The importance of physical activity during lockdown

boy gardening with his father

Keeping moving is important at this time, for children and parents, for mind and body. Several activities are suggested.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Exercise is important during this time. Here we look at some helpful activities for children and families

Physical activities for children during lockdown

The day-to-day realities of living in lockdown with your family are not easy. For many parents, the homeschooling, the constant entertaining and attempts at keeping the peace while you are also working from home can leave you feeling frustrated; this “new normal” can be challenging for the child and the parent.

It is therefore imperative to find activities to keep the whole family active and healthy.

Physical activity is paramount; at present we are all too aware of our health and maintaining or improving our physical well-being as a means of strengthening immunity. You only have to watch TV, look online or talk to someone to see the importance of being active – for example, Joe Wicks’ daily workouts , Captain Tom’s gallant walking triumph or even the government’s daily exercise guidance .

Here are some suggestions to help you and your children get more active, creative and fitter:

5 activities to keep the family moving

  1. A family that downward dogs together, stays together

Yoga is the perfect activity for everyone. With a plethora of online kids’ yoga and live Zoom classes to join, you and your children can strengthen your bodies and practice mindfulness together. The blend of flowing sequences and meditative, breathing exercises provides your child with skills to enhance their coordination and balance. It improves core strength and helps connect with their emotions through each backbend, sun salutation and twist.

Have a look here for some online kids’ yoga.

yoga with your children
Yoga is a form of exercise that integrates mind and body.
  1. Dance, baby dance!

Bust through the boredom with a dance party. The blessing of being locked down in 2020 is the wonderful technology at our fingertips. From FaceTime to Zoom, Houseparty and WhatsApp, there are plenty of available online organised dance parties for children of all ages, perfect for a little social interaction with other children, while listening to music and dancing around the living room; high energy for the kids and low effort for the parents! If a dance party with strangers is not your thing, why not arrange a virtual dance party for the kids with their cousins, friends or relatives so you can catch up while they attempt The Floss.

Children dancing for exercise
Dancing will always bring smiles to children, while keeping them moving.
  1. Treasure hunts

This is a great one for those parents that want to get creative and get the kids running around the garden or house. This can be as easy or complicated as you like and can last as long as you choose, meaning the kids are staying active and alert while being fully engaged. Hide anywhere from 10 – 20 gifts, clues or items around the house and watch their inner Miss Marple solve away. This one is great for a physical and mental workout.

map for a treasure hunt
Create your own map and let your children find the treasure!
  1. The Joe Wicks effect

Getting the kids involved in national or global events like daily aerobic classes can be hugely inclusive and great for them to discuss with friends who are also participating. The skilfully choreographed moves are designed to be a perfect PE alternative during this period, which can be enjoyed as a family or just for the children while you do a bit of work from home yourself.

Joe Wicks PE classes for children
Morning PE for kids has proved popular in the UK (Source: thebodycoach.com)
  1. Gardening

Few activities are as rewarding and active as gardening. Don’t worry about how big the garden is, as there are many ways gardening can work for you, from window boxes or small patches to larger areas. For children and adults, sowing seeds, watering, digging and planting are perfect for keeping them active and getting them interested in nature and the environment. In fact, while they are at it, why not get the gloves on them and get some weeding done too? Before you know it, the garden will be looking beautiful, the kids will be exhausted and you may even get some delicious fresh vegetables for dinner.

boy gardening with his father
Gardening is a therapeutic and rewarding physical activity.

Whatever activities you decide to do as a family, you don’t want to squander away this time at home.

Before the lockdown is over and we start living our new version of post-pandemic life, it is crucial to ask ourselves, “what did I/we do during this unprecedented time?”

The answer, “we survived, we grew, we became stronger, fitter and more connected”.

What has been your experience of exercise 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 more about the positive effects of exercise in a guest blog by one of our tutors: learning through sport. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you also 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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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

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?

What are some disadvantages of online tutoring?

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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Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

mother homeschooling her daughter

One of our directors, an experienced former head teacher, provides some homeschooling tips to help families during lockdown.                 

John Salmon director

In part 1 of this blog series I provide some helpful tips for parents to support their children learning at home

Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson made a bombshell announcement in response to increasing cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by placing the UK in lockdown on 23 March.

This followed the government’s earlier decision to close schools to most students and cancel GCSEs and A level exams. This has understandably created significant uncertainty for parents and children alike. Children are feeling pressure due to the uncertainty and parents are trying their best to help with all the schoolwork, while also trying to devise fun activities and still have time for their own working requirements.

With schools having been due to resume this week after Easter, we appreciate that many parents could do with some helpful tips and advice at this difficult time. As an experienced teacher, former head teacher, tutor and father, I have used my significant expertise to put together a 3-part blog series to help.

In this first blog, I provide tips and suggested activities and strategies for parents to support their children learning at home. I also provide a list of top resources (both academic and non-academic) that can be used during these difficult times.

In part 2, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK and explain how Bright Heart Education is helping in the circumstances.

In part 3, I outline the benefits of using online tuition to support students at this difficult time.

7 homeschooling tips for parents during lockdown

While parents cannot be expected to substitute trained teachers, they can offer support to their children learning at home by following some tips below. Parents should be careful not to put all the emphasis on academics.  As a matter of fact, the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has pointed out that this is a good opportunity to spend quality time with your children: “Don’t put too much pressure on doing academic work.  Parents and carers aren’t teachers, and it is important to also spend time building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.”

1. Plan your day

While providing extra attention for your children at home can be challenging, a little planning will go a long way. Each night, ensure your child has a plan for the following day. This should involve aiming to get up at roughly the same time every day, eating well, exercising and getting some much-needed fresh air. Creating a routine that is exactly like the one at school would be impractical, but it is possible to follow a similar structure, in the sense that you have one subject followed by another, with breaks in between.  This may be done through work provided by the school, your own supervision or by using a private tutor for online lessons (preferably) or face-to-face lessons (where possible) for students with special learning needs who are unable to concentrate online.   

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an overly controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

2. Maintain education

Maintaining learning during this period is important to keep concepts fresh and create a sense of satisfaction for children. This will also help their confidence when adjusting to the next year of education once they go back to school. A tutor can aid with any online schoolwork set by teachers and help bring it to life (virtual classrooms are unlikely to offer much 2-way interaction). Maintaining engagement is important and is a challenge when homeschooling.  For parents, online tutoring sessions can also be a period of time when their children are being kept busy and not seeking continuous entertainment.

Creating a dedicated workspace can help to avoid distractions and enhance children’s concentration.

mother homeschooling her daughter
A dedicated space for working in the home is best.

3. Keep them entertained

Aside from academics, it is important not to underestimate the power of play.  Infusing children’s life with play not only helps them to relax, but also ensures their well-being and healthy development. Research has highlighted its numerous benefits. These include increasing self-confidence associated with acquiring new skills, improving or maintaining physical and mental health, and stimulating imagination and creativity. Click on the link below to read about all benefits of child’s play:

-> Why play is important

Additionally, keeping your family entertained will help to keep everyone happy and allow parents the chance to focus on some of their own needs – whether work or some downtime.

For more ideas on how to keep your children entertained, please have a look at our blog 9 Nifty Activities for Children during Lockdown.

Moreover, engaging in games as an entire family is a perfect way to create fun, long-lasting memories and to promote family bonding. See the link below to discover some great board games to try:

-> The top ten board games of all time

Monopoly can entertain the family for hours and help keep children's Maths sharp!

4. Keep them active

Although it is undeniable that having to stay at home has led to a significant reduction of our daily activity, it is essential to maintain physical health for children and adults alike. According to Dr Sarahjane Belton, adults should aim to spend 30 minutes of “moderate to vigorous exercises” on a daily basis, whereas children need twice that time. In order to stay healthy and at the same time help your children expel their accumulated energy, use the allowed one form of exercise a day to go outside for a walk, jog or other type of physical activity, whilst still adhering to the social distancing measures. 

To find out more about how to keep children active during lockdown, read the article written by Dr Belton below: 

–> How to keep yourself and your kids active during the lockdown

Alternatively, stay active even indoors by dancing, skipping, doing exercises found on YouTube or other resources like GoNoodle (designed specifically for children), or stretching your muscles in a good old classic game of Twister. 

A daily walk in Nature does much to calm the mind and body.

5. Help them socialise

Whilst the lockdown presents a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties, it is paramount for children’s social development that they remain in touch with their peers. Try to organise a video call with your child’s friends or classmates by making use of numerous available platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp of Google Hangouts. However, even though it is likely that children and teenagers might spend increasingly more time using technology, certain rules regarding their screen time should nevertheless be applied. 

6. Make use of free resources on the internet to help

There is no shortage of resources available online. In fact, there are so many resources available that it can be hard to know where to start. To help parents, we have picked our own top 10 list of online resources (see further below). They will assist you in keeping your children engaged whilst they learn, including a couple of resources outlining creative and entertaining non-academic activities at the end of the list. 

7. Don’t be afraid to seek expert advice when you need it

Homeschooling your children is not easy. Even experienced qualified teachers find it difficult to homeschool their own children. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For further insight into homeschooling, visit the biggest organisation of its kind in England, Education Otherwise.

Find more strategies and tips from the British Psychological Society below:

-> Coronavirus and UK schools closures:  support and advice for schools and parents/carers 

Alternatively, please get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors – whether you are looking for a homeschooling tutor or just need some friendly advice, we are more than happy to help.

Top 10 online resources for children learning at home

Twinkl teaching resources
Gojimo app for KS3 11+ 13+ GCSE A Levels
  1. BBC Bitesize started providing daily lessons for children of all ages on April 20.  They also have a dedicated TV channel full of learning content, podcasts and educational videos.
  1. Seneca is a wonderful website for KS2, KS3, GCSE and A levels. 
  1. Gojimo is a mobile app for revision of GCSEs, A levels, IB, iGCSEs, Common Entrance and several international qualifications. 
  1. The National Literacy Trust provides an online zone for parents who are looking for a variety of activities for their children during school closures.
  1. Khan Academy is a free resource for parents, as well as young and older students, that offers free lessons in a wide range of subjects. Although it is US-based, there is plenty of content that overlaps with UK education.
  1. Twinkl offers thousands of worksheets and activities in Maths, English and Science to teachers, parents, and learners.
  1. Coolmath4kids.com is a great way to keep education entertaining. The website features lessons, quizzes and numerous games to teach children basic Maths.
  1. Hamilton Trust is a UK charity that provides an array of planning and learning resources in English, Maths, and Science for children up to Year 6.
  1. This article highlights 50 creative ideas to have fun with your children and make sure that they will never get bored during the lockdown.
  1. Another helpful article with 59 activities to do at the home to keep children entertained.

For even more help, the Department for Education has a wealth of online resources for home education.

Please see our Part 2 of this blog series: Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown where we provide answers to common queries.

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9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

fun coloured window with hearts

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

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

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

9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

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

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

Lockdown Idea #1

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

Lockdown Idea #2

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

Lockdown Idea #3

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

Lockdown Idea #4

Take virtual tours

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

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

Lockdown Idea #5

fun coloured window with hearts

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

Lockdown Idea #6

Grow a windowsill garden

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

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

Lockdown Idea #7

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

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

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

Lockdown Idea #8

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

Lockdown Idea #9

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

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Homeschooling your child with special educational needs: pros and cons

homeschooled boy

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

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

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

Homeschooling your child with special educational needs: pros and cons

homeschooled boy
Homeschooling your child presents some unique opportunities and challenges

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

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

Potential Advantages

1. Personalised, flexible learning

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

2. One-to-one teaching is very effective

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

3. Fewer distractions in a home setting

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

4. Application of learning into everyday life

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

5. Freedom from peer pressure and bullying

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

6. More organised and/or structured socialisation

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

Potential Disadvantages

1. Homeschooling is a significant time commitment

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

2. The cost

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

3. Lack of teaching diversity and specialised skills

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

4. Reduced socialisation opportunities

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

5. Less structured routine

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

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

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

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Working with students with autism

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)

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

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

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

Working with students with autism

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

5 tips for working with students on the autism spectrum

1. Establish a routine and communicate any changes in advance

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

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

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

2. Communicate using clear and simple language

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

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

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

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

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

3. Avoid over-stimulation

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

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

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

4. Be patient and understanding with social skills and behaviour

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

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

5. Follow a person-centered approach

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

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

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

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

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

child with sensory processing challenges

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

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

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

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

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

child with sensory processing challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Yoga, breathing and meditation

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

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

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

6. Create a chill-out zone for emotional times

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

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

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

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Is your child ready for their GCSE exams?

exam revision

Good planning and structure can reduce exam anxiety with GCSEs fast approaching.                                                          

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Preparing for GCSE exams need not be an anxious time with appropriate planning and structure.

Is your child ready for their GCSE exams?

It can be scary how quickly the year flies by, with the days already feeling longer as we approach summer.

 

For many children, GCSE exams are fast approaching. With only a few months to go before exams start in May, it is important that students have a revision plan in place. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, helping your child find the tools to become self-sufficient in their learning is a sensible approach.

exam revision
While GCSE revision can appear daunting, it can be more easily achieved with a structured plan.

At Bright Heart, our experienced and trained tutors can design bespoke plans to give your child all the necessary tools to create structured study timetables and adopt a good work ethic. Our more nurturing approach to tuition is also sensitive to their emotional well-being.

Our tutors cover a variety of subjects (in addition to English, Maths and Science) for many different students; ranging from students in school just looking for a little help and encouragement, to children who are homeschooled or who have special educational needs (SEN). With one-to-one tuition beneficial to students of all abilities, we can help your child realise their potential. Year 11 students who receive this level of personalised tuition tend to perform better in class and also retain more information.

teenager prepared for GCSE exams
Revision is a work habit that can be learned and which eases anxiety.

GCSEs can be an anxious time for students and parents alike. An integral part of our heart-based tuition involves preparing our students emotionally for facing exams. This can be a hugely stressful time for 15 and 16-year-olds. Bright Heart’s nurturing approach helps to build confidence and self-esteem so our pupils can tackle the exams with reduced levels of stress. Our blend of structured planning, tailored tuition and self-development through embodying a holistic approach provides our students the tools needed to achieve longer-term success.

Your child can benefit from your encouragement and understanding as well as the support of a patient tutor at this often anxious time.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Get in touch to discuss how Bright Heart’s unique heart-based approach can help your child with their GCSE preparation.

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Holiday tips for parents of a child with SEN

the festive season with families

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

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

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

Holiday Tips for Parents of a Child with SEN

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

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

1. If you're travelling

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

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

2. Visit the local library

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

3. Stay home and get crafty

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

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

4. Worry less about age-appropriate experiences

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

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

5. Communicate expectations

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

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

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

6. Be gentle with yourself and your child

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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