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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