Sunday, 23 November 2014

Project 52, week 47

Not many pictures this week. They are all similar- rain!


 Back to work after my week off. The weather is still mild, but wet!!!  I stayed behind to do my annual appraisal, and drove home in the rain.
The floor is not quite dry enough to put the furniture back, so we went out for dinner- again.




More rain. We bought some logs so that we could light the fire, and  decided to put the table back in the dining room.It looks nice against the white floor, and the room looks much bigger too.




While I was teaching in the afternoon we were surprised to see a crane rise up outside the classroom window. It turns out the weathercock on the tower was skewed and as, surprise, it was dry, they decided to come and fix it before the winds blew it down on someone's head. In the evening I managed the time to moderate the #eltchat with Marisa and Shaun.




A night for lighting the fire and  catching up on some TV. I had been storing up things I wanted to watch during October, but had no time to see. I signed up for one of Russell's Edmodo courses- for next week, and he offered it to me free of charge as a thank you for paying for others that he had delivered. Thanks Russell :-)



Malcolm and I went shopping in the big supermarket. I must remember not to go shopping with anyone who can add things to the basket! My bill was horrendous. We now have enough food to keep us going until the end of the year....not really! I did buy some haggis for next week though. Next Sunday is St Andrew's day, so I will prepare a really Scottish dinner for friends.





 I popped across to the co-op to gather the things needed for tomorrow's cake-and-pudding-making thrash. I checked that we had everything as it is not easy to find on a Sunday. I love the smell when it is all baking away in the oven. Yum. My hairdresser moved to a new salon, so I went there for my haircut instead of the usual place.


Stir-up Sunday. I believe it is a Catholic date- the last Sunday before Advent, but we have always made our Christmas pudding and cake then. I cleared the kitchen after breakfast and only allowed everyone in to stir and make a wish.
Once everything  was cooking, it was a good time to go and help Lorraine move the last things into her new house. That way we are not tempted by the smell.

Stir up Sunday really brings the end of the year closer. The smells are highly evocative of the festive season, and I am almost ready for the decorations- but I can hold off for a few more weeks :-)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Project 52 Week 46

Well, it's getting close to the end now. I can't believe we only have a few weeks before 2015.

This week was very restful, as I caught up with sleep and did some work around the house.


I popped in next door to see whether the kittens were staying- and found that they were. They are two little girls- Nina and Nala and they look like their father who was a seal-point, with chocolate ears and tails. Two very cute little furrpets. They are a bit wild- running up the curtains, but just what Ann needs to help get her life moving again.

I was amused by the picture I have posted. The vase has transposed the colours of the cat blankets. Ebony normally has blue, and Maisie likes pink. I have ordered some new red cat beds for Christmas, so they will match the decor better :-)


M and I went shopping for a new sofa. We have been making do with one two-seater, a chair and a couple of bedroom Parker-knolls. Completely eclectic mix of furniture, which was driving me mad, but I didn't have time to do anything about it until now. We trawled every furniture shop on the island- and found what we wanted in the final shop. We went home and cleared a space for the new one which is being delivered on Friday.


Time to take the girls to the vet for their annual  visit. I caged Ebs with ease, but Maisie escaped. The plan was: I would go to the appointment with my girl, and when they caught Maisie, Cairis or M would come round behind me. It didn't happen. She scarpered into next door's garden and stayed away until lunchtime.

The tipped up cage is the only way we can get Maisie in- we use gravity to do the work:-)


We drove out to the hire shop to see if they had a floor sander- they did, so we decided to re-sand the dining room floor, which was looking the worse for wear. After moving all the furniture and hoovering up the dust, we decided to paint it white! It had always been a pale shade of limed wood, but it has two trapdoors in it, which looked odd. The first coat went on okay, but was matte- and I wanted it to have a bit of a sheen. We found some different stuff in the local paint shop, which dries diamond hard- and is satin finish. Only one problem- you can't put the furniture back for 72 hours- and the dining room is in the middle of the house!!!
In the evening I went to Autism Jersey's headquarters for our SPELL training CPD session ( see post below).


The sofa duly arrived, and had to stay in its box until we had room for it. I lit the fire as the temperature has suddenly dropped, and it felt cold and damp. We are still having fun getting around out house. To get to the kitchen we have to :go out the front door, down the side passage and in through the kitchen. It is such a pain that we have been going out for tenner-fests for dinner, and having coffees out.


We decided to take the sofa out of its box, so that the huge amount of cardboard could go for recycling with our other waste. It is a very nice red leather and goes well with the cream one we already had. We are still working round the dining room, but should be able to walk on it tomorrow- even if we can't put the furniture back yet- and the white floor has made all the other paintwork in the room look dingy:-)))


Today I popped out for a while to help my friend who is moving house. I had to get back in time for the Neuro course on iTDi. It is incredibly interesting, and I can't wait to get back into teaching to try out some of the ideas in practice. It was the weekend for BESIG's conference and TesolFrance, which I didn't manage, but I was happy with all the work I have accomplished during my week off- even if the others  will have to reschedule a visit to the vet for Maisie.

Friday, 14 November 2014

SPELL training

My Director of Studies was instrumental in offering us a chance to do some SPELL training for  Autism as CPD.
We seem to have been getting some children and adults at school in recent months who needed careful handling and we wanted to do our best for them, and the other students in class with them.
So: Thursday evening, 6.30-9.30 pm, 13th November was finally fixed as the date, and all teachers who were interested turned up.

What does Spell stand for?

It is an acronym for Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal and Links- and nothing to do with Harry Potter!

First of all we were given some background information:
Autism is a spectrum of neurodiversity. Interestingly, it is a developmental disability,  but it is not considered a Mental Health issue. It is a question of using different neurons to complete tasks.
An individualised, personalised approach is necessary as, although most, if not all, engage at some time in the behaviour that characterises autism, the difference will be in the degree, severity and the ability to inhibit a 'normal' lifestyle.
Some are better at knowing how other people work- and can read the atmosphere in a room with ease.
Some understand how things work- and are great with gadgetry.
Some work well with the 'big picture'.
Some are better at detail- and some are good at more than one , or are in between. 

 The Autism Spectrum

There is disagreement over the words used to describe the spectrum. Is it a condition- or a disorder?
It was described scientifically in 1943, by Leo Kanner, in America and by Hans Asperger, in Vienna, in 1944.
At the most severe end, classic autism can vary in the severity and  IQ, where some have an above average IQ and can function extremely well in some areas. Language and communication are more likely to be affected.
It is thought that possibly  85% of the workers in Silicon Valley are  at the other, Asperger's, end of the spectrum. Here we find people with a normal or high IQ, who may present most of their issues with social behaviour and conventions.
It was always believed that the ratio of Males to Females was 4:1 for classic autism and 15:1 for Asperger's. Today it is thought that the ratio is equal, but the girls present differently and are often misdiagnosed as : for example, having an Eating disorder or bipolar disorder.
Of course, this then means that the support given does not help the underlying problems, and could even make the condition worse.

How is it Diagnosed?

There is a triad of impairments used for diagnosis

This allows specialists to look out for the presence of unusual features, the absence of usual features and the presence of co-occurring conditions: These could be  problems such as ADHD or dyspraxia, epilepsy,allergies, skin and bowel problems ( often from reduced diets), sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or Tourette's (where tics and calming behaviour can become akin to OCD)

How can we, as teachers, benefit our students with this knowledge?

First of all, we need to consider our classrooms. In many ways the classroom is structured, so is a good environment , but it can be filled with sensory stimuli which is like noise which can't be turned off. WE also need to consider that students take things literally, and reflect before we speak.

  • Structure: this is important as it makes the world more predictable and reduces anxiety. Give plenty of notice before changing activities. Limit choices- don't remove them completely, but understand that open choices cause anxiety. The concrete is better than abstract. Allow processing time; typically 25 seconds is required for someone with autism to process a question. As teachers, we don't often give enough time, and sometimes paraphrase, making the problem worse. One way to help is to give everyone 30 secs thinking time before they can answer a question. This also means that the quicker students in class don't always answer the questions.
  • Positive approaches and expectations: do not leave the student to his/her own devices. Provide structured tasks. Enhance self-confidence and self-esteem through praise and encouragement.
  •  Empathy: develop an understanding of how the person communicates with the world. Be aware of the lack of intonation- it doesn't mean no sense of humour!  Have respect for the individual's right to be different. Who says our social norms are correct?
  • Low arousal: remove distracting stimuli. Keep the atmosphere calm and focused. Be aware of the sensory impact of the classroom: noise, colour, lights, white noise, and mess. Consider the effect of the black, or blue, pen on the whiteboard- use green, or better, put the tasks on green or pink paper.Use pictures as a guide to structured instructions. Think about planning or rehearsing any aversive event, such as a fire drill. Plan, plan, plan! Develop a non-confrontational style of interaction.
  • Links : build partnerships with anyone who has contact with the individual to ensure a consistency of care and a continuity of behavioural norms. Eg. There are some classrooms where the students can use their ipods, which help them concentrate and focus on their work. What will happen if the next class bans the ipods? Everyone needs to sing from the same hymnsheet. This will help inclusion in mainstream activities, but a high level of consistency is necessary. 

There are problems in simple things such as going to the toilet. We have all seen funny toilet signs, but imagine a person who thinks literally: the female in trousers would use the male toilet, and as for the 'funny' ones- sometimes WE don't know which one to use!

To summarise:

The SPELL framework attempts to understand  and respond to the unique needs of the individual with autism by applying holistic principles of what is understood to be best practice in treating autism.
It creates an autism friendly environment which will generally be helpful for everyone:-)

Sunday, 9 November 2014

project 52 weeks 44 and 45

Another two for one.
The last couple of weeks have been hectic. The course was gearing up for the moderator's visit, I started a new course with iTDi,  and the Ceilidh Band has been busy- I needed more hours in the day to get everything done- with the result that I am planning to sleep for about 3 days to recuperate :-)

Sunday 26th

I didn't get much time to go out today. The band was working last night and so I hadn't done any marking! My office looks like a bomb has hit it- there is paper everywhere. Fortunately I got a really good deal on paper for the printer- as I forgot to bring any home from work =- duh!


I managed to escape for lunch today, so I drove up to the top of the road and sat in the bay while I had my sandwich. The sun was shining and it felt most unseasonably warm. It really is a lovely part of the island to work in, and as it was half-term, there were plenty of people out, enjoying the sunshine and the view.


No time to stop today. The weather is even better than yesterday, but I have too much to do to go out. The little view of the sea from the classroom window will have to sustain me. By the time I get home it is too dark to enjoy the sea.


Lunch was spent in the Winston Churchill gardens today. The weather was wonderful, so we had time for a walk in the fresh air.


Today I stayed at the college after everyone else had gone home. The Jubilee Sailing Trust , which specialises in Tall ship sailing for handicapped and able-bodied sailors, was having a fund-raising quiz at the Royal Channel Yacht Club, which is just down the hill. M is the treasurer, and we had agreed to put a team together. I didn't have time to get home and back, so I stayed until nearly time to start and walked down. We didn't think we had done particularly well- but in fact, we won- again. M has decided that we can't take part next year- and he will write the quiz questions. We now have a case of Merlot to share.


Today is Hallowe'en. I have my store of sweeties for the little Trick or Treaters who knock on the door. Today is the final day of teaching for the free classes and we have invited them all to a party on Monday. The students have been great- turning up all month, even after finishing their shifts- and some having to go back afterwards!

Saturday and Sunday

As if I don't spend enough time there normally, the musicians decided to play down the old Smuggler's Inn in St Brelade. There was a mini beer festival, so off we trooped. The sun was shining on the sea, so I stopped to take a photo. It really is a beautiful place to spend time.

On Sunday I started a course on NeuroELT with It looks like it is going to be a really interesting series of webinars.


The final week of the course. We had a party in the afternoon for the trainees to spend time out of class with their students. It was fun, and the students were trying to convince the trainees to continue the lessons, if possible.
Lots of them had to go back to work afterwards, so there wasn't a lot of alcohol consumed.


 M went to a seminar today and the attendees were given a mobile charger unit. My friend Lorraine was there too, and suggested that he get one for me too. She knows that I love everything techie. When I read the box, it made me smile as the English is more like Chinglish :-)
The weather is on the turn- and it feels much colder today. It is also wet.


I can't remember the last time I cooked a meal. My family have been great- but M only knows how to reheat M & S ready meals, and I have been too tired to care. Today was no different, so I suggested that we go out for a tennerfest. The island restaurants all take part in the month of October, which is now extended into early November. You can have a two or three course meal for £10.00, depending on the restaurant. It is a great excuse to try new places, especially the really expensive ones.
On the way I took pics of the sea, and St Helier in the distance.


As if I didn't have enough to do, one of my colleagues is sick and I did his Business Class for him. IT was fun to be in a classroom. That is my preferred environment, rather than training. I enjot both, but the mix was nice for a change. In the evening I had to pick up the examiner from the airport and drop him at his hotel. 


Moderation.The day was smooth and the moderator passed all of my trainees. I am now on holiday, so I can sleep for a week:-) We decided to go down to the local pub for a tennerfest together. The food was  really nice, and everyone had a great time.


Sleep............... I stayed in bed until lunchtime and did very little little today


iTDi session, then going to help my friend move house.