The Learning Success System uses various approaches to overcoming learning difficulties, using new findings in neuroscience, as well as tried and tested techniques developed by experts in the field. New exercises are delivered daily via email, and there is also a support forum too.
The first principle of the Learning Success System is small steps. In Japanese culture, it’s called Kaizen. It comes from the idea that crash learning doesn’t work, at least not long-term; continuous improvement over time is more effective. Therefore the tasks are only brief but to work well, the programme should be carried out regularly, although the exact amount in terms of length of time and frequency are flexible. Tasks can be approached in the way that works best for your child/ family.
There is a huge wealth of information over on The Learning Success Blog but as a very brief summary, the programme works on the following strategies for better learning:
Build up micro-skills
The exercises focus on developing different skills such as working memory, auditory discrimination, cross- lateral coordination and other skills that help across many areas of learning. The exercises are quick and simple, but also fun and engaging. They are all very much active learning techniques, not passive teaching. (This is a good thing!)
The Learning Success System is available at the discounted reader price of $197 for a 12 month subscription, with a 90 day guarantee. You can purchase it here. (This is an affiliate link. This means I get a fee for each person that signs up, this does not cost the buyer anything extra. Thank you for supporting me in this way!)
One lucky reader can win a 12 month subscription to The Learning Success System. Enter via rafflecopter below.
As it is World Autism Awareness Day, I would like to share some information on a lesser known type of autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).
“Pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is increasingly, but not universally, accepted as a behaviour profile that is seen in some individuals on the autism spectrum.
People with a PDA behaviour profile share difficulties with others on the autism spectrum in social communication, social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests.
However, those who present with this particular diagnostic profile are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. This demand avoidant behaviour is rooted in an anxiety-based need to be in control.”
Children with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) do not often respond to typical parenting techniques or even the usual strategies for autism. These approaches either do not work or make the situation worse. Effective approaches to best support PDA children are quite different and therefore it is important for people to understand this.
Natasha, who writes over at unschoolingaspies.blogspot.co.uk, says that being flexible is key. “The more inflexible the child, the more flexible (and creative!) the adult needs to be.” So true!
Amelia has one word of advice for other PDA parents: “patience“.I couldn’t agree more! Lots of it.
Further information on useful strategies can be found on The PDA Society website.
Kayleigh, A parent of a PDA child, also advises that PDA families “find people who are understanding”. I wholeheartedly agree. I feel that awareness, acceptance and understanding are essential.
On that note, I was thrilled when I found out that Fiona is running the Milton Keynes Marathon to raise awareness – and funds – for PDA. She has already reached her £1000 target for The PDA Society, which is amazing! Of course, further donations are warmly welcomed!!! If you would like to sponsor Fiona, go to her Just Giving Fundraising Page.
Ok, so for today on #100DaysofHomeEd I have something abit different; I asked a selection of home educators (all with SEND children) what their favourite thing is about home educating. Here are the answers…
Sharon – Incidental learning is so much more enjoyable because it is fun to learn . Wish I had taken this path a long time ago.
Lyndsey –Hearing my son giggle, watching him smile and be proud of himself.
Karen – The empowerment!!!! Knowing that you don’t have to listen to a bunch of people who mostly don’t seem to give two hoots about your child and at times don’t even seem to know who they are talking about!!! It did me the world of good knowing I could make my own decisions based on what I thought was best for my child… but more than that, it has left them with the underlying knowledge that they can confide in me and I will listen to them and I will trust them… and I will NOT send them somewhere that makes them unhappy.
Samantha – Flexibility!
Christine – Sharing the good times of childhood.
Sally – I get to watch her face when she makes a connection or a discovery, not someone else who may or may not notice and it won’t be precious to them.
Josie – Not having to (try to) dress my son every morning and attempt to get him to school (which would never happen!)
Samantha – Not have the trigger points of bed time and get up time. Also I love how his natural curiosity means he is learning about so many different things.
Jo and Alma – Freedom!!!!
My answer – The freedom and flexibility that home ed allows; being able to go with the flow and adapt to her needs makes all the difference.
On Friday we took Squiggle to the athletics track to do some races. This reminded me that I never actually properly wrote up our fantastic sports challenge (100 days of sports) last year!
I had started out by doing regular round-up posts about it but then for one reason or another, I decided to just do a big summary post at the end, once we had actually finished. But it never happened! We successfully completed the challenge, and had a great time doing it – I just didn’t get round to writing the post to share all the sports activities we did and brilliant fun we had! Oops! So I figured better late than never; Squiggle and I are excited to finally share this post with you… at last!
During the sports challenge, Squiggle took part in a wide variety of sports. Some activities we arranged ourselves, often with her home ed friends, whilst others we attended were organised sessions. I was pleasantly surprised during my research for this challenge at how many inclusive sports sessions are available, including some aimed specifically at SEND children.
This has also led me to reflect on the great importance of sports being accessible to everyone and the huge value of disability sports for both physical and invisible disabilities. I think back to London Olympics and Paralympics 2012 and how we opted to take Squiggle to watch the Paralympics specifically, as not only is it truly inspirational and an incredible honour to watch live generally, but we felt it particularly important for Squiggle to have such role-models from a young age.
I am thankful that there is such a great awareness within the sports sector and for the investments that have gone into disability sports and developing inclusiveness. Bristol Street Versa have also created this infographic to celebrate the pioneers of disability sports; because without them, of course, probably none of this would ever have been achieved.
So anyway, back to the sports challenge! Here are some of the sporting activities that Squiggle took part in as part of 100 days of sports…
Athletics (long jump, hurdles)
Sports day (including flat races, relays and fun races e.g. egg and spoon race, beanbag balancing race, sack race etc…)
She invented her own sport too; a game she called ‘Round and Round Tennis’. She also acted out sports with her Sylvanian Families and played indoor versions of games; such as finger tennis, desktop table tennis and blow football.
We had a fantastic time doing this sports challenge and there are still plenty more ideas that Squiggle is keen to try out sometime in the future too! Such a great experience and very motivating!!!
What is your favourite sport? Let us know in the comments section!
As a parent of a child with SEND, including sensory processing issues, I have spent alot of time thinking about how our home environment meets Squiggle’s needs. We have created a specific sensory area in one of our rooms as a space for her to relax whenever she wants and it also offers her sensory stimulation that supports her specific individual needs.
One important part of this is through different textures. Squiggle is very tactile. She really likes soft things, so we have a big selection of fabrics available with various different textures to provide her with the tactile input she needs.
We have a mismatched assortment of colours and styles to also reflect Squiggle’s other sensory needs too; for example, in terms of visual stimulation, she prefers a variety of colours and to have lots of interesting styles and patterns to look at, especially in her sensory chillout area. So we offer her a bright and colourful, albeit somewhat uncoordinated, environment in that particular space at least!
Of course, like most people, we prefer to stick to more of a specific colour theme and therefore have coordinated the rest of our rooms in a more ‘typical’ organised way! But providing Squiggle with a variety of textures to touch and feel is essential for her sensory integration nonetheless, so we have tried to incorporate her tactile sensory needs throughout the rest of our home too; in particular through our choices of home decor. Cushions, throws, drapes and blankets in a variety of different textured fabrics really adds another dimension to our home. The truth is though, even without SEND, it is great for everyone to have a variety of textures in the home environment. It feels good!
On this note, Julian Charles are also taking ‘the finishing touches’ very literally and asking what interior design a room is #notcompletewithout, especially in terms of texture. They have just released the most beautiful style guide to give you some brilliant ideas on how to incorporate textures in your home.
I also love this neutral and beautifully coordinated room decor I found on their instagram too, with all the wonderful textures that have been included. It demonstrates perfectly what a difference that textures can make to a room; check out that gorgeous rug and the lovely textured bedding…
A post shared by Julian Charles (@juliancharlesuk) on
Do you have tactile home decor ideas to share and inspire others with? Join in the conversation on facebook and twitter using the hashtag #notcompletewithout… and of course you might also find more inspiration for your own home too! *This is a collaborative post.
A UK longitudinal study carried out on over 11, 000 children by the Medical Research Council at the University of Glasgow concluded that:
Watching TV for 3 hours or more daily at 5 years predicted increasing conduct problems between the ages of 5 years and 7 years.
No effects of TV at 5 years were found on hyperactivity/inattention, emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems or prosocial behaviour.
Playing electronic games at 5 years was not associated with increased risk of problems.
The results are interesting but I do feel rather than take them at face value, it is important to think about the study itself. The original research paper can be found on the British Medical Journal website.
Firstly, the most obvious point is perhaps that it is carried out by survey and therefore relies on the parent’s perspective of their child, and also assumes they have tracked screen time correctly and recorded it accurately. Although the Strengths and Difﬁculties Questionnaire (SDQ) given to the parents to complete is described as “a widely-used survey instrument with high validity and reliability,” I have carried out the questionnaire personally and feel the questions themselves are rather subjective and the tick box answers very restrictive. In addition, each parent’s perspective on what the terms themselves mean, how the questions and answers are interpreted and parent’s perception of the children themselves will inevitably vary greatly. For example, one question states is the child “obedient”. Define obedience. Is the child obedient in which situations? What factors does it depend on and is this relevant? And how to then answer accurately with the limited options of not true, somewhat true or certainly true? Even the mood of the parent at the time of completing the SDQ or events taken place just prior could change the answers. Without a more holistic picture of the child, the questionnaires can not be assumed to be at all accurate, in my opinion.
Secondly, the study sets out to look at direct links between amount of screen time and mental health, ignoring the potential indirect affects. “Links between screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, for example, via increased sedentary behaviour, sleeping difﬁculties and language development.” If mental health is indirectly affected this should be equally noted in the conclusion in order to give a clear and unbiased presentation of the results. The other thing noted in the research itself and I feel relevant personally, is that the study was only carried out to show the effects on children up to aged 7. These are not long term results, there is no point of reference later in childhood or even into adult life. I think it is important to consider possible delayed effects that might not show up until later in life.
Also, the types of games played and nature of programmes watched were not taken into account and this is perhaps far more relevant than the amount of screen time. “There was also no information on weekend use, or the content or context of early screen time. Other research has indicated the importance of content for aggression and attentional problems in young children. Screen time in the context of parental restrictions or discussion of content may moderate negative effects.” The study itself suggests further study in this area is needed. “The study highlights the need for more detailed data to explore risks of various forms of screen time, including exposure to screen violence.”
In addition, studies should further examine the associated child and family characteristics which appear to account for most of the simple associations between screen exposure and psychosocial adjustment. What is appropriate for some is not appropriate for others, particularly in content.
However, the biggest point that the study itself mentions but that is not highlighted in reports of the findings, is the many factors that can affect how a child is effected by screen exposure. “For problem scores (conduct, hyperactivity/ inattention, emotional and peer relationship), detailed modelling (not shown) indicated that the set of maternal and family characteristics produced the greatest reduction in the effect of screen exposure; followed by adjustment for child characteristics. For prosocial scores, family functioning measures produced the greatest reduction in the effect of screen exposure.” This might seem obvious to many but I feel there can be a danger of oversimplifying the summary of results and not taking into account the other factors and, most importantly, the child themselves as an individual.
So do I think that there is a case for limiting screens? Yes and no. It depends entirely on the context. Limitations might be in time, or could be in content only. It might not be an imposed limitation necessarily, it could be mutually and respectfully agreed upon by the entire family. Sometimes the child might set their own limitations because they have decided for themselves that they are not comfortable with the content, or would simply rather do other things with their time. It might not be an arbitrary rule but rather stem from a very genuine and obvious need for it. The adults in the house may also limit their own screen time to meet the needs of the family. What works for one family may well be very different to another.
The fact is that everyone has different needs and I feel we need to be accepting and understanding of this in all aspects of life, screens are no different. Individuals are exactly that, individual, so the assumption that there is a right or wrong answer as to whether or not screens have any negative effects is, I feel, misguided. Families need to support their children in meeting their own needs rather than be guided by research one way or another. A million people can say they personally did or did not experience negative effects but if you feel differently and think it is causing any type of harm to yourself or someone you are responsible for, you are probably right.
In summary, according to the research paper “findings do not demonstrate that interventions to reduce screen exposure will improve psychosocial adjustment. Indeed, they suggest that interventions in respect of family and child characteristics, rather than a narrow focus on screen exposure, are more likely to improve outcomes.”It is not about reducing screen exposure or otherwise, it is about respecting individuals and how their needs vary.
Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground at Willows Farm in St Albans, Hertfordshire is a million pound plus development based on the famous Beatrix Potter characters and CBeebies animated series. It opened its doors in April 2016, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of author Beatrix Potter, who has captured our hearts and imaginations for over 100 years with her well-loved children’s tales. It is also the only one of its kind in the world, how exciting!
There are different sections within the Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, such as Mr McGregor’s Garden, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s kitchen and laundry area, Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention, Jeremy Fisher’s Musical Pond, Lily Bobtail’s Nature area, Benjamin Bunny’s Tree Top Adventures and of course Peter Rabbit’s Secret Treehouse too!
Peter Rabbit’s secret treehouse is set around a 100 year old ash tree.
I particularly love Jeremy Fisher’s Musical Pond with its lovely little range of interesting instruments. These are good for various age children I imagine, and they are a great sensory activity.
We haven’t ventured into Mrs Tiggy- Winkle’s area yet because Squiggle is usually too busy playing in the other areas but I have had a quick peek and it looks lovely, particularly for younger children. I wonder if the confined space of the indoor bit might get abit much for some SEND children during busier times but it did look like there were some great sensory activities in there too. We also haven’t explored Mr McGregor’s garden yet. This area includes opportunities for ‘heavy’ lifting of giant radish, which is another great sensory activity. It all looks like alot of fun!
Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention is an interactive latest technology feature where children can play games about colours or calculations, and dance to music. It reminded me somewhat of a fancier version of the dance-off style arcade games or dance mats you can buy for use with consoles at home! It is a nice activity but it can be difficult during busier times if multiple children try to play on it at once. Also, the sound effects coming from here combined with the various other sound effects nearby is potentially overstimulating and I think could easily cause sensory overload for some (SEND) children. The activity itself is certainly a great game though if you have the chance to properly play it!
One thing I feel could be improved is that it would be far better if the various interactive ‘noisy’ features were more spread out or if there were less of them. Ideally it would be useful if there was more control over them too! Obviously during busier periods this perhaps wouldn’t make much difference, as most likely everything would be in use for the majority of the time regardless, but during quieter times it would be really beneficial if the interactive features could be interacted with rather than automatically activated. For example, Benjamin bunny seems to ‘talk’ at you everytime you get close, as do various other things. I’m sure many SEND children would be much more comfortable if they could choose for this to happen and feel able to move about freely without inadvertently setting off noises around them. However, this does not stop Squiggle enjoying this fantastic playground! (Although I suspect it may do for some).
Another part I especially love is Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area. I am not sure why this section, or the rest of the playground, isn’t actually made from more natural materials, rather than just made to ‘look’ that way. I assume this is due to durability and maintenence I would guess but I don’t know. Either way it does have a lovely natural vibe to it that I really like. Counting the rings on the old tree stump to discover the age of the tree is interesting!
We haven’t caught any of the shows yet, although they are on at regular times daily, but we did meet both Peter Rabbit and Lily Bobtail (during two separate visits) which was a massive highlight for Squiggle; she loves character meet and greets!
In addition to the actual adventure playground itself, the Peter Rabbit theme continues in other parts of the farm too; including indoor imaginative play at Cotton-Tail Village and the outdoor assault course Peter Rabbit Woodland Trail.
All in all, Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground certainly adds a brilliant new dimension to the overall Willows Farm experience! Entry into Peter Rabbit Adventure playground is included in the general ticket price for Willows Activity Farm, and the cost of this varies throughout the year. See website for further details, and book online to save!
Today is PDA awareness day so I made this brief info video. Apologies if anyone feels that the video moves along abit too fast and is therefore hard to take it in. If so, this is actually a good demonstration of how the world can feel for someone with sensory processing difficulties, which is often one of the many challenges faced by those with PDA (and other types of autism). Pressing the pause button will help with reading and digesting the information if needed, not as simple in real life!
Hubby attended the PDA Society Parent and Carer Conference 2015 in Northampton today. (PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance, which is a subtype of autism). He came back feeling so inspired and enthusiastic that he even agreed to write a blog post about the day (Hubby does NOT blog and does not usually share feelings so openly; today has clearly had a profound effect on him! 😉 )…
My expectations were blown aside today, my experience was so much more than simply developing my appreciation and understanding of PDA. From the privilege of hearing so many thought provoking messages and hope for the future from Phil Christie, a student and colleague of Elizabeth Newson (I wish he was our Psychologist- he gets my daughter despite having never met any of our family); to the reassurance that- despite all our daily struggles and lack of understanding from so many- WE ARE NOT ALONE; to Neville Starnes and Jane Sherwin’s fantastic presentations. What can I say? Both of them emotionally touched me, their journey’s will stay with me and I know that I wasn’t alone in finding inspiration in their words.
I found the entire day extremely reassuring that there are clinicians as well as parents and carers who truly understand, and can share experiences and guidance. Throughout the day I found myself writing copious amounts of notes… that was until Jane Sherwin’s and Neville Starne’s presentations, when I didn’t lift my pen once. Why was this? It certainly wasn’t because I wouldn’t have wanted to but because both of their stories not only captured my undivided attention but they have given me inspiration that I haven’t felt for years. I wish I had the chance to personally thank them both for sharing their personal roller coaster with all of us. Thank you!
If I had to pick three highlights of the conference it would be a tough choice but I will go with these…
· Jane Sherwin and Neville Starnes talking about their children (although in both cases I had to keep reminding myself that they weren’t actually talking about my daughter!!!)
· Neville Starnes reciting a light hearted blog post on clinical support
· Phil Christie painting a picture of developing understanding in the medical world
Key things from each of the speakers that I will keep with me…
· (PDA is) “like ASD but…”
· Difficult behaviours and need for control is underpinned by significant social exposure anxiety.
Dr Jo Clarke
· Solve the problem not modify the behaviour.
· Understanding comes before helping.
· Problem solving is collaborative and proactive.
· Kids do well if they can… doing well is preferable.
· Family environment- reduced demands (eg safety only), surround only with those who understand.
· You’re only human and its ok if you don’t cope with every situation perfectly.
· Take the lead from your child.
· Masking is different to coping.
· You as the parent are your child’s expert.
· You can take a PDA child to water but you can’t make him wash!!!!
I met so many wonderful people today and left feeling better equipped to support my family on our onward journey and with a new found appreciation for both the challenges my daughter faces every day but the amazing job my wife does as her full time carer. We are all human, but I honestly think that I found someone pretty superhuman. (Thank you Jane for reminding me!)
The theme of the day was what makes us stronger. During the day we had to write on strips of paper what makes us stronger to make a giant paper chain. I wrote on two, the first “my daughter” and the second “my wife”. But if I could write one more link I would add “days like today”.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the end but would like to thank all the presenters, the lovely people I met and the PDA society for not just a well organised conference, but a life enhancing experience. HUGE thanks to everyone involved.