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Dyslexia – it’s not just about reading

Dyslexia is most commonly understood as a condition that causes difficulties with reading. It is less well known that dyslexia can also impact on organisation and time management skills, which is sometimes referred to as executive functioning. 

What are the signs?

A child with dyslexia who has executive functioning issues may have difficulty:

  • remembering to take to school everything they need for the day 
  • being organised and preparing their kit in advance
  • sticking with an activity and not being distracted
  • understanding what day of the week it is and what different things they need to do each day
  • remembering their routine and prioritising the tasks needed to get ready for school  

What can you do to help?

There’s lots you can do to help a child with these issues. Here’s just a few ideas:

  • Get into a regular routine and stick to it. Children who struggle with time management often feel more secure and less anxious with a familiar routine.
  • Make checklists to break down a task or routine into smaller steps. Visual prompts work better than verbal reminders as they are constant and consistent.
  • Use calendars and planners – colour-coding often works really way to identify regular activities and highlight special events.
  • Encourage development of organisational skills with lots of repetition, reminders and practice. 

How could TomTag help?

  • school girl carrying rucksack with packing checklist attachedTomTag is ideal for all children with dyslexia as the picture symbols we use are easily recognisable and don’t rely on a child’s ability to read for TomTag to be effective. 
  • Make morning and evening routine reminders for tasks that need to be completed and the order they should be done using an I know what to expect – morning and evening minikit or for more varied options try these kits I can do it self care skills or I know what to expect at home
  • Create a school bag packing checklist using the I can do it pack my bag for school kit that will remind them exactly what they need to take to school each day, and bring home again. 
  • Take advantage of TomTag’s colourful tags by colour-coordinating checklist and routine reminder tags with any planners, calendars or charts that you’re also using.  
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Back to school – new bundles to help with anxiety and organisation

School routines

girl carrying backpack with tomtag attached

You’ve got the uniform, the new shoes, pencil-case and stationery and they’re all neatly labelled with your child’s name – but being ready to start or go back to school isn’t just about having all the right kit.   

Starting school for the first time, going to a new school or moving to a new class, teacher or environment are some of the biggest transitions in a child’s life. It’s normal to feel anxious or worried at times of transition or change and the routine and environment of daily school life can present many challenges in itself for some children. It can often be difficult for children to understand and express these feelings and know how to cope with them effectively. If a child can share their worries and concerns with their parents and teachers it will be easier to help them develop good coping skills and strategies. 

My TomTag Feelings Notebook is an ideal tool for communication between child, parent and teacher. It helps a child to express, understand and communicate their feelings and anxieties. Parents and teachers can better understand the causes and triggers for a child’s anxiety or behaviour, by identifying patterns over a number of days or weeks. This written record can help them to work in partnership to give a consistent and coordinated level of support to the child. 

The TomTag Share how I feel tag and Manage my feelings kit are additional complementary products that can be used in conjunction with My TomTag Feelings Notebook to help a child further explore, express and understand their feelings and emotions.

The brand new lunch box you bought just a few weeks ago gets left on the kitchen table in the rush to get everyone to school on time – what now? Arriving at school without all the right kit for the day ahead is a common cause of anxiety and stress for many school children. Not being able to take part in activities, being in trouble with teachers, not being comfortable and having attention drawn to them are all unwelcome consequences of forgotten pe-kits, lunchpacks, jumpers and the like. TomTag’s I can do it – pack my bag for school kit is a simple checklist that attaches to a child’s school bag to remind them what they need to take to school and bring home again each day.

We’ve created some new amazing value bundles incorporating all these products to help you prepare and support you child as they head back to school or if they’re starting school for the first time. Click on the product links to find out more about each product or view the bundles here Back to School Bundles.

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Autism Awareness Week 2017

The world can be a daunting, confusing and stressful place for children with autism and particularly so when they are at school.  

In support of World Autism Awareness Week and the NAS focus on raising awareness, understanding and acceptance of autism at school, we’ve put together some tips on how TomTag visual resources can support pupils with autism in the classroom, help classroom management and make school a more positive and calmer experience for everyone!

TomTag toolkits provide a very simple and effective way of creating personalised visual supports without any time-consuming laminating, printing or Velcro involved. They are convenient for teachers and support assistants to create and neat, portable and robust for pupils to use.

A TomTag I know what to expect at school kit is extremely versatile – here are some ideas for how it might be used.

Do you have pupils who become anxious and stressed about what is going to happen during the school day?

Create a visual timetable of the child’s school day to help guide and remind them of what will be happening. Start by choosing symbols from the school timetable pack that show what lessons and activities are planned and expected throughout each day. Place these into a TomTag coloured tag in the order in which they will happen, using one or more tags for each day, depending on how many different items you need to list. 

When a child knows what to expect, the routine becomes easier to understand and they will be less anxious about it, helping them to concentrate and focus on their work. 

WAAW OFFER 1: 25% off the At School kit 

Do you have pupils who become stressed or upset if there’s a change of plan?

Using a visual timetable helps a child to understand about how the same things happen consistently each day or week but it can also be a useful tool to show when something out of the ordinary is going to take place.

With TomTag’s unique click-in button system, adding or changing symbols to show that a new or different activity or event should be expected is quick and easy. Adapting an existing schedule in this way will help the child prepare for and understand the changes and reduce the likelihood of them being stressed or upset by events.

WAAW OFFER 2: My school day mini-kit reduced from £3.5 to £2.50 

Do you have pupils who struggle to understand what is expected of them?

When children are told what they need to do, it’s not always easy for them to hold onto that verbal information and recall it accurately. We can reinforce our language and improve this communication by creating a visual checklist that shows the child the steps they need to take to complete the task required.

They can refer back to this list as often as they need and could even remove each button from the tag once the step is complete to give a visual indicator that it has been done. Our verbal instructions don’t need to be repeated as often and the child can work much more independently, improving their confidence and self-esteem.

WAAW Offer 3: My school kit stickers to help with organisation, only £1 (usually £3.50)

Do you have pupils who struggle with transitions between classroom activities?


One of the simplest ways that TomTag can be used is with the FIRST-THEN or NOW-NEXT concepts. Choose the symbols that represent the activities that need to be completed. Often the first is a less preferred activity (eg writing work) and the second a more preferred one (eg playtime).

Place these symbols in a tag along with the FIRST and THEN or NOW and NEXT prompts. The symbols can represent a simple sequence, separate tasks or a task and reward. The expectations are then clear and understandable, sequences and time concepts can be learnt and anxieties about or resistance to transitions are reduced.

WAAW Offer 4: First-Then mini-kit reduced from £7 to £5

Do you have pupils who constantly need reminding how to behave?

In the TomTag School Timetable sticker pack, we’ve included a range of symbols to help with behaviour management in the classroom (eg. take turns, personal space, kind hands, sit nicely, etc.). These can be used to help remind individual children or the whole class about appropriate behaviour and teach them about boundaries and rules.

Don’t forget to reinforce good behaviour by using the ‘Good work’ symbol, awarding a gold star sticker or reminding them to ask for help if needed. 

WAAW Offer 5: Feeling and emotions stickers only £4 (usually £6)

 

Check out all our other TomTag products for home, school and out & about on our main website pages.

Don’t forget to follow our Facebook page too where we’ll be highlighted one of our WAAW special offers each day this week to coincide with World Autism Awareness Week 27 March – 2 April 2017.

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Building a positive teaching assistant relationship

National Teaching Assistants Day recognises the valuable contribution that over 240,000 teaching assistants (TAs) make to the education and support of pupils in schools across the UK.

laptop pictures 1910Most TAs are employed to support pupils with special educational needs (SEN) either working with a child one-to-one or in a small group to reinforce what has been learned earlier from the teacher; others have more general classroom responsibilities.

I have met many TAs over the years as they have supported my son, who has autism and language impairment, during his journey through mainstream school. From this experience, these are my top tips for building a good parent/TA relationship.

Sharing information

Share information about your child’s strengths, interests, likes and dislikes with the TA as much as possible. My son loves trains and lorries so letting his TA know what inspired him helped her incorporate those interests into his writing and maths tasks. By sharing his dislike of noisy, crowded rooms she could suggest alternative, quieter activities we could use whenever he became overwhelmed in such situations.

Communication strategy

Decide how you will communicate and agree a way that works best for both of you. A weekly phone call might be sufficient for some whereas others may prefer more regular emails, texts or paper-based contact.

diary_webWhen my son was in primary school and had just one TA I found a home/school contact book to be most useful. This was used daily to share information about his activities, issues or events at home or school. Now that he is in secondary school with a number of TAs, I find regular emails to each assistant to be the most effective and efficient means of communication.

 

Understand responsibilities

Recognise that whilst the teaching assistant is supporting your child, the teacher has the responsibility for what happens in their classroom.

Qualified teachers are responsible for children’s learning so it’s important to ask the teacher and SENCO how your child’s TA is being deployed in the classroom to get the best from your child. Find out what training the TA has had to provide the support your child needs too.

If you are concerned about your child’s progress don’t blame the TA but speak directly to your child’s teacher and SENCO about your concerns.
TT thank you

Appreciation

Everyone likes to feel valued. Don’t forget to tell your TA how much you appreciate their support; a handwritten card and small gift at the end of the year is a nice token of gratitude!

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Make reading easier with Open Book

reading_web_clearWhen my son has science homework my heart sinks. He has autism and significant language impairment which impact on his reading comprehension abilities and vocabulary knowledge.

The science curriculum is so densely packed with subject specific words that it’s a real challenge to explain concepts simply for him. I’ve a shelf full of study guides to show for my efforts!

You’ll understand then why I was so excited when I heard about Open Book – a new tool for making texts more accessible for people with autism. The software was created as part of the EU-funded FIRST project (Flexible Interactive Reading Support Tool) – a large research study that brought together partners from across Europe and has been subject to clinical evaluation.

Open Book works by adapting documents into a format that is easier to understand. Simply type or cut and paste text into a document and use the function buttons to either replace complex words with simpler alternatives or change long sentences into a series of shorter, easier ones.

My favourite function is the ability to highlight a word and access an approriate image. Like many people with autism, my son is a visual learner learner so this is a really helpful feature. Open Book can be used with various types of text including school textbooks and children’s books.

We’re sure that once you’ve watched this video you’ll want to head over to www.openbooktool.net and try it for yourself.

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When is a child old enough to walk to school alone?

Most of us parents will remember walking to primary school on our own at some point but it’s an increasingly rare sight these days.

Practice the journet

There are actually no laws or official guidelines around age or distance of walking to school so it’s down to each of us to decide when our children are ready.

As well as the obvious health benefits, walking to school can help build independence, responsibility, safety awareness and social skills.

The biggest fears amongst parents about letting their children walk to school alone are of traffic and stranger danger. The Living Streets campaign tries to help parents understand the reality of these risks and explains that by protecting children from them they could be unwittingly harming their long-term health and well-being in other ways.

This Living Streets and Parentline Plus Walk to School report states that “Giving children the opportunity to walk to school not only reduces the risk of obesity but helps them develop independence and teaches them important life skills such as road safety and route finding”.

Start small

Build up to walking all the way by accompanying your child most of the way and letting them go the last bit by themselves. Gradually start making that last bit longer whilst they (and you!) gain in confidence until they’re doing it all themselves.

Safety in numbers

Try pairing up with other parents and taking it in turns to walk with the children to school first and then build up to the children walking together without any of you.

Road safety

Use this transition time to give reminders and tips about crossing roads and traffic awareness. If you always make the decision when it’s safe to cross, your children won’t learn what to look for to make safe decisions themselves. Talking through likely scenarios will help build their confidence to know what to do when they’re on their own. Do you know your green cross code?

Stranger safety

Agree an easily remembered code word or phrase to use in the event that someone else has to pick up or meet your children. Tell them to ask for this code word if anyone approaches them offering a lift, whether it’s someone they know or not.

October is International Walk to School Month

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