He can’t get to grips with surprises and the few times I’ve done this things have ended badly. I’ve learnt my lessons here and now discuss everything with him first.

Last year it was a case of giving him money in a card then taking him and his money to the shops to buy his own gifts.This felt so impersonal but something I know to be Practical… This I cannot deny!

Mainstream school was Incredibly difficult for him. He spent so long without any help that his need to control his environment become very over powering. Lets be honest here… It’s difficult enough for even a teacher to control an environment that consists of some 30+ kids. Little man therefore didn’t stand a chance in hell did he. As a result Little man found himself excluded on a regular basis, so regular that it was weekly at one point. Visual aids used within the classroom helped a great deal however this was too little to late and the damage had already been done.

I know that Little man wants things to be predictable and that he finds it hard to relate to the feelings of others when his trying to make it happen. I just wish that others would understand this and see that his not just the spoilt child they assume him to be.

Educational Games Can Be Fun

16 Sep

When I was younger my mother only had to mention the words Education and Play within the same sentence and I’d be rolling my eyes while saying to myself… “whatever!”

So, it doesn’t much surprise me when my own kids do it to me. I used to accidentally on purpose forget to relate the two aspects when offering my children something to play with that was remotely educational. It was only once they were enjoying it that I’d slip it in.

The kids are getting older and wiser and can’t be easily tricked anymore. The good thing is that my eldest child, Little man is now more inclined to give things a chance. Education is much less scary than it used to be! Now little man is in a school that meets his needs his learnt that the two (education and play) can be tied together nicely.

Little man has just started secondary at his independent special school for children on the autism spectrum. His adjusting to a timetable that is split into different lesson slots. Within these slots you’ll find the subject of History and this is one subject his keen to learn more about.

So, when we were contacted to see if we’d be interested in taking a look at a new history game, we were happy to oblige.

Harry Hastings History Heroes is the first in a series of card games developed for both children and families who love to learn.

20120916-224023.jpg

One of the games within the series is that of “How well do you know your monarchs?” a brilliant new card game designed to test the whole family’s knowledge of British monarchs from William the Conqueror in 1066 to today’s reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II.

To some that description may just have them yawning with the thought of it! Others will want to discover more just like little man did.

The game has been created by Harry Hastings and what better person to create an educational game than that of a school teacher from Sussex.

What I loved about this game was how much fun and interaction could be gained through a packet of cards and not much else. There is no board, counters or even that of a dice, yet, children can play in more ways than one! There is 6 ways to play, children can be challenged to identify monarchs either from a series of facts, from a portrait or from the dates of their reign, thereby capturing their opponents cards in the style of Top Trumps.

Admittedly Little man knows quite little on the subject of monarchs and neither do I really! This at first lead to a pretty useless game. We therefore enjoyed discovering each card and as we did we both learnt more along the way. We have since had lots of fun playing with the cards and little man couldn’t wait to take one of the two games we were sent into school so his class could enjoy them with him. He told me that his History teacher was most impressed and even used them in one of his lessons.

20120916-224149.jpg

Children and adults alike can have so much fun while learning some interesting facts about the history of our kings and queens.

The illustrations in this game are beautiful. They are by the well-known cartoonist Bill Stott and are really impressive. The actual cards themselves are also really good quality. They are strong and durable and should last the test of time given they are well loved by their owner.

I’d recommend the game to history loving families, those wanting to improve their own or their child’s history knowledge and that of teachers in both the primary and secondary sector.This is a game that would provide teachers with a fabulous teaching resource that children would be much more inclined to engage in. Little man’s teacher is now very much a fan.

History Heroes is the first of a series of similar games created by Harry Hastings, covering famous Battles, Shakespeare, Inventors, Scientists and Explorers.

Harry Hastings History Heroes is priced at £7.99. For stockist details, or to buy direct, email Harry at harry@historyheroes.co.uk.

Check out the site at www.historyheroes.co.uk

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post we were sent the games free of charge in-order to share our honest opinions which we have given in this review. We donated one of the games to the school for all its students to enjoy.

The Transition To Secondary School For A Child With Aspergers Syndrome

6 Sep

So, the time finally came, Little man’s return to school as a secondary pupil.

I noticed that in the run-up to the big day, Little man’s anxiety levels rose and as a result we did have a rather difficult last few weeks of the holidays.

I was dreading the whole “getting him up in the mornings” scenario. He tends to be the ultimate nightmare to wake, given he usually doesn’t go to sleep till the small hours. Unless you experience such sleepless nights paired with early mornings, you can only but imagine the utter tiredness his experiencing. Consequently I do understand… After all someone needs to keep a watchful eye on him over night.

I’ve tried my best to maintain his bedtime routine during the holidays (that’s if you can really call it a routine)! He usually goes to his room and just doesn’t shut down. His like a long life battery. Melatonin isn’t something we rate highly, and even through the slow releasing type sometimes has a small effect every now and then, it’s far from a reliable answer to the problem. On a high note, little man is more wary of the problem and understands that bit more that it’s this situation leaving him feeling crap throughout the day. He now gets rather upset when struggling to fall asleep and by 3am his almost certainly at the point of tears. When it isn’t a school day and his little eyes haven’t closed till 4am, I’m tempted to leave him to sleep throughout the day. However, as one would expect, this is no solution! Things just become a million times harder in the long run.

So, back to my original point… I was dreading getting the Little man up and ready for school. The nasty insults that fly out of his tired mouth are nothing… I’m used to these! It’s just the whole destruction it causes to the morning. He will often refuse to wash for sensory reasons and once he has I’m faced with the struggle of convincing him to dress. The taxi can be sat outside while the escort is stood at the door and he will still be in his pants. Not ideal but something you get used to.

His first day back was in-fact yesterday (5th September 2012) and to my utter surprise, the morning wasn’t as bad as expected. He almost seemed excited about his day. Tuesday I took little man and the tiny tot to Drayton Manor Theme park and zoo. It’s the home of Thomas Land and we were there to review a new Thomas film just released on DVD, and of course the park itself. Little man had an awesome day and didn’t experience a single meltdown while at the park (in the car was a different story but given it’s a 3hr drive each way, he can be forgiven). I think it was a combination of the long car Journey and the whole day spent at the park that resulted in him actually sleeping before midnight.

He woke Wednesday morning with a somewhat positive outlook towards the day ahead and given it was his first day back, this left me astounded. The fact that Little man had spent the last two weeks of the last term before the summer holidays integrating from the primary building into the secondary department, had obviously helped him a great deal. Now he was better prepared mentally! Yes their was lots of anxiety still, but at least he wasn’t just stepping into the unknown. Anxiety seems to be a pretty common trait for those with Aspergers Syndrome and for me It’s one of the hardest issues to tackle. It’s both heartbreaking and worrying seeing your young child so stressed, especially when the cause is beyond your control.

Little man had his new stationary that was kindly given to him by STABILO all packed and ready and his lunch loaded into his lunch bag when the escort knocked at 8.30 am. He was quite literally ready to go as soon as she arrived. I’m guessing this was something of a surprise to his escort… But a pleasant one all the same!

Throughout the morning I received no emails or calls from the school highlighting any concerns. Any parent can tell you, especially those of a child with SEN, this is always a lovely sign that things are going well.

Come afternoon however, I did receive an email from the class teacher! Luckily this wasn’t to report some challenging behaviour or other equally concerning matter! It was just in-order to let me know that as from the next day, little man wouldn’t be allowed to bring in his chicken burger as they will no longer be heating his food in the microwave! Little man’s school has such a small number of pupils that school dinners are not practical, and even if they were, I’m guessing so little children would opt to have them. Little man wouldn’t even entertain the prospect of even trying school dinners during his time spent at his old mainstream primary school. This wasn’t a huge concern as living 2 minutes away, I was able to collect him, feed him, then drop him back.

Little man will not touch a packed lunch regardless of what’s in it. He may eat such items at home but as soon as your packing it, his not touching it. Warm wrapped sandwiches, warm yogurts, and warm apple juice don’t appeal. Putting it in the fridge doesn’t seem to make much difference, the issue that it was put into the box more than an hour ago seems to be a big no-no for him.

It was decided last term that he could bring a chicken burger and heat it up in school. He has no cheese, sauce, or anything else. Just a flame grilled (not breaded) piece of chicken in a bun. He also has lots of fruit and a drink. His concentration levels were therefore reported to be better in the afternoon as he was finally eating, and I was pleased that I was no longer being presented with an untouched lunchbox at 4pm… I couldn’t afford to keep this up!

The new teacher has stated he needs a healthier lunch and I’m lost at what I’m going to do. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the school have their reasons and I’m in no way stating they are in the wrong, I’m just at logger heads at what to do! Today little man arrived home with an untouched lunchbox. I don’t even thing he touched his drink.

20120906-183846.jpgLittle man’s untouched packed lunch.

He was really upset yesterday. Having received the email I had replied stating that I wished the school to inform him of this change, I knew he wouldn’t be happy and I didn’t want him thinking it was my doing. Of course when he arrived home screaming and yelling, I had to support the school in-order to be consistent! He would otherwise struggle more with this decision and a challenging child at school was the last thing I wanted. However he did cry on his return yesterday, he protested that he had done all his work, tried his best and behaved appropriately! He felt as if it was some type of punishment (as always I blame the old school for such a way of thinking)!

We obviously had some difficulties this morning but despite his upset and empty tummy, I’ve received an email from his teacher alerting me to the fact he has had a really good day. His reported to be doing great in secondary and is settling into the routine better than expected. She also informed me that they had a chat about lunch and suggested maybe taking a flask of soup or pasta. We will try this as on his return today his eaten half the contents of the fridge which for me is much more unhealthy than the burger.

So… There it is, an update of little mans first few days as a child with Aspergers attending secondary school at an independent special school. How I’m relived to have gotten him out of the mainstream education sector in time! I’m convinced that this post would have contained content that displayed nothing but heartache if I hadn’t!

Orchard Toys New Monster Catcher Review and Competition

29 Aug

We love Orchard toys, they are a brand who symbolise the importance of learning but also the importance of having fun! They have this talent when it comes to designing games and puzzles that are both educational yet fun to play.

Earlier this year little man along with some of his classmates at his special school for children on the autism spectrum, reviewed a couple of games from the Orchard toys range.This review did a fab job at highlighting the importance of learning through play and all the children involved had a great time testing the games.

So, I was delighted when the guys at Orchard Toys sent us one of their newest game releases, ‘Monster Catcher‘.

20120829-213204.jpg

The game is targeted at children aged 3 to 8 years, and although Harley is not 3 in-till the beginning of December I figured his big sister Alice-Sara could show him the ropes of play, which she was more than happy to do.

Packaging:
This game comes in a nice strong but compact box for good easy storage.

Game contents:
20 monster head cards
20 monster feet cards
6 full net cards
4 empty net cards
Six monster Cachar cards

There is a total of 56 cards altogether. Cards are strong and durable so will last the test of time I’m sure.

As mentioned monster Catcher is one of Orchard Toys newest releases, so I had no idea what others thought of the game and knew very little about it up In-till it arrived. Believe it or not, I also like to read reviews before purchasing products as well as reviewing products myself.

Setting up the game proved a bit of a mission as the toddler insisted on constantly grabbing a hold of the cards and doing a runner.

Finally, once the initial excitement had settled down a little we were then ready to go catch some monsters.

The Object of the game is for each player to match the coloured monsters feet to that of the correct monsters head all while avoiding the monster catcher who will swipe all the players cards leaving them with none. The player with the most complete monsters at the time the monster catcher is completed, wins!

20120829-231735.jpg

It’s a simple enough concept, though smaller children may need some help along the way.

What’s more this is a game that is so easily adapted. Kids seem to do this without even thinking about it! Harley asked to play with the game yesterday but he didn’t want anyone else disturbing him, preferring to play alone. This is actually a game for 2-4 players, So, play alone is impossible right? Not for Harley it seems. This little clever clogs placed all the cards facing upwards and one by one he matched up all the monsters, placing the catcher cards etc to one side.

I love how he adapted it to work for him, treating it as a puzzle as opposed to a game.

Monster Catcher has done well to help harley develop his colour recognition as-well as his matching and pairing skills. He used a lot of logic when trying to place the pieces together correctly (not only match the colours but ensuring he had placed them the correct way around, etc).

20120829-231857.jpg

£7.50 is fabulous value and a really reasonable price to pay for this game.
Monster Catcher will be sure to provide children with years of fun while teaching them a thing or two. The educational benefits to this game make it seem a very little price to pay.

Educational information
• Develops matching and counting skills
• Encourages social interaction
• Develops instruction following and turn taking
• Links to National Curriculum and Early Learning Goals.

Orchard toys have been great and offered me another Monster Catcher for one of my readers to win right here on the blog. Here’s how….

Compulsory action: Leave a blog comment below telling me your child’s favourite board game.

All comments should be left with a means of contact (twitter or email).

You can earn additional entries by doing any of the following….

Tweet: “I want to win Monster Catcher with @clairelouise82 and @OrchardToys” comment to let me know who you are on twitter.

Subscribe via my rss reader (top of the sidebar) comment to tell me the name or email u are subscribed under.

Follow my sister blog Mummy of many talents then comment below to tell me the name you follow as.

Follow me on pinterest then comment to say who you are below.

Use any of the share buttons below commenting to tell me which ones (email exempt)

Competition will close on the 25th September 2012 at midnight.

Terms and conditions: UK only please, all comments should be left with twitter or email contact. Prize drawn a random, winner has 72 hours following winning notification to claim prize. Prize will be sent directly from PR/Brand. Winners name maybe published on blog with winning notification if author decides.

Teaching Social Skills Through Music

27 Jul

I get some interesting request and press releases in my inbox each morning. Some have no relevance to that of my family or readers, others have me sat up taking note excited about what I’m reading.

Recently I received a lovely email from Cathy Bollinger, a music therapist and children’s song writer. Cathy is from Charlottesville, Virginia so being in the UK I was yet to discover her work.

Cathy informed me in her email that my blog was recommended to her via her daughter in law who has recently moved from England to Virginia! I’m unsure who this was but want to slip in a quick thank you to them for spreading the word. About ‘A boy with Aspergers’. When your a parent to a child on the autism spectrum who uses her voice to try and create awareness through her writing using the platform of her blog, it really is encouraging to know that it is found and followed by many people all over the world. The web still amazes me, I can do so much from this South London living room of mine.

Cathy has developed 10 children’s CD’s, one of which was created in the hope of helping kids on the autism spectrum. It’s fair to say that lots of children on the spectrum have a special connection with music hence the reason music therapy is growing in popularity. Many special schools who educate children with autism and other social communication and interaction difficulties are now using such therapies as part of their learning programme. Little man loves music and is able to process and then store lyrics really quickly. Admittedly some of the music we hear today makes this a bit of a worrying prospect as well as a good one! Obviously Carol isn’t rapping her heart out about gangs, pimps or anything else remotely inappropriate. Cathy Bollinger is using the beauty of music to build social skills. However it should be noted that she hasn’t done this alone! Through the making of her latest CD (which Cathy kindly air mailed me) she found her future business partner Elly Tucker and her son Josh, who has Aspergers Syndrome. Cathy met with them once a week while creating the social skills CD and quotes “They honestly critiqued the songs as I wrote them, Josh even ended up singing on the CD with me”

To know the songs included on the CD which is titled “My turn your turn songs for building social skills” has been written with such inspiration, made me even more excited to discover more and actually listen to.

Cathy has a desire to create music that is positive, upbeat and fun while ensuring lyrics give a direct message, one that is non ambiguous and therefore provides a good, clear example of the different social skills appropriate in different social situations. Music allows children to absorb these social clues and learn from them .

My Turn Your Turn is one of a number of CDs from award winning singer/songwriter Cathy Bollinger. I found that all the tunes were very catchy and easy to sing along too (my toddler is proof of this). Each song manages to address the various social skills difficulties the child on the autism spectrum may experience with the use of social story like phrases while remaining upbeat and fun to listen to. Cathy has got it all covered and seems to have written each song based around some of the most challenging social situations for children on the autism spectrum.

There are 14 tracks in total covering everything from empathy, self regulating ones emotions, asking for help and more.

I especially liked the last track “Everyone has strengths to be proud of” oh how I wished I could have played this to little man a few years back when he had no self confidence and struggled to understand that everybody is different regardless of his diagnosis. He would of learnt much earlier on how not everybody is good at the things he is and vise versa.

I also like the track “Sometimes I feel angry” another that little man can really relate to and learn from.

Little man is now in a special school for children on the autism spectrum, social skills training is obviously a huge part of his education time table with a whole period given just for social skills training a number of times a week. Little man has said he will be taking the CD into school so the teacher can have a listen and use it in her lesson. I think thats a brilliant idea and thank Cathy for giving Little man and his fellow pupils here in the UK the opportunity to do so.

20120727-173157.jpg

You can learn more about this fabulous social skills training CD by visiting Rivanna Music on line. Here you can even play a sound clip of one of the tracks on the CD. Don’t forget there are many other Educational music CD that teach including titles such as Alphabet Jam, Toddlin Tunes, Singing words and many more.

Thanks Cathy for sending Little Man a couple of “Your Turn My Turn” we loved it and would happily recommend it to both parents and educators.

Disclaimer: This is a review post. I was not paid to write this but I did receive a sample of the CD (there was no obligation to write about it). I chose to share my honest views and opinions as I feel the CD is worth mentioning to my readers.

%d bloggers like this: