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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Effective Communication between Home and School: Ideas for Parents and Professionals

Parents, teachers, and support staff all have the same goal, a child’s learning, but sometimes communication breakdowns cause inefficiency and disagreement in accomplishing this goal. This article includes ideas for establishing communication systems to make this the best and most effective year yet.

1. Communicate Early – Communicate early either in written form or through a conversation at the beginning of the school year. Early communication sets the stage for year long collaboration by establishing a system and setting expectations.
Professionals – Let parents know classroom expectations, schedules, important dates, and contact information for other professionals working with their child. A classroom information sheet with a handwritten note is a friendly way to start the year.
Parents – Be sure you provide current records and updated information (e.g. phone number and email address) to teachers and therapists. Include any other important information in a letter or email so the professional can refer to it during the year.

2. Have a Consistent System – Establish a communication system that works for both professionals and families. Some people communicate well over email while others like to have printed information in a folder or notebook. Discuss which method works best and stick with it. Providing information back and forth is important for consistency across environments. Use communication systems to discuss how strategies are working and what changes might be helpful.
Professionals – For regular communication use a format that is accessible to all families. For example, have a newsletter or regularly updated website. Include an area in the newsletter for handwritten child-specific comments. Another idea for smaller classrooms is to have daily notes or a journal to send back and forth between school and home. Communication encourages a running dialogue and often results in new information that can translate into effective classroom results.
Parents – Keep professionals up to date about home progress as well as any physical (e.g. child isn’t sleeping well) or emotional (e.g. a pet passed away) changes at home. Often times a child’s personal experiences affect their behaviour and academics. Use the teacher’s preferred communication method (email, note, phone) so they receive the information in a timely fashion.

3. Be Positive – Notes, phone calls, and emails frequently are used for negative rather than positive communication. This can create a situation where parents and professionals prefer not to hear from each other. Keep positive news part of updates. Be sure to highlight progress in difficult areas and note when the child is making progress on a skill. Compliment the other person’s hard work and note when a child is accomplishing goals due to work in other environments.

4. Understand Limitations – People balance professional and personal lives and it is important to respect their time. Busy professionals want updates and information on children, but parents should recognise professionals work with many children. Parents want to work on skills with their child, but they may be busy, need additional resources, or not clearly understand why something is being done. Communicate, have patience, and remember everyone has the same goal.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ways to Make Day Trips Less Stressful

Set expectations - Be sure to let children know what to expect. Clearly tell them, “We are going to the doctor. We will wait in the office and then Dr. Smith 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 supermarket, the post office, and then the park.”

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 social Stories provide a way for children to see what is expected of them. Use illustrations and/or words during an event to reassure children.

Involve children in planning the day - Often children are told what to do and have little ownership in decisions. Letting children 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.

Praise children for a job well done - As you go through the day, be sure to reinforce children 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.

Update children regarding timetable changes - Schedule changes are likely to happen on a regular basis. When changes occur, let children 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.”

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 shops are busy.

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

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 shops, 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.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Promoting Positive Behaviour

People First Education are pleased to announce a one off event in Birmingham:

Promoting Positive Behaviour

Promoting Positive behaviour for learners with a range of needs including Autism, Asperger Syndrome and ADHD:
A day course for educators and/or support staff, designed to enable successful inclusion of individuals and groups whilst fully meeting the needs of their peers.
The day will include:
• An overview of how the impairments affecting learners with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and/or ADHD may cause them to behave negatively.
• An examination of the root causes and triggers behind negative behaviour and how to avoid them.
• Strategies and interventions for adapting the sensory environment to meet the behavioural needs of learners with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and/or ADHD.
• A range of strategies for promoting positive behaviour through effective practice.
• Attendees are encouraged to bring inclusion questions and points for discussion.

Venue and date:

Thursday 19th January 2012
Holiday Inn Express, Lionel Street,
Birmingham B3 1JE

9:15 am – 3:30 pm

Dyslexia Training Dates for 2012

Tuesday 10th January 2012
Toby carvery, Nottingham Road, Chaddesden,
Derby, DE21 6LZ

Thursday 12th January 2012
Holiday Inn, London Road, Ipswich, IP2 0UA

Friday 13th January 2012
Holiday Inn Express, Norwich Sports Village, Drayton High Rd, Norwich, NR6 5DU

Tuesday 17th January 2012
Leicester Stage Hotel,
Leicester Rd, Wigston Fields, Leicester, LE18 1JW

Wednesday 18th January 2012
Beeches Hotel, Wilford Lane,
West Bridgford Nottingham NG2 7RN

Friday 20th January 2012
Premier Inn, The Haymarket, Bristol,

Tuesday 24th January 2012
Holiday Inn Express, Vicar Lane, Bradford BD1 5LD

Thursday 26th January 2012
Holiday Inn Express
Danestrete, Stevenage, Herts SG1 1XB

Friday 27th January 2012
Holiday Inn, Caton Rd, Lancaster, LA1 3RA

Monday 30th January 2012
Novotel, 4 Whitehall Quay, Leeds, LS1 4HR

Tuesday 31st January 2012
Holiday Inn Express, Wilstead Rd,
Elstow, Bedford, MK42 9BF

Thursday 2nd February 2011
Holiday Inn,
Canterbury Road, Ashford, TN24 8QQ

Friday 3rd February 2012
Holiday Inn Express, M65 Jct 10 Burnley, BB12 0TJ

Monday 6th February 2012
Fairfield Hall
Fairfield, Park Lane, Croydon CR9 1DG

Tuesday 7th February 2012
Winchester Royal Hotel, St Peter St, Winchester
SO23 8BS

To book on any of these events click on the sunflower below right

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

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 spelling 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 spelling test, they may fear getting a bad result or feeling helpless. Write a list of things they can do to be proactive and reduce stress. In this example, they can practice 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 football 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 time out,’ or ‘Please give me a minute.’ Use physical fitness as a way to channel energy in a positive manner. Taking a walk, running, jumping, 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.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Fun Feelings Activities

Recognising 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, real-life experiences, and role play.

2. Show Feelings are Important: Children need to understand that it is alright 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, “Trevor, 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, “Malcolm is upset. Let’s see if we can help him.”

4. Set Time Aside to Practice: Just as maths 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.
Get children to select a feelings word or emotions card and act out the feeling on the card.
Let 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.