Tag Archives: Hillingdon Manor

A step in the right direction for autism thanks to Anna Kennedy

21 Oct

I recently contacted Anna Kennedy as I read about a new dance DVD she had developed for children with autism and aspergers syndrome

 Anna’s DVD, ‘Step in the right direction’ has been produced in association with the world-famous, ‘Pineapple performing Arts school’ in London and a selection of children from the Hillingdon Manor school who each have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

 Anna was kind enough to send me a copy of the DVD to review with my Little man.

 Little man used to love to dance but as his grown older he does it less and less. I thought it would be great to try to encourage him to give it another go.

Little man is a child who requires a certain amount of Occupational therapy (OT) due to his difficulties with both his fine and gross motor skills, including varying areas off his co-ordination. 

 Once I had received the DVD I decided to watch it while little man was at school, just so I could get a taste for what it was all about before finally introducing it to the Little guy himself. 

 This DVD has been broken up into manageable pieces allowing you to skip between sections.

 Part 1

Introduction by Anna Kennedy

Anna Kennedy


 Anna Kennedy, founder of Hillingdon Manor school, kicks the off  the DVD with an introduction that sees here shop for pineapple dance wear for the children before heading off to the Pineapple performing arts school in London’s Covent  Garden.

 Part 2

Interviews

 Once here she introduces the viewers to some of the dance instructors at Pineapple including, ‘Maggie Paterson’ (Senior teacher) ‘Jade Flannagan’ (Senior teacher specialising in Street & Break-dance) as well as the schools founder, ‘Debbie Moore’ Anna interviews Maggie & Jade about working with the children and what their expectations were before meeting them.

 Anna, then goes on to interview Debbie who tells us about her incredible journey in fulfilling her dreams when opening what is now the world-famous school of performing arts, while taking us on a trip down memory lane.

Debbie Moore

Lastly all the children introduce themselves alongside Anna who then goes on to get them all warmed up in the third chapter of this dance DVD

 Part 3

Tutorials

This is where we get down to the business and following a great warm up section with Anna and the children, Jade steps in to show us some poppin’ lockin’ & tuttin’ (some really “cool” dance moves). Jade starts by teaching us at home the routine, he does this in easy to follow bite size pieces repeating each section a number of times before finally putting it all together and joining the children where they go on to perform the routine, incorporating some really cool freestyle dance moves, which for me was the highlight to this DVD. 

 It was great to see the children dancing, the enjoyment was clearly shown on each of their faces in the form of a massive smile! 

They are all clearly delighted to be taking part in the making of the DVD and should be extremely proud of themselves and one another for the fabulous routines they participated in and awesome freestyling they displayed. 

 The tutorials are finished off with a cool down with Maggie and the children.

 Section 4

Special features: Britain’s got talent finalist-James Hobley

Anna with James and his mum Sheila

Here Anna meets James and his mother, Sheila Hobley who tells Anna about what life is like for James (how he overcomes many off the difficulties children with autism experience, while fulfilling his ambition and dreams to dance). We learn about the barriers James has overcome and  difficulties he faced while participating in the ‘Britain’s got talent tour’ as-well as his hopes and dreams for the further.

 James goes on to show Anna some of his moves, to which she has a little difficulty keeping up with 🙂

We then get to see a delightful recording of James Hobley’s own routine.

 Lastly Andrew Stone (Star of sky 1 Pineapples dance studios with over 30 years of experience in dance, music and television) works with the children of Hillingdon Manor school on a small and final routine bringing the section to a close. 

 Section 5 &6

Useful Information & Additional Materials 

 In the last two sections 5 & 6 you can discover a little more about two of the sponsors behind the DVD, ‘MedicAlert’ (who Anna helped create the AK autism band) and ‘Childline’ (the UK charity backing Anna’s anti bullying campaign). 

We are then provided with the website address for “Anna Kennedy online” where we can read and download a number of fact sheets about the benefits of autism and dance.

These can be found at Anna Kennedy online.

Click HERE

Our Verdict

 Little man did have a go at the DVD and seemed to enjoy doing so. (He did however get a little upset when I tried to film him so we gave that a miss.) 

 His sister, ‘Alice’ who isn’t on the spectrum also enjoyed taking part, although she did spend half the time catching a glance of her self in the mirror. 

 In my opinion the routines are great! They have been put together in an easy to follow way and are not overly long, resulting in the children actively maintaining concentration throughout

 The music was fantastic, some really great tunes that made me want to shake my bootie too. 

 Anna engages the children in a great warmup routine that both myself and the Little man followed together.

 Jade Flannagan is the perfect choice for the main routine as his young and hip and the children really seem to relate to this guy.

Jade works with the kids really well and keeps them motivated with lots of positive praise and encouragement. One thing I did pick up on was there was no use of the word left and right within the choreography! Instead Jade used visual clues alongside instructions, like, placing a hand on his right arm along with the instruction on what to do, indicating that the children and viewers were to use the right arm. For me, I think this was a good idea, as the children did not become confused at the use of to many instructions at one time.

 The freestyle was the best part for me. I just loved seeing the children demonstrate their moves as their confidence was beaming throughout!

 I would highly recommend this DVD as an introduction into dance for children on the autism spectrum and even those without! I think it’s especially beneficial to those who seek lots of sensory stimulation. Children on the autism spectrum who discover an interest in dance, would benefit both physically and emotionally from such an activity. Such benefits could include, improved co-ordination skills and overall fitness and stamina, improved social interaction skills and the ability to follow more complex instructions, and importantly, development of their self-confidence which may be pretty low for those who have experienced incidents of bullying or isolation. Another excellent benefit that I found was, your child is more likely to sleep better if they follow the routines on the DVD in the evening. I know that Little man slept better on the evening we reviewed the DVD so this must be a great way to get rid off some of that excess energy our children on the spectrum always seem to have.

 The interviews were fantastic but are mainly aimed at the parent, though many children wanting to get into dance could really find themselves inspired by watching Anna’s interview with the fabulous talented James Hobley.

 Thank you Anna Kennedy for providing us with this great DVD.

We loved it!  

You can get a copy of this excellent DVD from Amazon priced at a reasonable £7.99.

Just Click HERE

The day my boy got his smile back.

12 Oct

I sat in the school hall watching the school nativity all the children in each year combine to create one marvellous Christmas spectacle! So, why was I sat with a tear in my eye? My daughter looked so beautiful up there, and god I was proud, off course I was! Though this wasn’t a tear of joy, something was still missing and that something was my son! As I watched his sister and the rest of the schools over excited children take part in a glowing performance,my eldest child, ‘Little man’ was sat at home, restricted from all participation! Why? Well, he hadn’t injured himself, he wasn’t hit by a sudden dose of stage fright, he was told No! Why? Because his school thought of him as a liability not a child, not a child with feelings, not a child at all!

There were lots of why’s! Some coming from myself directed at a head teacher and a SENCO who quite honestly didn’t give a shit! The why’s from Little man directed at myself, a mother without the heart to be truthful! Yet deep down he knew, I know he did!

You may have the word why running through your mind right now as you read this! You maybe asking, “Why I’m even writing this?”

Yes, the above situation wasn’t yesterday, it was just one of many crawl blows thrown at my child at the end of last year. The example above took place in December 2010.

Now, I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past, and I’m not (well, not really). It’s hard to forget and I doubt we ever will, though the reason it was actually brought to the front of my mind was for reasons of happiness and excitement, not sadness.

Yes, now in 2011 and finally in a school that understands him, I finally got to see my little man take part in a whole school activity.

This time as I entered my son’s school there was no stares or whispers. I spoke with fellow parents unworried about their response when they would discover who my child was. This is a feeling I’ve waited and waited for, now I finally have it!

It was the celebration of the harvest festival and parents were invited into school for a special assembly. Gosh I was excited, despite the fact I had literally had not a wink of sleep. With this in mind I headed off upstairs to chill for a bit. Little H was with his father so that left me a bit of mummy time. Running the hot water into the bath tube the air was filled with the scent of Radox relaxing bath salts, “This is the life” I thought as I slowly lowered a leg in the tub!

Ring… ring… ring… “Bloody typical” I shouted to myself aloud as I almost slipped and broke my neck as I frantically dashed for my mobile located on my bedside table.

“Hello” I spouted in a somewhat breathless tone (which couldn’t of sounded great) especially on discovering it was in-fact Little mans school who thankfully put me at ease instantly by stated “Don’t worry, there is nothing to worry about” Turns out the Little man has actually left his lunch at home, well, that or in his transport (the taxi he takes to school of a morning) His school don’t currently serve school dinners. This is mainly due to how new the school is and the fact there really is little point employing staff and serving food for under 20 kids (not like the little man will agree to eat it any how).

This only meant one thing! Mum would have to deliver that lunch asap! First I had to unearth it, I couldn’t actually recall seeing it since he left at 8.30 am that morning. I searched the house like a mad woman and at 11.50 and the school being some distance away (one train and a bus kind of distance) I began to worry when I still couldn’t find it! It wasn’t a case of just throw together another one, believe it or not I buy the stuff fresh each morning in some kind of hope he will eat it, so in-order to do so I’d need a shop!

As I darted out the door, on the mission for lunch something caught my eye! Surely not? Hang on…. No,… It only bloody is! There sat his Chelsea FC lunch box on top of the wheely bin. Well, I agree it’s not the most pleasant place to keep your lunch but with the clock ticking, I came to the conclusion, “It wasn’t actually in the bin! Would he actually need to know?” I guess not!

I finally made it to the school, red-faced and paranoid that I didn’t smell like the aroma of Radox bath salts, and more like a sweating scum-bag but given the fact no one smiled and moved away, I came to the conclusion it was my lack of sleep making me think this way (after all, it’s not like I hadn’t washed or something)!

The assembly wouldn’t start till 1.30 and it was half past midday and without a car and feeling like I was in the middle off nowhere I went outside sat on what was quite a pleasant little bench, indulged in my nasty but pleasurable habit of puffing a cigarette while scrolling trough my twitter timeline, engaging in far to many conversations to remain sane before going back inside to find my little man waiting for me in the reception-area.

“Mum, I’m not having a great day” he told me! Apparently no one was! The teacher described it as one of those days where the children all seem to be experiencing some kind of upset. Let’s not forget these children all have an autism spectrum condition, all face a range of difficulties and the smallest things can cause problems. Chatting with my little man it would seem he was excited yet a little nervous about his piece that he had offered to read in the assembly. My little man wanted to do the reading and was adamant. We read it together and he read it perfect! Confidence was the issue here something that had become smashed over the years.

As Little man went off to get ready I got to say hello to the very lovely Anna Kennedy. For those of you who don’t know who Ann is, I’ll enlighten you!

Anna isn’t only the founder of little mans independent special school for children with autism and aspergers, she’s also a parent of two children on the spectrum who felt her only option left to get her boys into a school was to open one herself. This wasn’t little man’s current school but another called ‘Hillingdon Manor’ in Middlesex and this all happened back in the nineties. Baston house (Little man’s school) is a school that Anna has open more recently. Anna has since established a bit of a name for herself as an inspirational advocate for autism and is also now a very successful business woman. I for one agree that Anna is inspirational, actually she’s a breath of fresh air to the autism community and I couldn’t be happier to have my child in a school that has been made possible by this very woman. My guess is many parents feel this gratefulness that I am currently feeling as I write this down.

Having spoken to Anna for some time (way before little man started school) on networks such as twitter and facebook (Little man also appeared on a news report on bullying that Anna organised) it was lovely to finally meet her in person.

As I sat In the hall waiting for the children’s performance I felt proud that my son was a part of it all. He ran around and his anxiety was a tad increased, plus the fact I was there meant he become a little bit of a terror, but so did a few of the children. What was magical was the fact no one made an issue about it, if the children ran from their chairs or dashed off behind the stage curtains they were encouraged to come back to their seats in a clam and unthreatening manner. Not one teacher raised their voice, not one!

The vicar from the local church came to speak about the occassion in which the children were celebrating. The table was covered in food that the children had donated. I had to laugh when the vicar stated, “Look at all this lovely food you all brought” only for one young man to shout out, “Actually, I brought in most of it” What a classic!

The vicar told a story to symbolise what the true meaning was of the Harvest festival and the children did shout out some pretty random things (little man more than anyone else, I think) Any other school he would have been reprimanded for such behaviour! They all put up their hands but just could not retain the urge to state what it was they wanted to say, this however was fine!

When it came to the reading Little man and a few others gathered at the stage. All giggled and in turn each took the microphone and read aloud (beautifully I must add)! Little man was last and as he took the mic he said one word and then froze. He turned to his TA and stated “I can’t do it, please do it” I knew he could read it, after all I heard him not half an hour before when we practised. My son hadn’t ever been given such a chance till now and his confidence just wasn’t there! Then something beautiful happened! Two of the staff, including his teaching assistant (who he is most keen on) and the other boys who had previously read came together with little man and read the poem with him. There was no laughing at him, no nasty remarks and no huff from the teacher, just pure encouragement!

I didn’t only write this post to express my delight at the situation we are now in, and although I wanted to share such delight with you all, I have another more important reason!

“When life seems like it cannot get much worse and you’re in the height of your long fought out battle to get your child what they did! When you think there really is no light at the end of that very long tunnel, please don’t give up, just remember this post!”

Those of you that take your child to school everyday and collect them without a hiccup, you should never take such straightforwardness for granted… You really don’t know how lucky you are!

Thank you to everyone at Baston house for giving me hope and giving my child back his smile, the greatest gift of all.

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