Homeschooling tips for students with dyspraxia

        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

A livestream event was held this month by the Dyspraxia Foundation. One of our directors was a guest and covered homeschooling tips and general organisation for school pupils and university students.

Livestream with the Dyspraxia Foundation -
Home learning: tips and advice

Dr Ryan Stevenson, Bright Heart’s co-founder, was the Dyspraxia Foundation’s featured guest on a Livestream Q and A. This was hosted by Claire Cripps, the Youth Information Officer, earlier this month. The event was held as the Dyspraxia Foundation was inundated with queries asking for help for homeschooling and how students can manage their own work online. 

Students with dyspraxia may struggle with executive functioning and organisation, so the lockdown does pose additional challenges with their own online learning.

We have summarised key questions below so you can find the right place of interest in this video.

Click on the picture to watch the video discussing home learning tips

The Dyspraxia Foundation also created a list of resources to help their members. Some of these were covered in the livestream. Here is the free download.

 

What has been your experience with homelearning and how have you been managing your day?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch with us to speak to one of our education specialists and find out how an experienced Bright Heart special needs tutor could help you or your child manage learning at home.


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What does SEN mean?

        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

The terms SEN and SEND are used often. Here we discuss what they mean, considering ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘neurotypical’ brains along with the 4 broad areas of needs. 

What does SEN or SEND really mean?

For parents who have children in school or who are just looking into taking on the mantle of homeschooling, there’s a great deal to learn, and it can feel overwhelming, more so when it comes to technical language.

If your child has been given the label “SEN” or “SEND” by the school, you may be wondering what exactly it is and what it will mean for your child throughout their education and into their adulthood. In very simple terms, SEN stands for Special Educational Needs. In contrast, SEND means Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. While it may feel like SEN and SEND are the same thing, and there are many times where SEN and SEND are used interchangeably, this is not right.

The key difference is that SEND is for children (and adults) who have specific disabilities, whether or not they have special educational needs. It is common for children with disabilities to have extra educational needs, but not all disabled children fit into the SEN category.

Does SEN always mean the child has disabilities?

This is a tricky topic to explain in one article, but no, SEN does not always mean disabilities.  However, many of the special educational needs that students have may also be classed as a disability, even though it doesn’t fit into our traditional perceptions of what a ‘disability’ is.

To be classed as having a disability, there must be a significant and long-term impact on the day-to-day life of the person concerned. Where the needle falls is very different for each person, but there are many disabilities recognised by the Equalities Act 2010 that fall into the SEN category.

Learning disabilities, like dyslexia, are counted as disabilities because the impacts of dyslexia are recognised across a child’s life and even into adulthood. Traditionally, this has been seen as a negative, but there are many outspoken advocates for people with learning difficulties, which is changing perceptions and changing the language.

The phrase ‘learning difficulty’ is being replaced with ‘learning difference’ in some educational settings because it’s more descriptive of disabilities like dyslexia.

What is classed as SEN in a school setting?

In an educational setting like school, homeschool, or tutoring, SEN can cover a wide variety of educational difficulties or differences.

It’s important to note that a difference and a difficulty are not always the same thing. When students are assessed for special educational needs, it’s vital to find out how they learn and how they can be assisted to learn. For parents and educators alike, this can be the difference between education being ‘difficult’ and education being ‘different’.

Some examples of special educational needs currently recognised in UK schools and tutoring include:

It is important to cater lessons and learning to individuals in classrooms.

Neurodiverse and neurotypical brains

If your child has been diagnosed with one special educational need, there is a high chance that they may also qualify for a diagnosis for other needs too. For example, those children who are diagnosed with ADHD are more than 60% likely to also be diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). There is also a good chance that the child may also be living with a specific learning difficulty too, the most common being dyslexia.

The reason why children are at higher risk of having two or more medical conditions is not currently very well established in medical literature. However, it seems to be the difference between neurotypical and neurodivergent brains. Neurotypical brains are what we don’t like to call ‘normal’ brains (in truth, no one is ‘normal’) – they would be the people in the class who react to stimuli in the way in which we’d expect them to. They are usually able to regulate their emotions and their attention more easily.

Neurodiverse, or neurodivergent, brains are the rest of the children in the class. It’s not simply a case of neurodivergent being the opposite to neurotypicals, but there are key differences that make teaching neurodivergent students more challenging for some (and more interesting for others!).

uniqueness
Students who think and perceive differently have much to offer the world.

How teaching / tutoring SEN students is different

SEN students require a different teaching / tutoring approach from your average student and, in most cases, they will need a different lifestyle approach too, to help them reach their full potential.

It’s vital that both parents and educators learn to understand the different learning styles so as to adapt lessons and home life to the needs of the child in front of them rather than the ‘typical’ child. This is not easy for a standard classroom teacher to do, but as homeschooling parents and tutors, we can offer our children the very best opportunities to learn by adjusting lessons and learning time to suit their needs and their abilities.

It is important to note that many students with SEN are not ‘unable’ to do their work. In fact, many are just as intelligent on a cognitive scale, and some even more so than their neurotypical peers. It’s just a case of finding out how they learn so that we can best embrace that.

A dyslexic student example

Take a dyslexic student, for example. Traditionally, dyslexic students have found reading difficult. For a long time, it was thought that the actual act of reading was hard for dyslexics, but after years of research, it was discovered that many dyslexics suffer from Meares–Irlen Syndrome, a condition that affects the processing of words on a page.

Black decorated letters (even serif fonts like Times New Roman) on a white page can be very challenging, but the simple act of changing the font to a sans-serif font and changing the background colour to one the child is comfortable with can make a world of difference. Equally, learning with phonics and the Latin roots to words has been shown to really improve the spelling issues many dyslexic students face, allowing them to work out the spelling from logical theory.

Oliver Twist novel
Black font on a light background with dense paragraphs (Oliver Twist), is difficult for students with dyslexia.

Many dyslexic students are much better at processing images and auditory learning and, as tutors, we can use this to our advantage by using video and audiobooks to help the child access learning.

With both the language and processing difficulties of the average dyslexic student, simple changes in the way we approach learning can mean the difference between a child who is chronically undermotivated and has low self-esteem, and a child who is supported with their learning, their abilities, and has access to materials in a way that works for them.

For all SEN students, there is a way to help them learn. While schools may prefer to go down the route of trying to make them learn the school way, as tutors, we prefer to take the approach of helping the student to find their own way of learning and using that to get the best out of them.

Toe by Toe
Toe By Toe is a small book designed for anyone who finds reading difficult.

The four broad areas of SEN

When thinking about SEN from an educational aspect, there are four main areas that educators will consider. These areas are the parts of a child’s life that will be impacted the most by their specific learning differences and educational need. They include:

In broad terms, all students will have some kind of special educational need or requirement. All children and all people are different; we have different interests and different strengths. When we do the work to recognise those strengths and work with them, we can have a big impact on both our lives and the lives of our students.

What has been your experience embracing the way your child learns to help them achieve?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch with us to speak to one of our education specialists and find out how an experienced Bright Heart special needs tutor could help embrace your child’s unique learning style.


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6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

Children cooking

Don’t let lockdown prevent your family from having fun this festive season – see 6 fun activities to try!            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We consider lockdown- friendly ways to keep the whole family entertained this festive season.

6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

The festive season is finally upon us! For some families, that could mean up to 10 days holiday this year, but with the coronavirus pandemic still causing real devastation across the country, many of the activities families share together are going to look a little different from how we would have preferred them to be.

Coming together while staying apart

All is not lost, however. There is a variety of things you can do at home (and even outside) with your kids that will keep them entertained as well as keep them safe.

 Before we jump straight into the list, these activities will be suitable to do with your family when there isn’t a global pandemic happening, but with a few tweaks, they will be perfectly COVID secure.

To keep your fun safe this festive season, remember to:

With that in mind, here’s our list of six family-friendly activities you can do with your crew over the festive period.

1. Family talent show

Who doesn’t love a talent show? Kids love to show off, especially with relatives they may not have seen for a while. With this activity, you can keep it small and have a talent show in your little household, or you could organise an even bigger show by utilising video chat with your extended family.

 It might take a bit of planning, but let the kids know they will be “on TV” and organise with the adults that each household will be on video chat to watch each other’s performances.

 If you haven’t got time to organise something with lots of you together, why not try to make sure at least the grandparents can make it by setting up a video chat? Software like Zoom is free to use for up to 40 minutes, or there is Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangout. If you’re on a mobile device, you can have video chats using WhatsApp too.

How about making some fun puppet fish for the show?

2. Scavenger hunt outside

The weather over most of the UK this year isn’t looking too bad, and in all tiers, you and your family are allowed to leave your house for some exercise, which is a great way to burn off energy with active kids!

Take a scavenger hunt printout with you and get them involved in ticking off things that they see. This is an excellent opportunity to teach kids about nature, even in the midst of winter. Just be sure not to pick anything up and stay 2m away from any other families you may see on your walk.

map for a treasure hunt
Hunting for treasure can provide lots of family fun!

3. Make A Time Capsule

You may be thinking that you don’t want to remember 2020 at all, but if you’re a history fan, you will know that a year such as 2020 will be a year that historians will refer back to time and time again.

For this reason, building a time capsule for your family could be a lovely and quiet activity to wind down with. Fill it with things like a diary of what you did over Christmas, things you remember from 2020, handprints, paintings, and even photos if you can print them out.

 You don’t have to bury a time capsule; you can leave it in your loft or under a bed if that’s easier.

4. Online games with relatives

Did you know there are many free online versions of classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble you can play with relatives who are not in your household?

Of course, there are game consoles that let you play with others, but other games like chess.com are simple and very family-friendly, and they’re a great way to connect with friends and family across the country without needing to be in the same room.

Mother and son with online learning
Connecting with grandparents through an online game is great family fun!

5. Family filming time

Another great activity to play with kids is to set up a family film. This doesn’t mean hunkering down in front of the TV with a movie. This means getting the camera out and starring in your own movie!

This is an exciting activity for kids as it gets their creative minds flowing with ideas for characters and scenes, and even older children can get involved with shooting and editing the film (almost everyone has a smartphone that can shoot video these days).

There are plenty of free apps that will help you edit your film together. Once you’re done, you can upload it to YouTube (unlisted if you are concerned about privacy issues) to share the link with your extended family and give them a good laugh this holiday season!

6. Get creative in the kitchen

Our last activity suggestion is a bit more traditional – getting kids back in the kitchen and enjoying cooking over the festive season.

Teaching children (and teenagers) how to cook is one of the most valuable lessons you can pass onto them as a parent, and it’s great fun, too.

Take this opportunity to try out some more challenging recipes, like bread or cake decorating, and use it as a trial run. Once they get better at the recipes and the pandemic has subsided, they’ll be able to cook for relatives or make sweet treats for family and friends when we’re allowed to celebrate together again. 

Children cooking
Cooking with the family can be loads of fun!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

While these activities are likely to provide a welcome distraction and a little light relief, it’s important to keep talking to your kids and keep them in the loop with an age-appropriate conversation about what’s happening.

What has been your experience as a parent keeping your children entertained during lockdown? 

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page.


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Why should children learn how to code?

Young boy enjoying coding

The benefits of learning to code are outlined here by Firetech Camp. Firetech Camp provide self-guided coding courses.       

Firetech logo

Guest post 

by Firetech Camp

Coding can be started at a young age and provides many benefits outlined below, including improving resilience and problem solving.

Why should children learn how to code?

One of the many outcomes from 2020 is the extent to which our lives – personal, social, professional – are increasingly shaped by technology. Zoom calls bring us closer together; apps connect us to the goods and services we need; and, amidst economic fallout from the pandemic, jobs in technology are second only to those in healthcare in their growth since the summer.

It has never been more important for young people to develop the tech skills they need to succeed at school and in future careers. Coding is often described as one of the most important skills of the future, and that children should learn from an early age to increase their chance of success. 

Bill Gates once said, “coding is not difficult ”. 

While this is easy for the founder of Microsoft to claim, there has never been a better time to learn – and there are plenty of entry routes for beginners. So, what are the benefits of children learning to code?

boy learning how to code
Learning to code can start at a young age.

Coding teaches you how to think

Coding is part of the discipline of Computer Science which itself is defined by the term ‘Computational Thinking’. In his seminal book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, Seymour Papert – the renowned mathematician, computer scientist and educator – wrote that computational thinking is a ‘mode of thought’. Papert claimed coding can help to transform the way “intelligence is developed” as it is “step-by-step, literal, mechanical” and a very useful analytical skill.

All of us already think ‘computationally’ when we take any problem and formulate it into something that can be solved. Computational thinking can be applied to juggling a family’s schedule, so everyone gets where they need to go and on time! Know that one well?

Before writing any code, computational thinking requires a decomposing of the ‘problem’, recognising the patterns within it and applying abstraction. Young people become better problem solvers by learning to be analytical, to break down complex activity into bite-sized chunks, and to be precise. Coding is an execution of computational thinking.

Coding encourages problem solving

Too often, we give children answers to remember, rather than problems to solve.” – Roger Lewin, Observing the Brain Through a Cat’s Eyes, 1974.

Understanding computers and learning the basics of coding helps children to develop an appreciation of how things work, and a logical approach to problem solving.

When writing code, there is rarely an answer to remember. Instead, learning to code involves developing a thorough understanding of subjects through curiosity, investigation, and experimentation. Much like the way that programmers ‘debug’ code to find errors, humans can learn complex things through breaking them down into simpler, smaller tasks.

Coding promotes creative thinking

Coding offers children a medium to express their creativity and design something that is entirely their own, that is directly relevant to the world they inhabit. Coding languages like Scratch make it easier than ever to learn how coding works; and, as it is easy for children to pick up, confidence comes easily.


While exploring with code, young people have the chance to put their skills into practice by working on their own projects – whether it is designing a video game, creating a world in virtual reality, or designing a computer vision algorithm using AI! Across the world this year, we have seen young people design AI models that try to detect COVID-19 patients, created virtual worlds to discover extinct wildlife, and built their own YouTube cooking channels to inspire others. It is extraordinary what young people can create with code!

Coding is cool!

Coding builds soft skills like resilience

Trial and error is fundamental to coding: a programmer writes code, runs the code, and debugs the errors. As such, this process helps children become used to failure and iterative improvement as a means of learning, which in itself helps them develop resilience.

Papert discusses how traditional educational settings often discourage this skill of ‘debugging’ how something works by focusing on whether an answer is either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. He believes that, when faced with a ‘bug’, the right question for students to ask is ‘How can we fix it?’ – thus promotes the value of discovery and inquisitiveness.

This problem-solving approach helps them learn how to think critically and bounce back from failure.

Coding gives young people a thrill

I am interested in why young people undertake some activities obsessively in some cases, and reluctantly in others. Children may spend hours on their favourite hobbies – mastering a video game, improving their technique at tennis, or learning to play a musical instrument. However, we rarely see this level of obsession with schoolwork.

Young boy enjoying coding
Learning coding provides a thrill and builds resilience.

So, what is at play here? The first difference is motivation: with hobbies, motivation is often intrinsic (self-generated) rather than extrinsic (imposed by, for example, your classroom teacher). Intrinsic motivation flourishes through a combination of: conscious choice; reward systems to develop self-esteem, that set goals, share feedback and recognise progress; personalisation, where students focus attention on the subjects they’re most interested in; scaffolded problem-solving, where challenges are broken down into achievable stages; and real-world application, to help contextualise how what they learn is relevant to their lives. Each of these elements help to foster students’ curiosity.

Likewise, each is a characteristic of learning how to code.

Coding gives young people access to the adult world

A chief goal of school-age education is to help prepare a child for adulthood. The need to learn does not end with school; rather, education is an ongoing, lifelong process. Adults learn in a very different way to school. Adult learning typically occurs as and when a challenge presents itself – ‘how do I solve a problem at work?’ ‘How can I fix something at home?’ ‘How can I develop my mindset to deal with daily pressures?’ – and most through self-study, rather than relying on a teacher.

Find the right course for you

Fire Tech’s self-guided courses are available on all your favourite topics, from artificial intelligence and Python, to video game design and augmented and virtual reality.

For a short time only, get £25 off any Fire Tech courses over £100 with the code BH25. Build your own video game, brush up on your Python coding skills, perfect your digital photography skills, and dive deep into artificial intelligence. To find out more about Fire Tech’s self-guided courses, visit their website here or call their team on 020 8038 7862.

Note that Bright Heart Education is not affiliated with Fire Tech, but allowed Fire Tech to guest publish this blog as we agree that coding is a great skill for children to learn.


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Facebook Live Q & A with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious about Autism

Live Q & A with Ambitious about Autism

A stimulating and insightful live discussion on autism dispelling misconceptions, while providing advice for parents.                            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, has an informative discussion on autism with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitous about Autism

Facebook Live with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious about Autism

We recently held a Facebook Live Q&A to address parents’ questions about autism.  This was hosted by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed., with questions answered by Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious About Autism. This national charity was set up in 1997 and provides support for children and young adults with ASC. More recently they have created colleges and schools in London to support young people with autism.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

Live Q & A with Ambitious about Autism
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitous about Autism.

Do you have further questions about autism?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. 


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5 ways to ease anxiety in your child in 2020

Mother and son with online learning

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.                                     

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.

5 ways to help ease anxiety in your child in 2020

It’s no secret that this year has raised anxiety levels for parents and children alike. The uncertainty around schooling under COVID-19 has been challenging. This has meant different methods of learning
as well as social behaviour. For children with special educational needs, change can be especially hard to navigate. We explore five different ways to ease or reduce anxiety for your child.

1. Talk about it (and keep talking about it)

If your child is prone to anxiety or experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, try to talk to them about it.  Remind them that the ‘new normal’ is not the way things will be forever. Discuss fun memories they’ve had socialising at school before COVID-19 and share little stories you have of them and their friends. This can ignite pleasant memories and remind your child of how fun it can be to interact with others. Older children will have different needs but communication with them is still vital.

2. Alert the teacher

You may also consider contacting your child’s teacher and letting them know that your child is experiencing anxiety. This helps provide context for any unusual behaviour your child may present in the school setting. The teacher will also be better able to offer additional support and understanding to your child.  

3. Involve their friends

Additionally, encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends over video calls. When they’re little, think about setting up an online game for them to play together. That way they’ll be playing with their friends even if they aren’t in the same room. This goes a long way to making the transition from social distancing to physical socialising (and the resulting anxiety) less daunting.

Mother and son with online learning
Maintaining social contact when at home is much easier these days

4. Be mindful to stick to a predictable routine

Reinforcing stability is crucial to helping your child feel less overwhelmed. Routine can be useful in creating predictability and a sense of calm for them. Stick to regular hours for bedtime, recreation and other routine activities such as homework or study and meal times. Focus on healthy eating free from excess sugar or other stimulants.

5. Keep things positive

A positive mindset is powerful. Talk about the good things at school and within their friendship circles and how they’re taking the first small steps towards getting back to the life we all once enjoyed.  Sometimes there is unhelpful talk in the media which can affect children’s anxiety levels. For younger children, possibly consider turning off the TV when such conversations are taking place. Remind your child that home and family are a constant source of support and safety. Allow them to feel safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on you for stability and encouragement.

Help is available

Remind your child that trusted friends and other role models, such as teachers and tutors are also there for them to lean on.

Feel free to get in touch to see how we can help. Our tutors are aware of the effects of anxiety and how it can influence learning. We offer an obligation-free consultation which will assist in guiding you towards the ideal tutor for your child in terms of personality and educational needs. Experience the Bright Heart Approach today!

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with anxiety? 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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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

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.

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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Lessons learned during lockdown

parental support and presence

We look at how lockdown has impacted our lives and the important lessons learned during this time.            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

How many of these lessons learned under lockdown can you relate to?

Lessons learned under lockdown

As parents, our hearts’ desire is to see our children reach their potential and perform at their best. This could be on the sports field, in artistic pursuits or in the classroom.

Lockdown added extra stress to many of our lives by placing the burden of our children’s education squarely on our shoulders via homeschooling. For some, that meant tears, tantrums and unforeseen pressure.

In this blog, we highlight 5 key lessons learned during lockdown.

1. Emotional well-being before academic performance

One of the main lessons learned during lockdown was the importance of supporting our children emotionally. This meant putting an emphasis on their well-being before fretting over their academic progress.  Sometimes a hug and a few words of reassurance at the right time can spare tears over a looming assignment and keep things running smoothly. 

Don’t be shy to step back for a moment and take a break with your child. This creates room for connection before returning to school-related tasks.

Physical and emotional reassurance may be the best academic support you can give your child

2. The power of routine

It may have been challenging for you to manage work responsibilities, household chores and the needs of your family and children. Especially when still finding time for essential exercise. We heard the collective cries of ‘What day is it?’ on more than one occasion.

Whilst in the throes of chaos, there is a lot to be said for creating and maintaining routine. Daily meals at regular times, regular bed times, daily exercise and daily work / schoolwork during set times help to keep the family ship on a steady course.

Reinforce stability through the power of maintaining routine

3. There is no shame in asking for help

Lockdown has been a source of stress. It has negatively impacted on the mental health of adults and children in the UK and globally. Some reports have cited up to 65 per cent of children struggling with boredom and feelings of isolation during lockdown .

For you and your children, looking after your mental health is imperative. There is no shame in asking for help. A number of not-for-profit organisations have made their services and additional COVID-19 resources available (see our blog post on Your child’s mental health during times of stress).

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

4. Managing disappointment

Whether we have had to cancel travel plans, or had exciting events such as birthday parties, weddings or concerts postponed or shifted online, we have all needed to come to terms with disappointment. This can be especially challenging for children and teenagers. Parents can intervene, however, to help them handle disappointment in a positive manner.

Teach them that there are almost always alternatives available, if they are only prepared to look for them with an open mind.  Also, a postponed holiday or event is something that can be looked forward to.

Dealing with disappointment can be a catalyst for developing resilience

5. Being present is enough

Parents are the most important people in a child’s life. No matter what the circumstances, as long as a parent is nearby, a child feels safe.  A child doesn’t really need you to play with her / him all the time. Instead, they value you being around for them to feel secure.

Our children don’t really need lots of toys to be happy. Simpler activities are still entertaining. For example, try gardening, hopscotch or skipping with a rope, board games, cooking or other household chores. Remember, your presence is what your children crave and need most.

Give your child your undivided attention and even mundane chores have value for them.

Any advice or tips you could offer others to learn from? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions.


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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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