Introducing a new webinar hosted by CodeBreakers.

A presentation and Q & A on Anxiety and Neurodiversity with Fintan O’Regan.

For those of you who follow CodeBreakers, you’ll know that each year we co-host SEN Jigsaw Conference. We bring together all the specialist we know, to share their knowledge and best practice.  The aim is to help both parents and education professionals learn something new about Dyslexia and overlapping learning difficulties.

Fintan O’ Regan

Clearly this year we are unable to continue with the conference. However, our key speaker, Fintan O’ Regan got in touch and we chatted about the areas parents and professionals really need support with right now, during this difficult time.  Those who have read my recent blogs about anxiety #MindfulDyslexia, will know I’m passionate about supporting individuals with Dyslexia and Anxiety.

After a long chat, Fintan and I decided there are a series of information and discussion sessions we could provide for parents and professionals, to help and support in many ways.

Fintan explained,

In the initial stages of lockdown, due to Covid 19, the decision to close schools may have been greeted positively by many children, as being at home on a Wednesday afternoon, as opposed to double Geography with Mr Atlas may have been more appealing. I suspect however that this feeling has been replaced by the frustrations of being restricted from seeing their friends and having to do downloaded work sheets and virtual learning. 

An alternative learning model at home of working in isolation in front of a screen while not having to worry about Jack nudging Jason behind you, may have allowed children with ASD, ADHD and Dyslexic traits to focus more as opposed to being told off for turning round either to join in or telling them to stop annoying you.

 

Georgina Smith- CodeBreakers Author

We know working during lockdown can be frustrating for parents and children.  As different schools provide work in a different way, the sheer accessibility can be difficult initially. We know that some children will not feel comfortable with webcams and some may not learn well without the support of the LSAs and TAs they would usually have at school.  And let’s be honest, are any of us up to date with all the different ways to do Maths these days and know what is a subjunctive??? To be honest, I think many parents are struggling to support their child with lessons. There’s also the endless debate and worry of what’s enough and not not enough to be doing at home.

For children with Neurodevelopmental differences including ADHD, ASD and Dyslexia who often have  learning, behavioural and socialisation issues in group situations there may have been perhaps more positives and negatives within the lockdown period.

However, some may still require the stimulation and routine of school, despite disliking learning and struggling with the change of routine.  We know children can’t always articulate their feelings and the result can often be viewed as ‘poor behaviour’.  We aren’t promising our webinars will be a ‘cure’ to education during lockdown but we hope there will be a clearer understanding of why anxiety is occurring and you will be able to take away some tips. You’ll also know that you’re not alone and perhaps even confirm that what you’re doing is the right thing and alleviate your own concerns and worries.

For our educational professionals joining us,  this will provide an insight into how you can best support learners in a different way, tips and again, perhaps reinforce that what you are doing is the right thing.

We are all in  new and unfamiliar territory, many will be struggling with IT and never used online learning platforms. 

We may also have lots of positives to share about education during lockdown.  I know for my students, many have learned great new IT skills, one of my older students is doing a fantastic job of organising himself and is becoming a  far more independent learner. We’ve often digressed to other aspects of learning and support needs.  The 1:1 time with some students have may be enabling educators to different strengths in their students that they hadn’t had an opportunity to see before.

Our webinar will focus on supporting Neurodiverse learners.  Fintan has provided some background about Neurodiversity

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Watch a brief introduction here 

Neurodiversity is a term which was first coined in the late 1990s to describe conditions such as Dyslexia, Autism and ADHD as not deficits or disorders but rather more like variations or differences of the human brain. For both children and their parents, the concept of Neurodiversity can have benefits as this can frame their challenges as being differences, rather than as deficits.

 

The term itself originates from the late 1990s when Judy Singer, a Sociologist on the Autism spectrum, rejected the idea that people with Autism were disabled and proposed that their brains simply worked differently from others. The movement emphasizes that the goal shouldn’t be to “cure” people whose brain works differently but to embrace diversity so they can fully participate as members of the community.

 

The term Neurodiversity remains controversial. Those that support the medical model of disability argue that mental differences which cause impairments in many areas of life need to be treated as well as being embraced as differences.

 

In considering both viewpoints perhaps the compromise position is not to concentrate on the labels of Dyslexia, ASD and ADHD but to consider specific symptoms or “traits” of these terms.

 

The key issue to consider is that when these traits become impairment in terms functioning in learning, behaviour and socialisation skills that is when we need to look at offering specific support to both children and adults.

 

One constant that many children with Neurodiversity experience is the issue of the feeling of anxiety and poor self esteem and being regarded as different from their peers and siblings.

 

Some of this anxiety stems from the fact of not being to do the things that maybe age appropriate peers and siblings can do and a self-awareness of possibly being treated differently or even unfairly, by teachers, parents and individuals in the community, who they feel may not understand them.

 

Some of this anxiety may also be transmitted by parents also to the child in terms of meeting goals, aspirations and expectations and by possibly comparison with others.

 

In this first webinar, Anxiety and Neurodiversity, we will demystify the term Neurodiversity and consider how to support the key traits of 3 terms within the spectrum which include ASD, ADHD and Dyslexia.

 

We will then outline the importance of mood management and introduce you to the SF3R approach. We will show how Structure complemented by Flexibility and supported by Rapport, Relationships and Resilience can reduce anxiety and restore confidence and control in meeting the expectations of home and school.  

 

We do hope that you can join us.  This will be the first in a series of 3 webinars as the conversation evolves to to; how will be return to school, and what the new norm in schools will look like.

Read about Part 2 and the return to school

About Fintan O’Regan MA, PGCE BSc

He is currently a Behaviour and Learning Consultant and Trainer nationally and internationally.

He was the Head teacher of the Centre Academy from 1996 -2002, which was the first specialist school in the UK for students between the ages of 7-19, specialising issues related to ADHD, ASD and ODD.

He is an associate lecturer for Leicester University, the National Association of Special Needs, the Institute of Education, the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre and the former Vice Chairman of the UK ADHD Network and of the European ADHD Alliance.

He has written a number of books and published articles on the subject of ADHD, ODD and a range of Learning, Behaviour and Socialisation issues.

Fintan now works as trainer and consultant for schools and school support systems including, Social Services, Health, the Police and Foster Carers with regards to providing behaviour management strategies for children and families struggling with SEND and behaviour issues.