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Friday, 17 December 2010

Strategies for Challenging Holiday Situations

Holiday excitement and routine changes can be very difficult for children. This article focuses on three challenging areas families face during the holidays: giving and receiving gifts, managing holiday excitement, and understanding schedule changes.

1. Gift Giving and Receiving – The excitement of getting gifts can be overwhelming for children. Help them understand polite giving and receiving of gifts with these strategies.
Involve Children in Giving – Let children help pick out and wrap gifts. By participating in the gift giving process, children become interested in seeing other people’s reaction to the gift. Even young children can choose between two gifts, put a bow or tape on the wrapping paper, and decide where the gift should go under the tree.

Practice Receiving – Role play receiving a gift and thanking someone for it. Make writing thank you cards part of your family routine so children understand how to thank people politely for presents.
2. Holiday Energy – Holiday events often mean sweet foods and late bedtimes. Use the strategies below to manage energy levels and make bedtime successful.
Keep Children Active – Sledding, walking, and playing games outside during the day can help children use their energy in a healthy and positive way. Keep children active during the day so they will be tired at night making bedtime easier.

Limit Sweets – Candy, cookies, and soda are prevalent during the holidays. These foods are high in sugar and caffeine. They cause children to be overly active and make falling asleep difficult. Set rules about how much and when these foods can be consumed and provide healthy alternatives.

Stay on a Sleep Schedule – Even when children are not in school, a consistent sleep schedule is important. Have children wake up and go to bed at a regular time. Plan morning events such as holiday shopping to motivate children to wake up and get ready for the day.
3. Holiday Schedule Changes – Many children benefit from consistent routines and have difficulty with change. Make holiday schedule changes less stressful with these simple tips.
Use Visuals – Have a holiday calendar that lists events in writing, drawing, or picture format depending on the child’s level. Refer to the calendar to prepare children for the day’s events and help them understand what is going on and when.

Involve Children – Let children add new events to the calendar. If there are important events the family must attend, explain why attending is important. If there are events that are debatable, include children’s input in decisions about attending the event.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

8 Ways to Make Outings Less Stressful

1. Set expectations - Be sure to let kids know what to expect. Clearly tell kids, “We are going to the doctor. We will wait in the office and then Dr. Klein will see you. I will be with you if you are afraid or have any questions.” If you are doing more than one thing, let the child know, “We are going to the store, the post office, and then the park.”

2. Provide support for the child to be successful - Some children benefit from having information in writing or in a drawing format. Reading stories in advance that discuss what is going to happen can reduce anxiety. Images from stories including Success Stories provide a way for children to see what is expected of them. Use illustrations and/or words during an event to reassure children.

3. Involve kids in planning the day - Often children are told what to do and have little ownership in decisions. Letting kids make a few choices in an outing helps them feel they are a part of the process. For example, let the child pick which errand the family does first.

4. Praise kids for a job well done - As you go through the day, be sure to reinforce kids for listening, following directions, and being kind to others. This shows children they get more attention for following the rules and routines than for breaking them.

5. Update kids regarding schedule changes - Schedule changes are likely to happen on a regular basis. When changes occur, let kids know what the change is and how it will affect their plans. For example, “James, the library is not open. We will still go to Aunt Jen’s but we will go to the library tomorrow.”

6. Plan for delays - Rarely do things go exactly as planned. Prepare for basic concerns such as hunger, boredom, and delays by packing snacks and portable activities like games or books. Make sure to have a back up plan if restaurants or stores are busy.

7. Let kids be involved - Children are less likely to break rules if they are busy. When you are shopping have the kids help you locate groceries. If you are in the doctor’s office have the child help you fill out the forms by eliciting their responses to simple questions like name, address, etc.

8. Be consistent - If you create a reward system where the child earns something for doing X, Y, and Z or a promise is made for the child to get something after going to the store, be consistent. If you say, “You get to play your game when we get home if ….” be sure to reinforce them only if they actually accomplished their goal. When children are given mixed messages about rewards, the inconsistency can lead them to expect rewards when they have not met their end of the deal. Although it may be difficult at first, children will quickly learn you mean what you say if you hold your ground.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A Message from Kate McCann

There are several different reasons as to why I finally came to the decision with my husband Gerry to write and publish a book. This decision has not been an easy one. Many factors needed to be given thorough and careful consideration, not least the impact of such a book on the lives of our three children. My reason for writing is simple; to give an account of the truth.

Publishing this book has been a very difficult decision and is one that we have taken after much deliberation and with a very heavy heart. However, in the last few months with the depletion of Madeleine’s Fund, it is a decision that has virtually been taken out of our hands.

Every penny we raise through its sales will be spent on our search for Madeleine. Nothing is more important to us than finding our little girl.

We are hopeful that this book may help the investigation to find Madeleine in other ways too. Our hope is that it may prompt those who have relevant information (knowingly or not) to come forward and share it with our team. Somebody holds that ‘key piece of the jigsaw’.

Bill Scott-Kerr, Publisher at Transworld, bought the book from the Christopher Little Literary Agency for publication in Spring 2011. All royalties will be donated directly to Madeleine’s Fund – Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited.

Bill said: ‘It is an enormous privilege to be publishing this book. We are so pleased to be joining Kate and Gerry McCann in the Find Madeleine campaign."

The McCanns' Literary Agents, Christopher Little and Neil Blair, said: "We are honoured to be part of this emotive project and to support the McCanns in their search for Madeleine."

Thank you for your continued support.


Friday, 12 November 2010

Child with autism connects with Kinect

When Kyle's father got Xbox's motion control system, he had no idea it would be a breakthrough for his boy
Four-year-old Kyle, who suffers from autism, found the gesture-based Kinect gaming system easier to use than those that require button-based controllers.
John Yan reviews games for a site called Gaming Nexus, so despite his initial lack of enthusiasm in the Xbox 360 Kinect motion controller, he knew he'd have to buy one when they came out. After all, it wouldn't be fair to dump all the Kinect reviews on his fellow writer, Chuck.
So last weekend, John and his four-year-old son Kyle went to Target to pick one up. Kyle is autistic, and has had trouble with video games, but his dad says that he always wants to try, and to keep practicing despite the potential for frustration. The controller is a barrier for Kyle. It's hard for him to master the complicated (and seemingly unrelated) button combinations required by traditional game consoles.
So when the Kinect was set up and the included title, Kinect Adventures, was loaded up, Kyle asked to give it a try. "What proceeded to happen was pretty amazing," John wrote on his site.
Playing a ball game, Kyle "jumped around and flailed his arms and legs in trying to punch the balls back to the blocks." When the game ended, John got an additional surprise: with just a little initial instruction, Kyle could navigate the game's menus like it was second nature.
When I called John for an interview, he told me that Kyle didn't have a severe case. "We're fortunate that he expresses some emotions," said John. But the family still faces challenges. "His issue is communication and comprehension. He didn't start talking until very late."
John tells me that he's thrilled when he experiences any breakthrough with Kyle, such as when they're riding in a car and Kyle explains the difference between two objects or concepts, or explains his motivations, why he does or doesn't want to do something. "You really pay special attention to any small signs of progress," John wrote.
So the breakthrough with the Kinect was particularly touching, especially after having tried with the Wii, with less successful results. "We tried a couple of games, especially racing games like Mario Kart, but he'd just get stuck," John told me. "But with Kinect he just put up his hand and knew where to go."

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Helping Children Cope with Stressful Situations

Children can feel stress at home or school and it can take a toll on them. Help children learn to reduce and cope with stress by using these strategies.

1. Identify Causes - If the cause of the stress isn’t easily identifiable, keep a journal and write down times when the child is anxious or upset to determine patterns. Are there sleepless nights before a math test? Do they look anxious before going on the playground? Use these patterns to pinpoint the activities and situations that may be stressful for the child.

2. Discuss or Write About the Situation – Once you identify what is causing the stress, discuss or help children write about why it is stressful. For example, if they are stressed before every math test, they may fear getting a bad grade or feeling helpless. Write a list of things they can do to be proactive and reduce stress. In this example, they can study more, ask the teacher if they have a question, or know they are trying their best. Developing proactive strategies is a way to feel more in control of the situation and reduce stress. Some situations will always be stressful, but often children think about the worst-case scenario rather than a realistic consequence. Children also may not realize other people also find the situation stressful. By discussing their feelings, the most likely outcome of the situation, and the fact that other people also experience stress, children’s fears and feelings of loneliness may be decreased. Additionally, the simple act of talking or writing about something stressful or scary can help children feel better.

3. Reduce Opportunities for Stress – Some stressful situations are avoidable. For example, if soccer practice is stressful for a child because they don’t enjoy the game and aren’t very good at it, find another activity that is a better fit with their interests and abilities.

4. Find Ways to Relieve Stress – People of all ages feel stress and learning to cope with it in a positive way is a lifelong lesson. When a situation is stressful, sometimes taking a break is helpful. Give children a place to go and collect their thoughts before returning to the group. Teach them to say, “I need a break,’ or ‘Please give me a minute.’ Use physical fitness as a way to channel energy in a positive manner. Taking a walk, running, jumping rope, or playing catch can help children release tension and stress. If a child can’t leave the setting, a stress ball is an easy to carry tool.

5. Prepare Children for New Situations – Often new situations are stressful for children. Read stories, write about, and discuss upcoming events to prepare children and set expectations. Encourage them to ask questions and let them know how a new event or change will affect them. Preparing for activities in advance can make the situation easier such as visiting a new school or sending a letter to the aunt and uncle they will visit.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Message from Gerry McCann

Dear Friends and Supporters,

As I write, it is exactly three and a half years since our daughter Madeleine was so cruelly taken from us. Three and a half years without her seeing her brother, her sister, her Mummy, her Daddy or her best friends.

We are still searching for her. Our small team continues to review all available information, even though we STILL don’t have access to ALL of the information that the UK and Portuguese authorities have. Our team has interviewed hundreds of witnesses, received over 1000 calls, dealt with over 15,000 emails and maintained a computerised database of all information they have received. Despite the difficulties resulting from lack of official assistance, they ‘follow up’ all new leads to try and get fresh information into the investigation.

It is incredible to think that for the last two years and three months NO police force has proactively been doing anything to help us find Madeleine. Crucially, there has been NO formal review of the material held by the police authorities - which is routine practice in most countries, and especially when a key piece of the ‘jigsaw’ may have been overlooked.

We have tried in vain to get the authorities to play their part but our requests have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. It is simply not acceptable that they have, to all intents and purposes, given up on Madeleine. We need the authorities to do more.

However we know we are not alone. We have the tremendous support of family, friends and of course you the public. A lot of this support comes in the form of people saying to us ‘if there’s anything we can do, just let us know or ‘I’d like to help but I don’t know how’. To these people, and indeed yourself, my plea is simple:

We need your support to continue to lobby the British and Portuguese Governments to undertake a joint or independent review of Madeleine’s case.

How can you do this?

Simply visit: and sign the petition to call on the UK and Portuguese authorities to conduct an independent and transparent review of all information in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine. And in turn, please spread the word and encourage as many others to do the same. Together we can, and will pull all of the loose ends of Madeleine’s case together and find her.

Thank you.

Looking for our daughter is not without significant cost.

Another way you can show your support is by continuing to help us fund the search for Madeleine.

To carry on searching for Madeleine and to ensure that the process has continued in a meaningful and proactive way, we have been able to utilise the generous donations paid in to Madeleine’s Fund by the general public, libel damages paid to ourselves and our friends and money raised through a variety of fund-raising efforts. The fund has allowed;
• Our investigation team of ex-police officers to operate and conduct enquiries in the UK, Portugal and further afield.
• A Portuguese assistant/translator.
• A 24 hour telephone line with translators to receive information from the public
• Media liaison in Portugal and the UK to ensure that we convey the simple factual messages: there is absolutely no evidence that Madeleine has been physically harmed; we must keep looking for her and those who took her.
• Awareness campaigns in Portugal, Spain and further afield.
• Website hosting and development and social network site campaigns to raise awareness through the internet
• A part-time campaign coordinator
As I write this letter, if Madeleine’s Fund remains as it is, with the current rate of expenditure, it will run out in Spring 2011. This would essentially mean that any kind of proactive search for Madeleine would cease. So again we need your help. If you can, please consider donating to Madeleine’s fund at
• £1 pays for the multi-lingual call centre availability for 1 hour
• £2 per month pays for 12 travel packs that are distributed to holidaymakers going all over the world
• £10 pays for 1000 posters that are translated and distributed across the world.
• £25 pays for the access to a 24 hour multi-lingual telephone service for 1 day
• £50 pays for the running costs of investigation office (and staff) for 2 hours
• £420 pays for 10,000 multi-lingual prayer cards for Madeleine, with photograph and contact details

Someone knows what has happened to Madeleine. We simply need to reach that person. We need to obtain that key piece of information, that ‘missing piece of the jigsaw’. One call may be all we need to find Madeleine and who took her.

Our little girl is now seven years old; innocent, vulnerable and waiting to be found. Please, please sign the petition and help us to find her.

Gerry McCann

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Students For Madeleine

Students, don't forget, if you are going away this Christmas Madeleine McCann still needs your help. Click on the link bottom right of this blog to see how you can help in the search to find her.
Thank you

How ADHD forced my son out of school

If your child has been diagnosed with 'behavioural problems' choose their secondary school carefully, warns Rebecca Harvey.

Exclusion from school is something every parent dreads. Hearing the words, “We would like you to remove your son at the end of this term”, was certainly one of the worst moments of my life.
Dan was starting his second year at an exclusive independent boys’ school and had behavioural problems. In fact, he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) although this had not been formally diagnosed at the time. We knew all along that there was more to his behaviour than simply being “bad”. The school chose to ignore this. They were, in my opinion, prepared to let him destroy himself simply to protect their position in the league tables.

With the independent schools’ open-day season now under way, I would advise the parents of prospective pupils who fall into the same category as my son, or who have already been diagnosed with ADHD, to choose carefully. As we were to discover, the consequences of not doing so can be damaging for both the child and their family.
ADHD is a recognised medical condition affecting up to 5 per cent of all school-age children, with more boys affected than girls. Scientists believe that it is caused by an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters – chemicals that allow the cells of the central nervous system to communicate – and those afflicted find it hard to concentrate, stay still for long, or restrain their impulses. Recent research showing, for the first time, direct evidence of a genetic link, is helping to disprove assumptions that this condition is merely “naughtiness”.
Dan had sailed through his entrance exam and the interview, and arrived at the school in September 2007. We were proud and excited, thinking a big sporty school perfect for him. There had been some behavioural problems at his state-funded primary school – he could be over-boisterous and sometimes aggressive in the playground – but there was no question about his intellectual ability. He was also an exceptional athlete, and soon in the rugby first team at his new school.
His half-term reports were worrying, however. While some teachers clearly enjoyed teaching Dan, others complained about his behaviour. He would call out impulsively during lessons and fidget in class. His homework was often incomplete and messy. In spite of this, he did well in tests and had a wide group of friends.
He was difficult at home, too: he couldn’t settle to homework and had trouble getting to sleep. Yet there was no deliberate mischief in Dan’s activities; he often apologised for letting us down.
A few weeks into the start of Dan’s second year, we were called to a meeting with the deputy head, shortly after our son had been given a one-day suspension for fighting with another boy. I said that my husband and I were convinced that there were underlying reasons for his behaviour, and the deputy head promised to recommend an educational psychologist who could see Dan.
By now, we were wondering if ADHD could be causing Dan’s problems. I wrote a letter to the deputy head the following day, asking for details of the psychologist. A reply never came. When I tried to follow this up, the head of year suggested Dan should visit the school’s counsellor. We agreed to this, though he had tried this previously at the school’s request but it had not helped. We trusted the school, believed it wanted to help our son, and felt we should co-operate.
From this point, things spiralled quickly downward. Dan’s meetings with the school counsellor had no impact. He had twice been suspended for fighting, which officially meant that he was on his last chance. Over the next few weeks, there were increasingly frequent small incidents: detentions for missed homework and minor complaints about his behaviour. Dan himself withdrew and appeared frightened. We could not get through to him.
Looking back, I feel this large, highly regarded school was surely well equipped to tell the difference between children who maliciously disrupt school life, and those, like Dan, who cannot help themselves. But the school was not prepared to recognise ADHD, even though it qualifies for Special Educational Needs (SEN), which its terms and conditions promise to provide for. Instead, the school let Dan down – badly: a talented, exuberant child on arrival in school, had become an unhappy, failing student.
We were invited to another meeting in early December 2008. “It’s nothing to worry about,” the head of year reassured me over the phone. Two days later, as we sat in his office, the deputy head asked us to remove Dan at the end of term. “If he does one more thing, I will expel him,” he threatened.
We took him out two days later, not daring to leave him there a moment longer. On his last day, he played in a rugby match, scored a try and the team won. It was expulsion, by another name. The boys in his year group launched a “Save Dan” campaign on Facebook; Dan himself kept apologising to us.
As soon as he left, we sought medical help. Within weeks, Dan was formally diagnosed with ADHD by a consultant paediatrician at our local hospital, and examined by a neurologist.
Contrary to recent media opinion, a child does not easily qualify for this diagnosis. Dan’s personal and medical history was meticulously investigated, and detailed questionnaires on all aspects of his behaviour completed by us and three teachers from the school. He ranked high on the scale, with eight out of nine behaviours classic in ADHD. He was assigned a specialist ADHD nurse and prescribed the drug, Ritalin, to help his concentration and control impulsivity. He has also had a course of therapy with a psychologist from our local authority’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.
The school dismissed our appeal against Dan’s removal in January 2009, even though, by that stage, we had a preliminary diagnosis. We tried local state schools for Dan, but the good ones were full. Private specialist schools, mostly for boarders, were too expensive.
For a long time, Dan’s self-esteem was low, his bubbling confidence gone. It was distressing to see a child you love in such despair; by now, he had lost months at school, as well as more than a stone-and-a-half in weight. He looked gaunt and sad: it broke my heart. Finally, in September 2009, Dan obtained a place at a private school, with smaller classes and an SEN department with full-time staff. The school was well aware of his condition.
Nearly two years after being excluded, Dan’s behaviour is not perfect but it has greatly improved. He gets on well with the staff, and has learnt to trust them. His teachers take simple steps to help him, checking his notes taken in class and keeping in touch with us by email. I feel Dan is finally getting the education he deserves.
Many parents choosing a private school are reluctant to burden their child with a diagnosis of ADHD because of the stigma attached, but if the condition is identified and treated early, a child can be helped to achieve his or her potential. In the state sector, ADHD is recognised although getting the right help can be a slow process. Private schools, however, which deny its existence do untold damage to vulnerable youngsters.
All names have been changed

Halloween: Preparing Children for Trick or Treating

Dressing up to go trick or treating is very exciting for children and it creates lasting memories for both children and parents. Help children prepare for trick or treating with these five strategies.
1. Select a Costume – Help children select a costume that fits properly and is safe. Children may be uncomfortable with anything on their face especially make up. Some children may not like masks because of sensory issues or limited vision. Keep these factors in mind when selecting an outfit. For children who have difficulties with masks, holding a mask rather than wearing it or not using one at all may make the evening more enjoyable.
2. Set Costume Guidelines – Children often want to wear their costume other times than trick or treating. Let them know if/when they can wear it besides trick or treating. Be sure to tell them this before they buy the costume and after it is purchased. Explain why they can wear the costume only at certain times. For example, “You can put it on in the evening for a few minutes to see how you look, but you can only wear it for a little while so it doesn’t get dirty before Halloween.”
3. Practice Going to People’s Doors – Role play going to someone’s door, saying “Trick or treat,” holding a bag out, and saying “Thank you.” Remind children to be polite, wait their turn, and take only one piece of candy when they are asked to
select something. It is tempting to rush to a door and take a handful of things when offered a basket or bowl to select from so multiple opportunities for review are important. Be sure to practice other things that may happen such as someone not
being home or someone complimenting them on their costume.
4. Establish Guidelines in Advance – Prepare children for factors such as: What time trick or treating starts and ends; How they know when it ends; Where they can trick or treat (e.g. only houses with lights on, only people the child knows, only homes in a four street radius, etc.); and What the rules are such as staying with a sibling or parent. Be sure to review these guidelines days in advance with a story, visual cards, or written rules. Before trick or treating, review them again so children clearly understand expectations.
5. Set sweet Guidelines– Children become very excited about getting sweets and other treats while trick or treating. Set rules in advance about eating candy. Let children know before trick or treating that they need to bring all of the sweets back for you to check before they can eat it. Make sure children have dinner before trick or treating so they are not hungry. Have guidelines about the number of pieces they can eat per day and create a schedule for when they can eat their sweets.
Display the sweet plan where they can easily look if they have questions.

Fun Feelings Activities

Recognizing your own feelings and identifying the feelings of others are foundation skills for developing more involved social skills such as learning to cope with feelings and responding appropriately to the feelings of others.
1. Provide Multiple Examples: Feelings can be difficult to teach because they are expressed in a variety of settings, have many synonyms, and involve understanding subtle clues. In order to teach identification of emotions, provide examples in different settings through stories, pictures, videos, reallife experiences, and role play.
2. Show Feelings are Important: Children need to understand that it is okay to talk about and express feelings. Demonstrate this by asking children how they feel, sharing your feelings, and discussing how you cope with your feelings and respond to the feelings of others.
3. Use Natural Opportunities: When reading, watching movies, or in real-world situations, look for opportunities to discuss feelings. If the child is upset, use this as an opportunity to teach appropriate responses and coping strategies. For example, “Josh, I know you are angry that you have to leave the playground. Take 3 deep breaths to calm your body then join the class in line.” If another child is upset demonstrate how to handle the situation. For example, “Alex is upset. Let’s see if we can help him.”
4. Set Time Aside to Practice: Just as math and reading require practice so do social skills. Take a few minutes during the day to work on social skills. Since children may be overwhelmed by feelings it is important to practice expressing and responding to feelings when they are calm.
Role Play: Below are a few games that include role play of emotions.
• Have children select a feelings word or emotions card and act out the feeling on the card.
• Have children select a feelings word or card and role play when they felt this way.
• Put children in pairs. Have one child pick a feeling and act it out. The other child responds to the first child’s feelings.
Discuss Feelings: Show children pictures or drawings of facial expressions or scenes demonstrating feelings. Ask the following questions:
• How does the character feel?
• How do you know how the character feels? For example, they are smiling/frowning.
• When have you felt this way?
• What would you do if a friend felt this way?
• What do you do when you feel this way?
Use Art and Literacy: The arts provide a different way to think about feelings. They allow children to see the details of specific emotions and experience the look and feel of the emotion through a different medium. Art activities include:
• Have children draw a facial expression or scene showing a feeling.
• Have children write a story about a time they felt a certain way and what they did about it.
• Create a feelings book. On each page have a drawing of a feeling and a short sentence, “I feel sad/happy/scared when….” Keep each child’s book in the literacy center.
• Focus on a feeling by having a book specifically about the feeling that includes when the child feels this way and what coping strategies to use for managing the emotion.

Teaching Conversational Skills

Conversational skills build a foundation for developing friendships, cooperating with other people, and communicating effectively with people in every aspect of life. Although the art of conversation is difficult to address, below are some strategies for teaching basic conversational skills.
1. Model Skills – Children learn from watching other people and then practicing skills. Role play is a fun and extremely effective way to teach skills because it lets children learn from examples. During role play model an appropriate greeting or conversation. Let children see how questions are asked and answered and how people remain on topic. Keep the ‘skits’ short and simple at first to establish the basic skills then expand on them later.
2. Practice Small Steps - Just like any other skill, social skills need to be broken into smaller steps and practiced repeatedly. Role play greetings by teaching the child to say, “Hello” and then expand to, “Hello, how are you?”
3. Multiple Phrases, Settings, and People – Conversational skills should be developed with a variety of people, phrases, and novel settings. To promote generalization of skills, introduce different questions and wording when role playing such as: “Good morning,” “Hello,” and “Hi there!” By doing this, children learn there are various greetings and responses. Since conversations occur throughout the day with
different people, recruit people in the school or community to help the child practice. Ask the crossing guard or librarian to engage the child in a conversation that incorporates the skills being practiced.
4. Remember Body Language – When practicing conversational skills, be sure to include key skills such as personal space (approximately an arm’s length is considered appropriate in the United States), body language, and facial cues. These unspoken aspects of conversation are often extremely difficult for children to grasp and should be included in role play and instruction.
5. Ways to Reduce Repetition – Children frequently learn saying hello or asking someone their name is part of a conversation, so they may repeatedly incorporate these phrases in the same conversation. One way to practice saying something only once is to hold up a finger as a visual cue during role play. For example, if there is a question or phrase that should only be used once, hold up a finger during
conversational practice time. After the child asks the question put your finger down. This is a cue that the child already has asked the question. After the child has used this cue successfully a number of times, practice without the visual cue and then praise them for remembering to ask the question only once.
Another strategy is to have the child keep a hand (preferably the left hand if you are teaching them to shake hands) in their pocket with one finger pointed. After they ask their favorite question, have them stop pointing or stop pointing and remove their hand from their pocket. This allows the child to remind themselves they used this phrase or question and other people are not able to see this personal cue.
6. Praise and Review - Praise children for greeting people, using a phrase once, or ending a conversation appropriately. Often it is best to praise children during role play or after the child is away from other people to avoid embarrassing them. To reinforce the skill, be sure to review what they did correctly. For example, “I like the way you asked Mr. James if he was having a nice day only once.” If a novel situation occurs naturally, role play it later and use it as a learning experience.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Teaching Children to Understand and Respond to Feelings

Teaching Children to Understand and Respond to Feelings
Children often struggle not only with understanding their feelings, but also relating
to other people’s feelings. These skills are critical for personal well being and building relationships. This article includes steps for teaching children to understand and manage their feelings as well as identify and respond to other people’s feelings.
1. Identifying Feelings – Teach children to recognize when they have a specific feeling. Whether happy, sad, or angry the first step in coping with a feeling is identifying it. Help children identify feelings by discussing emotions when they
occur. If a child is angry say, “I see you are angry. You have your arms crossed and are stomping your feet.” Another tool is to role play times when specific emotions surface. Use novel examples as well as recent experiences for the child. Discuss and write about different feelings in a feelings journal. Use the journal to write about events and the emotions, responses, and consequences the events elicited.
2. Planning for Strong Feelings – Help children cope with intense feelings by creating coping strategies. Have a quiet place for children to take a break when angry or sad. Give children tools and teach them how and when to use them such as a stress ball or a trampoline. These tools help children release energy in a positive way. Encourage children to use words or write about their feelings. Establish a phrase the child can use to remove themselves from stressful or upsetting situations. The phrase gives children a way to politely excuse themselves, regain control, and then return to the situation. Select a short phrase that can be used in a variety of
situations such as, “Excuse me. I need a minute to think.”
3. Recognizing Other People’s Feelings – Learning to empathize with other people and respond appropriately to another person’s feelings, is an important skill for building relationships. Show pictures and drawings or role play situations to discuss the words, body language, and experiences that indicate a person’s feelings. When discussing a child’s own feelings, incorporate the concept that peers and adults have similar feelings in the same situation. This helps children develop empathy. Read stories where characters experience events that are happy, sad, surprising, or frustrating. Discuss why the characters felt the way they did and what they said or did to indicate their feelings.
4. Responding to Other People’s Feelings – Not only do children have to identify other people’s feelings, but they also need to learn how to respond when someone is angry, sad, or excited. Teach children appropriate responses through role play and reviewing past events. Discuss how different people in the role play feel, how their body language and words show their feelings, and the best response for the situation. Also discuss how the child would feel if this happened to them and how they would like other people to respond. This helps children learn to empathize with other people.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

End of Summer Activities to Prepare for the School Year

The start of the school year is an exciting time but the transition back to school can be stressful for many children. Help children prepare for the new school year with these helpful strategies.
1. Review Skills and Goals – Review school reports and goals and document progress towards goals. If teachers and therapists provided activities or ideas to address skills, take the time to focus on these prior to school starting. Even small reminders about skills can help prepare children for addressing these in the classroom.
2. Take Advantage of Natural Learning Opportunities - Use natural opportunities to address a wide range of skills such as asking a child to help count silverware while setting the table (counting skills) or asking them to read directions while cooking (reading skills). By keeping a child’s goals top of mind, natural learning opportunities can be easily identified.
3. Use a Calendar for Visual Reminders – Many children benefit from visuals. Mark important events leading up to the start of school on the calendar. Examples of activities to put on the calendar are the first day of school, shopping for school clothes, and buying school materials. Discuss how many days are left until each event and have children participate in planning by helping write shopping lists and decide where to shop.
4. Return to a Schedule – Summer breaks often are not very structured. Start getting back into a routine so children are more prepared for the school year schedule. Sleeping, eating, brushing teeth, bathing, and bedtime rituals are examples of activities typically scheduled at set times in a child’s routine. Work on a
consistent schedule to help transition back to school.
5. Use Art and Literature - Have children draw, make collages, or
paint things they remember about the previous school year. Have
them write about or discuss what things they like about school and
what they are looking forward to in the new school year. Use these
memories as visuals to discuss returning to school.
6. Play with Friends from School – Some children regularly see classmates over the summer while others only see school friends during the school year. Schedule play dates or host a classroom party to help children become re-acquainted with each other.
7. Enjoy the Rest of the Break – Although planning for the school year is important, make the most of the last few days of summer. Create lasting memories by going on picnics, attending community events, and taking advantage of extra family time. Take pictures to remind children of summer experiences and create a ‘Summer Memory’ book to encourage communication and language. This is a perfect item for show and tell at the start of the school year.

Activities for Summer Break

Summer is a much needed break for many children and families. Make the most of summer by helping children have fun while learning new things. The ideas below are for children of all ages and include suggestions for both the home and the community.
1. Enjoy the Weather – Many communities have swimming lessons, group sports, or one-day neighborhood events. Encourage children to participate in these activities so they make new friends, learn new sports, and stay healthy. If children are ambivalent about trying something new, let them join with a friend. Children may be more interested in an activity if one of their friends is on their team or in their swimming group.
Doing outdoor activities is a great way to spend quality time with your children and show the importance of physical fitness. Make evening walks or bike rides part of your routine. Besides doing physical activities outdoors, learn to simply enjoy the nice weather by having picnics or sitting outside to read or have a snack.
2. Explore Creative Opportunities – There are many free websites with printable games, coloring pages, and ideas for simple art activities. These easy and free resources are fun for children. To locate activities, search the internet using keywords like ‘children’s art activities’ or ‘children and art’. Additionally, many art supply stores, arts centers, children’s museums, and home improvement stores offer free or low-cost one day clinics. The classes usually appeal to children of a wide age range and are offered on a regular basis. Don’t forget to check activities in your community center. Many community centers offer singing, acting, or music classes to help children of all ages explore their creative side.
3. Invite Friends to Play – Plan play dates for children. Besides having fun while playing, children develop important social skills by spending time together. When planning a play date, have a variety of fun games and activities handy to encourage children to interact instead of watching television. Rain or very hot weather can prevent children from playing outside so be sure to have board games, cards, and other indoor activities handy in case they can not go outside. Simple games are not only fun for children, but they teach important skills such as turn taking, sharing, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
4. Complete Projects Together – Projects such as planting a garden, planning a summer party, or researching ideas for the family vacation are exciting summer activities. Include children in your projects to teach them time management, responsibility, and life skills. If you are planting a garden, children can learn about plants, water them regularly, and pick fruits and vegetables. If you are planning a party, kids can help make invitations, plan the menu, or prepare the food. If you are planning a family vacation, show children guide books and maps and let them help plan different events for the vacation. Children like to spend time with adults and work with them on projects. These activities will engage children and teach them valuable skills while giving you a little extra help.
5. Read More – Encourage reading for enjoyment by including reading activities in your routine. Local libraries often have story time for preschoolers and a variety of other learning activities for elementary aged children. If your local library does not have these programs, have fun at the library by browsing and checking out books with your children. Also, check your local book stores for children’s program. They
frequently have similar story times and fun programs.

Friday, 16 July 2010

How to Help Children Retain Skills over the Summer Break

Children often have a hard time retaining skills during the summer break. Many parents enroll children in summer school or extended school year, but this often is an abbreviated and less structured version of the school day. Even when children are educated at home, summer often involves routine changes. Since many children rely on consistent instruction, these changes can result in regression. This article includes strategies for preventing regression and teaching new skills.
1. Know What Skills to Work On - To prevent regression know what skills your child is working on and their current functioning level. Be sure to review their school progress reports, IEP (if applicable), and information from their teacher on summer reading and work. For children working on self-care, independence, or behavior skills, take data on their current progress. Be sure to ask their teachers and
therapists what skills they are working on and exactly where they stand.
2. Find Opportunities to Practice Skills - Many skills can be integrated into a daily routine. Dressing, self-care, and behavior naturally occur during the day. Take time to use these natural occurrences as learning opportunities. For example, help your child as needed to put on their shoes rather than doing it for them. It may take longer for them to do the skill on their own, but it teaches them the steps they need to be more independent. Academic skills also can be integrated into a daily routine. Have children help with any math related problems and involve them in reading. For
example, if you have a family picnic and 4 cousins, 3 aunts, 3 uncles, and 2 grandparents will be there, have your child help you count the number of cupcakes you need to bring. If you are baking the cupcakes, work on literacy skills by having your child read the recipe to you. Counting and fractions can be developed by gathering and measuring the ingredients. Children can work on motor skills by cutting butter, stirring ingredients, and pouring the batter into the tin. For children who need direct instruction, schedule a time during the day specifically to work on skills.
3. Build on Existing Skills - When children master a skill continue to review it, but also expand on skills. For example, if your child is mastering their current list of sight words, be sure to add additional words and phrases to their skill set. If they are able to count all the spoons the family has when helping to empty the dishwasher, add a serving spoon or two and teach them to count a little higher. Build on skills one step at a time so they are successful, enjoy learning, and do not become frustrated.
4. Appreciate Small Steps – It can be very frustrating for parents and professionals when children learn slowly or take a step backwards. Try to remember some skills take awhile for children to acquire. Sometimes children need additional examples of the skill or a new approach for instruction. Recognize that children become frustrated as well and teach them to be persistent and patient.
5. Realise It Is Summer – When children have different educational programs,
therapies, and activities, it can be easy to forget summer break is also for elaxing. Although working on skills is important, be sure to enjoy the fun things summer has to offer. Enroll kids in swimming lessons, summer camp, tennis class, or just let them play outside. These kinds of activities are a way to stay healthy, learn new skills, and make new friends.

Strategies for Teaching Children to Make Good Choices

Choice is a big part of people’s lives. We decide daily what to wear, what to do, and how to treat people. Teaching children how to make good choices is critical for independence and self-control. This article focuses on a variety of strategies for teaching choice making.
1. Allow Children to Make Choices - Often it is easier to choose for children than allow them to decide for themselves. Unfortunately, lessons learned by making good and bad choices help children become responsible, independent adults. Choice also gives children a sense of ownership in activities. Take time to offer choices, create situations for choice, and reinforce the importance of good choices in your day.
2. Limit Choices - Keep the number and types of choices within reasonable limits. For example, if you let a child pick a snack, give them two or three healthy choices. By providing only allowable choices you reduce opportunities for conflict and create a situation where they succeed at making a good choice.
3. Discuss Options – When faced with decisions, think through and discuss the options to help children understand why one choice is better than another. Discuss possible choices, consequences, and why one option is better. For example, when leaving the house look outside and discuss the weather. Is it cold? Is
it raining? Which coat is the better choice? What happens if you pick the light cotton coat and it rains? By guiding children through choices you teach them how to make decisions for themselves.
4. Consider Other People – When decisions involve other people, discuss the implications of the choice for the other people. For example, if a child wants to use the swing for the duration of recess discuss:
Have other people asked to use the swing? Are other children waiting for the swing? How would you feel if you didn’t have a chance to use the swing? Are there other places you can play for part of recess? This helps children realize their choices affect people other than themselves.
6. Use Past Choices as Opportunities – When a child makes a bad choice such as cutting in line, saying something hurtful, or playing rather than finishing homework, use the opportunity to discuss why the choice was bad, consequences, and better choices for the future. Ask the child what other choices they could have made and what may have happened. Additionally, use past decisions and consequences as
reminders. For example, “Noah, remember how you played video games rather than clean your room yesterday and had to miss your favorite show and clean up? What do you think you should do today?”
7. Praise Good Choices – When children make good decisions let them know what they did and why it was a good choice. For example, “Jason, I like the way you moved over to make room for Ella on the bus. It was nice of you to share your seat. That was a very good choice.”
8. State When There Is No Choice – Some situations such as safety and schedules have no choices. Holding hands crossing the street, participating in fire drills, and leaving on time for school are examples of times when there is no choice. Explain why these situations do not have choices and why all people must follow certain rules and schedules. Let children know if there is an aspect of the event that is their choice. For example, “We have to leave now for the bus, but you can carry your blue or red book bag.”

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Students for Madeleine

Dear Colleagues
As you know, People First Education Ltd continue to support the campaign to find Madeleine McCann. The team at findmadeleine have recently launched a student initiative.
Please would you be kind enough to take a moment to check out the link by clicking the Students for Madeleine logo to your right, and forward it to anybody you may think is interested.

With very best wishes
The People First Education Team

Friday, 11 June 2010

Doncaster School for the Deaf

I would just like to say a very BIG thank you to all staff at Doncaster School for the Deaf for inviting me in to talk about Autism and ADHD for the day on Monday. Not only was everybody welcoming and friendly, but the experience of working with signers was very new to me, and could easily have been a nerve wracking one if it had not been for the support of everybody!
What a great day, thanks again everybody!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

ICT - 140 and counting Features | Published in TES Magazine on 4 June, 2010

Twitter's not just for Stephen Fry. Mike Kielty reports on how teachers are harnessing this free technology to create a 'community of learning' beyond the school gates

By any standards, Thomas Tallis School in London is unusually tech-savvy. This specialist arts college has its own online forum ("Tallis Talk"), its own iPhone application and many blogs showing pupils' work. But it is the school's Twitter feed (@creativetallis) that has been its most effective tool in reaching out to a wider audience. The school has more than 1,000 Twitter followers and regularly updates its feed with links to its pupils' work and to different artists around the world.

For Jon Nicholls, the school's art college manager and main tweeter, the micro-blogging site could lead to a fundamental change in the way pupils study. "It's a great model of learning because the more you learn, the more you invest in it, the more you offer other people, the more you get back," he says. This style of teaching is less top-down and more collaborative, he adds, a way to communicate in new ways, both with pupils and with the world outside the school gates.

Twitter - based on text-based posts of up to 140 characters - has become enormously popular since its creation in 2006, but the benefits for schools have not been clear until now. While many teachers have individual accounts on the site, and some schools have created their own Twitter feeds, there are few examples of how it can be used constructively in the classroom.

All of which makes @creativetallis all the more remarkable. Mr Nicholls believes the main reason for the school's success on Twitter is that it has created a "community of learning".

He interacts with other tweeters interested in creative ways to learn: asking and answering questions about teaching; posting links to other artistic sites; displaying the work of Thomas Tallis pupils. "It's about being part of a conversation on the web, and connecting with people who have mutual interests," he says, making @creativetallis much more than a dry school newsletter.

As well as its official feed, the school is experimenting with Twitter in lessons. One idea was to divide children into groups to market Fair Trade products from different countries. The children practised advertising the products on Twitter, just as many real companies would. "It encourages brevity, accuracy, precision. All the things that we want children to develop as communication skills," Mr Nicholls adds.

Teachers elsewhere are also seeking out new methods to harness this technology. At the end of his lesson, Andrew Luxton, a history teacher at Priory Community School in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, asks selected pupils to send a tweet to one of his Twitter addresses (@PCSLuxton and @PrioryGCSEHums), describing what they think is the main point they have taken from the lesson.

Other pupils provide feedback and improve the message until both they and Mr Luxton are satisfied. Then he sends it to the whole class, in what he has dubbed a "tweenary", to help the children to focus on and remember the key message of the lesson.

While Mr Luxton is keen to point out that he does not use technology just for the sake of it, he believes that Twitter can be a useful classroom tool. "If Twitter helps some pupils boost their grades or understand something more, then it is worth it," he says. "It is very easy to use, does not consume time or other resources, and is free."

At St Ninian's High School (@stninianshigh) in East Renfrewshire, Kenny O'Donnell, a geography teacher, organised a live tweeting conversation for his class of 13 and 14-year-olds with Alastair Humphreys of the Catlin Arctic Survey (@ArcticSurvey), who was at his camp in the Arctic Circle at the time.

"Twitter is a quick and easy way to get a real person in your classroom," says Mr O'Donnell. He also points out that it is free, a "Godsend" to teachers and schools in the present economic climate.

But not everyone has climbed on board the Twitter bandwagon. Anastasia de Waal, deputy director of the think-tank Civitas, argues that it could distract teachers and schools from more effective, if less fashionable, teaching methods. Twitter might be useful for teachers to exchange ideas with one another, but does not necessarily have a place in the classroom, she says.

"My worry is that there is a feeling schools must be up to date and take on all of the latest technology, and it isn't going to work for everybody. It may be just a distraction."

The use of Twitter in classrooms is still at an experimental stage. It is far more common for teachers to set up personal profiles on Twitter and use them to share ideas with others in the profession.

Laura Doggett (@lauradoggett), a French teacher at Westfield Community Technology College in Hertfordshire, is an e-learning expert who has blogged about how Twitter can be useful for teachers. She has more than 1,600 followers on Twitter, which she uses as a place to talk with other teachers and as a "sounding board" for new ideas.

"It's really great to be able, in one scroll of a page, to move from a fantastic recipe to a great English teaching resource to a brilliant new strategy on using virtual learning environments, to somebody needing some help and being able to contribute," she says.

David Miller (@DavidMiller_UK), an award-winning English teacher at another St Ninian's High, in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, has more than 750 Twitter followers. He tweets to other teachers, discussing ideas, but does not allow his pupils to follow him. He says: "I find it an incredibly powerful tool for personal and professional development."

There are risks for teachers using Twitter. Any inappropriate messages could lead to problems at work. Argyll and Bute Council in western Scotland banned its teachers from using Twitter last year, after one was found to have posted around 20 messages a day. Her posts included criticisms of the headteacher and one that read: "Had S3 period 6 for last two years...don't know who least wants to do anything, them or me."

It is difficult to imagine Twitter conversations between teachers and pupils ever becoming a normal part of school lessons. Why tweet a message to someone less than 5m away from you? But the signs are that tweeting will become a more common learning tool, with teachers using it to communicate with their pupils outside the classroom. It is at the forefront of the wave of Web 2.0 technologies that are transforming the way teaching and learning takes place by making it more conversational.

As Jon Nicholls says: "Twitter is the most efficient, fastest, most focused version of that conversation you can have online."

How can schools use Twitter?

- Producing daily tweets about what is going on in the school.

- Sending out administrative messages to parents, pupils and staff.

- Introducing children to the Twitter streams of notable figures outside the classroom.

- Creating "communities of learning": groups of tweeters interested in a specialised area.

- Starting "tweenaries", in which children condense the key message(s) of a class into the length of a tweet.

Top tweeting schools

- @creativetallis - 1,065 followers - Thomas Tallis School, London

- @OrwellHigh - 479 followers - Orwell High School, Felixstowe

- @ClassroomTweets - 475 followers - Year 2 class at Holy Trinity Rosehill CofE Primary School, Stockton

- See also @schoolduggery - 4,037 followers - An independent perspective on education in the UK. Contains numerous lists where you can link to schools and teachers in particular subject areas.

Log on for learning

- Futurelab - a not-for-profit group that researches and helps schools to implement new technology. 0117 915 8200

- Green Schools Online - sets up websites for schools, including Twitter feeds. 0844 668 6844

- Edmodo and Learning Landscape for Schools are social networking sites where schools can create private communities so teachers and pupils can exchange messages and ideas without them being made public. 020 8764 2663.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Getting Ready for Summer Break

Getting Ready for Summer Break
1. Prepare Kids – Prepare children for the summer break while they are still in school. Classrooms often have a countdown to summer, but including one in the home also is helpful. Discuss summer break with children including when they will return to school and what they will do over the break. Read books about vacation, summer, and school breaks.
2. Make Cards – If children are concerned about not seeing their friends and teacher, have them create cards for everyone. The cards can have memories from the school year or a simple message, “Have a nice summer. See you in August.” Cards are a great way for children to share their feelings and learn about giving.
3. Don’t Forget School – Arrange summer play dates with classmates before school ends so children know they will see their friends soon. Use the class picture as a way to discuss and remember classmates, or make a book about the past year, “Bobby’s Year in First Grade.”
4. Maintain Structure – The school day provides a significant amount of structure for children. A transition from a full day of planned activities to one with little structure can be very difficult for children. Have a routine so children have consistency in their lives. Set times for waking up, going to bed, eating, and other activities so children know what to expect during the day. If children have a routine with different activities on different days of the week such as swimming lessons Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and library time on Tuesdays, make a calendar showing these activities with words or pictures so children see the day’s activities. Some children may benefit from a very structured schedule. If children use a picture schedule at school, ask their teacher how to implement it at home. Besides including structured activities, remember a schedule can include periods of choice and free play while still providing support and structure.
5. Keep Activities Handy – Keep materials for art activities (paper, paints, buttons, glue, magazines)handy. Art activities develop fine motor skills and encourage creativity. Cooking lunch or snacks is a fun activity for children and it encourages reading, basic math (fractions, counting), and turn taking.
6. Start Summer-Long Responsibilities – Give children activities for the summer. Gardening activities such as a small plot in the family garden or an indoor herb garden are a great opportunity for children to watch plants grow, care for them, and see the fruits of their labor. If children are not interested in gardening, give them responsibilities with the family pet (brushing, feeding, walking) or another household activity. These activities can be expanded upon by reading about the topic or attending events involving the topic such as a local flower show or dog show.
7. Ask the Teacher – If you have concerns about a child’s transition from school to summer, ask their teacher for suggestions. The teacher may have specific ideas for your child’s needs or they may know about community activities your child would enjoy. They also can provide ways to help your son or daughter prepare for the next school year.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands as a Psychological Allegory by Cory Sampson:http: //

Edward Scissorhands was the first film directed by Tim Burton where he was also the story-writer. For the story of Edward Scissorhands, he worked with Caroline Thompson; this was their first film together, though the pair collaborated on several other projects after Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton’s reputation as a film-maker has achieved something of a cult status; the dark and sometimes disturbing imagery employed in many of his films can either alienate or elevate a person, depending on their preference; Edward Scissorhands is also something of a cult film. His unique and recognizable visual art and tendency to sympathize with the outsider has led some to see Burton as an auteur. The singularity of his movies may have less to do with Burton as auteur, and more to do with the people commonly involved in his films; musician Danny Elfman, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and actress Winona Ryder are a few examples of some Burton collaborators involved with Burton projects aside from Edward Scissorhands. Nevertheless, this film seems to aptly support the notion of Burton as an auteur, as the allegorical structure of the film is supported by its cinematography, and its message is in keeping with the common theme of disability and the well-meaning outsider often explored by Burton in both films and books; here, it seems as though Burton has, either accidentally or intentionally, constructed a near-perfect allegory of a man afflicted with the autistic spectrum disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s Syndrome has recently been the center of much attention; the disorder was reported in 1944 by physician Hans Asperger, at around the same time autism was being discovered. It was not until 1994 however, that Asperger’s Syndrome was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in its fourth edition. Before then, many individuals with the syndrome went undiagnosed, or were misdiagnosed with either Attention Deficit Disorder, or other similar disorders (Kirby). The disorder is characterized by severe impairment in social faculties, particularly in recognition of social or emotional cues (empathy), and in social or emotional reciprocity. Often, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome desire social interaction, but are unable to perform socially due to this deficit in interpreting subtle and unwritten social rules. Often individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome will excel in one particular intellectual subject, which they pursue with abnormal intensity and focus. In adults with the disorder, a lifetime of social retardation can lead to withdrawal from social situations, focussing on their work.

The character of Edward Scissorhands seems to fit the profile of an individual with the disorder. At the beginning of the film, he is isolated and withdrawn in a highly ornate mansion overlooking a bright pastel-coloured suburban neighbourhood. He works intensely on his lawn sculptures, which are fashioned down to intricate detail. He is taken into the neighbourhood by Peg Boggs, his real social awakening. The transition is confusing, and he has trouble adjusting, yet he desires to be loved and to socialize (his first words to Peg are “don’t go,” suggesting a desire for social contact in lieu of isolation). He is admired for his talent as gardener and hairdresser (which his scissor hands make exceptionally easy), and yet his manner is disaffected or sometimes inappropriate (as in the scene where Joyce Monroe unsuccessfully tries to seduce him). He is eventually coerced into breaking into a house, under the suggestion of Kim Boggs. When he is arrested, he is examined by a psychiatrist who says that he will be alright out in the world. After the community turns against him, and he again runs afoul of the law, he returns to the mansion again to live in isolation from the world.

These details, when symbolism is applied with a psychoanalytical approach to the character of Edward Scissorhands, reveals the allegorical nature of this film. The most obvious symbol is the set of scissors Edward has for hands. These represent his social faculties, and the difficulties they present to him. Throughout the film, Edward is shown to be greatly impaired when it comes to everyday activities, such as dressing, using eating utensils, or turning a doorknob. While this could be taken simply as allegory for physical disability, there are a few other instances which suggest social impairment as it occurs with Asperger’s Syndrome. Edward is constantly cutting and scarring his own face accidentally; this scarring could represent the emotional scarring of failed social attempts caused by inability to subtly manipulate social situations.

While driving home with Peg, he reaches across with his hand to point at something, causing Peg to yell with distress. He is embarrassed afterward with his behaviour, once it is apparent he has done something wrong. His scissors actively impair him from becoming close to a person romantically; Kim Boggs asks Edward to hold him, to which he replies, “I can’t.” This is also a desire but an inability to reciprocate emotionally. This is perhaps mitigated by the editing, where in the next scene, we cut back in time to a memory of Edward’s inventor dying before being able to give him the hands he needs to manipulate (or, in this allegorical reading, function socially). The ice sculptures are perhaps an attempt to show affection in an indirect and demonstrative way; he makes a statue of Kim as an angel, and she dances about in the “snow” that flies from it as he sculpts. Though he cannot connect with an individual on a reciprocative and empathetic level, he can still make affection known through an outward display of it. Though he cannot touch Kim directly without hurting her, he can “touch” her through the snow that falls upon her. Here, the scissors represent an AS individual’s attempt to compensate for social deficit with other more advanced mental faculties.

While the scissors represent his awkward social faculties, they also represent the facility many AS individuals have with a certain specialized topic area. The most obvious is the lawn sculptures and ice statues. These might represent a kind of social surrogate, fantastic constructs to replace actual people with a more predictable model. This seems to be supported by the fact that ice sculptures of finer detail supplement the lawn sculptures after Edward has been socially awakened. Also important to note is that before descending to the neighbourhood, he did not sculpt figures of people, and that the first sculpture of a human that he did was of the Boggs family, his first real social contact. At least one of the sculptures in the mansion courtyard represents a desire: the hand sculpture, on a literal level, represents his desire for functional hands. On the allegorical level, it represents his desire for the tools necessary for social interaction, a common desire among AS individuals. This is exacerbated by the placement of the hand sculpture both centrally in the set, and centrally in the frame on many occasions when it is shown. When working with his scissors, either sculpting, cutting hair or chopping vegetables, he takes on a facial expression of intensity and drive, which is at the same time blank, shutting out the world outside of his work.

This is similar to the focus certain AS individuals experience when concentrating on a project that piques their interest. Edward also feels an odd compulsion to cut or groom things, sometimes to distraction, as in the scene where he stops to snip at a hedge while on his way to break into Jim’s father’s house. Many AS individuals, during conversation, tend to perseverate, or continue to return to a certain discussion topic of interest to them, despite changes in the flow of conversation (Bauer). Sometimes, due to difficulty interpreting a person’s intentions, someone with Asperger’s Syndrome can be exploited for various purposes; Edward experiences something similar on two occasions: when he first unlocks the door for Jim and Kim, and when Kim asks him to break into Jim’s father’s house, at Jim’s request. His particular talent for picking locks with his scissor hands is exploited. He also seems unable to tell the difference between who is really a friend and who is exploiting him; the scene following the initial unlocking is of him on a talk show. His response to the first question of what he most enjoys about living in the neighbourhood is “the friends I’ve made.” When he breaks into Jim’s father’s house, he tells Kim that he did it simply because she asked him to.

On several occasions, he hurts others or destroys by accident, or a misunderstanding about his scissors leads to trouble. The first such occasion is when Peg first sees Edward, and is terrified by his scissors. The scarring of his face I’ve already mentioned. He nearly ends up shot by the police when they ask him to “drop [his] weapon” as he is leaving Jim’s father’s house. He accidentally cuts Kim’s hand as he is finishing the ice sculpture, and he cuts Kevin Boggs’ face while attempting to console him after almost being run over by Jim. When his “father”, the inventor, dies before giving Edward his hands, Edward attempts to caress the inventor’s face, and in doing so, cuts it. These accidents could represent the damage an AS individual may inadvertently cause through ignorance of social cues; often AS individuals can say or do things which may be considered rude or insensitive simply because they were unaware of how hurtful they were. When Edward cuts the drapes, towels and wallpaper in anger and despair after being betrayed by Jim, it might represent the anger and acting out at certain developmental stages, due to difficulty coping socially (Bauer).

It is important to note that the character of Edward Scissorhands is probably not intended to have Asperger’s Syndrome; merely the allegorical construct is representative of the difficulties facing an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome. Nevertheless, Edward does have some personality traits that are in common with AS individuals which stand independent of the allegory of the scissor hands. His facial expression is blank and uncommunicative. Many AS individuals, due to perceptual difficulty, do not learn to interpret or communicate non-verbally through facial expression, except in basic ways. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome also tend to have a neutral tone of voice, with odd or inappropriate inflection; throughout the film, Edward speaks in a monotone. He has trouble interpreting figurative language or subtlety. When the bank manager speaks to him condescendingly about his handicap, Edward smiles as though the bank manager has made a friendly gesture. When Bill Boggs uses the idiom “soup’s on!” Edward does not understand, and replies through a full mouth, “I thought these were shish-kebab.” Bill responds by telling Edward not to take things so literally. Some AS individuals have difficulty interpreting figurative language, sarcasm or idiom until learned. It is telling cinematographically that this scene is immediately followed by the scene in which the inventor is attempting to teach Edward about etiquette. Toward the end of this scene, the inventor decides that this is too “boring”, and reads a humorous limerick. Edward must be told where it is appropriate to laugh. During one scene, before Edward must meet the neighbours at the barbecue, Peg tells Edward not to worry, and that all he needs to do is be himself. This seems reminiscent of an anecdote told by an AS individual about the difficulty of fitting in socially. “I decided to follow the advice people had been giving me for a very long time. I decided to BE MYSELF (sic) … I'm not completely sure what kind of an impact this had on other people but during my second year, they would sometimes tell me I was too genuine and that I needed to put on a bit of a mask. I simply couldn't win either way.” (Segar chapter 7).

Cinematographically, the audience is given hints of Edward’s peculiarity, and is meant to sympathize. Due to their lack of context for social niceties, AS individuals often perceive the world of human interaction as absurd and superficial. Through visual and narrative cues, the neighbourhood is portrayed as exceptionally absurd. The odd pastel coloured houses are one such cue; as is their constant gossiping behaviour, which is taken to excess. They are so eager for information that they manage to fill Peg’s entire answering machine tape. This allusion to the absurdity of the neighbourhood’s social behaviour might give the audience some context for understanding the AS individual’s perception of the world.

Ultimately, and most supportive of the theory of Burton as an auteur, is the defeatist point that a person with a disability cannot function in society, and must be isolated for their own good and the good of their loved ones. Peg remarks, toward the end of the film that she didn’t think things through when she brought Edward into the neighbourhood, and it might be best if he went “back up there”, meaning the mansion (or allegorically, into social withdrawal). This is supported in at least one other work by Tim Burton: the pseudo-children’s book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories. In the headline story, a boy who is half-oyster seems to be the cause of his father’s impotence. Since oysters are an aphrodisiac, the doctor suggests that the man should eat his son. The implication here is that disability can cause severe emotional problems to those who must care for or deal with the disabled; and that while cruel, the disenfranchisement or isolation of the disabled is a dismal solution to these problems. The book itself is filled with several tales on similar lines; one of a boy who is born a robot (again, a suggestive symbol for someone on the autistic spectrum) is among these stories.

The most puzzling question this allegorical reading raises is this: why would Tim Burton, who seems to have had no knowledge of autism or Asperger’s syndrome have written such a precise allegory for the disorder? I would guess that the only way Tim Burton could have written this story, with all its implications, both subtle and overt, is if he himself is an individual with a disorder on the autistic spectrum, or was very close to a person similarly afflicted. Burton himself is described as an “introverted, unassuming person” (Jackson, McDermott). In his own biography, Burton on Burton, he says, about his childhood, that he was often alone, and had trouble retaining friendships. “I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why. It was as if I was exuding some kind of aura that said ‘Leave Me The Fuck Alone (sic)’” (Burton 2) Of course, with no psychoanalysis of the man, there is no real way to say for certain that he falls on the autistic spectrum; yet Edward Scissorhands suggests a certain sympathy for the symptoms and circumstances of individuals who do.

Works Cited

Bauer, Stephen. “Asperger Syndrome”. OASIS. 12 November 2004.

Burton, Tim. Burton on Burton. London: Faber and Faber, 1995. 18 November 2004.

---. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories. New York: William and Morrow and Company, 1997.

Edward Scissorhands. Dir. Tim Burton. Perf. Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, and Diane Wiest. 1990. Videocassette. Twentieth Century Fox, 2000.

Jackson, Mike and McDermott, Arran. Biography. The Tim Burton Collective. 2004. 12 November 2004.
Kirby, Barbara L. “What is Asperger Syndrome?”. OASIS. 12 November 2004.

Segar, Marc. “The Battles of the Autistic Thinker”. Marc Segar: 1974 – 1997. 18 November 2004.

Teaching Children to Practice Acts of Kindness

Being kind to other people and yourself is important for being a good friend and being happy. Modeling kindness, reflecting on kind actions, and practicing acts of kindness can help children develop this skill. This article includes strategies for helping children learn to be kind to other people and to themselves.
1. Be a Role Model – When adults say unkind things about other people or themselves, children learn this is acceptable behavior. Be a role model and say kind things about co-workers, neighbors, people in the community, and yourself.
2. Use Lists – Have children write lists or make collages representing what they like about their friends, family members, and people in the school. Hang the lists or art projects where classmates and friends can see them. Have a separate activity where children make a parallel list or art project that includes things they do well and why they are a good person.
3. Read and Write Stories – Read stories about kindness and respect in school and at home. Discuss how being kind makes the characters feel. Ask children to share times when they were kind and times when people were nice to them. Also have children write stories about being kind to other people.
4. Practice and Discuss Small Acts of Kindness – In addition to having children write and say things that are kind, have them practice little acts of kindness. Teach children to help other people in day to day situations such as when someone needs help carrying an item, they can’t reach something, or they drop an item. Create a set of pictures or make short stories with opportunities for small acts of kindness. Have children role play what they would do to be helpful in these situations.
5. Learning to Do Kind Things for Yourself – Have children write or create a collage about things they like to do or activities that make them feel good about themselves. Discuss how taking time to participate in these activities can make them feel better and decrease stress.
6. Pick a Cause or Charity – A long term investment in a volunteer or charity activity teaches children that even a small amount of time and energy makes a big difference. First create a list of volunteer opportunities then let the class or family select an activity to join. Whether it is collecting food for a food bank, donating toys, or cleaning up a community area, these activities demonstrate how working collaboratively with other people can make a big difference. Discuss or have children keep a journal about the experience. Ask them to include how they felt and how they think the people benefitting from their time and effort felt.

Consumer Reports: Half of Social Network Users are "Oversharing," Endangering Privacy

Consumer Reports, a longtime trusted name in product ratings and reviews, has today released its annual "State of the Net" report, which finds that over half (52%) of social network users post risky information online. Among the transgressions: using weak passwords, listing full birth dates, ignoring privacy settings and making mention of when you're away from home, to name a few.

The report looked closely at Facebook and Twitter, two of the top social networks used today, and found that on Facebook, the percentage of those engaged in this type of risky behavior was even higher, at 56%. However, what's more interesting is how the survey inadvertently reveals that Facebook users clearly have no idea about how much they're publicly sharing on the network.

Consumer Reports Tells Facebook Users What to Do
The study looked at a representative group of 2,000 online households in the U.S. during the month of January. Within this sampling, 9% of social network users had been the victim of some form of online abuse in the past year like malware infections, scams, identity theft or harassment.

Those who "overshare" online - posting personal information like full names, children's names, home addresses and details about when they're away from home - are "especially vulnerable," notes the report.

To counteract these dangers, Consumer Reports made the following seven suggestions of things you should stop doing on Facebook:

Using a weak password
Listing a full birth date
Overlooking privacy controls
Posting a child's name in a caption
Mentioning being away from home
Letting yourself be found by a search engine
Permitting youngsters to use Facebook unsupervised
Poor Privacy Settings at Fault, Not Mindless Online Behavior

Some of those suggestions are common sense (or just good parenting), but the tone of the report sometimes feels a bit over the top. It suggests, for example, that posting your children's pictures is, in and of itself, risky online behavior. But what are social networks for, anyway, if not for sharing Junior's latest with Grandma?

The problem with this report is that it acts as if the burden of online safety should be entirely placed upon social networking users. While there are some obvious areas where people need to think smarter, some of the real issues regarding these networks are being ignored.

With social networks - Facebook in particular - privacy settings are too often obscured or are confusing and so therefore are generally overlooked by the majority of a social network's users. To make matters worse (in terms of privacy, that is), the default setting on nearly every social network is "public." Whether you're uploading photos to Flickr, sharing videos on YouTube, or updating your status on Twitter and Facebook, the networks are designed with the idea that you're doing so to share with world, not a closed set of family and friends.

In many cases, this is understood: YouTube, after all, is a video sharing portal, not a private network. But the problem with Facebook is that it used to operate differently. Originally positioned as a more-private network, the recent changes there have dramatically reversed its course - so much so that U.S. senators are now investigating its new policies, while others are calling Facebook's data-sharing plans a "bait-and-switch."

In others words, it's not just the users themselves who are to blame for this "risky" online behavior. The networks have been created so that risk is a factor built into every sharing feature. Facebook especially is now exploiting its earlier, implicit agreement between itself and its users so that people are publicly sharing what they think is private information.

Survey Shows Facebook Users are Clearly Confused
Something else we found decidedly telling regarding this issue is the fact that the reports states 73% of adult Facebook users only shared content with friends but only 42% of users said they customized their privacy settings.

These numbers clearly show the study's flaws. You can't just ask Facebook users about their privacy: They're uninformed.

In December, Facebook made sweeping changes to their default settings, prompting users to accept the new recommended settings or edit those settings to their liking. Those who took Facebook's recommendations without making any changes immediately began sharing status updates, photos, videos and links publicly, likely without realizing they had done so.

That means that a good many of the 73% of Facebook adults who think they're sharing just with friends are sadly mistaken. Only those in the 42% who customized their settings (hopefully properly) are actually restricting their content from public view.

Other Figures
There are some other figures in this report, summarized below, that may be of interest, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. This (and similar studies) can't truly paint an accurate picture if they rely on users to respond to questions instead of analyzing data at the source itself.

73% only shared their Facebook content with friends
42% customized settings to control who can see their information
22% customized what personal information can be accessed by apps
18% customized settings to control who can find a user's page through a search
11% only shared content with friends, and friends of friends
10% altered some personally identifiable information to protect their identity
Facebook Applications

39% of Facebook users surveyed reported that they use apps
10% of Facebook users were confident that they are secure
27% believed that some apps are more secure than others
28% believed that all apps pose some security threats
35% hadn't given much thought to the security of apps
Protecting Privacy on Twitter

34% of Twitter users surveyed said they only make their tweets available to followers
27% said they check out pages of new followers that they don't know personally
24% said they block all new followers that they don't know personally
12% said they research new followers on Google or other search engine
5% asked others about new followers they didn't know personally

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Ways to Increase Communication and Language

There are a variety of ways to increase communication depending on a child’s age and ability level. Below are some ideas for increasing language and communication throughout the day.
1. Expand Sentence Length – When children answer a question or request an item using one or two words, increase their sentence length by repeating their answer with an expanded phrase. For example, if you ask a child, “Would you like orange juice?” and they answer “Yes,” model a longer response. “Yes, I would like orange juice.” Then have the child repeat the phrase.
2. Use Books for Language - Reading stories is an excellent way to incorporate language into a fun activity. Ask questions about the pictures, the story, and the characters. Even very young children can identify colors, gender, words, or concepts (e.g. the boy that is the tallest/shortest)by pointing to pictures. Have children predict what is going to happen next throughout the story. After finishing the book, review what happened in the story.
3. Create Situations that Promote Language - Favorite toys, clothes, and foods can motivate young children to use language. Store favorite items in eye sight, but out of reach, so children have to use their words to request the items.
4. Provide Choices – Give children choices in activities, stories, toys, and foods so they communicate their preferences. You can create an opportunity for communication even if you know a child is going to select a favorite story or game.
5. Find Time to Communicate – Many children like being entertained by technology, but opportunities for communication are lost when families spend a good deal of time watching television and playing video games. Turn off the television during meals and refrain from using portable video games in the car. Time spent together at the dinner table and in the car are wonderful opportunities for learning about a child’s day and increasing communication and language skills.
6. Be Supportive – Children are more likely to communicate if they feel valued. Encourage language by listening attentively to children and asking them questions. If children answer questions incorrectly, teach them the correct answers using kind, supportive words. Repeatedly asking a question a child does not know how to answer or condescendingly correcting them can hurt their feelings and decreases the chance they will answer questions in the future. Instead, encourage them to say, “I don’t know,” and use the situation as a learning opportunity.
7. Be a Role Model – Children learn from the adults around them. When adults speak in full sentences, use correct grammar, and articulate well, children hear and are reminded of how words and sentences should sound.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Using Community Activities to Develop Social Skills

Community activities are diverse, fun, and provide a wide range of opportunities for
social skill development. Meeting people, maintaining conversations, collaborating with peers, following directions, and problem solving are a few social skills to practice in a community setting.
Below are a few ideas on incorporating social skill development into your community activities.
1. Story Times and Plays – Community libraries, bookstores, and theatres often have book readings or short plays for children. These events are opportunities to practice attending, following directions, maintaining personal space, and asking and responding to questions in a group setting. For children working on attending, find out how long the event lasts, if there are frequent breaks, and if the event is interactive. Attend shorter, more interactive events then gradually increase the
length of time so children are successful and are engaged in the event.
2. Playground - Although primarily thought of as a place for exercise,
playgrounds are a wonderful place to learn conflict resolution, problem solving, and communication skills. Children can practice asking to join an activity, helping peers, and working with friends to create and resolve game rules. Patience can be practiced waiting for a swing or the slide. Playgrounds in fast food restaurants are a way to get out of the hot summer or cold winter weather and help children interact with peers.
3. People of Authority in the Community - The ability to socialize with people of authority is important for school, community, and future work environments. Doctors, dentists, and religious leaders are examples of people who should be addressed more formally. Use these interactions as opportunities to practice formal introductions, greetings, conversations, and good-byes. Prepare children by letting them know who they will be seeing and practicing short conversations.
4. Frequent Interactions – Addressing people at a store or in the neighborhood involves less formal interactions. These meetings are an opportunity for greeting someone by name, asking questions about their interests, and ending the conversation appropriately. Practice at home in advance and remind children, if necessary, how to respond when they see the person. For example, ‘Alex, you remember Mrs. Smith who lives across the street and has the dog, Skipper.’
5. Community Parks and Recreation Centers - Community parks and recreation centers
frequently have summer baseball, soccer, or basketball teams. These teams are opportunities for children to learn good sportsmanship, meet with children their age, and learn to follow rules and regulations associated with an activity. Other activities offered at community centers include art and science camps which teach fun skills while providing social interactions. Children learn to work collaboratively with children their age on projects or share materials for completing activities.