Learning Success System: Review and Giveaway

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

Trigger neuroplasticity

Build confidence

Brain integration

Build grit

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 blog, The Learning Success System, SEND, learning skills, educational resources, home education, homeschool, online education programme, learning difficulties, discount

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!) 

The Learning Success blog, The Learning Success System, SEND, learning skills, educational resources, home education, homeschool, online education programme, learning difficulties, discount

One lucky reader can win a 12 month subscription to The Learning Success System. Enter via rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Competition closes 1st May 2017. Open worldwide. Other T&Cs apply.

*Disclosure: Post contains affiliate links. I was given a free subscription for the purpose of this review and giveaway. 

Pathological Demand Avoidance: World Autism Awareness Day

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.”

The National Autistic Society 2017 

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.

In terms of educational approaches, again The PDA Society website has an excellent educational strategies booklet from Positive PDA available for download here. The Autism Education Trust have also created this PDF document ‘Strategies for Teaching Pupils With PDA’ sponsored by Department for Education.

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.

Pathological Demand Avoidance, PDA, autism, World Autism Awareness Day, The PDA Society, SEND, ASD, ASC, charity, fundraising, events, marathon
Fiona in training for MK marathon

Further Reading:


Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children: A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals by Phil Christie et al

Can I tell you about Pathological Demand Avoidance? by Ruth Fidler and Phil Christie

Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome: My Daughter is NOT Naughty by Jane Sherwin








Sally Cat’s PDA Page

*Please note the Amazon books are affiliate links. This means I get a small referral fee on purchases. It does not cost any extra to the buyer. Thank you for supporting me in this way.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 32 (Jo) 

Today for #100DaysofHomeEd I have a guest post from Jo. Here is her home ed story…

#100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, living life our way, SEND, 100 days of home ed, freedom to learn, guest post, Home Education

I am Jo, single mum to two boys aged 7yrs (T) and 12yrs (C ). I am diagnosed ASD (PDA) and both my children are on the spectrum, one with other complex issues. We have been HEing for 5.5 years, my oldest being removed from school and the youngest never having been. I realised when my oldest son was in reception that the state school provision just wasn’t suited to him or his needs, he was often confused by the interactions there and would be upset for hours after and before school times, yet the school claimed to have no issues. 

As time went on, my son was getting hurt standing up for other children who were being bullied and on one occasion he came home having been hit in the face with a rounders bat and having been given a detention for kicking the child who hit him (the child who hit him went unpunished). After rounds of meetings with head and class teachers talking bout how my son “wouldn’t listen” and finding out just how ‘behind’ he was, as well as being miserable, I started to look for alternatives. I considered a range of ideas including home education, but was concerned I wouldn’t be ‘good enough’ to meet my sons needs due to my own health. The school he was in turned down my proposal for flexischooling so I bit the bullet and  deregistered. 

We have not looked back for a SECOND! I can hand on heart say choosing Home Education has been the absolute best thing we could have done. My child became the happy, bubbly boy he had once been and he (eventually!) began learning; and not just about how to write out sums or reciting poetry but REAL learning……learning about life and happiness. 

We quite quickly realised that our lifestyle and general outlook leans itself to us being unschoolers and we have been that way since the beginning. It is an approach that fits in with my needs and my childrens needs and allows us to be exceptionally flexible about what we all do on a day to day basis to enable us to be happy and healthy. I learnt a lot from the ‘mistakes’ I made in sending my eldest through nursery and school and my younger son did not attend those things but instead has been immersed in the unschooling HE world from being very small. Although he has fairly complex issues he is thriving in a world where he can learn as he needs too and at his own pace, with no pressure or timescales. 

He recently decided to start learning to read and within 2 months has progressed from letter recognition to reading books by Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss; this learning has been entirely self-guided with my input when and as requested. T enjoys flashcards, its been a funny one trying to fathom as his older brother loathed them at school! T likes to do some work with flashcards every night in bed before he reads part of a book, then I read him a story. He currently has 6 packs of various flashcards, most of which contain sight words, and games piled up next to his bed! T also enjoys workbooks when he is in the right mood, he gets great satisfaction from completing them and will choose to use them a couple of times a week. 

This is a distinct difference to his brother who was partly schooled and whom generally has negative feelings about anything that looks like “formal learning” and whom chooses to do a lot of his learning through reading and asking questions, as well as visiting places of interest. Both boys are free to pick and choose what they would like to do and pick and choose how much input they would like me to have with those things, we have no timetable or structured “must haves” in any one day and I have found this has lead to a desire for knowledge in both boys that means they often seek out the answers and problem solve for themselves. 

Both boys enjoy a range of activities which keep us all very busy! We regularly enjoy meeting up with other similar minded Home Edders, many of whom we have become long term friends with and our children have formed close relationships with, as they have similar attitudes and likes, regardless of age. We always find that breaking up our week with trips out is helpful; we all enjoy museums and art galleries, as well as community farms and National Trust. I feel we are privileged to be living in an area of beauty with an abundance of resources on our doorstep from ancient woodland to old railway lines to monuments and a rich local history. 

I may give the impression that Home Ed is all starshine and fairy dust, and for the most part, it is! We all need realistic expectations however, and with two children with additional needs who are both very different, it can be a struggle to effectively balance these needs and ensure that both children are always getting what it is they require in the moment. What I have found is that Home Ed has opened up our relationships and made us a great deal closer, meaning these harder days where one or both children are struggling are not just fewer and further between but that they are not the sort of days that result in anger or upset; instead they involve duvets and hot chocolate with films and hugs. 

I often feel that Home Ed has been a dream come true for us as a family; to have the freedom to pursue our collective and individual talents and abilities in a supportive and calm environment, without the strain and pressure of exams and meeting targets. It has certainly developed who I am as an individual and as a parent, and I also strongly believe it is leading my children to be confident, self-sufficient individuals in their own rights. 

I am often astonished by, and incredibly proud of, my oldest son and his strong moral compass and his underlying desire to help others and propel others forward. He is a genuinely wonderful person whose personal and group achievements speak volumes, and the respect he has from both peers and adults in everything he does is touching and inspiring. Hearing my 7 yr old explain to me why he believes racism is wrong or listening to him being cross about a misunderstanding of feminism on the News report, watching him be passionate and concise about those things he loves and cherishes gives me all the hope that he too will turn into a rather spectacular individual who will be strong, moral and HAPPY. 

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 29 (Favourite Things About Home Educating) 

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.


#100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, Living Life Our Way, 100 days of home ed, freedom to learn, Home Education, crowdsourcing, Q and A

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 AlmaFreedom!!!!

My answerThe freedom and flexibility that home ed allows; being able to go with the flow and adapt to her needs makes all the difference.

Thank you everyone for taking part!

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 24 (Frogotter)

Note: This post was originally written and published as a guest post for my blog back in 2015 and has not been updated. However for the latest news and adventures check out their awesome blog over at www.frogotter.wordpress.com It is full of amazing ideas and activities so pop over and be inspired!!! 

Living Life Our Way, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, freedom to learn, guest post, Home Education, SEND

We have three boys. The older two are adopted and have a range of special needs. The youngest is a toddler. So, our house can be a bit chaotic and loud. Things don’t always go precisely to plan.
We do, however, have a plan. We’re quite structured homeschoolers. Even if days don’t always follow our plan, having a plan there to fall back on gives us some very welcome scaffolding.
When I first took the big boys out of school, I got a little over-excited about experiments, games, trips and groups. They got somewhat overwhelmed. We agreed a compromise. Now our days start with workbooks, which the boys love, then later I can offer projects and trips and we see how it goes.

The boys structure their days around food! They have breakfast as soon as they come downstairs. Eleven o’clock is morning snack. Lunch is at half twelve. Afternoon snack is at half three. We all eat tea together at half six. As they’ve been getting older, the boys have become calmer about the occasional time slippage, so long as no meals or snacks are ever missed.

The big boys do a bit from three workbooks each day. Over a week we have: Maths, English, Science, History, Geography and Programming. My rule is that they must take a break between workbooks of at least ten minutes. They often read during their breaks, or, on a really good day, they might put on a loaf of laundry or read to the toddler.
The toddler is working through some phonics books, with colouring and stickers. He also has fuzzy felt, magnet books and comics for when he wants to do ‘work’ like his big brothers.

On Mondays my mum comes round. We usually go for a walk together, often finishing up with a trip to the library and the park. Once a month, Middly has a youth group meeting in the evening.

On Tuesdays the big boys have a gymnastics lesson with a group of home educated children. While they have their lesson, the toddler plays with some other younger siblings. The gym is quite a drive from our home, so we listen to audio books during the journey. We’ve just finished ‘A Short History of the World’, which I very much enjoyed, so I think we have to hear ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’ next, which the boys all love.

On Wednesdays we have started a Science Club for home educators with a couple of friends. It’s early days, but I am quite excited about it! The boys are enjoying helping out. Middly has made posters and visual aids. Eldest has helped set up demonstration experiments. Both are great at setting up chairs, handing out biscuits and making new children feel welcome. It’s a lot of fun to have a joint project to work on. Then, in the evening, Middly has a church group and Eldest has Scouts. 

On Thursdays my mum takes one of the boys to her house for the afternoon, they take it in turns to visit her, cooking together and helping out in the garden. Eldest also has a tennis club in the afternoon.

On Fridays we go on an outing with a group of home-educating friends. We’ve visited museums, zoos, old houses and woods. 

We don’t do any workbooks at the weekend. On Saturdays Daddy takes the boys out. They take long walks, climb trees, and eat ice cream. I get a bit of time to myself to recharge my batteries and get the ironing done. On Sundays we go to church, the boys play with their friends. We usually spend the afternoon watching a film or playing boardgames together.

Then, we do it all over again!

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 23 (Witts in the Wild)

We never planned as a family to home educate, we always thought Chloe would do the expected and common thing… go to nursery, go to primary and so on,  when Chloe was diagnosed with autism and PDA at the age of 5 we were under the impression she would be given help, but unfortunately due many factors we did not receive very much and after constant pushing and exhausting meetings we felt let down by the system, I was and certainly Chloe was at breaking point. 

A friend of mine was a teacher and now a home educator and I asked for some advice as I was looking into part time school , I joined a few groups online and asked lots of questions. We made the careful decision for our daughter to get her back to her happy self, as she was very, very damaged by mainstream school. I de-registered Chloe and started our home ed journey.

#100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, freedom to learn, guest post, Home Education, SEND, PDA

We have been educating at home for two years now and the transformation in Chloe has been tremendous. Her confidence and capabilities are expanding. We have been careful to choose what works for Chloe, as her PDA prevents her from many experiences and you have to get very creative to get her on board; it’s hard work, it’s exhausting and sometimes a little isolating but at the same time it’s very rewarding, and beneficial for our child and family. 

All of our health has started to improve. Chloe actually eats and drinks more, she also enjoys the outdoors and we try and do something involving nature; we have our own little veg and fruit garden area, and we have had a butterfly garden kit which was very captivating. We have been blessed to have met some great home ed families, and their understanding and support has been lovely.

Each day is not the same, we are very topic-led so we follow Chloe’s interests. We dip into the curriculum but follow our own learning path that suits Chloe’s needs- she is high functioning so sometimes it’s hard keeping up with her; the conversations we have are very amusing and very adult like, and I savour every moment.

What I enjoy is our precious time spent together and our new way of life; when we walk somewhere we will stop smell flowers, identify butterfly species – we are never in a rush to go anywhere. We are not getting fed up of each other which I honestly thought being together would drive us both crazy but to be honest it’s natural, it’s meant to be. Our relationship is alot stronger and my understanding of her ways and what she can cope with grows. She is alot calmer now; happier and less anxious. We still have times that are hard for Chloe to cope with but we can now be flexible to accommodate that.

I had run a creative sewing business for 2 years and had to become flexible and say goodbye to it to focus on her. My hope is that she will learn that she can work for herself too though, and to have a lifestyle of her choosing and have a very happy and content life from her upbringing and support.

Read more about Chloe and her adventures at Witts in the Wild.

Sports Challenge: Celebrating Sports For All

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! 

100 days of sports, childhood unplugged, freedom to learn, Home Education, outdoors, PE, physical development, SEND, sports, Sports Challenge
Athletics track

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. 

100 days of sports, childhood unplugged, freedom to learn, Home Education, outdoors, PE, physical development, SEND, sports, Sports Challenge

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. 

(By the way, if you happen to be looking for a wheelchair vehicle, check out their website bristolstreetversa.com/new-wheelchair-vehicles)

100 days of sports, disability sports, pioneers of disability sports, physical development, SEND, sports, Sports Challenge

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)
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Beach tennis
100 days of sports, childhood unplugged, freedom to learn, Home Education, outdoors, PE, physical development, SEND, sports, Sports Challenge
Beach tennis
  • Cricket
  • Football
  • Foot golf
100 days of sports, childhood unplugged, freedom to learn, Home Education, outdoors, PE, physical development, SEND, sports, Sports Challenge
Foot Golf
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Netball
  • Rounders
  • Sports day (including flat races, relays and fun races e.g. egg and spoon race, beanbag balancing race, sack race etc…)
100 days of sports, childhood unplugged, freedom to learn, Home Education, outdoors, PE, physical development, SEND, sports, Sports Challenge
Sports Day races
  • Table tennis
  • Tag rugby
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball

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!

*This is a sponsored post. 

Why Our Rooms Are #NotCompleteWithout Texture: The Importance of Tactile Input

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. 

Julian Charles, #notcompletewithout, home decor, home environment, interior design, SEND, sensory, sensory processing disorder, tactile, textures

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.

Julian Charles, #notcompletewithout, home decor, home environment, interior design, SEND, sensory, sensory processing disorder, tactile, textures

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.

Julian Charles, #notcompletewithout, home decor, home environment, interior design, SEND, sensory, sensory processing disorder, tactile, textures

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…

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. 

#TimeToTalk Mental Health 

As it is Time To Talk day, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some facts about mental health.

Time To Change, Mental Health, #timetotalk, mental illness, Living Life Our Way

Mental health can affect anyone of any age, at any time. In the UK alone, one in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year. (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001). Furthermore, one in ten children between the ages of one and 15 has a mental health disorder. (The Office for National Statistics Mental health in children and young people in Great Britain, 2005).

People of any age suffering from mental health issues need to be taken seriously and supported by those around them. The stigma that sometimes still exists around this subject in our society must be broken down, because people need to talk openly about mental health problems with the expectation of understanding and acceptance. Sufferers must never feel they have to hide their true feelings from the world, for that is the most dangerous thing of all.

However, as MQ Mental Health research suggests, the majority of young people are not in touch with mental health services and there is a serious lack of funding for such services too. In addition to this, around half of young people with mental illness are concerned about stigma and how they will be treated. This has to change.

As a parent of a child with an anxiety disorder, I know how important it is to talk about this subject and to ensure your child receives the treatment and support they need. Childhood mental health needs to be taken as seriously as adult mental health, and that also should be seen as just as important as any other health issue. But many people believe young children cannot possibly suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues; this is simply not the case. And having a ‘happy childhood’ does not guarantee against it either.

As an article from The Guardian explains “depression (like all mental illnesses) typically doesn’t take personal factors into account. Mental illness can affect anyone….

…Smoking may be a major cause of lung cancer, but non-smokers can end up with it. And a person’s lifestyle doesn’t automatically reduce their suffering. Depression doesn’t work like that…

…Perhaps none of it makes sense from a logical perspective, but insisting on logical thinking from someone in the grips of a mental illness is like insisting that someone with a broken leg walks normally; logically, you shouldn’t do that.”

I’ll leave you from the following message from Jason Manford, written shortly after the death of Robin Williams: 

“If you feel alone and down, anxious and low. If you feel deep sadness but can’t find a root cause. If people tell you to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘things can only get better’ or ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, know that it’s simply not always true. Sometimes it does kill you. Please seek help. No one will think you’re being melodramatic, I swear. No one will think you’re silly or wasting people’s time. No one will say ‘what? But you’re always so happy, maybe you’re just having a bad day’. For some people, every day is a bad day and they get through it, but sometimes they stop getting through it.

If depression can (allegedly) kill Robin Williams, one of the world’s greatest funny men, well it can get any of us at any time. If the Genie from Aladdin can suffer and the DJ in Good Morning Vietnam can be affected by it, then so can you, or your child or friend or work colleague. I always remind myself of the quote from Watchmen: “Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” 

Please. Ask for help. If you have no one or if you don’t want to to tell them yet, then ring Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for someone to talk to, or talk to your GP. The world needs you even if you don’t think it does. I promise, we need you here, now.” (Jason Manford, August 2014)

If you need more information on mental health and/or where you can find help please visit mentalhealth.org.uk 

Spectrum Sunday

Game Play Has No Negative Affect On Children?

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.”

Gaming, negative affects, mental health, behaviour, SEND, parenting childhood, research, living life our way
Stock photo (image not my own)

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.