Managing our wellbeing

 

Morning everyone

I know Mrs Smith has mentioned in her blog about continuing to talk to your children about coronavirus and has directed you to a really useful video. I’ve attached a few more resources from West Sussex with lots of helpful websites and videos to follow up on.

One think that is really helping me at the moment is making use of the time we can spend outside. I’ve been preparing some vegetable beds and also planting seeds in pots and trays inside ready to plant out later when the weather is a bit warner. There are lots of vegetables and herbs you can grow in very small spaces outside or even in window boxes or on window sills inside if you don’t have a garden. I’ve also been taking my dog Sandy out for her daily walk in the woods close to our house.

 

Resources to support your child’s wellbeing

I’ve come across this pack of resources, again designed for children with autism, but perfect for addressing all kinds of issues that your child may be struggling with at this uncertain time. It includes examples and templates for timetabling the day, social stories, calming routines and ideas for helping with self management. There are even task boards for activities such as making a snack or emptying the dishwasher!

Below you will also find a helpful visual to support younger children to understand why they can’t go to school and a fun game sheet to promote PE at home based on “Simon Says.”

Download (PDF, 28KB)

Download (PDF, 3.66MB)

Talking to your child about coronavirus

According to a recent YouGov poll, 80% of children in the UK are worried about COVID-19. Experts say that it is important not to shy away from talking to your children about coronavirus and that discussing the outbreak may help to protect their mental health in the future. But it’s not always easy to know what to say and what not to say.

There is a useful article entitled: 6 ways parents can support their kids through coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak at www.unicef.org which gives some good advice.

You can also find a social story with photographs by Carol Gray at www.autism.org.uk

Although designed for children on the ASD spectrum it is actually a really good way to talk through the issue and to get them to raise and discuss any fears. This is from the US so you might need to explain or change a few words!

I have also attached a child-friendly explanation of coronavirus which is a useful resource for very young children.

If any of you have found and used any resources which might be helpful for other families, please feel free to share by commenting on this blog.

Download (PDF, 1.23MB)

Identifying dyslexia

We are aware that many parents are concerned their child may have dyslexia, especially where the child is experiencing serious problems with reading, writing or spelling or where family members have been diagnosed with dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association estimates that around 10% of the population is dyslexic. Assessing which children may have dyslexia is a careful process exploring the nature of their difficulties and monitoring their response to strategies and support put in place. With dyslexia, a child’s problems often stem from difficulties in the areas of phonological awareness and processing; visual and auditory processing speed and working memory. Typically a child with dyslexia may struggle with the following:

  • Learning and retaining sound and letter correspondence (phonics)
  • Reading words accurately
  • Spelling – including making frequent errors by transposing letters and leaving out letters in familiar words.
  • Processing spoken or visual information
  • Formulating written responses
  • Sequencing numbers or letters out loud at speed
  • Recalling instructions, especially where these are not broken down into small steps
  • Gets tired or loses focus easily

If we feel a child may have dyslexia we are able to use a screening test in school. This test assesses the child’s abilities in different areas: phonological skills, processing and working memory as well as word reading, spelling and non-verbal reasoning. This test gives us an indication of where the child is experiencing particular difficulties and the extent of these difficulties but we are not able to make a diagnosis in school. This test is best used from late year 2 but the older the child the more reliable it is. If a formal diagnosis of dyslexia is required this has to be carried out by either an educational psychologist or by a specialist dyslexia teacher who holds a Level 7 or equivalent qualification.  A formal diagnosis is not necessary to qualify for extra time in primary school tests or SATs. However, secondary schools have their own criteria for this and it is a good idea to discuss this with the individual school.

School years 2 to 5 are considered to be the optimal stage in a child’s learning for them to receive support. All teachers at St John’s are familiar with using dyslexia friendly strategies and resources in class, which are helpful for all children. They will also set up interventions to support children with phonics, spelling, reading, grammar or writing, depending on the needs of the individual pupil. We are also able to provide identified children with 10-week blocks of tuition from our dyslexia trained specialist, Claudia Goodman. Computer technology can be very helpful for children with dyslexia, especially as they grow up and we start this early on by helping pupils to use special software on the iPads to help record their work and to teach touch typing for identified pupils in KS2.

If you are concerned about your child’s progress in reading and writing and feel they may have dyslexia tendencies, please talk to the class teacher or contact me directly on 01732 453944 or email at: [email protected]

Understanding and identifying speech difficulties

Difficulties with speech are surprisingly common. For younger children this can merely be a sign of immaturity which will be corrected with time and good modelling. However for some children further support and investigation may be necessary. There are good reasons for tracking these children carefully. Firstly, it can be frustrating for a child who cannot make themselves understood easily by others and could lead to behaviour issues. Sometimes speech sound difficulties lead to learning problems, especially where inaccuracies in speech are reflected in phonics and/or spelling. For example, a child who says ‘cog’ for ‘cot’ may write it this way. As they become older they may become more aware of the differences between themselves and others and this may lead to problems with self-esteem and social relationships.

There are three basic types of speech impairments: articulation disorders, fluency disorders, and voice disorders.

Articulation disorders are errors in the production of speech sounds which may include:

  • Omissions: (bo for boat)
  • Substitutions: (wabbit for rabbit)
  • Distortions: (shlip for sip)

Fluency disorders are difficulties with the rhythm and timing of speech characterized by hesitations, repetitions, or prolongations of sounds, syllables, words, or phrases. This may include:

  • Stuttering: rapid-fire repetitions of consonant or vowel sounds especially at the beginning of words, prolongations, hesitations, interjections, and complete verbal blocks
  • Cluttering: excessively fast and jerky speech

Voice disorders are problems with the quality or use of the voice resulting from disorders in the larynx. Voice disorders are characterised by abnormal production and/or absences of vocal quality, pitch, loudness, resonance, and/or duration.

 

At St John’s we are able to assess children we identify with speech difficulties by using the Speech Link programme.  This not only gives us clear advice on the specific sounds involved but also calibrates the extent of the difficulties.

Modelling back to the child the correct sound/s is the first step in improving speech. However, it is important to do this in a way that doesn’t stigmatise or single out the child. All our teachers and TAs are familiar with this process.

Where the difficulties are more acute or they do not improve with modelling and maturity, there are programmes we can put in place. We have trained teaching assistants who take pairs or groups of children to work on specific sounds, through a range of games and activities. These sessions are fun and children miss very little class curriculum time. At this point we are happy to provide resources that can be used at home too.

If there is still no improvement, especially if the child is experiencing difficulties with phonics or spelling or it is effecting their self-esteem, then we are able to refer them for a speech and language assessment externally. This may result in therapy sessions being set up in school, delivered by a trained therapist. We will also arrange for a TA working in the class to receive additional training so they can support the child by delivering the therapy activities in between sessions.

If you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s speech, please contact their class teacher or myself at [email protected] or phone 01732 453944.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is not as well known as other learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, Autism or Attention Deficit Disorder, but it is believed to affect around one in 20 children or young people. Many of the symptoms can be a confused with these other conditions and for some children it can lead to anger, barriers to learning and ultimately low self-esteem. For parents, it can be frustrating and emotionally upsetting to see your child struggle with everyday activities that their peers take for granted. So what is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia (also referred to as ‘Developmental Co-ordination Disorder) is a recognised specific learning difficulty which affects areas of learning in children who are otherwise of at least average intelligence. It is characterised by organisational difficulties, problems with coordination and sometimes social and communication difficulties.

Younger children may initially present with gross and fine motor skills needs. For example, they may struggle to master key skills such as riding a bike or catching and throwing or may find dressing and undressing cumbersome and time consuming, years after their friends have mastered this. Handwriting is likely to be laboured and behind age related expectations, even though they may have good ideas for writing.

Difficulties with organisation may become especially noticeable as the child is expected to become more independent. They may be the pupil who never has the right equipment for lessons or who leaves his/her belongings in the wrong places. Generalised short term memory difficulties may also be associated with Dyspraxia so they may forget all, or part of instructions. Such organisational difficulties can also be associated with Dyslexia or Attention Deficit Disorder.

Some people with Dyspraxia also find aspects of social communication difficult, especially with inferred meanings such as in jokes or any non-literal language. Again this is also a feature of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Many children struggle with aspects of some of the above at different points, so it is important not to leap to conclusions. However, if you feel your child has long-standing struggles with co-ordination, organisation and social communication, please talk about your concerns with your teacher or myself. We are very experienced in identifying pupils who are showing signs of various difficulties, but sometimes their needs may be more, or less, prominent at home, so please don’t hesitate to keep us informed.

Does dyslexia make you stronger?

I know from talking to many parents that concerns about their children’s progress in literacy often stem from their own, or their partner’s, struggles with dyslexia (with or without a diagnosis).

Recent research by Margaret Malpas from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has sought to identify characteristics which are helpful to adults with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. She wanted to find out why, despite their struggles with literacy, so many adults with dyslexia are particularly successful across a range of careers. Her research shows that 67% of dyslexic adults surveyed believed they had special strengths resulting from their dyslexia, the top one being determination. Other skills that featured highly included empathy, intelligence or a particular ability and motivation to help others.

A full account can be found in Malpas’s book ‘Self Fulfilment with Dyslexia: A Blueprint to Success.’ If you are still struggling with literacy and would like help to improve your skills, the BDA has recently launched a new elearning programme for adults which is priced at £12.99 for 10 modules. Information on both publications can be found on the BDA website.

Highlighting the positives of dyslexia is the theme for this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week running from 2nd to 8th October.

Does dyslexia make you stronger?

I know from talking to many parents that concerns about their children’s progress in literacy often stem from their own, or their partner’s, struggles with dyslexia (with or without a diagnosis).

Recent research by Margaret Malpas from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has sought to identify characteristics which are helpful to adults with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. She wanted to find out why, despite their struggles with literacy, so many adults with dyslexia are particularly successful across a range of careers. Her research shows that 67% of dyslexic adults surveyed believed they had special strengths resulting from their dyslexia, the top one being determination. Other skills that featured highly included empathy, intelligence or a particular ability and motivation to help others. A full account can be found in Malpas’s book ‘Self Fulfilment with Dyslexia: A Blueprint to Success.’ If you are still struggling with literacy and would like help to improve your skills, the BDA has recently launched a new elearning programme for adults which is priced at £12.99 for 10 modules. Information on both publications can be found on the BDA website.

Highlighting the positives of dyslexia is the theme for this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week running from 2nd to 8th October.

 

Developmental Language Disorder

Education, and in particular special educational needs education, is a minefield of terms and labels that change frequently. This can be very confusing for school professionals and parents alike! One recent change has been the use of the term Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) to describe children experiencing difficulties understanding or using language.

Around 7% of children are estimated to have a significant difficulty acquiring language and for many this may last throughout childhood. These problems may interfere with everyday communication as well as their education.

Children may have problems with one or more of the key components of language including:
• Understanding spoken language
• Using spoken sentences – in terms of vocabulary and/or grammar
• Knowing how and when to use language appropriately in social situations
• They may have a speech difficulty in addition to their language disorder.

For some children, the language disorder may be associated with a known condition such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, a brain injury or genetic condition such as Down Syndrome, or may be part of a more general learning difficulty. It may also result from learning English as an additional language, having repeated episodes of glue ear or where a child has been living in social disadvantage. Sometimes, however, there are no additional factors of this kind and it may be an isolated difficulty with learning language (previously known as Specific Language Impairment).

At St John’s we identify, monitor and observe any pupil we suspect may have DLD. We can assess their understanding of language using a computer programme called Language Link and put in place language intervention groups to support their learning. All staff are also trained in using Language for Learning strategies and resources in class.

Where the language difficulty is more severe or fails to improve sufficiently with support, we are also able to refer pupils for therapy sessions and advice through the Speech and Language Therapy service.

If you are concerned about your child’s language acquisition, please contact me (Jeannie Newhouse) on 01732 453944 or by email on [email protected]

Understanding reading difficulites

We often get asked the question by parents: Does my child have dyslexia? This is often in response to a child experiencing persistent spelling, or less often, reading difficulties.

We have created a leaflet, detailing some of the main problems that children often encounter with reading, including dyslexia, and how the school supports them. We also give suggestions as to how you can help your child at home.

A copy of the leaflet is attached here but you can also obtain a printed copy by asking at the school office.

Download (DOCX, 42KB)