Bright Heart Education wins nasen award

Bright Heart wins 2020 nasen Award

We are proud winners of a nasen award for Co-Production with Children and Young People and their Families.                                     

Bright Heart

Our nurturing and person-centred approach with students, families and organisations has been validated with a 2020 nasen Award!

Bright Heart Education wins nasen award

Bright Heart has won a 2020 nasen Award! This was awarded for Co-Production with Children and Young People and their Families.

nasen award Bright Heart Education winner
Bright Heart Education is a proud recipient of a nasen award.

The nasen awards

The annual nasen awards celebrate achievements within the global SEND sector. Nasen (the National Association of Special Educational Needs) is a UK charity that has been supporting SEND practitioners for over 25 years.

The awards are typically presented at an awards dinner in central London. Due to COVID-19, the ceremony was postponed this year and the awards were announced virtually.

This year, nasen received a record number of nominations from across the world.

How does nasen judge its winners?

Nasen expects to see evidence of common features of practice across all 13 award categories. Award categories include awards for individuals as well as organisations from the UK and globally.

Common features are:

  • inclusive leadership and governance which would be visible at every tier in an organisation;
  • a collaborative approach to working;
  • productive engagement with the full community of the organisation;
  • innovation; and
  • a commitment to sharing effective practice beyond own organisation.

Validating our mission

Bright Heart was established to be the UK’s leading provider of tuition for students who would benefit from a more nurturing approach to learning. We strive to serve students as well as other stakeholders involved in the holistic learning process. This includes family members, tutors and local authorities.

On receiving this award, Bright Heart’s Co-founder, Dr Ryan Stevenson, noted:

We are extremely proud to have won this nasen award. It is great to see our nurturing, person-centred approach being acknowledged with this award. This is inspiring for the Bright Heart team and its dedicated tutors. We look forward to continuing to provide exceptional service to all of our students and their families.”

Bright Heart wins 2020 nasen Award
Co-founders Simon and Ryan with the nasen 2020 award for Co-Production with Children and Young People and their Families.

Bright Heart’s success working with families

Three examples of our work with families were cited for consideration by nasen in support of Bright Heart’s nomination:

  • Bright Heart provides tuition for a young man who has limited verbalisation and is on the autism spectrum. His unique needs were not being met at his special school, leading to disengagement. Collaborative meetings were held with the family, case worker, his educational psychologist and the Autism Trust. An iterative approach was first adopted. It soon became clear that he had a strong leaning towards maths and science. This was not being reflected in the level of work assigned. Through patient, steady work this student has progressed to A Level and has pride in his work. He now aspires to study at university.
  • We were approached in February to provide Maths and English tuition for a 13-year old boy with ADHD, ASC and ODD. He was initially very reluctant to engage with the tutor, but through creative methods – introducing his love of art into lessons and using cooking to work with numbers – engagement significantly increased. He is now more confident and looking forward to GCSEs. As part of the process, the tutor also helped his sister to take her English GCSEs confidently. The tutor has also supported his mother as a sounding board during lockdown. She has also worked closely with Westminster council’s education team, CAMHS and the family’s social worker. 
  • We were approached to help a mother with her three, recently adopted children. These young children (Y0 girl, Y2 boy and Y3 boy) had emotional trauma from their birth family. This was hindering their school progress. Bright Heart spent time to properly understand the family’s needs. We carefully considered input from NHS psychologists, social workers and teachers as part of this process. Before academic progress could be made, gaining the children’s trust was a major obstacle to overcome. Over a 10-month period, through care and attention, the young girl developed her confidence and the younger boy became more diligent and attentive. The older boy, who had been most affected by the previous trauma, became more engaged with his work and schooling.

Bright Heart is very appreciative of the families that offered their time to share their positive experiences of working with us as part of the awards adjudication process.

Learn more about Bright Heart’s award-winning tuition

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your tuition needs. Learn how one of our experienced, caring tutors could be the perfect fit for your child. We specialise in helping students with SEN, those that have fallen behind at school (possibly lacking confidence or motivation) and those being homeschooled. We currently offer a 10% discount on all online tuition due to COVID-19.

Please have a look at our Facebook page for current events, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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Challenges of remote learning: a tutoring agency’s perspective​

nasen Connect September 2020

A director discusses tutoring under lockdown in an article published in nasen Connect magazine Sep 20.               

John Salmon director

John Salmon

Director John Salmon, M. Ed,  examines how tutoring evolved during lockdown and how tutees responded.

nasen Connect magazine (Sep 20)

John Salmon, director at Bright Heart Education, reflects on how support for tutees had to be adapted during lockdown and how tutees responded to a new way of working. This article was published in the nasen Connect September 2020 edition.

nasen Connect September 2020
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

Challenges of remote learning: a tutoring agency’s perspective

Unlike schools, tutoring agencies arguably experience closer contact with the everyday reality of many households as they directly partake in both the academic and emotional vicissitudes of families. Our first-hand knowledge has shown that adapting to online schooling has been an onerous challenge for families (as well as schools), but at the same time it has offered a more personalised learning opportunity for many
students, especially those with SEN.

As a tutoring agency that supports many students with SEN, we have naturally been concerned about the emotional and academic impact of lockdown. Lately, we have received a number of calls for help from concerned parents, which shared a common pattern: their child had lost interest in writing, reading and numeracy and no longer tried to fulfil school expectations. Parents reported unattainable assignments
amidst mounting levels of frustration, anxiety and disengagement. The lack of structure left children fending for themselves, with minimal assistance, save for that provided by their parents – who cannot be expected to play the role of trained teachers. Traditionally, our agency had focused on in-person tuition, so we had to transition to online tutoring to adapt to the lockdown.

For some, the physical presence of a facilitator was necessary, but many tutees with SEN embraced online sessions and realised that, with the right guidance and nurturing support, much could be gained. Far from being emotionally affected by the lack of traditional schooling, many felt perfectly at home (no pun intended) with the new situation, as social interaction at school was often a cause of anxiety.

Case study

One such case was a Year 7 tutee with ADHD, who was not affected by feelings of isolation, but by lack of motivation when faced with the sudden prospect of doing all his work without the solid support system provided by school. Worse still, he was being asked to complete assignments using the very electronic devices that distracted him in the first place. Overstimulation led to distraction, which in turn led to frustration and eventually refusal to work.

Our adaptation to remote learning with him proved to be fruitful. First and foremost, as a student with ADHD he was less prone to distractions at home, as opposed to the myriad of stimuli in a school setting. Restricted internet access was necessary, but technology allowed for better differentiation, by addressing individual learning events; one specific topic could be delivered in multiple ways and be adapted to his unique style. Thus, a multimedia history session could include videos, downloadable materials, audio and interactive games. He was also able to work at his own pace, being free to view lessons and materials at his convenience, allowing for maximum flexibility. Since deadlines were relaxed, he had extra time to complete tasks. Additionally, his workspace was adapted to suit his preferences, creating an environment conducive to learning. 

He liked technology because he found it more impersonal and nonthreatening. There were no peers there to judge him, no teachers there to pressure him with impending deadlines. He dreaded the idea of completing mammoth projects under severe time constraints, but smaller chunks no longer seemed insurmountable. His innate curiosity for technology developed into a learning opportunity, as he experimented with the different features in PowerPoint, Word or Google Drive, mastering the subject matter in the process. He learned to be less dependent on text-based learning when using audio books and videos online and felt at ease with no one watching over his shoulder. 

A way forward

This experience has taught us that the value of direct support from well-qualified teachers is irreplaceable. But we also know that online learning is here to stay, not only for children who are home schooled full time, but also as an integral part of school life.

The technology industry takes giant leaps much faster than most industries, to the point where it permeates all human activity, including education. Lockdown prompted an impromptu trial for teachers, tutors, parents and students and learning from this can surely guide us when moving forward, but not by simply replicating lessons in the shape of online lessons, with ensuing workloads that must be completed by students autonomously. When managed appropriately and combined with optimal support in the hands of capable, well-trained instructors, applying technology in a student-centred learning environment can bring forth a wealth of benefits, including for those with SEN, as it provides the flexibility and sense of ownership that can be lacking in traditional classrooms. However, a balance must be struck between digital and screen-free activities and independent and teacher led activities.

With the right support, combining pedagogical and technological expertise, students with SEN can meet learning targets in nonthreatening, customised environments.

Contact us

If this article rings true for you, then please get in touch and let us know how best we can help.


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Having a SEN-friendly Summer in London during COVID-19

We look at summer activities for children and young adults with autism, learning disabilities and other special educational needs.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Enjoy this selection of SEN-friendly activities for this Summer in London.

Having a SEN-friendly Summer in London
during COVID-19

Finding SEN-friendly activities for summer for children and young adults with autism, learning disabilities and other special educational needs (SEN) in and around London can be a challenge. During the pandemic this is even trickier than usual. We have done a round-up on some of the events and outings that you may still enjoy at this time with your family. Here is a selection of our favourites:

Online Summer School

Song, laughter and dance are available through the Mousetrap Theatre Projects' Online Summer School.

Sing, dance, and laugh your way with your children by participating in theatre and dance-themed #EveryHomeATheatre challenges from Mousetrap Theatre Projects. Revisit past challenges or join their Online Summer School here. There are 90-minute drama workshops available on Zoom daily.  Age groups from 7 to 19 are catered for.

A SEN-friendly Cinema Outing – because it’s always better on the big screen!

Autism-friendly outings for the whole family at the Odeon Cinema are a must-do.

The Autism Friendly Screenings at Odeon Cinema are ideal for families with a child with special educational needs. Here you can all enjoy a film in an environment designed for people with Asperger’s Syndrome or who are on the autism spectrum. Low lights are left on inside the auditorium during the film and the soundtrack is quieter than it would be in a regular film screening. Another difference is that there are no trailers screened before the main film at AFS screenings.  Audience members are also not restricted from moving around, making a noise or taking a break in the middle of the film screening. Some Odeon cinemas reopened on the 4th of July and protocols are in place to ensure that they offer a safe cinema experience. Enquire on their website

Museum of London – Listen and Learn from Home

Find some 'screen-free' activities for your child to enjoy while the Listen and Learn at Home from the Museum of London.

Outings may provide relief from cabin-fever but some of you may feel more comfortable with stay-home practices at the moment. However, you can still have enjoyable cultural experiences with the family. The Museum of London is always a wonderful outing in this regard. During the pandemic, the museum has made a number of virtual tours and other activities available.  You might feel encouraged to know that some of these are also ‘screen-free’.  Find out more here.

SEN-friendly learning with 3D objects

Learning in 3D for students with SEN is available at the Museum of London

Also at the Museum of London, it is possible for students with learning difficulties to still get up close and personal with objects in 3D.  A range of 3D objects with resources designed specifically for students with special educational needs and disabilities is available

Historic Royal Palaces

Learning about history can be fun with the free resources available from Historic Royal Palaces.

For lots of ideas and resources online to help your children continue exploring history and the wider world without having to step outside the front door during the summer can be found here.

These five top history resources will keep your kids learning AND smiling while you’re staying home together. Parental participation is optional.  

SEN-Friendly Outdoor Wild Play

Outdoor wild play can be enjoyed by a variety of ages and is especially helpful for children with special educational needs.

Allowing your child to participate in outdoor activities such as these outdoor games, woodland crafts, survival skills (including shelter-building and tracking among others), have been shown to be helpful for a variety of special needs, including:

The team at Outdoor Wild Play welcomes children with special needs to their sessions. They have a strict COVID-19 protocol in place for health and safety reasons. Contact them directly to discuss which venues are available and to answer any further questions you may have.

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with SEN? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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Supporting Parents of Children with SEN

Parenting is not always easy and lockdown has added to the challenges. We look at some SEN support available.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Community support is available for parents. It helps to share challenges and to support each other.

Supporting Parents of Children with SEN

Parenting is not always easy and lockdown has certainly added to the challenges. Many parents are finding it a struggle to balance work, their children’s homeschooling and the need to make some time for themselves. This can be especially difficult when you have a child with special needs. Parents of children with SEN are therefore sometimes in need of additional support.

Help is at hand. We’ve done a short round up on some options available.

For Parents

  • Get in touch with SENDIASS in London. This service aims to help parents, children and young people and professionals work together to provide the best possible support to children and young people with SEN.
  • Connect with SEN Talk Parent Support Facebook group which supports the whole family. This group champions neurodiversity for children and young people, families and the wider community. They are based in Battersea, London
  • Get in touch with Merton and Southwest London Dyslexia Association through Wandsworth THRIVE. This organisation provides advice and information for individuals with dyslexia and their families and carers. For a £10 membership fee, the group also offers advice to parents about their child's dyslexia and an advisor who can attend school/council meetings to discuss their child's special educational needs.
  • Ealing parents of children with ADHD in need of a support group can contact Wendy to find out more about the drop in surgery/ coffee morning twice a month at the Grange Children's Centre in Ealing. For more details contact Wendy on 07970 698 739
Support is available in the community for parents of a child with special needs.

For Dads

We recognise that dads are not always the first person in the family to reach out for help. With this in mind, we have included some options aimed specifically at dads.

  • Take 5 and Chat is a parenting additional needs support group on Facebook (it also has a website). It specifically helps dads of children with SEN. Dads are able to talk through any of their difficulties here.
  • Alternatively you could get help from a non-profit or church-based organisation such as Who Let The Dads Out.
  • Connect with Autism Dads Support Facebook group which has around 3,000 members specifically for dads and male carers of children and young adults with autism.
  • Dads who are in need of support with a child or children with ASD in Hounslow, reach out to this Autism Dads Support group in your area.
There are many dads in similar situations. Connecting and sharing helps.

Giving back to the community

Being able to lean on the expertise, experience and resources of others who work with children with special needs and their families can make a real difference.  You may find you need a combination of different types of support, from therapy or counselling, to familial support for practical care-giving, to educational support from occupational therapists or tutors.

As you progress and gain a sense of feeling supported from within your community, don’t lose sight of how you initially felt before you received the help you needed.  Try to find ways to give back where you can. To help manage the pressures of special needs parenting, we should be willing to reach out and accept help. We should also be prepared to offer it.  It is in community that we can make progress, knowing that we don’t journey alone.

You may find your community within a Facebook Group you belong to, a book club, a church or sports club, your family circle or a non-profit organisation you’ve dealt with.

Don't hesitate to get help for yourself or child should you feel it's needed

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with SEN? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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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.

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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.                      

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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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