Tag Archives: communication

A Case Of Miscommunication

15 Apr

So, my mum says to little man while his having a “moment”

“You can’t just go around hitting anyone you fancy”

He had just lost his temper and hit out at his sister!

Little man replies, and with a temper I must add!

“Nanny your disgusting are you suggesting I fancy my own sister?”

It was one of those moments and mum couldn’t help but to laugh. However laughing was not on little man’s agenda!

“Don’t laugh at me nan” he screamed as he kicked the wall and throw himself on the floor.

You see, when talking to little man we have always tried to remember to put things in a way that is easy for him to grip a hold off and fully understand. Using metaphors and words that have two meanings can get confusing for little man, but over time he has learnt certain metaphors and their meanings (though this is mainly as a result of a past miscommunication).

Even though I am careful in how I speak to little man I’m also aware that I can’t be there all of the time and in actual fact, to some degree he needs these miscommunications In order to learn from them and go on to be successful in whatever it is he chooses to do in life.

Every time little man hears a certain metaphor we try our best to explain its true meaning to him! This doesn’t necessarily mean he understands it, or should I say… “Agrees” with it! His response will normally be something along the lines off… ‘Whats the point in that mum?’ or “Thats just stupid because why would anyone even have Skeletons in their closet?” Though, regardless of what he thinks about it, he will usually store the term along with its correct meaning for his own future reference.

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My point is, and its an important one! That our children on the autism spectrum will find themselves in situations like this. If we forever try to wrap them up in cotton wool, insisting that those who speak to them do so in a totally unambiguous manner all of the time, then what happens ten, twenty years down the line when your child is at work in the office, and having been a little moody to a fellow colleague that colleague, jokingly tells them ‘Ok, Ok … Don’t get your knickers in a twist’ Things could be taken completely out of context. I can Imagine Little man’s reaction to such a term ,having no idea that it was in fact a turn of phase, he’d be inclined to tell him that he doesn’t wear knickers and if anything doesn’t much like wearing underpants either.

I’m not saying that when our children go of to school in the morning, the teachers looking after them, should greet them with some low life wise crack comment. Teachers should do their best not to confuse the child with their language but like us, their parents, teachers should be their to explain such metaphors when and if our children encounter them. Given we all use these silly little sayings so often, one or two are bound to slip out now and then from someone, somewhere along the line. But then isn’t better they hear them now rather when they are 25?

Don’t forget this month is Autism Awareness month and despite the need to raise awareness everyday, why not start with today and share something with your family and friends directing them to this post.

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Do you see what I see?

2 Apr

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I see a boy sat alone, yet smiling and playing

You see a loner, the strange kid, the odd one!

I see a boy frustrated, confused and distressed

You see a brat with no respect, no decent upbringing!

I see a boy stood talking, trying to make a connection, a possible friend. He gets it wrong because of something he said wasn’t seen as appropriate. His been left rejected and upset.

You see a trouble maker, a boy who is rude and makes it his mission to offend.

I see a boy walk into a busy playground, I then see parents like you shaking your heads as you rush to gather your kids. I now see a boy stood playing in a large empty space alone!

You see “That Kid” from before, the one who swore as he throw himself on the floor, shouting at children like yours for accidentally running into him, pushing him as they chased a ball.

I see a boy stood drawing a tear as he watches the school coach leaving!.

You see the boy who ruins it for others. you see it as a blessing that he isn’t attending the school trip. Beyond this you see nothing.

I see a gathering of mothers stood at the school gate laughing. I see the reaction they give as I’m passing… Silence whispers and staring.

You see that mother, the one who drags up her kids… Failing to install good values, respect and self discipline

I see a sweet boy who has the tendency to become easily distressed

You see a boy who throws a wobbler whenever he fails to get the things that he wants.

I see a boy excitedly speaking to others about his interest. He speaks quickly announcing all he knows on the subject. A boy who hasn’t yet released its his time to quit speaking .

You see a boy who dominates conversation, his rude letting no one get a word in edge ways. You see a bore, a child who is self obsessed and selfish… Spoilt and for that you blame me… The parent.

I see a boy who counts to ten before speaking a child who has learnt that this may stop him from potentially offending.

You see an odd boy, one who can only be described as slow and profoundly stupid.

I see a boy who cares about “The Rules” who therefore reminds his peers that those rules are not to be broken.

You see a boy who is bossy. A child who is likely raised by a control freak!

I see a boy who is actually very bright, he has qualities that others could only hope for. I see a boy who continuously tries to get it right. A boy who gets up every time his knocked down, never giving up, nor giving in. Yes he can be naughty his a boy after all. But should you gather your kids and run when you see him… No! why… what ever for?

You see nothing I see.. How could you ever see what I see if you refuse to look a little closer.

You can’t see autism, it doesn’t get stamped on the head of a baby at birth. But knowing just how autism can present is an education you need. With numbers rising there is a good chance the child who sits next to yours at school or even that work colleague you have drinks with on Friday is on the autism spectrum.

My child like many is capable of just as much as you or I. He is an individual, with interests, talents, weaknesses and at time difficulties… We all are as human beings.

Certain areas of his brain work somewhat differently making some areas of life more challenging… Social communication, sensory processing and black and white thinking are to name but a few! Yet that doesn’t mean he should be judged or discriminated against.

Its not the traits of autism that make my sons life more challenging but the way others perceive them traits. His happy with himself 98% of the time and just wants you to except him but more importantly… Understand him!

After all… Where does being “Average” get you?

So I ask you… One this day aimed at raising awareness for those with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Do you see what I see?

Or Will you at least try to see it Now?

Communicating Though Technology

4 Mar

Like many people on the autism spectrum my little man has a fondness for his PC and more so the Internet. But its not just a hobby, Interest or even an addiction! Its his voice, the great one within… The one he can’t seem to use to express himself in the real world.

I’m not saying that Little man can’t speak, because he can! He is very verbal (ask our neighbours, the bus driver or even the postman)! Its just that little man struggles to put some of what he needs to say In the right set of words. This can lead to frustration, misunderstandings and a degree of sadness.

Of course I’d always heard about both children & adults with Aspergers having some type of connection and in many cases, great knowledge when it comes to the world of computers, many children branded as little whizz kids. I didn’t think much about this, that was in till my own child took to the keyboard.

I’ve never had to really ever teach little man something more then once when it comes to computers. I remember his interest at a young age. He was eager to know what all the fuss was about and couldn’t wait to explore cyber space. At 12 years old my son can now show me a thing or two when it comes to using a computer especially when it comes to windows (yes, its true, once you use a Mac you never go back).

Both the existence of computers and the net has opened a whole host of doors for children like Little Man. I’ve noticed that online his much more confident, fancying himself as something of a comedian at times. He loves talking to others about the world of Mind Craft, making Youtube Tutorial videos and sharing his love of wrestling and transport.

Its simple, the computer has no string of facial expressions to understand, it doesn’t constantly change its tone with every mood, it won’t ever demand you stare at it in order to prove your paying attention… Its your connection to the world and those in it. Its a place that lets you express yourself without fear in a way you know how! No ones looking at you and even if they are its through a web cam which according to the little man is an extremely cool invention (his words not mine).

As your child gets the most out of their new communication tool, they also learn and discover all there is to know about it! Little man has no issues when it comes to making spread sheets and presentations. His a massive fan of power point software and seems to understand where every file lies on his PC (even those he has no access to).

It allows him to write at speed instead of lagging behind as he struggles with his fine motor skills when doing things the traditional way. Whether his working on a new movie trailer for his youtube channel or sending that occasional funny tweet that makes everyone laugh, his expressing himself without fear… His learning, communicating and experimenting all at the same time.

All the above is fantastic, making me a very proud mother. However, though I think its great, as his mother I still feel its important he learns the communication skills required to use away from the computer, out there in the big wide world. That’s why together along with his school Little man is thought communication and social skills that we encourage him to use both on and offline.

So… Will I be at all surprised if my son grows up to get a job that involves computers, the net or both?

No… I think its looking pretty likely don’t you?

#Win An early Talkers Box Set Produced By I CAN

18 Jan

As a mother to a child on the autism spectrum I really do understand the importance of communication. Little man is high up on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. He is very verbal and has been from a very early age. Although this is considered a good thing it is often confused that due to my child’s excellent vocabulary he must be an excellent communicator! This is in fact very wrong. He is a child who actually undergoes speech and language therapy receiving a considerable amount of hours while at school as his statement of sen specifies.

I CAN, the children’s communication charity is therefore a charity very close to this mums heart. They understand the importance of communication and have been a strong means of support to many parents and they’re children all over the country.

Before Christmas I shared with you my review of the fabulous resource ‘Chatting With Children’ produced by I CAN and as a parent I was truly impressed with what it had to offer! You can read the review here.

Now I CAN have given me the opportunity in offering my readers the chance to win one of there great box sets. The Early Talkers box set
is a wonderful gift or activity set ideal for parents and practitioners supporting babies, toddlers and young children in learning to talk. This box set includes activity packs for all ages between birth and five years.

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Produced by I CAN, the children’s communication charity, these beautifully illustrated activity cards provide information on easy-to-do, fun activities that support the areas needed to become skilled communicators. Organised into five sections, each Early Talker pack focuses clearly on attention and listening, interaction, as well as skills for understanding and using words and sentences.

This box set includes 3 wonderful resources in one pack…

Babbling Babies contains 30 delightfully illustrated activity cards for parents and practitioners to have fun with baby whilst helping to build strong foundations for developing baby’ communication skills. Comes with top tips and planning guide. (Birth – 18 months)

Toddler Talk is a set of 30 inspiring and fun activity cards giving parents and practitioners ideas to play and develop toddler’s communication skills. Comes with top tips and planning guide. (18 months – 3 years)

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And lastly, as seen in our review…

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Chatting with Children is the third in the series of Early Talkers and provides parents and practitioners with 30 fun and interactive activity cards to help develop young children’s communication skills. Comes with top tips and planning guide. (3 – 5 years)

20130118-075946.jpgAbove sample card from chatting with children

So… To win this great prize of an Early Talkers Box Set do the following…

Compulsory action: Please leave a comment that provides a tip on the subject of engaging children under 5 in communication.

To gain extra entries you can do any of the following. Each completed action will equal one entry. Note an additional comment must be left for each action taken. Remember to leave an email address or twitter ID so that I can find you if your lucky enough to win.

Tweet: “I want to win an early talkers box set with @Clairelouise82 & @ICANcharity” adding the URL of this post to the end of you’re tweet.

Follow @ICANcharity on twitter

Follow @Clairelouise82 on twitter

Like ICAN on Facebook

Pin this competition on Pinterest

Subscribe to this blog via feedburner (located in the sidebar)

Follow my sister blog Mummy of many talents

The competition will close on the 8th February 2013 at midnight.

One last Thing: I CAN are looking for local Families in the Bath area to register for the Bath Fun Run. It would be great if you could show your support by sharing this with anyone that maybe interested in supporting the event.

T&C: The competition is open to those in the UK only. All entries will be checked and those that have not met the entry criteria will not be entered into the final draw. One winner will be drawn randomly soon after the competition closing date. Winner will be notified via the email or twitter ID they provided. Winners have a total of 72 hrs to responses or I have the right to redraw another winner. Winners name may be published on this site. The prize will be sent directly from ICAN. Your delivery details will therefore need to be shared with ICAN Only.

ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions

Teaching Communication Skills To 3-5 Year Olds

29 Oct

I receive emails on a daily basis from worried parents of toddlers or young children.

Many of these emails stress the same concern… My child still isn’t speaking or is speaking little for their age compared to that of their peers.

For others its their child’s lack of understanding of language or how to use it that’s the concern.

Little man was a very early and advanced speaker, only he failed to use certain words in the correct contents, had poor social interaction and would normally dominate conversation. His listening and communication skills are improving all the time now that he has weekly speech and language therapy (SALT) at school. This just proves its never to late to start a programme though the earlier we are taught the skills we need the better, especially in those with autism or any other communication disorder.

Its natural for us parents to worry if our toddler isn’t using communication at the rate we expect especially if we have their siblings to compare them too. But despite the worry its important to note that its not always due to a medical or developmental problem… Some children just develop that bit slower than others, where some just require a bit of help along the way.

Whatever the reason I believe it is important for all parents to encourage communication from an early age… If you feel that development is slow progressing or even too advanced, early intervention is the key.

Those with experience will know just how long waiting lists are for Paediatricians or Speech Therapist… But there are things we can do as parents at home.

I was extremely impressed to hear about a new developmental tool called “chatting with children” I haven’t really seen anything of this kind before and feel its something that could make a whole lot of difference to parents everywhere.

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Chatting With Children is an activities pack designed to build the language development in children aged 3-5. Even better its been developed by Kate Freeman a qualified Speech and Language Therapist.

The pack from I Can (the children’s communication charity) is the third in its series following Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk (also created by Kate Freeman).

Chatting with Children is a stunning pack of 30 fun and interactive activity cards aimed at helping parents and practitioners develop young children’s communication skills. The pack also comes with a well written top tips activity guide that has been designed to help its user get the most from it.

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Inside this kit that resembles a hard back book, you will find 30 beautifully illustrated cards that make up a number of activities designed to encourage the language and communication of children aged 3-5 years. Each task is simple yet provides effective ways of enhancing speaking, listening and understanding skills. The kit has been Designed in association with Studio Conran and illustrator Owen Davey, who has designed each beautiful activity card to feature an activity designed to develop a different aspect of communication.

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What I like most about this pack is that this is a tool recommended to professionals such as therapist & practitioners yet its simple enough for a parent to use at home meaning we have the tools of the professionals at hand to work with at home whenever we want to.

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The fact that the pack has been created by Kate Freeman A Speech and Language Therapist who holds over 15 years experience, gives me even more confidence when using the pack and applying each individual activity.

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Each activity is so simplistic and easy to follow that there is not really any excuses for not being able to try it on a daily/weekly basis. Its not time consuming whatsoever as there is always little if no set up involved.

Toddler Talk and Chatting with Children are each available in paperback for £7.99 or hardback for £12.99 and its available over at the I Can website

In my opinion this is beyond reasonable, I expected it to cost a considerable amount more considering the market its targeted at. I normally find most tools designed with the aim of encouraging a child’s develop within any area, to be over priced and beyond most families reach. So I’m seriously impressed with what I Can are providing here for little money!

What’s more every last penny of the proceeds are put back into the registered Charity “I Can” so they can continue to provide help and resources to parents like you and I.

Any parent with a question or concern about their child’s communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist – visit www.ican.org.uk/help

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. I was sent a sample of Chatting with Children in order to share my honest opinion… I have decided that this will now be donated to a local Speech And Language Therapist in our area.

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.

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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.

My daughter will be assessed for Dyslexia

5 Jul

Today I had a meeting at my daughters school, I went in thinking I was going to be thrown a load of excuses as to why I wasn’t informed my daughter was on the special educational needs register, but actually things went a little more differently.

You see, all those who have lied to me are no longer employed at the school. The head master whom I had a terrible relationship with due to the discrimination my son received and the SENCO who has lied about both my children’s needs, have left. The new head teacher has been brought in to repair all the damage that has been done and therefore get the school back on track.

I was almost left open mouthed when I realised I wasn’t being feed anymore bull shit. This new head teacher apologised for the fact I wasn’t told stating it was unacceptable. She has looked through my daughters sen file and through some of her work and feels that she should have been assessed for dyslexia!

She has told me she wants to sort this ASAP as to give my daughter the best chance in year 5. Extra help will be provided to enable her to catch up with her reading and writing. We also discussed the possibility of maybe booking her in with an optician to see If coloured lenses could help her read better (it currently takes her a long time to read a book).

I have appointments booked with her class teacher on Monday and the head teacher is writing a letter explaining my daughters SEN, the reasons she is on the register and the help they have been providing her with.

I have put a lot of trust in this school before and been let down badly. However with the new senior staff in place, a temporary SENCO and no sign of anyone who damaged us in the past, I feel that just maybe communication will be better.

I won’t let my guard down, I can’t afford to. I will continue to over document everything, monitor attendance (maybe asking for a weekly breakdown of her attendance for my records) as well as making sure the AWO stays on top of things.

I really want to believe the new head teacher is one that I can fully trust. I have got to a stage where I feel I can not trust anyone and hope that my confidence in the system can slowly be repaired. Surly not all head teachers are bad… Right?

To have someone agree with me that records have not been kept as they should have and as a result I could have actually gone to prison, is a start!

To have an apology is also a step forward.

I don’t know why both the SENCO and Head teacher left suddenly but I am pleased to see the back of them!

I just want my children to go off to school in the mornings and come home smiling. I want a good healthy school home relationship… Just like the one I have with my sons independent special school… Surly it’s not to much to ask, is it?

Help a child with Autism communicate with the world they live in

3 Jun

So, I was on twitter recently (nothing new there I know) when I came across a very interesting tweet from one of my new followers.

The tweet in question contained a link to a very interesting website and article focused around a campaign that is aiming to help children with autism by providing them with a way to communicate with the world they live in! Here’s how.

With your help a child with autism can be given the tools needed to better communicate their needs, making the world a much easier place for them to live in.

The charity making this happen is “Hearts & Minds Challenge

They don’t need you to give funds, they don’t want your money, all they need is your old mobile phones, even those that are no longer working!

Here’s what the charity had to say!

Once upon a time, a mobile phone was a status symbol, a way to tell the world that you were so important that people had to be able to reach you all the time. Nowadays a mobile is a necessity, but we still like to have the latest model with features that can improve our daily life.

Now; when you want to trade up your old phone, you could be helping someone with Autism to communicate their basic needs and for the first time, truly express what they want. And the phone doesn’t even have to be working to help….

Autism is a developmental disability which typically affects social interaction, imagination and the ability to communicate. Half of all people diagnosed will have severely delayed speech and as a result, can become frustrated, leading to behavioral challenges and social exclusion.

In the past, these individuals could be taught to use picture exchange communication or “pecs” a system of handing over a picture to request an item. Thus replacing that negative behaviour with a vocabulary of different pictures, all of which have a huge value to the individual. They are prompted to try to say each word and can slowly learn to speak independently with the picture system as support.

However, at least a 1/4 of all people diagnosed with Autism will have to use an alternative communication system for life, which can become very unwieldy as their vocabulary grows.
They must also rely on carers and therapists to update and maintain the system, so they never have independent control of what they want to say.

There are electronic picture devices, but the vocabulary is static, the devices bulky and expensive and the individual cannot express exactly what they want.

However, thanks to the development of a simple App, which recreates the picture system in a digital format, so called ‘non-verbal’ people can communicate exactly what they want on an Apple iPod or iPad. The Grace App, named after the little girl who inspired it is a basic picture vocabulary in a digital format which the user selects then shares to communicate what they want. Most importantly, they can actually add to their pictures themselves using the device camera, or google and save an image if they cannot find and photograph what they need.

Lisa, who created the Grace App says:
“Just because someone is not yet talking, it doesn’t mean they have nothing to say”

Lisa said the App has allowed Grace to express herself clearly and her frustration and tantrums, which could last for hours are now vastly reduced.
“Grace is also interacting with us a lot more, and I’m delighted to hear her using her own voice, as her speech continues to improve”

There are a lot of families that could benefit from trying out Grace or one of the many Apps developed to support the needs of people with autism – but they need the device to use it. This is a big commitment for a family who may have limited means, and a lot of demands on their income due to the pressures of raising a child with Autism.

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Hearts and Minds are a charity with a mission to raise the quality of life of individuals with autism have come up with a scheme to turn old mobiles into new technology like the Apple iPad, while raising funds towards opening an Education Centre For Autism in Greater Manchester.

To help: Go through your drawers and cupboards and clear out all those old mobiles that are taking up space, contact the school and donate those devices in the envelopes provided. Not only will you be giving a child with autism the chance to communicate, but you will go into a draw to get your mortgage paid for a year – who wouldn’t like that?

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Once I read the above I just had to write this post and share this great campaign with my readers.

I also found a great video on the Hearts and Minds website that really does share a strong message with the world on what a difference we can make by donating our old mobile phones. The video shows a selected number of children with autism using their iPad at home or in school. Attached is a message from the families of these children who state what a remarkable difference the iPad has made to their child’s life.

Warning… The video is a real tear jerker! I sobbed all over my iPhone!

I was actually about to write a sponsored post for a company that specialises in recycling mobile phones, saving the environment and making us a bit of extra cash in the process. Then I read about ‘Hearts and Minds’ who are not only saving the planet but helping a child with autism to communicate. Of course it’s Ok to recycle your mobile for cash, especially if you have little… We all need some extra pennies sometimes. But remember this charity are happy to take any mobile phone, regardless of the state it’s in… Broken, old, “a brick” it really doesn’t matter!

Thankfully my son is verbal and actually speaks very well! However he does have an array of communication difficulties and even for him such technology is a godsend. Little man attends a special school and as part of an OT programme he is now learning to touch type, his fine motor skills are very poor and his handwriting hardly legible. An iPad is on the Birthday list and it’s something I’d purchase with the knowledge of knowing that for little man it’s so much more than a fancy handheld tablet.

I hope that others will read this and next time they open a draw to discover an old dusty mobile they remember this post and therefore remember that for a child with autism that dusty mobile is a door that opens into a world of communication!

Remember families and schools wanting to register for the programme can do so over on the hearts and minds website

For more information on the programme visit Grace App or Hearts and Minds to see if you can help give a child with autism a way to communicate.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or guest post. I have not been asked to write this and have not received anything for sharing this information. I have done so as a way to help a charity on their mission to help others.

Little man’s special school put Orchard toys to the test

10 Feb

This post is both to test the benefits of educational games by Orchard toys for children with autism when played with in an educational setting and also to look at how children on the autism spectrum play alongside one another, the development of social interaction and social skills when playing games aimed at improving such skills.

Orchard Toys are one of the UK’s leading brands in educational toys, with their games and puzzles being used within nurseries, schools and of course the home! These are games that seek to promote educational progression as-well as good old fashion fun. I’ve been incredibly lucky to obtain such a fine and well-regarded brand as my Britmums Live 2012 sponsor which is fantastic as this also means I will hopefully be able to help them on their mission!

Orchard Toys told me that they wanted to gain a better understanding and clear insight into how our children with additional needs, especially those with autism and special educational needs, play and learn, what skills they benefit from and what us parents look for when buying our children educational games. This would allow the brand a way of knowing which of their toys will benefit such children while allowing them to take any findings into consideration when creating and launching new product lines.

I visited the brand online and browsed their games section, selecting a couple of games to test.

I then had an idea and went about contacting my sons independent special school (a specialist school for children on the autism spectrum aged between 5-16 years) My idea was to donate the games to the school in exchange for some feedback on how the children found them, therefore gaining the opinions of more than one child on the autism spectrum. Instead a small group of children all with their own abilities and interest could test these games (all children are different including those children with autism, no two children on the spectrum are the same regardless of the traits they may share)! I would also gain the opinion of the teacher, a professional in education and one that understood children with autism and special educational needs. At home Little man would be forced to play this with his “typical” peers or siblings which would normally result in a war. This way I’d be able to also discover just how far my own child had come (a child taught in isolation with no peer interaction for over a year) and how he now interacts with children with similar thinking styles and difficulties with in areas of social skills interaction & communication.

Luckily, Baston House School accepted and loved the idea!

THE GAMES I CHOSE AND WHY!

What a performance, a game aimed at children between the ages of 5-12 (though this is great for the whole family including those older children) and can be played in groups of 2-6 players. My reasons for the selection are as follows: Good links to the National Curriculum in English and Maths, the encouragement in both personal and social skills and the developmental benefits it offered in terms of language and communication skills.

Players must act out certain actions, example… pretending to be a monkey, make the noise of a firework or even try to wiggle their ears. If the others fail to guess before the time runs out the child then uses a magical decoder to reveal a forfeit.

The second game I chose, was ‘What’s Rubbish’ designed for 2-4 players and aimed at ages 5-10. Little man’s class consists of children with mixed abilities and of the ages 9-11 years old. With only around 5-8 children per class, so I wasn’t worried about those older children of 11 (like my little man) as the age recommendation wouldn’t be an issue. This game again has links to the National Curriculum in the area of maths! Other benefits developmental benefits are, strategic thinking and again the development of both personal and social skills.

Little man had told me that he had learnt quite a lot about recycling at his school, so I thought this would make a great educational tool for the classroom. The game requires players to collect different types of rubbish to put into the recycling bin, being careful to avoid litterbugs.

Once the games arrived I sent them into school with Little man and here’s how it went!

THE FEEDBACK

What a Performance: The Class teacher ‘Miss Bell’ stated that the game created a lot of interest amongst the children and as I suspected it was a huge hit.

The class teacher described ‘What a performance’ as a great game & learning tool for children on the autism spectrum, she noted that the games requirement for a child to either act or mime while the remaining children guess what it is they are doing, helps the development of theory of mind, (understanding that other people have different thoughts and feeling) an important life skill for these children. The children worked in groups of 4 for around half an hour. The teacher empathised that although this may not seem long, it is however, probably the longest time the children have played a game as a group… Result!

The fact that Little man actually managed to remain engaged for this length of time given that he was in a group of 4, is such a positive for us! Before starting this school, he was taught in isolation away from his peers for almost a year, so this is a huge step in procress for both Little man and the extended family.

Lastly, it was reported that all the boys really loved the magical decoding feature that reveals the secret message on the back of the cards. It sounds as if it was definitely a great feature that helped keep the boys engaged in the game.


The children played the second game ‘What’s rubbish’ on a different day as to play both together would have been far too much for them. The teacher noted that although this is a very good game, the children found this game slightly more complicated than the first. It was noted how it took quite a few reads and one really interested child to understand it, to be able to play! It was noted that in actual fact, it was my son, Little man who was one of the first to lose interest (which isn’t surprising given it takes a lot to engage him if it’s not transport or Lego related). It’s very common for children on the spectrum to have special interest and therefore engage little in other activities.

Little man said it was more complicated as it required him to remember too much information at one time (again this is a common difficulty amongst children on the spectrum). However this game could become something of a valuable resource for improving such skills as these.

The teacher finished by stating that the format of both games was really good, really colourful and easy to read. The teacher noted how she had used Orchard Toys within her last school and remained impressed.

So, all in all, I think that by donating the games to the school, we managed to gather some great information on the benefits of Orchard Toys when used as an educational resource in the classroom.

The children clearly enjoyed the first game more than the second which makes “What a Performance’ our winner, though we think that both are fantastic.

Visit Orchard Toys for even more games and puzzles for all ages and abilities

Lastly, a huge thank you to Orchard Toys for supplying these lovely games and both the children and teachers at the school for taking part.

Who Loves me?

23 Oct

Who Loves me?

 No, not me… I know you all adore me 🙂

 Who loves me…  Is the name given to these awesome personalised flash cards designed for children of all ages.

 I had to jump at the chance of reviewing a set of these for Harley (22 months old). 

 The idea is simple yet extremely clever & effective. Each flash card consists of both words and pictures, however what’s different is the pictures are in-fact images of the child’s family, friends or loved ones. Each have the name of the person under the image in big bold lettering, then there is text on the back of the card, personalised to relate to the person in the picture.

 When I saw these on another blog I was taken by the idea and just thought how great these would be for pre-schoolers especially those who are on the autism spectrum. Now Harley doesn’t have a diagnosis of autism, however his older brother Little man now age 11 does and I would have loved to have a set of these back when he was two, five even. 

 If I had these back when Little man was younger I would have used them when he started at school to include the images of teachers & class room assistants (of course with their agreement) this would have allowed little man a way to get used to the teachers in the school (class teacher, head teacher, classroom assistant and so forth) the beauty is you can order one card  or a 100 cards really its up to you.

Got the pennies you could even get the class done 🙂

 The text on the back would have allowed the little man to remember their roles within the school, therefore he would have gained a better understanding of whom to go to for help when needed, avoiding a mass of difficult issues.

 The possibilities are endless… Go mad, make cards of the doctor, dentist, even shop assistant (Yes, yes with permission of course) Even snap pictures of building, places (school, doctors & dentist surgery, school bus etc….) This would allow your child to become familiar with places that normally cause heighten anxiety. These would also be perfect for the non verbal child, encouraging speech or just providing reassurance or a better understanding. It’s a fact that children on the spectrum are visual learners so these cards are perfect!

 As for Harley… He loves the cards and has had hours of fun playing with them. 

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He names all the people in his cards, lines them up, runs around the house telling everyone to “Look” and even packs them away nicely. 

 One of the cards is has the image of his Granddad, who he doesn’t see often. It was magical when he visited and he was able to recognise him from the cards. He went over to his toy box took out his cards opened the box, taking the card of his granddad out and said loudly, “Look Granddad” as he placed it in his hand. 

 How awesome is that!

 So how’s this done?

 It’s so simple, if simple was made illegal, I’d be in the slammer! 

My mum could do this and she’s a load of poo when it comes to computers (sorry mum)!

 Firstly decide on the number of cards you want. Each card can be brought individually at a price of £1.99, however the more you buy the cheaper this is! Discounts are applied on the count of 8 and 16 cards (Yes, I’m unsure how it works if you want hundreds of these babies, but really hundreds seriously, would anyone want this many)? 

  Next, make sure you have decided who is going on each card? Make sure you have all your images ready and waiting on your computer & some idea of the text you want written on the back of each.

Note: If you sign up to the site, you can actually save half-way through returning later to finish.

 You then follow the easy to follow instructions for each card (don’t panic at the price, reductions are applied at the checkout).

 Simply add your image taking the pic from your hard drive (the higher the resolution the better) add the name that will be located below the image once in place, then choose your image from the picture library from the choices given (these are little clip arts that go on the back, just above the description). Now type your description, keeping it short and sweet (you are only allowed a maximum amount of characters).

 Once you have finished, you then click the next key adding another card. Just click finished when your through, you will then be re-directed to the checkout where deductions are applied and payment made.

 You will receive an email confirming your order and allowing any corrections of any mistakes and typos before finally being dispatched (despatch email will be sent once they are on the way). 

 Ours took a few days, it’s a super fast services.

 Costumer service is excellent! One of my images was a tad blurry so I was sent an email to notify me and offer me the chance to change the image which I did via email (so this was taken care of for me) How awesome a service is that!

 I highly rate these cards and recommend them to anybody looking for flash cards with a difference especially for parents of children on the spectrum regardless of their age. 

 These cards are off the highest quality yet really affordable. They make a fabulous personalised christmas present that’s guaranteed to break a smile or two!

*****stars  awarded

£1.99 per card

Special price of £11.99 for 8 & £17.99 for 16 flash cards

Gift vouchers available 

 Want Some? How could you not! 

Just click here to get yours!

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