Cassiobury Park, Watford: Paddling Pools and Splash Park – BRAND NEW 2017

Cassiobury Park in Watford, Hertfordshire has been undergoing a huge restoration project over the last year, thanks to a £6.5 million investment with help from the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery Fund. The transformation includes brand new paddling pools and splash park, which we were keen to check out soon after it opened! 

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There is a main paddling pool and a smaller one, as well as a splash park and various water play features too. It has push button controls suitable for all abilities and seems to be mostly accessible (although we didn’t have any wheelchair users with us). Users can enjoy a variety of sprays and fountains of differing heights and styles, plus paddle in the pools themselves too of course! There is plenty of space both in and out of the water, and a (very) small amount of shaded areas. 

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

There is a sustainable park hub building that includes toilets and changing facilities, as well as a café. The hub also has a community and exhibition room, plus education facilities. For more information about the wonderful transformations that have taken shape at Cassiobury Park, see Watford Borough Council website.

Needlite: Bringing Daylight Indoors 

Needlite are a small, Danish start-up who invented and designed a unique daylight desk lamp, which launched in the Nordic market just under two years ago. The idea is simple: provide the user with efficient work light and provide the much-needed daylight at the same time.

Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

The Needlite has a simple, modern design. It is easy to use, either via the sensor or by downloading the iphone app. One simple touch allows you to turn it on/off, and change the brightness. There are various other functions too. I love how funky and modern it is!

Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

But there are more important benefits to the Needlite. Did you know that many people in western countries spend more than 23 hours indoors per day on average, all year round? That is not enough daylight! Yet humans need daylight for numerous health reasons; including energy, mood, digestion, sleep, recovery from illness etc… General indoor lighting is poor on quality and never contains daylight; the blue wavelength is not present in traditional lighting, which makes Needlite different to other indoor lighting.

Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

So whilst it might not seem very relevant to consider investing in a daylight lamp at this time of year, it is actually beneficial all year round. I am going to be trying it out further over the coming months and will share my thoughts with you in an update post later this autumn, but I can already see how it would be useful!

Needlite is sold in the UK through www.wellworking.co.uk at RRP £399 (although it is currently on sale at £359 at the time of posting). Check the Needlite website for stockists in other countries.

*Disclosure: I was sent the Needlite daylight lamp free for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


What To Look For When Renting/ Top Tips For Landlords #RentalInsights

Recently homelet.co.uk carried out a survey and have found some interesting stats about tenants:

  • Overall 86% of people were either very happy, quite happy or somewhat happy with their landlord or letting agent
  • 75% of people surveyed claimed to be happy with the response to maintenance requests
  • 43.6% of tenancy agreements do not allow pets
  • 12.5% of people surveyed have had their deposit withheld with 39.1% of these down to cleaning and 19.3% down to re-decorating costs

We are long term renters but have also been landlords ourselves too, so we have seen it from both sides of the fence. We have had some poor experiences as tenants, but have also had some very positive ones as well. Over the years, we have rented privately and through letting agents, in house shares, as a couple, and as a family, and have had our homes managed by many different companies along the way. Therefore I am pleased to take part in HomeLet’s #RentalInsights campaign, to share our experiences and top tips!

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Renting as a family (especially with an SEND child) means that our experience, and our priorities, maybe different to other people in some regards. I know that before we started a family, we personally had a very different view on renting, whereas what we look for has shifted now that we are parents. For example, we used to move around every 6 months or so; a scenario we are most definitely very keen to avoid now! We both used to work full time so rarely gave any thought to how much notice we were given or how often access was ‘required’. Infact we were probably pretty quick to complain if things weren’t dealt with very promptly! These days, that is a disruption that we want kept to a minimum and we need flexibility with regards to timings, with as much notice as possible given too.

The top priorities we have when looking for a family rental home, aside from location and so on, are three fold:

Firstly, it must be a long term let. As a family, and especially with an SEND child, long term means years. Many agents consider 6 month contracts to be a long term let, so it is important to clarify what is meant by ‘long term’ for the particular property that you are considering. 

Secondly, we need somewhere that accepts pets. They are part of our family; rehoming them is absolutely not up for consideration. However, as the survey suggests, this reduces our options by roughly half before we can even begin to think about any of the other factors that we need to consider. Sometimes a personal letter to the landlord, an offer of a higher deposit and/ or clauses added to the agreement can help with finding a pet- friendly property.

Thirdly, we look for a suitable landlord/ letting agent. If initial conversations suggest that the attitude of the landlord, or approach to property management, is going to cause us stress and/ or prevent us from feeling like it is our home, we dismiss it. We also ensure that we are upfront about our own circumstances (home educating, SEND child etc…) so that we can find a good match for us. 

renting, letting, landlord, tenant, HomeLet, #RentalInsights, home, property, landlord tips, renting advice
stock image

We have had some totally appalling experiences along the way though, both as a couple and as a family. This includes landlords letting themselves in without warning, agents showing round viewings after we have said it is not a convenient time, drastic rent increases regularly, keeping deposit without justification (prior to the compulsory deposit schemes) and even being evicted in the midst of our child having a health crisis (through no fault of our own; it was simply because they decided to sell). It can quickly turn into a nightmare if you find yourself in a difficult situation, so I recommend both landlords and tenants are clued up on their legal rights and responsibilities at all times. 

The key points we would give to landlords/ agents is to build up enough of a working relationship with your tenants that you understand their personal priorities, and vice versa. Are they the type of tenant who will want every little detail dealt with immediately? Or do they need any essential work done around their schedule? Are they away alot anyway so people letting themselves in (with prior written notice of course!) is irrelevant to them, or are they a homebody who values their privacy and wants to be left alone as much as possible?

The absolute crucial thing to remember is, for the period that they live there, it is the tenant’s home. And most people want, and need, to feel at home. It can be stressful living in a property where you feel like you are just visiting, or are made to feel uncomfortable in any way, and that in turn can affect peoples’ health and wellbeing. So putting yourself in the shoes of your tenant is a must.

Understanding abit about the tenants and their situation, and knowing what matters most to them personally, helps everyone to have a more enjoyable, relaxed and positive experience. 

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post written as part of HomeLet #RentalInsights campaign. 

PDA Awareness Day (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

I wrote about Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) recently as part of World Autism Awareness Day. However, as today is PDA Awareness Day, I couldn’t let the day go by without writing a quick update on the subject!

Firstly, I want to say a huge congratulations to Fiona (my SIL) for successfully running the Milton Keynes marathon at the start of this month. She did amazing and raised a whooping £1290 in aid of the PDA Society. Well done Fi!

Autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance, PDA, SEND, The PDA Society, PDA Awareness Day, Milton Keynes Marathon, charity, fundraising

This is a photo of Squiggle running alongside her for a few metres to cheer her on, I absolutely adore this picture, and check out the message on the back of her top too! (Squiggle was thrilled when she saw it!!!) 

Autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance, PDA, SEND, The PDA Society, PDA Awareness Day, Milton Keynes Marathon, charity, fundraising

The other thing I want to share is PDA Society‘s brand new ambassador…

If you can, please share some info on PDA to help increase awareness and understanding, and/ or change your profile picture to the giant panda logo for today. 

PDA society, PDA panda, pathological demand avoidance, PDA, autism, ASC, SEND

And don’t forget to share this post too! Thank you 🙂

Further Reading:

Books

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

Websites

www.pdasociety.org.uk

www.thepdaresource.com

Blogs

memyselfandpda.com

www.stephstwogirls.co.uk

dinkyandme.wordpress.com

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 – Day 55 (As I Think I Say)

The following is an excerpt written by As I think I Say for the 100 days of home ed challenge. The rest of the post can be found on their blog here, along with more of their home ed adventures.

“A week for us involves work books on maths, English, science, French and for our eldest biology and food technology.  Our youngest goes to forest school, board games group and multi sports. Both are learning an instrument through weekly guitar and keyboard lessons . They attend a weekly workshop where they are working towards Art Award Explore run by Trinity College. Our eldest has skiing lessons and is starting an online photography diploma course. Our youngest does ballet. STEM Science course, book club and  study group just about fill us to capacity. And somehow on top of that our youngest is begging for horse riding lessons as well.”

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 50 (A Welsh Unschooling Journey) 

My name is Emma my son is Jordan but every one knows him as Jay. 

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post
Jay is 17

I’ve home educated since May 2011. My son was failed educationally at school and was 6 yrs behind in Maths and 2 years behind in everything else. He was also very badly bullied and the teachers refused to deal with any of it and in fact on occasion they themselves made fun of Jay. I pulled him out when he was suicidal at age 11. Had I not I firmly believe he would not be alive today.

We are radical unschoolers. We never have a typical day or week, everything is 100% child led, no structure, no timetables, no arbitary rules, no screen limits, no set meal times or bedtimes. He has chosen to sit GCSE exams but they are totally his choice as are any subjects…..he started out looking at 3 for June but dropped it to one exam. He has decided to do another next year.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post

There’s so many highlights it is very hard to pick just one. Jay is disabled plus has a chronic illness and uses a wheelchair. So what may seem insignificant to others would be a major thing to us. Despite being disabled Jay does a lot…..he is a Level 1 golf coach. He volunteers at Hensol Golf Academy at various times through the year and volunteers with Golf Development Wales. 

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post

He was an ambassador and mentor for Swansea Inclusive Futures when it ran, and he is a member of the Golf Development Wales National Youth Panel. He has been a Rhondda Cynon Taf Future Champion for 3 years, he is a Gold Young Ambassador, and he is on the Disability Sport Wales National Youth Board. He has played for the disabled Welsh team 3 years running. He has won awards for all he does for and in disabled golf off The PGA, ISPSHanda, The Golf Foundation Presidents award and more. He was a finalist in the BBC Sport Wales Young Coach of the Year category in their awards in 2015. He has played in ProAms with famous golfers. 

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post
Giving an award at the Golf Union of Wales annual awards at Celtic Manor

He is a total cat whisperer and can tame even a feral cat. He is straight edge by choice so no drink, no fags, no drugs etc… He is totally open to anyone and is anti racism, anti homophobia, anti cruelty of any kind to anyone, etc… He is a huge gamer and has his own You Tube account. He has taught himself to play the electric guitar and taught himself to draw/art. None of this was forced on him, he chose to do whatever he wanted to do, no timetabes, only time we work to a time is for hospital appointments. He has had 5 offers of jobs including at big places where it’s hard to get a job.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post

The best thing about home education is the total freedom and its 100% what fits you and your family not a cookie cutter class room where they are just another kid going through the system. Theres nothing I find difficult about home ed and I never have found anything difficult. 

My biggest advice to other home educators is please don’t just do a school at home with heads in books and strict timetables. Let your kids be kids, let your teens be teens, let them follow passions and interests. Trust them and they will amaze you.

My blog though woefully needs updating is A Welsh Unschooling Journey

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:

Books

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

Websites

www.pdasociety.org.uk

www.thepdaresource.com

Blogs

memyselfandpda.com

www.stephstwogirls.co.uk

dinkyandme.wordpress.com

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.

SamanthaFlexibility!

#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!