Transition to High School

This is an incredibly hard time for children. The move for my eldest, her transition to her secondary school has not been a good one, it has been very hard on her and for myself.

It has raised her levels of anxiety exponentially to the point of upset stomachs, feeling sick and a few panic attacks.

It can be such a hard time

To see my beautiful young daughter goes through these agonies is distressing to say the least. It breaks my heart to see her like this and I know she is not the only child out there.


These are things my eldest and other children are struggling with a number of different issues:

  • Movement from a small school of a few hundred to over a thousand is overwhelming
  • Movement from a small building to a huge rabbit warren of building is confusing and children are easily lost
  • A growing amount of homework
  • Taking notes of any homework given
  • Lost of new children in their year
  • knowing what to do during break times
  • Walking to school and back

The Transition

The children of year 6 in my eldest’s primary school were helped in this by meeting their teachers and having a day at the school.

But on reflection I don’t think this was enough. I have suggested to one of the governors of her primary school that they work closer with her secondary school to give them a slightly watered down version of year 7…a sort of year 6.5 where they take notes, write down their homework, get detention and more.

So what can done?

Firstly speak to the schools Student Support.

Our new school has been great.

We have a great connection with Student Support and her teachers. They have and are being kind, supportive and patient. I can’t praise them enough, particularly Student Support.

They have met with my eldest on regular occasions, helping her gain confidence, helping her through (what for her) is an overwhelming life change.

I have also suggested the school test my eldest for any form of autism because of several factor which I will not go into here.

So where do we go from here…?

Just a day at a time.




The anonymous teacher…

the anonymous teacher….

This was on the TES site…it is of course an exaggeration (well some of it) but it is important that you understand the problems that teachers and schools are facing with the current government.

The amount of work (an average of 50/60 hours a week) and pressure of form filling and everything takes it toll.

A teachers career now last 5 years on average, this is something we should be very concerned about.

This teacher is waking in a cold sweat at the thought of starting another school year within the same old education system.

You dream that you are trapped in a failing education system where you are under appreciated and the government keeps moving the goal posts, while the kids misbehave and the parents are abusive and unsupportive.

The face of the principal keeps changing, as does the school’s name and uniform.

One by one the rest of the staff disappears under cost-saving redundancy measures, as more and more kids keep appearing in your class. Luckily, you are distracted by the mountain of last-minute emails and piles of urgent new paperwork. Meanwhile, all your lesson planning is washed away in the crashing wave of yet another new syllabus, at the same time that your students are required to take part in another subject’s catch-up session.

A snap inspection

You frantically search and search, but can never find the staff room. You are really thirsty and desperate for a hot drink. But there is no milk. No cups. No tea bags and no coffee. You find the teaspoon to be so filthy that it sticks to the table no matter how hard you try to lift it. Perhaps you can get a drink from the canteen, you think excitedly. You have a crisp five-pound note, but the cashless catering system switched to a new online-only system over the holidays, and the internet is down again.

Suddenly it starts raining very hard – as the fire alarm goes off. You end up standing in the rain for your entire tea break as the fire drill goes rather badly. The smaller children from the shoeless learning initiative are complaining loudly that their socks are soaking and their feet are cold. The caretaker seems unable to reset the alarm system.

Just then, a large black limo splashes up. Out step five identical Agent Smiths. It’s a snap Ofsted inspection. One walks up to you with a clipboard and demands to see your books. You try to explain that you’re not allowed inside because of the fire drill and that your books are there, but he just sneers, ticks the box marked “no evidence of marking found” and begins to move off to do the same to one of your few remaining colleagues. You try to protest, but the agent informs you, “You can’t challenge Ofsted’s findings”. The agent walks off laughing, in that sinister Agent Smith way…

‘Negative attitude’

A hush descends over the fire drill as the caretaker finally gets the fire bell to stop. The new, “new principal” announces that because of an administrative error, no one has been notified that there is a mandatory two-hour staff meeting after school tonight. When you point out that it will clash with tonight’s CPD session, the parents’ evening, a major school trip, the Ofsted inspection, a sports fixture and the school play, so no one is free to attend the meeting, you are then loudly and publicly castigated for your negative attitude. All the rain-slicked kids are staring at you and the principal with their mouths open in shock. Luckily, it is raining so hard by this point that it is impossible for them to see your tears. 

You wake up in a cold sweat and your heart is beating so fast that it feels like it’ll fly out of your chest at any second. It’s 4.30am. You are feeling much, much more tired now than when you went to bed. You really want to go back to sleep, but your body is not cooperating. Your first day of the school year is here, and the inset session that will “explain” the new syllabus and how you are expected to deliver it starts in less than four hours…

The writer works at an all-through school in the south of England.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

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Not just angry – far more complex

Oppositional defiant disorder or ODD as it is known is a disruptive behavior disorder in children and teenagers.

Whilst my experience is limited it is generally played out with patterns of unruly and argumentative behavior and hostile attitudes toward authority figures.

I have seen children run out of school and act violently to other pupils. I have also had one child spit in my face and seen a teacher bitten.

The child may well scream and shout, hide under tables, have huge tantrums but like any other child can be scared and upset and it makes your hurt to see these young people so lost.

It is also difficult to recognise and some parents may find it difficult to recognize ODD, thinking they simply have a stubborn, emotional, or strong-willed child.

The behavior of a child with ODD is much more extreme and disruptive than normal but quite how you measure that is undetermined.

How is it diagnosed?

Probably when the parents or school are at their wits end.

When a child or teenager constantly behaves in extremely negative, hostile, and defiant ways that disrupt their home, school, and social lives and continues for at least six months. Symptoms appear as early as the late preschool years.

Children with ODD usually direct their anger, resentment, and spiteful behavior toward their parents, teachers, or other authority figures, though they may also have problems with their children particularity in their own age range and within their class.

This is incredibly hard work for both Teacher and Teaching Assistant. Parents will end up being involved along with the SENCo and Educational psychologist.

The reasons for this behaviour is not clear cut but it may be a mix of biological, social, and psychological factors appears to put children at risk.

It could be poverty, bad or abusive parenting, personal trauma, behavioral disorder, harsh discipline at home or other family instabilities. So one of these, some of these.all of these or none of these.

At least one study found that ODD symptoms are worse in children who struggle with peer acceptance in addition to family issues.

Treatment is very difficult as many children with ODD have coexisting conditions, such as mood or anxiety disorders, ADHD, learning disorders, or language disorders, it is important to determine whether this is the case, or if the child’s poor behavior is simply in response to a temporary situation.

Once the condition or situation is established, the appropriate course of treatment can begin. A combination of therapies is generally used to treat ODD, including behavioral and family therapies, parental training, and sometimes medication. In addition to treating the child, therapy attempts to rebuild the parent-child relationship and teach parents new techniques for dealing with the child’s behavior. Treatment is essential, and the earlier the better to help prevent ODD from developing into a more serious conduct disorder, mental health disorder, or criminal behavior.

You can find further information here ADDitude

Gender Dysphoria in Children

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Gender Dysphoria – How much do we really understand?

As a father of two, the current growth in transgender transitioning of children worries me somewhat. I was watching a report on the BBC about two children who are changing their sex with the help of their parents, doctors and therapists.

Gender Dysphoria is a very real condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

According to the Tavistock Centre, the UK’s only centre specialising in gender issues in under-18s is the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which is based in London and has clinics across the UK.

  • ‘In the last two years, the number of children aged 10 or under who were referred to the NHS because they were unhappy with their biological gender has risen from 87 to 216, including 32 aged five or under over the last year’

I do not believe that a child has the understanding or capacity to make such a life changing decision at such a young age.

As an adult that is your decision, your responsibility and you should be supported in that. However, saying that I am concerned about that as well psychological effects that this can cause.

This is a definition of transgender from the BBC.

  • ‘Transgender is a term used to describe a person who does not identify as the gender that was assigned to them at birth – they may wish to be seen as a different gender or no gender at all’

So how exactly are we assigned a gender?

Surely if we are born as a male then our gender is that of a male and born as a female our gender is that of a female.

We are not born gender neutral so who is it that assigns our gender?

No one, certainly not the doctor.

When your child is born the doctor will look at your children’s genitals and tell you it is a boy or a girl. That is not an assignment it is a clinical observation, the same with weight, height or eye color. Those are descriptions, not assignments.

Interestingly whilst researching this post I cam across this:

  • A staggering 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide, according to a new survey.

These statistics (if true) are just some of the sobering findings from a survey of more than 7,000 transgender people conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, released in October 2010.

Is this because of the rejection of the transgender agenda or because being transgender is psychologically very difficult?

There are differing opinions about this.

Certainly some transgender people go on to live a happy life but a percentage do not, sadly some take their lives and some surprisingly change back.

Is gender that fluid?

My doubts were raised about how we treat Gender Dysphoria was when I read about a group of ‘Transabled’ people.

They’re the people with fully functioning bodies, who are disabled by choice. Men and women who say they have the condition claim they feel trapped in their able bodies, much like, they say, like trans people feel born into the wrong gender.

I have read in different reports from different outlets and a documentary some years ago on the BBC reports that some have gone to extreme lengths to give themselves disabilities or to act disabled.

One man cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool”, and now calls himself ‘One Hand Jason’, telling everyone it had happened in a tragic accident.

Another dropped heavy concrete slabs on to his legs in order to get them amputated.

However doctors were able to save his legs from amputation, and though he now has a limp, he says he wishes to try again until they’re amputated.

People like One Hand Jason have been classified as ‘transabled’ feeling like imposters in their fully working bodies. Identifying as something they are not.

The condition has also been known by the medical name Body Integrity Identity Disorder since 2013.

  • “We define transability as the desire or the need for a person identified as able-bodied by other people to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment,” says Alexandre Baril, an academic who will present on ‘transability’ at a Social Sciences and Humanities session at the University of Ottawa.

The person could want to become deaf, blind, amputee, paraplegic. It’s a really, really strong desire.”

Clive Baldwin, an academic at St. Thomas University, says he’s interviewed 37 people with the condition to date.

This is again worrying and I certainly hope we won’t be removing peoples limbs.

If Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a psychological disorder because people identify with being disabled, is it really a stretch to say that could be said of those with Gender Dysphoria who identify with a different gender?

and what about our the children?

They are being given a choice of what gender they wish to be when they can barely tie their shoe laces up. It just doesn’t sit right with me and everything  know about children but i’m not an expert by any means.

I don’t know what the answer is but much more research to truly understand the ‘trans’ area is, what it means and how it is treated.

Whatever the answer is all trans people need to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity.

Dyslexia…and what it is not.

Dyslexia is not just a male problem

Dyslexia does not just affect males

However, boys with dyslexia are more frequently identified in school because girls will tend to muddle through according to Bob Cunningham, EdM ( But dyslexia affects both genders in nearly equal numbers.

So what explains the difference in schools? In general boy’s behaviour tends to draw attention to any problems they are having.

Dyslexia is not hereditary
However, both genetics and differences in the brain play a role in dyslexia.

Dyslexia can have familial element and research suggests that 40 percent of siblings, children, or parents of a person with dyslexia will also have dyslexia.

Brain imaging studies have shown differences in brain structure and function in people with dyslexia compared to those who don’t have it. For instance reversing letters is quite common in children who do not have dyslexia, especially in young children who are learning to form their letters.

As with any potential learning difficulty you will be looking for several different issues to reach a suspected conclusion.

Dyslexia is not just a reading problem
It really doesn’t. It does make reading very challenging. Children with dyslexia will struggle to break down words.

Symptoms (and this is not exhaustive) can include flipping letter, reversing letters (this isn’t always a sign of dyslexia), reading well below the expected level for age, problems processing and understanding what he or she hears, difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions, problems remembering the sequence of things, difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words (phonics), problems rhyming, inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word, difficulty spelling. Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing and sometimes avoiding activities that involve reading.

Dyslexia is not a simple identifiable condition
Dyslexia affects different children in different ways. It can affect writing, spelling, speaking, and even social skills. It is important to understand that dyslexia is a complex, brain-based condition; it really can affect different children in many, many different ways.

Dyslexia is not solved by children trying harder
As a teaching assistant we need to understand that brain functions differently in people with dyslexia and you will find that some traditional reading and language instruction just will not work for them.

Strategies such as precision teaching or colourful semantics may well help but you would discuss this with your SENCo and Teacher.

Dyslexia is not a sign of a low intelligence
Dyslexia occurs in children of all backgrounds and intelligence levels. Having dyslexia certainly doesn’t mean your child isn’t intelligent and we need to make that clear to the children we are with.

Most children respond well to praise and this is especially true when you are helping to build the confidence of a child, I have seen it happen with some of the children I have worked with.

Dyslexia is not a barrier to success
It is not and many different notable people have enjoyed success in their field.

For instance: Artists Pablo Picasso, Actor Tom Cruise, Entrepreneur Richard Branson, Scientist Albert Einstein, Olympic Rower Steve Redgrave, Actor Henry Winkler and Director Steven Spielberg and there are more.

Dyslexia is not curable
It is certainly not curable at present but who knows with genetics and all that has to discover about the brain in the future.

Dyslexia is a brain-based condition and a lifelong challenge. But early intervention and helpful classroom accommodations can have a significant, positive impact on reading ability and academic achievement.

This is really important and parents (who are their child’s number-one source of dyslexia support) need to be onside with the school, listening to the school and working with the school, the SENCo, the teacher and us, the teaching assistant.

The silent tragedy affecting today’s children (and what to do with it)

This article originally appeared on YourOT.Com

download (1)There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children. Through my work with hundreds of children and families as an occupational therapist, I have witnessed this tragedy unfolding right in front of my eyes. Our children are in a devastating emotional state! Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. You will hear concerns similar to mine. Moreover, in the past 15 years, researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:

How much more evidence do we need before we wake up?

No, “increased diagnostics alone” is not the answer!

No, “they all are just born like this” is not the answer!

No, “it is all the school system’s fault” is not the answer!

Yes, as painful as it can be to admit, in many cases, WE, parents, are the answer to many of our kids’ struggles!

It is scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment. Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children, we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.

Yes, there are and always have been children who are born with disabilities and despite their parents’ best efforts to provide them with a well-balanced environment and parenting, their children continue to struggle. These are NOT the children I am talking about here.

I am talking about many others whose challenges are greatly shaped by the environmental factors that parents, with their greatest intentions, provide to their children. As I have seen in my practice, the moment parents change their perspective on parenting, these children change.

What is wrong?

Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:

  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom

Instead, children are being served with:

  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
  • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments

Could anyone imagine that it is possible to raise a healthy generation in such an unhealthy environment? Of course not! There are no shortcuts to parenting, and we can’t trick human nature. As we see, the outcomes are devastating. Our children pay for the loss of well-balanced childhood with their emotional well-being.

How to fix it?

If we want our children to grow into happy and healthy individuals, we have to wake up and go back to the basics. It is still possible! I know this because hundreds of my clients see positive changes in their kids’ emotional state within weeks (and in some cases, even days) of implementing these recommendations:

Set limits and remember that you are your child’s PARENT, not a friend

Offer kids well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.


  • Provide nutritious food and limits snacks.
  • Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects
  • Have a daily technology-free family dinner.
  • Play one board game a day. (List of family games)
  • Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table etc)
  • Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom

Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:

  • Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.

Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:

  • Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew.
  • Do not use technology as a cure for boredom.
  • Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
  • Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.

Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:

  • Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction.
  • Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger.
  • Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills,
  • Connect emotionally – Smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.

We must make changes in our kids’ lives before this entire generation of children will be medicated! It is not too late yet, but soon it will be…