5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN

supporting mental health in a child

Research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience anxiety or depression at any one time.   

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

As awareness of mental health grows we look at how you can support your child

5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN

Mental health may seem to be somewhat of a buzz word these days, but research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience a common mental illness such as anxiety or depression at any one time1.

Children affected by learning challenges are:

  • 6 times more likely to experience conduct disorder;
  • 4 times more likely to have a diagnosable emotional mental health problem; and
  • Nearly twice as likely to experience a depressive episode.2
supporting mental health in a child
Taking action to talk with someone is always better done sooner rather than later

How can you as a parent support your child with Special Educational Needs?

1. Talk to your child about mental health

One of the best places to start is by talking about mental health to your child. You may discuss feelings and help give your child the language he or she needs to describe their emotions. You may simply ask questions to ascertain what your child is experiencing – are they anxious? Are they having self-esteem issues? Open dialogue will go a long way to making your child feel heard and supported. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life – anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Ask open-ended questions and show empathy rather than trying to offer immediate solutions.

2. Give your child your full attention

​When listening, make sure you’re fully present and that your child can feel that they have your undivided attention. Nobody likes to be half-listened to. Ignore or avoid distractions. Maintain eye contact and focus on your child.

3. Familiarise yourself with the signs of poor mental health

Keep in mind that all children are different, but some of the common signs of mental health problems in children include:

  • becoming withdrawn from friends and family
  • persistent low mood and unhappiness
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • worries that stop them from carrying out day to day tasks
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • sudden outbursts of anger directed at themselves or others
  • loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
  • problems eating or sleeping3

Look for clues about feelings: listen to the child’s words, tone of voice and body language.

4. If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, get help

Speak to your GP

As a first course of action, we suggest reaching out to your family doctor. He or she will be able to make a clinical assessment and to listen if your child is willing to talk to them. Your GP will also be able to make specialist referrals for therapy for example, where necessary to assist your child in managing their mental health.

Get in touch with your child’s teacher and/or tutors

Schools and teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting students’ mental health. It is vital that they are made aware that your child is struggling and they will be able to keep an eye on them during this time and provide much-needed additional support and encouragement.

Reach out to Support Organisations

If you feel that you‘d like additional support, get in touch with one of the following organisations that specialise in this field:

5. Take care of your own mental health

This cannot be overemphasized. Children live what they learn and as challenging as it may often be for us as parents, it is imperative that we model healthy habits and show our children what good emotional regulation and self-care looks like. If you feel stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed, make a point of implementing a self-care routine that will assist in providing you with more balanced living. You can also schedule time with a counsellor or therapist to provide you with perspective. Never underestimate the world of good that feeling heard can do for you (and your child).

References

  1. McManus et al., 2009, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  2. Emerson & Hatton, 2007, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  3. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

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Does my child with ADHD need a tutor?

Find out if your child with ADHD needs a tutor

This October is ADHD Awareness month. We consider how tutoring could help your child with ADHD.          

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

This October is ADHD Awareness month. We consider how tutoring may help your child with ADHD who is falling behind with schoolwork.

Does my child with ADHD need a tutor?

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD then you’re most likely familiar with the struggles he or she has experienced in keeping up with schoolwork. In fact, for a child with ADHD, falling behind with their schoolwork can feel a bit like chasing a train that has left the station: they might feel inclined to want to simply give up and go home.  Parents who tune into their child’s needs early by enlisting the support of a trusted one-to-one tutor, for example, make it easier for their child with ADHD to ‘hop back on board’.   

Find out if your child with ADHD needs a tutor
Find out if your child with ADHD could benefit from having a tutor

Why tutoring you may ask?  

Students with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD,  may have difficulty with, among other things: 

  • getting and staying organised
  • following directions
  • managing emotions
  • managing time
  • shifting focus from one thing to another
  • getting started on tasks
  • focusing on what’s important
  • being motivated and confident with schoolwork

One-to-one tutoring provides the much-needed individual attention and individualised approach to learning that will assist your child in these areas and help them perform optimally. 

How can you tell if your child needs extra help with schoolwork?  

Some signs to look out for include:

  • His or her homework is frequently incomplete or inaccurate, no matter how much time he or she spends on it.
  • He or she is working hard, but their marks continue to drop.
  • He or she shows an increasing lack of confidence and motivation.
  • He or she is anxious before tests.
  • He or she is often reluctant to go to school.
  • He or she seems to have lost interest in learning. The teacher reports that his or her behaviour has begun causing problems in class.
  • He or she says, “I’ll never understand this. I give up.” Or worse, you hear yourself saying it.

What will a Bright Heart tutor do differently to assist my child with ADHD?

At Bright Heart we approach tutoring a little differently. We aim to create a nurturing relationship between your child and the tutor where the student feels secure and supported. Each student receives tuition tailored to their unique requirements and learning styles, since no two children are the same.

It is our approach that provides us with the ability to foster a strong personal relationship with each student which in turn creates a space where our tutors can identify any additional learning accommodations that will further promote your child’s success. 

One of the known challenges of one-to-one tutoring is finding a good match for your child. This is where Bright Heart does the heavy lifting for you:  our free consultation session will help us understand your child’s unique needs and gain an understanding of his or her learning preferences in order to properly match them with an appropriate tutor. Our free trial lesson will allow the tutor to build rapport with your child with no obligation to proceed unless you are entirely happy.

Making a difference - how our tutors approach students with ADHD

In addition to carefully selecting its tutors, Bright Heart provides its tutors with SEN training from nasen to help them suitably prepare for working with all students.

When dealing with students with ADHD, Bright Heart tutors can provide written notes as well as giving instructions verbally. We like our tutors to place an emphasis on eye contact during verbal instruction (only if comfortable to the student) and to break work down into manageable pieces. When working with a child with ADHD, Bright Heart tutors will avoid distracting stimuli in the learning environment and seek to present information in different ways e.g. using pictures or diagrams. Our tutors will aim to test knowledge, not attention.

Get in touch today to start your Bright Heart journey and discover our heart-based tuition.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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In-person nasen training workshop

In person training with nasen

In this article, we provide some insight about our recently held nasen in-person training event.                  

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We discuss our recently held in-person training event, which was presented by nasen.

Our training relationship with nasen

A lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies before launching Bright Heart. This was especially concerning when working with students with learning challenges. In launching Bright Heart, we were determined to put this right.

We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help provide training to our tutors, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN (special educational needs) practitioners with training and resources. 

Nasen produced a training course exclusively for Bright Heart, comprising 4 webcasts (see here for topics) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course was to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

We recently complimented the online training course with an in-person training workshop facilitated by Michael Surr, nasen’s educational development officer.

In-person training workshop

nasen training
nasen's Michael Surr illustrating his point

We held our tutor in-person training workshop at a Wimbledon hotel on Saturday 28 September. Following an early start, tutors were welcomed on arrival with tea and coffee, before an opening address by Simon.

Michael then proceeded to engage the tutors with a very entertaining and interactive session during the rest of the morning, with the aims being to:

  • Provide an update on SEND news and developments;
  • Develop an understanding of mental health and person-centred working; and
  • Provide tutors with practical strategies to further enhance their one-to-one tuition.

The session included tutors taking part in a number of interesting group exercises and sharing their own tutoring experiences with the group. 

We also watched a very interesting video on the adolescent brain by Dr Andrew Curran, a neurobiologist. This helped to illustrate the science behind the Bright Heart Approach and what makes it so effective for our students.  He explained how the teenage years are characterised by excess dopamine levels (relative to serotonin) and how providing emotional support can help the brain to function optimally (by optimising the levels of dopamine produced). This is because the limbic emotional brain is responsible for 93% of dopamine secretion. Or to put it simply, “if you have someone’s heart, their minds will come with”.

Ryan then concluded the session by emphasising Bright Heart’s vision and the importance of implementing the Bright Heart Approach. He also acknowledged the tutors for their invaluable contributions in successfully putting this into practice.

Tutors then enjoyed a light lunch where they were able to spend time getting to know each other and sharing ideas on how best to implement some of the strategies covered during the morning.

Some tutors then joined Simon and Ryan for a well-earned afternoon beverage at a nearby pub.

The feedback from tutors was all very positive, with everyone thoroughly enjoying the hands-on activities and getting to meet and learn from their peers.

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart’s tutors are all required to complete online training and encouraged to compliment this by actively participating in periodic in-person training workshops and other events.

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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5 Benefits to Homeschooling your Child

homeschooling a girl

In this post we look at some of the many benefits of homeschooling, especially when considering a private tutor.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In this post we look at some of the many benefits of homeschooling, particularly when complemented by a carefully trained and matched tutor

5 Benefits to Homeschooling your Child

homeschooling a girl

The new school year is upon us and you may be considering homeschooling for your child. Perhaps you have a child with special educational needs (SEN) who is not getting the support at school they need? While traditional schooling has definite merit and homeschooling does present certain challenges, in this blog, we consider some of the many benefits of homeschooling (especially when complemented by a carefully selected home tutor). 

 

1. Less Distraction

In a classroom environment, it may sometimes be difficult to ignore the distractions that occur from the visual, noise and movement stimulation of sharing a room with two dozen or more other students. This might impact on your child’s ability to concentrate and process or absorb information. Compared with the focus that a homeschooling setting brings, along with the added benefit of a private tutor and you can understand why it may be more conducive to learning effectively. This is particularly important for learners with certain special educational needs. 

2. Tailored Learning Pace

Every child develops and learns at his or her own unique pace. Some require more time to solidify certain skills or concepts than others. Often a classroom environment is catering to the needs of  the whole rather than of the individual; the group is expected to cover a certain amount of work within a given curriculum during a specific time frame and this takes precedence over individual needs. This is despite the best intentions from the most caring of educators. Students with special educational needs will especially benefit more from an environment in which they can learn at their own pace. 

3. Freedom to Ask More Questions

Students sometimes hold back or refrain from asking questions in a group setting for fear of losing face or embarrassing themselves in front of their peers. Homeschoolers are given the freedom to ask (and keep asking!) until they understand. A private tutor or parent is much less likely to say, “That is off topic,” or “That is not what we are learning about today,” compared to a busy teacher.

4. One-to-one Attention

With an individual tutor or parent, sitting in a quiet room, with not much else to focus on besides the work they are doing, it can be easier for a student to process what they are learning. Tutors get to know your child’s individual learning style and can adapt teaching methods accordingly. They act as your child’s own private teacher. In this setting, your child receives an individualized learning experience that he or she won’t always get in a classroom. Tutors can customize the lessons and activities specifically for your child.

5. Improved Work and Study Habits

Besides helping to foster an improved attitude towards learning and helping your child prepare better for tests and examinations, students in the homeschool environment can also learn work and study habits that will stand them in good stead for life. These skills can help prepare your child to successfully achieve his or her goals both in and outside of their educational environment. Your child can gain the ability to do school work on his or her own, without your help and can realize his or her own personal growth as they take more responsibility for their studies. This in turn provides a monumental sense of achievement and increased self-esteem. 

How Can Tutoring Help?

Perhaps you are already homeschooling your child and are simply weighing up the benefits of tutoring to get more out of homeschooling? 

Enlisting the help of a carefully matched and trained tutor, who understands your child’s unique needs and learning style, can enhance some of the homeschooling advantages discussed above.

If you’d like to explore the benefits of tutoring for your homeschooled Child, take advantage of an obligation-free consultation with one of our directors, who can assist in guiding you towards the ideal match for your child in terms of personality as well as educational needs. Experience the Bright Heart Approach today!


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A new ethos for tutoring students with SEND

nasen Connect September 2019

Dr Stevenson considers how tutoring can evolve and the opportunity this presents -published in nasen Connect magazine Sep 19.               

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Director Dr Ryan Stevenson considers how tutoring can evolve and the opportunity that it presents in this contribution to nasen Connect magazine (Sept. 2019)

Bright Heart director, Dr Ryan Stevenson relates his story of working with SEND students and the valuable opportunity that tutoring presents. He argues a new approach is needed.  This article was published in the nasen Connect September 2019 edition.

nasen Connect September 2019
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

A new ethos for tutoring students with SEND

Being a billion-pound industry, there are a multitude of tutoring agencies and private tutors in the UK. In addition, there are multiple combinations of subjects and exam boards to specialise in and tutors are varied in their nationalities, ages and eccentricities. This was the sub-culture I awakened to in 2012 when becoming a maths and science tutor in London.

After approaching several agencies, I soon began working and familiarising myself with the lingo of the curriculums and student levels. It was clear to me from the beginning that tutors can play an important role for families and schools in delivering education.

In those early days, I was matched with students needing tutoring in science or maths, but I would often find that students also presented with additional learning challenges. This experience was initially quite difficult for me as I came to grips with different ways of learning, the learning environment, the different SEN labels and student behaviour which often left me feeling the need to walk on eggshells.

The objectives for tutoring were most often expressed as simply improving grades. Preparation and training were not high on the agenda and little regard was given to the tuition process, other than ensuring the tutor had the required subject knowledge.

This simplification was an eye-opener. It is premature to launch into rigorous academic work when the student is not yet at ease in the learning environment; studies highlight the lack of retention when the mind is in a stressed state. In fact, a negative relationship with learning can be exacerbated if a student is feeling pushed or cornered into working by a tutor who does not first establish some rapport with them or who does not consider their specific needs.

Observing and learning from student interaction

With increasing referrals of students with SEND, I carefully reflected on what made for effective tuition. I found building rapport and trust with the student and being aware of the learning ‘space’ to be very important. This space is beneficial when tutors are aware of the student’s specific needs and know how to work with them, but also by tutors being calm, receptive and expressing warmth. Psychologist Carl Rogers describes this as ‘positive unconditional regard’, which he noticed made a significant impact on patients’ improvement rates.

Once rapport and trust has been developed, the student is often willing to work more diligently. In positively affirming the unique presence of the student, there is also an increase in their self-esteem and self-worth. All of this leads to greater confidence and a ‘flowering’ of the whole individual. This development is particularly apt for students with SEND who may have lower self-esteem. These positive changes help to promote academic progress and a more stable individual.

Moving away from traditional ideas about tutoring and solely being a subject expert, it is important to give attention to the ‘softer’ factors which make the above process possible. It is suggested therefore, to parents and schools, to look for the following qualities in a tutor:

  • the demonstration of patience and understanding
  • the ability to maintain a calm and receptive learning environment
  • being able to build rapport and create engagement
  • flexibility in their approach to the student’s needs and character
  • particular experience and training for the specific educational need of the student.

This approach aligns well with the SEND Code of Practice (2015) where person- centred working is central. Sometimes, however, what is most crucial is the mindset of the tutor. It is important that they have the intention of creating a safe space for the student from the beginning and are mindful of the role played by his or her own emotions.

Meeting the challenge and implementation of ethos

Seven years later and now the co- founder of a tutoring agency of my own, we have looked to implement a more personal tutoring approach to ensure effective tuition for students with SEND. In addition to providing tutors with detailed guidance on our tutoring ethos, we’ve met this challenge by selecting high quality, experienced tutors who exhibit empathy and understanding, while also preparing them with respect to the SEND landscape. Specially commissioned training videos have been provided for tutors which cover the current context of SEND, the four broad areas of need, person-centred working and specific needs and strategies. Face to face training has also been planned. While not a substitute for direct experience, this knowledge base allows tutors to gain an immediate context and a selection of useful tools. We also ensure we gather as much information as possible regarding each student’s learning preferences. This is something schools and parents can be aware of to enhance the tuition experience.

Tutoring, as outlined here, is not merely the transfer of knowledge to meet a specific educational target. It is a golden opportunity to engage with the child in a way that can further their whole development and one to which I hope I have brought some attention. With this intention, much can be accomplished.

Contact us

If you feel the above article rings true for you then please get in touch and we can see how we can help.


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Dyslexia – another word for ‘a different way to learn’

girl writing on paper

We look at the definition of dyslexia, the myths surrounding it and how to work with dyslexic students.         

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In this post we look at what is dyslexia, the myths surrounding it and how best to adapt tutoring to the student’s way of thinking

Dyslexia – another word for ‘a different way to learn’

If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or if you suspect that he or she may be dyslexic this is not cause for despair.  

While it does present a unique set of challenges when it comes to learning, it is important to remember that some of the world’s most creative and highly successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic and that it is not a learning difficulty which has held them back. 

A few of these (who also happen to be outspoken on the subject) include the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Orlando Bloom, Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Keira Knightley. Even famous scholars such as Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci were thought to have been dyslexic.

So what exactly is dyslexia?

Dyslexia can be defined in the following way:

“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty (or difference) that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

  • Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual ability
  • Additional difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation
  • Dyslexia is on a continuum
  • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds to well informed intervention” *

* (Sir Jim Rose Identifying and teaching children with dyslexia and literacy difficulties 2009).

In simple terms, your child may exhibit signs such as these:

  • Good and bad days at school, for no apparent reason
  • Confusion between directional words (e.g. up/down)
  • Confusion with sequences e.g. days of the week
  • Jumbled phrases

It is also good to check if there is a family history of dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) Management Board adopted Sir Jim Rose’s definition with the addition of a further paragraph:

 “In addition to these characteristics, the BDA acknowledges the visual processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process.  Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.”

This month on our digital media channels at Bright Heart Education we’ve spent some time taking a closer look at what dyslexia means for students with special educational needs and offering tips on how to better support them and you, their parents. There are often a lot of myths associated with being dyslexic. We aimed to bust a few of them that you might find interesting in the infographic below:

infographic on dyslexia

What can I do to make learning easier for my child?

Besides your unconditional support and loads of love and extra encouragement, one of the best ways to bolster your child’s learning journey with this particular challenge is to offer them additional assistance and increased levels of comfort through the help of a tutor. 

How can Bright Heart Education make a difference?

At Bright Heart Education, we focus first and foremost on a heart-based approach. This means that our tutors seek to build rapport with students and connect with them in a way that makes them feel heard, understood and supported. This creates an optimal environment in which learning can take place.

From an educational perspective specific to students with dyslexia, our tutors can reduce the amount of reading required by summarising or using diagrams and video footage if appropriate. Necessary reading can be simplified using bullet points instead of long paragraphs.

Material can also be made more readable using different colour font or colour to highlight and using bold instead of italics. The amount of writing required can be reduced and oral discussion may be favoured instead. Written work will usually be reviewed for content rather than accuracy. For younger students our tutors will assist with phonics.

Students with dyslexia can tire in the lesson due to additional processing. Our tutors are aware of this and will take breaks or alter the pace when necessary.

Tutors can look at spell-checking, but not where it ruins the flow of the lesson. They may also provide written notes. The tutor will aim to provide instructions verbally and provide clear structure for the student’s tasks and offer support with these tasks.

Should you wish to give your child the gift of the Bright Heart experience, get in touch for an obligation-free exploratory session and together you will feel the difference we make in our students’ lives on a daily basis.


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Using a tutor when homeschooling your child

Home-schooled boy

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly prevalent. We outline reasons to consider hiring a tutor to help.               

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Homeschooling your child? Have you encountered some road-blocks to learning that require additional support?

Here are 4 reasons to consider hiring a tutor for your homeschooled child.

Using a tutor when homeschooling your child

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular. It is estimated* that ~58,000 students are currently being home schooled across England alone. This represents a 27% year-on-year increase.

ADCS Elective Home Education Survey 2018

Making the decision to home educate

There are many reasons why parents choose to home educate, particularly when tackling the challenges of special educational needs.

This can include their child’s comfort in the home environment if suffering from anxiety, practical reasons due to health and mobility challenges, behavioural issues in the school environment or recognising that their child is not getting the one-to-one attention they need for their unique style of learning.

If you are unable to provide the intense, early intervention and support that your child needs, you may wish to consider hiring a tutor.  

4 reasons to hire a tutor for your homeschooled child

  • Your child is getting older
    During the years from 10 to 14 children begin to become more self-aware. If your child has fallen behind with his or her learning, it is therefore important to tackle this before it starts to significantly impact their self-esteem. At this age they compare themselves to others and become acutely aware of their deficits – whether real or imaginary. It is very beneficial if your child develops good rapport with a qualified and experienced tutor as a supporting and positive influence.

    Homeschooling can also limit harmful bullying during this phase. Awareness is still needed for cyberbullying, however. A tutor can provide positive support if this is an issue as they represent another reference point besides parents. In these instances an holistic approach is advantageous relative to a purely academic focus.
  • Your child is not making sufficient progress at home
    With the variety of underlying causes of learning difficulties, some students have more of a deficit in working memory, processing speeds and executive function than others. This may result in slower learning and you might find your child is not making sufficient progress at home. In this instance, your child can really benefit from the experience of a patient and experienced tutor guiding and supporting their efforts on a regular basis.
  • If your family dynamic makes offering consistent support to your child a challenge
    There are limited hours in the day and sometimes the demands of modern life and parenting make it challenging for parents to be consistent enough with their children in order to effect the change that is needed. Regular and consistent tutoring is recommended to ensure much-needed input and progress. This is particularly important for children with special educational needs. 
  • If teaching your child is putting strain on your family relationships

    Children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, autism and ADHD often have a low threshold for frustration and this can result in meltdowns and/or anxiety. This has a ripple effect of creating high levels of stress in the home. Children will often behave better and try harder for a tutor who they see two or three times a week than they do for their parents. This may or may not be true for every family, but if it’s true for yours, hiring a qualified tutor with a nurturing approach to learning may be highly beneficial to your child as well as removing unnecessary stress and tension at home.

Home-schooled boy
Could your homeschooled child with special educational needs benefit from a tutor?

I'm homeschooling my child, should I use a tutoring agency?

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring agency generally provides numerous benefits. Find out more on our blog Should I Use a Tutoring Agency? 

At Bright Heart, we are always happy to discuss what is best for parents. We offer a free, no obligation in-person consultation. Feel free to get in touch with us today to discuss how we can best nurture your child’s educational progress, together.  


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16 ways to help my child with dyspraxia

boy writing at desk

Your child has been diagnosed with dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder). Here we look at how to help.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Are you anxious about your child’s recent dyspraxia diagnosis? Here we look to provide practical tips and strategies to help

16 ways to help my child with dyspraxia

Your child has been diagnosed with dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder). You’re relieved to have some insight into the reasons behind some of their difficulties with daily activities. These may include: physical play, team sports, drawing or handwriting, using tools like scissors, a toothbrush or cutlery. Children with motor coordination difficulties may also find tasks such as organising themselves, learning new motor skills and even social and emotional aspects challenging.

boy writing at desk
Concerned about your child's motor coordination challenges? We explore ways to help

Assisting with learning at home

You’re finding support, but it feels somewhat overwhelming and you’d like more practical advice on ways to assist your child at home and with learning.

If this resonates with you, then you’ve come to the right place. 

At Bright Heart Education, our tutors work with students who present with a wide variety of special educational needs and motor co-ordination difficulties are common.  Taking a heart-based approach means that we strive to truly nurture and support the youngsters we are entrusted to aid with learning, but this also extends to you, their parents.

What can I do to help my child with dyspraxia?

1.      Make adjustments at home to encourage greater independence and participation (e.g. elasticated shoes, trousers, easier fastenings on clothes, strategies for organisation and time management).

2.     Provide opportunities for regular practice of activities and exercises by involving your child in everyday activities such as cooking (mixing, spreading), household chores (folding clothes, putting away cutlery, mopping the floor) and simple games (catching a ball, hop scotch).

3.     As your child practices and improves, gradually increase the demands of the task e.g. catching a smaller ball, cutting around more complex shapes.

4.     Let your child choose activities that they particularly enjoy or wish to try.

5.     Praise your child for effort, as well as achievement.

6.     Celebrate successes and attribute them to your child’s hard work and effort.

7.      Try to make sure your child practices meaningful, ‘functional’ tasks that s/he will come across in everyday life e.g. decorating biscuits with icing rather than meaningless finger exercises.

8.     Use your child’s interests as a focus for motivation e.g. cutting out newspaper pictures of their favourite sport.

9.      Encourage practice at every opportunity. ‘Little and often’ is best for learning – ten minutes every day rather than one long session each week.

10.   Try to ensure that your child practices movement skills in a variety of different ways so that they can generalise to new situations e.g. different activities for ball skills: throwing and catching with different size balls of different weights, with the child in different positions.  

11.    Break down tasks into smaller units to be learned; make sure that your child knows what they are working towards and what the end goal looks like e.g. the different components in learning to tie a shoelace.

12.   Support your child when they are learning a task e.g. hold their coat as they do up the zip but gradually reduce this support as they become more confident and start to succeed on their own.

13.   Encourage the use of ‘thinking skills’ (cognitive strategies) such as goal setting, self-monitoring, problem-solving activities e.g. ask your child to say what aspect of the task they need to focus on to be successful (throw the ball higher/harder to get it in the net). What might health and educational professionals offer?

14.  Levels of intervention from health and educational professionals will be determined by the specific needs of your child and the impact this has on his/her everyday activities at home, school and in play.

15.   For intervention planning, individual goals should be agreed in consultation with you, your child and relevant professionals.

16.   The type of intervention will be informed by the individual needs of your child, agreed goals and the research evidence. Intervention may include school based activities and/or parent/teacher information sessions, Physiotherapy or Occupational Therapy in a group or individual setting.

What has worked for you and your child with dyspraxia?

We’d love to hear which of these if any, have worked for you and what other strategies have you implemented at home that have made a difference to your child and/or family with coping with dyspraxia or DCD?

           From Movement Matters www.movementmatters.org.uk the UK umbrella organisation representing the major national groups concerned with children and adults with coordination difficulties, a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder (or DCD) and sometimes referred to as ‘dyspraxia’.

     Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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Our nasen tutor training course

student doing online training course

In this article, we provide some insight from our nasen training course, produced exclusively for Bright Heart’s tutors.                  

Simon McQueen

We explain why we asked nasen to help train our tutors, discuss the course and provide insight from our tutors’ test answers.

Why did we ask nasen to help train our tutors?

The lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies. This was especially concerning for tutors working with students with learning challenges. 

One of Bright Heart’s main goals is to improve the quality of tuition for students who would benefit most from a more nurturing approach. We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help achieve this, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN practitioners with training and resources.

In meeting nasen’s education team, we were surprised to find that no other tutoring agency had met with them before. We therefore commissioned nasen to produce an online training course exclusively for Bright Heart before even hiring our first tutor

The training course comprises 4 webcasts (as shown below) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course is to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

Webcast 1: The Current Context of SEND

This provides a brief overview of the legislative context of SEND (special educational needs and disability) in England. It considers the key principles of the Code of Practice (2015), followed by the models of disability. The current definition of SEND is also discussed.

The current context of SEND

Webcast 2: The 4 broad areas of need

This covers the four main divisions of SEND according to student need, being:

  • Communication and Interaction
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Sensory and / or Physical
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health

The webcast also considers how support and provision works, discussing the graduated approach and general strategies to consider for students.

4 broad areas of SEND

Webcast 3: Person-centred working

This defines person-centred working and how it should inform all interaction with students. It also explains how it should be used in conjunction with the Bright Heart Approach. Our heart-based approach focuses on the whole student and building rapport with warmth, before addressing academic needs.

Person-centred working

Webcast 4: Specific needs and strategies

This webcast provides a good examination of some specific SEN, including dyslexia, autism and social, emotional and mental health needs. It explains how understanding a student’s needs and considering related strengths and appropriate strategies helps to improve tutoring. Lastly, it discusses general strategies of engagement to add to a tutor’s tools for effective tuition.

SEND tutoring strategies

The nasen training course test

Bright Heart’s tutors are required to pass a detailed written test covering the nasen training course. The test comprises 20 questions requiring careful consideration from tutors. The focus is on applying the course material to practical learning situations. A selection of the questions posed are:

  • How might adopting the social model of disability benefit your work?
  • How could person-centred tools be used as part of the graduated approach?
  • Imagine that you are working with a young person that is being uncooperative. How might you go about trying to engage them?
  • Why is care needed when using labels to describe needs e.g. dyslexia?

Interesting insights provided by our tutors

Our tutors demonstrated their full understanding of the course material through their test answers. Reviewing these answers provided some interesting insights into their approach to tuition. Answers took into account the Bright Heart Approach, specific tools and guidance provided by the nasen training, as well as tutors’ own practical experience and other relevant training and qualifications.

A selection of helpful and insightful extracts from tutors’ answers to the questions above included:

  • "Adopting the social model is paramount to any educator's practice... Adherence to the model means looking at each one of my tutees as a unique human being, whose feelings, needs and learning style differ from those of any other human being. The Bright Heart model is quintessentially social, and relies on creating an empathetic rapport with the tutee in order to nurture not only the learner but the sentient being who has feelings, hopes, wishes and opinions of his or her own. ..."
  • "Many of the tools promote information gathering, and encourage an exploration of the young person’s world: how they experience their learning. This leads to both assessment of needs and also a recognition of what is useful to include in planning. Other tools promote review and reflection and can be used to indicate what needs changing or adapting as you go along."
  • "... Listening to the person, showing concern for their feelings, can often deal with the root of the problem, and not only the outward manifestation, which can only worsen if left untouched. Without attempting to solve the problems in people's lives, or to intervene in them in any way, simple listening and caring can help to build a healthy relationship with our tutees. Even if we manage to get a person to collaborate under a punitive approach, the fact that they are doing it under duress will only make it a short-term remedial measure. The Bright Heart approach is based on caring and understanding of tutees, not coercive measures which may assure compliance, but damage rapport, and, most importantly, fail to foster lifelong learners."
  • "Because every individual is different and they may not "fit" the dyslexic label as simply as one might expect - e.g. showing maybe one of the characteristic signs rather than all. Dyslexia is a spectrum condition, and also can occur comorbidly with other learning difficulties. Lastly, using the label may down play their strengths, such as creativity and their natural ability to see the bigger picture of concepts and problems."

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart is pleased that its tutors have embraced their training and demonstrated their thorough understanding of it through their test answers. We plan to complement online training with in-person nasen training. Bright Heart’s directors have already received in-person training from nasen. We will write more about this in a future blog. 

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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Home education documentary sparks debate

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England recently produced a report and featured in a documentary on home education.                                                                                                                                 

Ryan Stevenson

We discuss the report from the Children’s Commissioner on home education and the related Dispatches documentary

Children's Commissioner report and documentary on home education sparks debate

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, recently produced a report on home education. The report – “Skipping School: Invisible Children – How children disappear from England’s schools” – has received a lot of press. Channel 4 then aired a documentary, with Longfield, which featured some families with children in home education. The documentary has angered many homeschooling parents.

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England

What are the report's key findings?

The report featured a sympathetic introduction from Longfield. She empathised with parents who find themselves having to remove their children from “an unforgiving school system”. She shared the anecdote of a parent likening her daughter’s school to the Hunger Games. She is clearly passionate about children receiving a good education.

The report discusses the growth of home education, citing research from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS). ACDS indicates that the number of children in home education has doubled over the last 4 years. The report also discusses reasons for this sharp growth, including: 

  • Unmet needs: includes dissatisfaction with school as well as health and emotional problems.
  • Budgetary strains: funding per pupil has fallen 8% since 2010, requiring cuts to resources to support students with additional needs.
  • Off-rolling: the practice of schools removing a pupil without a formal exclusion process through pressurising parents.

While the report did conclude that many parents are devoted to providing their children with high quality education, it also cautioned about parents struggling to cope. It also discusses the need to improve the well-being of children being home educated. 

What are the report's key recommendations?

  • A home education register: calls for parents to register home-schooled children with the local authority.
  • Strengthened measures to tackle off-rolling: including increased attention from Ofsted and school's acknowledging that poor behaviour may be linked to special educational needs (SEN). Children withdrawn from school should be easily able to re-register with the same school.
  • Advice and support for children and families: within three days of a decision for a child to be withdrawn from school, the local authority should visit the family to provide advice and support.
  • Greater oversight of children: council education officers should visit each child being home educated at least once per term to assess their education and welfare.
  • Decisive action against unregistered schools: government to strengthen the law to make it easier to prosecute illegal schools.

What has caused unhappiness amongst homeschooling parents?

The Children’s Commissioner report would have been better received, presumably, if not for the Dispatches documentary. Dispatches is Channel 4’s investigative current affairs program.  

Dispatches showed a series of case studies, which featured Anne Longfield spending time with different families with children in home education. It also featured the distressing case of Dylan Seabridge, a neglected eight year old boy who died of scurvy in 2011.

We understand why homeschooling parents might feel angry after watching the documentary:

  • Did Dispatches present any of the numerous home education success stories? 
  • Were the selected case studies a representative sample? 
  • Did it select cases designed to stir up emotions about "invisible children" being harmed by their parents? 
  • Was a balanced view of home education shown?
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about home schooling by Anne Longfield
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on home education, presented by Anne Longfield

Some thoughts on home education

Most parents do not make the decision to home educate their children lightly. Under-resourced schools, additional learning needs and mental health and anxiety can all play their part (see our previous blog on the subject). Homeschooling often requires a parent to stay at home, impacting on their career and personal time. Parents may also need to spend money on hiring tutors to help fill gaps in their own knowledge. It is therefore a journey that requires commitment and dedication.

Responding to the report on home education:

  • Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, commented:

    “Councils fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit, and the vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job ..." 

  •  A Department for Education spokesperson said:

    Where children are being home educated, we know that in the vast majority of cases parents are doing an excellent job. We also know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be ...” 

What do you think?

At Bright Heart, we speak to many parents who feel let down by schools and are desperately trying to help their children realise their potential. We would love to hear your views on the documentary and report.

Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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