News Views

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Language Impairment: A New Campaign

One child in every classroom is affected by a Specific Language Impairment (SLI), a little recognised condition that affects all aspects of life, prompting a group of leading academics to come together and launch Raising Awareness of Language Impairment (RALLI), a video led campaign to raise awareness. SLI hinders understanding and expressing language, and affects the way children learn, form friendships and develop. Although the condition is common it receives little recognition, and as a result many children and their families miss out on accessing help and support.

The campaign will share video stories based on people’s experiences of SLI and what can be done to help those affected. Professor Dorothy Bishop commented, “Language learning impairment can have a dramatic impact on children. Research shows that two in five children who have the condition say they have difficulties interacting with peers and are twice as likely to be bullied. These issues do not stop as they grow older, in fact, teenagers with language impairment are two and half times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression.”

Becky Clark, RALLI editor and a speech and language therapist, said, “Our ambition is to bring together the leading academics in the field to produce an informed, relevant video that will shine a light on SLI and help those affected. The channel will become a place where people can not only come and get support, but also comment and discuss the issues. We’re really hoping to build a community as well as raising awareness.”

To find out more and watch the launch videos, please go to RALLI’s YouTube page at: http://www.youtube.com/rallicampaign

Research on Epilepsy Stereotypes

Young Epilepsy has published research which shows that young people are stigmatised, and their health and wellbeing are put at risk because many have a poor knowledge and understanding of the condition.

David Ford, Young Epilepsy’s Chief Executive said: “A major shift in awareness and understanding is the only thing that is going to improve this situation. We know that young people with epilepsy are getting a raw deal when it comes to education, employment and social interaction. This research reveals that people’s awareness is woefully low and as a result, they may inadvertently put young people at risk even though they are trying to do the right thing. The message for everyone is that a little understanding can go a long way towards making a difference to young lives with epilepsy.”

Of over 1,000 UK adults who took part in the survey:

  • Only 1 in 3 would recognise going limp and dropping to the floor as a symptom of a seizure.
  •  7 out of 10 people would recognise dropping to the floor and jerking around as a symptom of a seizure.
  •  2 out of 3 people would not know that staring into space could be a sign of a seizure.

When questioned about what they would do if they were with someone having a seizure:

  •  1 in 6 people would put something in the person’s mouth – a common misconception which can be dangerous for the person having a seizure.
  •  42% would call an ambulance – which is not necessary unless it is the person’s first seizure or the seizure continues after 5 minutes.
  •  1 in 10 said they would try and keep the person still – in fact you should not try and restrain the person at all, but you should support their head.
  •  1 in 7 said they would not know what to do.
  •  1 in 100 said they would throw water over the person.

David Ford said, “Many people try very hard to do the right thing but end up doing the exact opposite. We often hear stories of a young person with epilepsy being excluded from activities such as swimming or attending school trips because of concerns over health and safety. This approach just leads to the individual being isolated and can have a serious impact on their self confidence and mental health. A young person with epilepsy is four times more likely to have a psychological condition such as depression than someone with another common long-term health condition like diabetes and they are 50% more likely to underachieve at school. The truth is these problems can usually be avoided; if a few simple precautions are taken there is no reason why a young person with epilepsy cannot participate in all the usual activities their peers enjoy and this helps no end with their personal development.”

Epilepsy is the most common serious childhood neurological condition and affects around 112,000 people aged 25 and under.

Young Epilepsy has free information available to anyone that needs to know more about epilepsy including handbooks, seizure diaries and online videos. The charity provides training courses across the UK aimed at health, education and social care professionals. It also provides medical services plus operates a specialist school and college at its Surrey headquarters.

Virtual Childminding Café Opens for Business

In April Amanda Beable, a former Leicestershire-based ‘outstanding-graded’ childminder, set up www.thechildmindingcafe.co.uk. The online resource centre provides over 60 downloadable documents that childminders can adapt as necessary for their own settings, covering policies and procedures, leadership and management tools, the Early Years Foundation Stage regulations (EYFS) and finances. Example documents include child record and permission forms, planning and observation, formal assessments and even finance sheets and invoices. All are designed to take the headache out of the administration needed to set up as a childminder, and ensure existing childminders are fully up to date with the paperwork required by Ofsted.

Amanda Beable says, “When I set up there was no de facto place where I could get all of the information I needed. I know from personal experience it can feel quite scary to set up a business, attract customers, be inspected by Ofsted and comply with complex childcare regulations. Many childminders in England find both levels of paperwork and complex childcare regulations a major drawback to childminding. And with a huge 20% increase in the number of registered childminders last year, I hope thechildmindingcafe.co.uk will make the business side of childminding less daunting”.

An annual subscription of £29 gives access to all downloadable documents, a monthly newsletter, EYFS 2012 updates, an interactive coaching Q&A board, regular business inspiration blogs and dedicated telephone support to help members with paperwork.

We are not quite sure what a “de facto place” is, but it is our impression that the National ChildMinding Association could have met Amanda’s needs. Since a very high percentage of childminders are members of the NCMA, which offers a wide range of support services, it will be interesting to see how Amanda fares.

A Call the Faithful to Foster

Mark Molden, Chief Executive of Care for the Family, has circulated the following email:
I am writing to invite you to attend a free consultation event we are holding in London on 28 June 2012, on the topic of adoption and fostering.
There are an estimated 6,800 children waiting to be adopted in the UK, and 8,750 more foster families are needed. Every child in this system has a tale to tell, but it usually involves a lot of pain and uncertainty. We realised that if every church in the UK could find someone to adopt or foster a child, then we’d make a huge difference.
As a first step we are holding some consultation events in association with the Evangelical Alliance, to get people’s views, experiences and stories to help us take this exciting idea forward and make it one that will work. At the event I’ll be sharing more about this opportunity, and you’ll also hear from Krish Kandiah from the Evangelical Alliance. But mainly, we want to hear your thoughts, concerns and ideas.
We’re inviting church leaders, and Christians involved in social work and other relevant professions to join us from 3pm to 5pm. In the evening, from 7.30pm to 9.45pm, we’d like to hear from Christians who are personally involved in adopting or fostering. Please would you help us by forwarding this email on to anyone you know who may be interested?
If church members can be mobilised as Mark is suggesting, the campaign could make a serious dent in the numbers of foster carers and adopters required, but they face a few rocky shoals. Will the black churches respond in helping to meet the needs of black children? What about the needs of children from other faiths? Are their figures correct? (It is our impression that an assumption is often made that all children in care need an alternative home, when residential care is preferable for some.)
From our reading of case files it is our impression that many Christians are already in the field of foster care. We look forward to seeing the impact of this campaign, and wish Mark Molden, Krish Kandiah and their colleagues well. For more information contact www.careforthefamily.org.uk or phone 029 2081 0800.

Rating Books for Children?

The film industry has a rating system to prevent underage individuals from watching movies deemed inappropriate, but a recent study from Brigham Young University in Utah found that many children’s novels that contain high levels of profanity can be purchased and read by any child.
The study set to be published in the May 2012 issue of Mass Communication and Society found that profanity occurred over half of the time in books on the New York Times 40 best-selling adolescent (ages 9-14) novels. Profanity ranged from extremely offensive to mild and then was broken down further into categories such as the Federal Communication Commission’s seven dirty words, sexual words, and words referring to human waste (i.e. crap).
“Some of the books in our sample had extremely high levels of profanity—one book had over 180 instances of the F-word alone. If these were made into movies, then there would be no question that they would be rated R; however, because they are in a book, we are somehow okay with adolescents being exposed to profanity in this degree. This is inconsistent and deserves discussion,” Dr. Sarah Coyne, the article’s author said.
The good news from this research is that the books targeted at the youngest end of the age range studied, those most likely to be read by students in the 4th or 5th grades, were least likely to contain the most offensive kinds of profanity. Many of those books contained no profanity at all.

Jubilee Memories

Kathleen Lane writes this month about watching the Coronation on television in 1953. It was an occasion when many families bought their first TV. My memories are rather different. I was at a prep school and the Headmaster left hiring a TV too late, so we had to listen to Dimbleby Senior commentating on the radio instead and use our imaginations. Weather-wise it was a rather grey and miserable day, with some rain. As a special treat we had been got up early to have a swim in the freezing outdoor pool, and it was during the cold showers afterwards (necessary presumably because of the contents of the swimming pool) that I first heard that Everest had been climbed. We had no classes that day, but we were subjected to a variety of activities such as obstacle races and, of course, listening to the radio.

Running Away

We are publishing an article this month by Esther Rantzen in which she movingly describes the dilemmas facing children who run away and underlining the risks that they face. This is a real problem, and its solution which deserves proper resourcing.

We were concerned, though, about the impression which the statistics in the accompanying email might create. As with a lot of other social issues such global figures cover a lot of different behaviours. They range from children who walk out after a row, but then go home, through to children who run to a big city where they are sexually exploited or even killed. Some run once or twice. A very small number run regularly. Some go to friends or relatives where they are safe. Some are seriously at risk, such as the girl described by Esther Rantzen. It is hard to get a balanced picture.

What I do know is that we conducted a short survey in one authority, and found that only one child had completely disappeared, and another had run away but settled in another authority. Most of our statistics were covered by a relatively small group of regular runners who remained within a few miles of their home. It is more detailed breakdowns of this sort which are necessary to identify the scale of the work which needs to be done. Otherwise it can sound overwhelming.

Safeguarding

There is an interesting contribution in this issue from Hull University. Ally Dunford and Dr Richard Burchill suggest that a focus on the rights of children would enable professionals to collaborate better, and they point out that time and again in inquiry reports lack of communication and lack of co-operation are key factors.

The problems faced by people who are trying to make the system work is that each profession and service has its own priorities, its own language, its own structures and systems and its own angles on children’s problems. It is as if they need interpreters to help them understand each other.

Those attending safeguarding meetings will probably be of differing status in their hierarchies, with varying levels of accountability and widely varying powers to ensure that their service conforms to what is agreed. The police, for example, are relatively structured, while general practitioners are independent.

Until recently this has been approached by trying to impose ever-burgeoning bureaucracy. Munro’s aim is to simplify. Dunford and Burchill are trying to motivate the professionals to want to co-operate by focusing on the children and their rights. It is a laudable aim; we shall have to see whether it can overcome the defensiveness, protection of powers, historical suspicions, rivalries and simple failure to communicate.

News from Mittel Appenzell

We usually hear from our Swiss contact, Herr Niemann, at the beginning of April, but he has been unwell and has retired from politics. He phoned to say that he had taken a holiday and visited England. The visit alarmed him.

“I was always taught at school that England is a place where the Police are respected and the law is observed, but when I visited, this was not so. I read newspaper stories about Chief Constables being in trouble, about riots in the streets and shops being burnt down. I saw for myself lots of rubbish and litter, and little bits of black chewing gum everywhere. What a dirty country, I thought. In Mittel Appenzell, no one needs to pick up litter because no one drops it. And as for chewing gum, no one chews it, so no one drops it, so no one has to clean it up”, he laughed.

” I enjoyed visiting the sights in London, but I saw a lot of Policemen. In Mittel Appenzell we need very few Police because very few people break the law. Sometimes a cow strays and they have to catch it and take it back to the farmer. Then we all laugh at the farmer and he has to buy a stein of beer for the Policemen. If you need so many Police in London, does it mean that you cannot trust each other? London is a very rich city, but it would be much richer if it did not have to pay so many Police. We can leave our doors open and no one steals in Mittel Appenzell. We do not need security guards to take money to the bank, or insurance in case someone steals from our houses, and only two people from our canton went to prison last year - they had a bit too much of the gluhwein when they visited Zurich, and they had to have a rest before they could come home. So, as we trust each other, we can spend our money on other things”.

“I am told that you have thousands of children in prison. I think this is terrible. If we have a bad boy, we make him take the cows up into the mountains and he has time to think about things. When he brings the cows back, we say, ‘Hey, are you going to be good now?’ and he says, ‘Ja’, and that is the end of it.

“I met some mothers outside a school and I asked them, ‘Are you having a demonstration?’ ‘No’, they said, ‘we have come to collect our children’. ‘Why can’t they walk home on their own?’ I asked. They all looked at me as if I was stupid, but in Mittel Appenzell it is safe for children to walk home.

” Sometimes it seems to me that things get worse, not better, for children. I was happy to holiday in England, and I wish your Queen a happy Jubilee, but I am happier now I am back in my valley”.

‘Research’

Did you know that 8% of mothers do not eat breakfast and only about half take more than 10 minutes over breakfast? We found the figures unsurprising, but do we need to live under such pressure? What would happen to schooling and the economy if people got up when they fancied and took as long over breakfast as they wanted? Would the world as we know it collapse?

And did you know that only 7% of mothers trust that baby foods are of good quality? We found this really alarming. Are the other 92% stuffing their babies full of minced up mush that they don’t trust? Unless we’ve misunderstood the statistics, these mothers are prepared to put their children at risk as soon as they’re on solids. The researchers should be required to reveal who their sample were and their kids should all be taken into care forthwith.

From an academic paper

Canning was an appropriate way of dealing swiftly, simply and cheaply with minor juvenile offences.

In the can. Put the lid on. No more trouble.

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