Your child’s mental health during times of stress

boy with anxiety

We bring attention to some warning signs relating to mental health. This is particular important at this time.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In time of stress, mental health is increasingly important. We consider some warning signs.

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

According to The Guardian, fewer young people are receiving help with mental health issues. This is despite levels of anxiety and depression having risen sharply in the under 18 age group. 

Reasons include mental health services being suspended or restricted and a lack of in-person engagement. The closure of schools – a first point of referral for distressed children – has certainly not helped.  

an unhappy girl doing homework
Learning and engagement is strongly affected by one's mental and emotional state.

Lockdowns have negatively impacted many children

Almost one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression. In recent surveys by Save the Children of over 6000 children and parents in the US, Germany, Finland, Spain and the UK, up to 65 per cent of the children struggled with boredom and feelings of isolation.”  

Reliefweb International, 7 May 2020

The pandemic has turned the lives of millions of children and young people upside down. Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home.”

Emma Thomas of YoungMinds, a leading UK not-for-profit championing mental health for young people

boy with anxiety
We all have times when we need to talk to someone. This is especially true for children.

The impact of COVID-19 on children's mental health

While it has been a challenging time for parents, children have felt the effects of social distancing and isolation with far-reaching effects. The British Psychological Society, together with more than thirty other organisations, have written an open letter to the Government. This letter was urging them to limit the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

What should parents consider for their child's mental health?

Previously, we covered the importance of planning an active day in our homeschooling tips for parents and the importance of physical activity. Eating regular meals, getting sufficient sleep and limiting screen time go together with this.

Good mental health is a much-needed foundation for learning.

However, you may find your children require additional support.  

Some warning signs to be aware of in your child’s behaviour that could indicate impaired mental health can be remembered by using the acronym MASK:

M – Mood

They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn.

A – Actions

They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying, over- or under-eating or self-harm.

S – Social

They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or loss of interest and motivation with schoolwork are common warning signs.

K - Keep talking

Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.

Please note that these symptoms are by no means diagnostic in nature. Professional advice is always preferable, especially if you have any doubt as to what may be causing the change in your child’s behaviour.

Attention and active listening go a long way in making sure your child does not slip under the radar.

Where can I get extra help for my child's mental health?

Fortunately, there is plenty of help at hand and we recommend reaching out to the team at YoungMinds where you will find many resources and professional support available.

Other sources of support include:

The NSPCC and the Mental Health Foundation.

We are also here to help with any learning issues relating to anxiety and social and emotional mental health. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experienced directors to discuss your needs. We offer a free consultation and a free trial lesson to help build rapport.


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Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

FB Live with John Salmon, Bright Heart director

Bright Heart director John Salmon, M.Ed., answers pertinent questions live on Facebook about homeschooling during lockdown.        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, addressed parent’s typical homeschooling concerns due to lockdown.

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

We recently held a Facebook Live Q & A to address parent’s questions about homeschooling during lockdown.  This was hosted by Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, our social media manager, with questions answered by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

  • 0m49s -- Learn more about John
  • 2m33s -- Typical challenges seen during lockdown when it comes to online learning
  • 5m40s -- Pointers for parents to structure the school day at home for their children
  • 9m51s -- How can technology in general and online tutoring in particular better support parents and students during lockdown?
  • 13m48s -- What about learners with special educational needs and challenges that SEN students are facing during lockdown?
  • 18m33s -- What signs of stress or distress, related to this online learning, should I be aware of as a parent, particularly as a parent of a child with special educational needs? And how can I help my child navigate this?
  • 22m22s -- What should I look for when selecting a tutor, whether for online or in-person support?
  • 27m22s -- Listen to John’s concluding remarks
Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A about homeschooling.

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read about the experiences of a Bright Heart student, parent and tutor in a recent blog here.

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


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Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

student learning online with tutor

In part 3 of our lockdown blog series, one of our directors discusses online tutoring and provides some tips.                

John Salmon director

In part 3, I provide some details on online tuition and provide tips for using an online tutor

Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

In this third blog in a 3-part series to help parents during lockdown, I discuss online tutoring. Online tuition has experienced a massive surge in popularity due to lockdown.

With the growth of technology and the desire for education in the home, online tutoring had already been experiencing increasing adoption before coronavirus (COVID-19).     

Online tutoring platforms have been improving, as they allow for interactive teaching and learning, as well as effective evaluation, in real time. Online tutoring also presents opportunities for students who live in areas that are hard to access, where there are not many tutors. For tutors, online tutoring is much more efficient than navigating the city’s public transport or driving at rush hour.

While in-person tuition is often the preferred option for parents, there are some students who find in-person social interaction awkward and who may feel more comfortable online. There are also many students who enjoy technology and find this method of learning exciting. However, for some students with special educational needs (SEN) who require kinaesthetic learning, meeting their needs online will not be as attainable. Building rapport, which is an important part of tutoring, is a bit more challenging online. Some parents are also happier once they’ve met the tutor in person before online lessons commence.

Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of online tutoring and some general tips for parents.

student learning online with tutor
Online tuition has certain strengths and weaknesses

What are some advantages of online tutoring?

  • Generally easy to setup with a tutoring platform – a link can be provided by the tutor
  • Allows education to continue when in-person tuition is difficult for whatever reason
  • For some students with concentration issues a screen can help their focus
  • Some children who have social anxiety may prefer online tuition
  • Children get excited about technology and enjoy the novel aspects of learning this way
  • Tuition can be scheduled to fit in with one’s day much more easily
  • Online tutoring platforms offer many great technological features. Features include lesson recording, enhanced security and an interactive whiteboard. Bright Heart offers online tutoring using a premium online tutoring platform called Bramble.
  • Online tutoring is frequently cheaper than in-person tuition, as a parent does not need to pay for a tutor’s travel time. At Bright Heart, we provide a 10% discount for online tuition compared to in-person home tuition.
  • A greater pool of tutors from which to find the perfect match, as a student is not limited to tutors that live nearby.

What are some disadvantages of online tutoring?

  • Traditional online tutoring agencies are unlikely to meet tutors in person (as the latter could be based in many different locations and agencies will often have many tutors listed). The vetting process may not be as stringent therefore, as it is for a bespoke tutoring agency such as Bright Heart, which meets all its tutors in person and only offers online tuition using its pool of carefully vetted professionals.
  • More time is needed for the first lesson in setting up the technology and it requires a reliable broadband connection
  • Rapport and trust are a bit harder to build online with the student
  • Although still possible, tactile learning becomes more challenging and online tuition will be less effective for students with certain SEN whose needs require the physical presence of a tutor
  • Sometimes simple instructions or concepts are not so easy to explain online
  • Parents do not get to know their tutor in person
Parents should take precautions to make sure they are happy with the online tutor for their child.

6 tips for parents using a private online tutor

  1. Use an agency that follows strict protocols when screening and interviewing tutors and conducting background checks (Enhanced DBS) and reference checks. Although the tutor is not physically present in the home, using a carefully vetted tutor that the agency knows personally is very important.
  1. Check that the tutoring agency or tutor is using a suitable platform for tuition. This would be one that allows video, audio, file sharing and online whiteboard options. The latter is important when evaluating written content in real time. The ability to share pictures related to the topic (e.g. volcanoes for Geography) is also helpful to maintain interest.
  1. Preferably meet them in person beforehand; however, if this is not possible, set up an online mini interview before the lesson to get a sense of their approach, personality and experience.
  1. Prior to the first lesson, allow some time to set up the technology and to gain some familiarity with it. Children are naturals with technology, but some applications are more intuitive than others.
  1. Make sure the topic is chosen prior to the lesson. Extra preparation is needed for online tuition and this will be much appreciated by the tutor.
  1. Carefully review the first online lesson to make sure that you are comfortable with the tutor and that your child and the tutor have established the necessary rapport. A good tutoring agency will also provide a lesson report following the session and some agencies, such as Bright Heart, even offer a free trial to make sure you are completely satisfied before continuing.   
Gardening during lockdown has shown a large increase in popularity

What can we do to help you during lockdown?

This lockdown period will be a challenge for everyone. But with every challenge there is an opportunity – with a little thought and planning this period can be productive and a time of family connection and reflection. We hope that you keep healthy with your family and make the most of the next months. We also hope you have found this 3-part blog series helpful – see Part 1 and Part 2.

My fellow Bright Heart directors and I are here to help at this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. Whether it is simply to ask a question about the blog series or to discuss how one of our experienced, caring tutors could be the right choice to help your child, we are always happy to hear from parents.

Please share our blogs with other parents if you think they could be helpful. We would also love you to share your own experiences and tips with us through our Facebook page.


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9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

fun coloured window with hearts

It can be tricky to keep children entertained and focus on one’s own work. Here are some fun activities! 

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Need inspiration to keep your children entertained during lockdown? Here’s a roundup of 9 fun & easy activities.

9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an almost global lockdown to slow the spread of the virus. Schools are largely closed and many of us are working from home. This means that we’re spending a lot of time with our partners and/or children. It can be tricky to keep children entertained and focus on one’s own work. It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting children watch TV or scroll online for hours on end, but the little ones in particular are bound to become restless as the days go by.

Below are some fun activities you can do with your younger children (or allow your older children to do themselves) during lockdown:

Lockdown Idea #1

Let your children paint numbers 1-1 on ordinary garden stones (or you can use prepared coloured cards).  Hide the numbers 1 to 10…around the garden or around the house and let them play Number Fun Hide ‘n Seek! (You can give younger children clues as to where to look that correspond to each number, for example:  “1 is hidden in or near an appliance that we have one of (e.g. the fridge) 2 is hidden in a room with two beds in it…” etc. ). This will also be a good practice for an Easter egg hunt for Sunday the 12th of April.

Lockdown Idea #2

This will keep the kids calm for a little while – invite them to read or listen to an audio book in an easy, home-made under table hammock using blankets or sheets knotted above a sturdy tabletop as shown above.

Lockdown Idea #3

Have a Lockdown Disco one evening – print tickets and invite your family to have some fun while you play DJ. Suggest each member of the family makes a half-hour playlist, dim the lights and get your groove on! Or try online dance classes and learn a routine.

Lockdown Idea #4

Take virtual tours

The museums and art galleries may be closed but if your teenager wants to expand their horizons, there are now virtual tours of thousands of the world’s most important museums, including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York. The tours are so good it’s like you are actually wandering through the corridors and you can zoom in to view any masterpieces you fancy. Look up the museums’ websites for more details. 

One such example is the National Videogame Museum. Your child can create a Pixel Art character or design their own arcade cabinet with these fun activities to play at home: https://www.thenvm.org/nvm-at-home

Lockdown Idea #5

fun coloured window with hearts

Order tissue paper from Amazon (or simply use any coloured paper you have on hand) and let your children cut these rainbow hearts out by hand. So worth it for adding a splash of brightness to windows and fun to make too!

Lockdown Idea #6

Grow a windowsill garden

Just because they are cooped up inside doesn’t mean children can’t keep learning about the natural world. Inspire a love of nature by helping them grow some easy flowers and veg. To get fast results, order cornflower or pot marigold seeds online, which germinate in as little as two weeks.

Alternatively, help them grow their own salad veg by planting quick-sprouting radishes or cress. A fruit carton, cut in half, with holes in the bottom or even an old welly boot will do the trick if you don’t have any pots. 

Lockdown Idea #7

The Animal Name Game exercises both body and mind. Each player should think of an animal and tell the others a fact about it.

The other players must try and guess the animal, with a maximum of three facts per person to guess.

Players should continue until the group has cycled through five animals each, taking inspiration from the outdoors where possible. For those in a flat, let the participant use Google animal 3D to search for the animal in Google and display it in augmented reality (AR) and let the others try and work out which animal they are looking at once they provide a fact.

Lockdown Idea #8

Paper Crafts are simple and easy to make and these Moving Fish provide extra entertainment value (let the kids put on a puppet show for you afterwards to extend this activity) – older children can also help younger siblings with this activity. Watch the How To video here: https://youtu.be/UmZgsnY8fMQ

Lockdown Idea #9

A fun activity in 5 minutes! All you need is a sock, plastic bottle and a bit of washing-up liquid with water to help while away hours engaged in sensory play in the fresh air or even blow bubbles out of your flat window. Credit to #TheDadLab

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Homeschooling your child with special educational needs: pros and cons

homeschooled boy

We outline some typical pros and cons to be aware of for parents considering homeschooling their child with SEN.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Considering homeschooling your child with Special Educational Needs (SEN)? We outline the potential advantages and disadvantages…

Homeschooling your child with special educational needs: pros and cons

homeschooled boy
Homeschooling your child presents some unique opportunities and challenges

For parents considering homeschooling their child with special educational needs (SEN), we outline some typical pros and cons to be aware of.

Note that if your child attends a special school which was arranged by your local authority, you’ll need the council’s permission to homeschool your child. You do not need the council’s permission if your child attends a mainstream school, even if they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Potential Advantages

1. Personalised, flexible learning

Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to create a tailor-made education for your child; one that suits his or her unique learning needs.

2. One-to-one teaching is very effective

Your homeschooled child can make more progress with less teaching time when they are supported with one-to-one teaching; a school day’s worth of learning may take place within two hours of focused teaching. A tutor is an ideal way to incorporate this support. This also applies to online tutoring if this is an option you wish to explore with your tutor.

3. Fewer distractions in a home setting

With no noise or distraction from classmates, which can sometimes negatively impact on your child’s concentration and performance, a home setting provides the distinct advantage of a focused environment

4. Application of learning into everyday life

From cooking to paying the household bills, to budgeting, and dealing with challenges, a key strength of homeschool learning is the way that children can learn to apply what they are learning to real life. With this relevance, learning takes on a whole new meaning, going from simply absorbing different pieces of information to developing fundamental skills to survive successfully in the future.

5. Freedom from peer pressure and bullying

When teaching your child at home, you don’t have to be as concerned about the harmful effects of peer pressure or the devastating effects of bullying. Your child will be assured of a safe and secure environment in which to learn and focus on growing into a happy, confident individual.

6. More organised and/or structured socialisation

Since socialisation will have to be more organised and/or structured, a home-schooled child can meet people who share their interests and hobbies rather than merely their age, and have the opportunity to get involved with a range of extra-curricular activities.

Potential Disadvantages

1. Homeschooling is a significant time commitment

Any parent leading a homeschooling education for their child with SEN will likely have to make a significant time commitment, especially if their child’s needs are more complex. The parent(s) will need to carry out a myriad of tasks. Tasks can include organising and teaching lessons, making a timetable, preparing visits, resources and field trips, joining local homeschooling groups, and making plenty of arrangements with other homeschooled children and/or extra-curricular activities for socialisation.

2. The cost

While a home education will tend to be cheaper than paying fees at a private school, parents who opt to homeschool their children will incur additional costs compared to a state school education. Parents may need to hire private tutors to help, which can be expensive, depending on the amount of tutoring required. If a parent has to give up his or her job to become a homeschool teacher, there are also high costs in terms of lost earnings.

3. Lack of teaching diversity and specialised skills

A homeschooled child will not usually have opportunities to learn from such a diverse range of skilled backgrounds as are found in a school setting, with specialist teachers and advisors. This is especially true if a child has special educational needs and requires expert teaching and care.

4. Reduced socialisation opportunities

Whilst a parent may welcome the chance to better direct their child’s interaction with other children, homeschooled children will generally have less opportunity to socialise with their peers. This does require parent’s to be proactive in making suitable arrangements to keep their homeschooled child engaged with other children.

5. Less structured routine

Attending school provides a structured routine for children, with a set timetable and school hours. A drawback of homeschooling can be this loss of routine, depending on how the homeschooling is structured.

Potential advantages and disadvantages depend to a large extent on you and your child’s unique circumstances and how you envisage providing your child with a home education. Making use of a suitably qualified tutor to complement a parent’s homeschooling efforts can make a significant difference to a child’s educational journey.

An experienced tutor will not only support you as a parent and free up some of your time, but is also a worthwhile, cost-effective investment in supporting your child with special educational needs as they learn. With the right tutor, you can enjoy the benefits of homeschooling, with less of the drawbacks. Get in touch with us today for your obligation-free consultation.

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Working with students with autism

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)

Autism is a spectrum condition. Here we look at some considerations when working with these students.                      

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Being aware of certain traits of students with ASC is helpful for tutoring. Here we provide some general tutoring tips.

Working with students with autism

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that no two students are the same. However, there are some general tips for parents and tutors to be aware of when working with students with autism.

5 tips for working with students on the autism spectrum

1. Establish a routine and communicate any changes in advance

Ensuring that a child with autism is well prepared is important for parents and tutors. This includes explaining what to expect in a first tutoring session and what to do if an unexpected change occurs. For example, having insight into how the lesson will be structured so your child / student is fully informed is key. Meeting their tutor before formal lessons begin, through a no pressure trial / getting to know you session is very beneficial. Being prepared and knowing whom to expect can be calming for a student with autism. This is also a great way for the tutor to meet their student and get a sense of requirements and needs.

Planning and sticking to a routine is important and can be the difference between a successful or chaotic experience. If you are going to introduce a test or a new way of working, always mention this in advance. Any changes to tutoring schedules should also be communicated in good time.

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)
Structure and routine is important to minimise anxiety for students with ASC

2. Communicate using clear and simple language

Students with autism spectrum condition (ASC) find different aspects of communication and language more challenging. Avoid using sarcasm and idioms as they may take you literally and misunderstand your meaning. Some students will be unable to listen to people speaking for lengthy periods. They will require visuals and gestures to support their understanding or appropriate pauses to allow for processing time. If you have a student that requires visuals, they will need them for all aspects of written and spoken language i.e. their timetable, labels on folders, instructions and lists.

Use your student or child’s name before you address them so they understand you are speaking to them. Do not assume a student has understood you. Ensure you ‘check in’ with that student periodically. Use phrases that require them to repeat back what they have to do or answer direct questions about the topic to check if they have understood it. Be sure to moderate the directness of questions so that they are not always setup with a binary outcome e.g. correct or incorrect. For some students, experiencing failure can evoke intensely negative emotions.

If the student is sensitive to eye contact, start this off gently and do not insist this is reciprocated. Once familiarity increases then look to increase eye contact. Eye contact can be particularly challenging for some students on the spectrum, so a lack of this contact should not be taken personally. However, one-to-one tuition sessions can be hugely advantageous to increasing this aspect of communication.

Puzzles, word searches and ticking off items from their to-do list can be incredibly encouraging, relaxing and soothing for the child.

Even small differences can be detrimental to their learning; so maintain a sense of calm, explore repetitive teachings and begin with engaging communication. You’ll typically find this approach more constructive for the student.

3. Avoid over-stimulation

Students with ASC can become over-stimulated by things that have little impact on students without ASC. This can become overwhelming and means they are unable to learn at the times you want them to. Flexibility from parents and tutors can be invaluable.

Giving the child time means they are not sensing any chaotic rushing. Think carefully about the environment you will be tutoring the child in and where the student will sit. Over stimulation can come from bright lights, traffic noise, a loud ticking clock, a dog barking, a chair made of a particular material or someone’s perfume or aftershave.

If your student can communicate effectively, ask them if where they are sitting works for them. If they are unable to tell you, speak to their parents for insight.

4. Be patient and understanding with social skills and behaviour

Some students with ASC may appear to engage in low-level disruptive behaviour. A student may be humming, tapping, rocking or flapping. This behaviour is called stimming and helps to reduce anxiety. It may be that a student engages in this behaviour in order to help them concentrate. A student may appear abrupt, to lack tact or seem rude when speaking. This is often unintentional and reflects a student’s inability to recognise ‘social norms’ when having a conversation or passing comment. Giving very clear and literal instructions and tasks to do when working together will make it easier.

Some parent intervention may be required; tutors are familiar with this and it can be beneficial for both parties.

5. Follow a person-centered approach

Every student with ASC is different and will face different challenges just like students without ASC. Try not to make assumptions about your students. Observe your student for signs of anxiety and support them in reducing that. Ask the student what works for them. Speak to their parents for insight into what will help them to learn.

Always remain calm and remember your student may not intentionally be being rude so do not take such behaviour personally. Use these opportunities to teach and reiterate conversation skills. No student can learn whilst their anxiety levels are high. Reduce anxiety before attempting to teach.

Receiving one-to-one tuition can be incredibly beneficial for children with autism. Learning solely at school can be tricky with so many children in a class demanding the teacher’s attention, so having this focused time can really help these students with their studies as well as social and emotional skills. For parents peace of mind, think carefully about who you are choosing as your child’s tutor. It is important that both your child and the tutor are able to engage and work together in each session. This is rewarding for both and can make the student (and tutor) feel at ease in subsequent sessions.

It is through parents and tutors working together that the child will get the stability and secure environment to be taught effectively.

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7 ways to cope with your child’s sensory processing challenges

child with sensory processing challenges

Some children have trouble processing the information they take in through their five senses.            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Sensory processing challenges present in different ways. Here we offer 7 tips to make it easier for you and your child.

7 ways to cope with your child's sensory processing challenges

Some children have trouble processing the information they take in through their five senses. Things like too much noise, crowds and even “scratchy” clothes can cause them to become anxious, uncomfortable, overwhelmed or even aggressive. That can lead to actions that leave you mystified as a parent. Here are seven tips to help you cope.

child with sensory processing challenges

1. Understand the difference between 'mountains' and 'molehills'

As is the case with all children, not every misdemeanour by a child with sensory processing challenges ought to be punished. There are times when their actions merely stem from a need to experience something in their environment the only way they know how. For example, spitting their food out or playing with it at the table is often the best way for them to make sense of new tastes and textures. This should be treated as a proverbial molehill. Throwing a plate at someone, however, because they don’t like their food is more of a mountain and requires action on your part as the parent. The key worth bearing in mind is that if their behaviour can hurt themselves or someone else, it is recommended that you intervene. If not, rather help them work through the situation and always try to provide them with a variety of options.

2. Encourage play in a variety of sensory bins at least 5-6 times per week

Encouraging your child’s regular exposure to a variety of sensory experiences can assist him or her in overcoming or better managing their challenges. This can be done at home or under the guidance of an occupational therapist, for example, who specialises in assisting children with sensory processing difficulties.

3. Acknowledge to your child and yourself that when they experience sensory challenges, they are not simply being difficult

Acknowledge that this is a real thing that is causing them real pain or discomfort. When you do, it will give you more patience and empathy and create more ease for your child, knowing that they are accepted despite the difficulties that they feel and express

4. Yoga, breathing and meditation

Using these tools in educational settings is becoming more mainstream and with good reason.  Moving slowly through a yoga sequence can provide calming stimulation to the vestibular system, the proprioceptive system, and the tactile system, improving self-regulation for a child with sensory processing challenges. Meditation helps calm the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) while activating the parasympathetic nervous system (resting and digesting).

5. When dealing with aggression related to sensory processing challenges, remember it’s not because of bad parenting

It’s not your fault. The most important thing you can do is have a team of people to help, from a trusted family doctor, to an occupational therapist that you trust. Believe that it gets better. Remind yourself how much you absolutely love your child and pick yourself up to fight another day, because your child desperately needs you to.

6. Create a chill-out zone for emotional times

Keep this space calm, clutter-free, quiet and dim. Some children might favour a bottom bunk, the corner of a closet, even under a desk or table. You could even use a child-sized tent or teepee for younger children. Items you may wish to include in this calming zone include: favourite books, noise-cancelling headphones, sensory toys, a beanbag chair and/or weighted blanket. The most important factor to note here is that the chill-out zone must remain a place of refuge for your child, not a place of punishment.

7. Create as much consistency and predictability in their daily routine as possible.

Look for patterns. Use check-lists for your child as a visual cue to create routine and give them a sense of knowing what to expect. Certain times of day are often more challenging than others. Break down a situation or routine (for example a homework plan) into simple tasks on a whiteboard. This can help prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed.

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Holiday tips for parents of a child with SEN

the festive season with families

Help keep the whole family happy during the festive season with these practical tips.                                                           

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

The festive season can bring many expectations. We look at how to keep smiling and enjoy this time with your children.

Holiday Tips for Parents of a Child with SEN

Christmas crowds, lights, smells and lack of routine can make the holidays a challenging time for children with special educational needs. Help keep the whole family happy during the festivities with these practical tips on how to survive it with your sense of humour and festive cheer intact.

the festive season with families
Holidays can be stressful, but they're also the perfect time of year to reflect and celebrate small victories.

1. If you're travelling

Travelling with a child with additional needs at any time of year can be difficult. Holiday travel can be even more stressful. A few ways to make journeys easier for children with SEN include:

Make a list of your child’s favourite toys and accessories on which to rely for a Special Educational Needs Holiday Toolkit. This may include noise cancelling headphones, sensory toys such as fidget spinners, weighted toys (especially for children with sensory processing challenges) and any other particular favourite toys.  It’s also advisable to travel with a supply of your child’s favourite foods and snacks in order to overcome any unexpected food challenges.  You may find a tablet or personal gaming device handy for limited screen time as well.

2. Visit the local library

While it may not sound like the most exciting place for a holiday outing, for children with special educational needs, the quiet and less crowded library makes for a great option where you can spend a few hours together. At some libraries you may even find games which are appropriate for your child. 

3. Stay home and get crafty

Stay home and bake cookies, make paper garlands, cut snowflakes, or otherwise have crafty fun with your child. If you need to do most of the work, that’s ok. We suggest a number of projects that can be completed in a few hours with minimal fuss – scroll through our Facebook or Instagram pages for ideas. 

This is also an important way to not only connect with your child at this special time of year, but also to keep them occupied in a stimulating way that inspires confidence and feelings of success and accomplishment. These exercises are a tool for helping your child stay mentally engaged during the time off from school and tutoring.

4. Worry less about age-appropriate experiences

Many children with special educational needs are “younger than their years.”  A 12-year-old with special educational needs may for example, still get a big kick out of holiday-themed Thomas the Tank Engine toys or a visit with Santa.

Consider choosing a few toys and experiences that will resonate with your child even if they’re really intended for younger children. After all, many adults still love watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas

5. Communicate expectations

Communication is a big factor in successful holiday survival with a child with special educational needs. Communicate with your child what will be happening during their holiday so that they feel secure and prepared.

Share with the family and friends you may be visiting what your needs are. For example, let them know if your child needs downtime and may not be able to participate in some of the usual family activities. Communicate with them ahead of time if your child can only tolerate a certain amount of time at a gathering. Let them know you may need to retreat to your room or back to your hotel and may miss part of the celebration.

If you are travelling as a family or entertaining during the holidays, communicate with your partner or spouse what the plan and expectations are. Will you stay for an allotted time and leave at that time regardless? Or do you prefer to watch for those signs special needs parents recognise that it might be time to go (or wind down a party)?

6. Be gentle with yourself and your child

It’s normal to feel frustrated when a child with special educational needs doesn’t seem to “get” the holidays or appreciate what you do to make the season special. It can be equally difficult to endure the stares and comments of well-meaning family and friends who simply might not understand why your child isn’t appropriately happy and engaged.

Whilst you cannot change the behaviour or feelings of other people, you can change your own.

To make the holidays easier for everyone (including you):

·         Remember that the holidays aren’t for garnering praise or appreciation; they’re for building relationships and memories (and, for some people, for remembering the religious significance of Christmas). If you’re able to remember even a few special moments when the holidays are done, you’ve succeeded.

·         Give yourself permission to walk away from difficult situations. While some extended families and friends can be wonderful with children with special educational needs, others…aren’t. If your family falls into the latter category, it’s ok to cut a visit short. You’re under no obligation to stick with an unpleasant situation.

·         Get support when you need it. Maybe you really need to attend a carols evening, a church service, or a special party even if your child can’t or won’t. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a little respite care from those in your support network so that you can have the experience that you need in order to recharge and remember why the holidays are special.

 

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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.

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