Ask Alison... Helpful advice for grandparents or guardians Alison Waterhouse has worked with children with Additional Educational Needs for the past 22 years in both mainstream and the private sector. Initially, she trained as a Special Needs Teacher and has worked in a variety of schools and educational settings. Alison now works as an Independent Educational Consultant for Special Educational Needs and Emotional Well being in both the Independent sector and mainstream. She is involved in staff training for Young Minds and Releasing Potential and she has an Educational Psychotherapy practice. For more information, please visit www.alisonwaterhouse.co.uk. In her regular “question and answer” page, Alison uses her experience to help readers & their children with educational concerns or problems. If there’s something you’d like to ask Alison, email your question to : firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Alison I have a grandson who is 4 - will be 5 in October who is off to school for the first time in September - he is very anxious about this. I look after him 3 days a week whilst his Mum, my daughter works. Is there anything I could do to help prepare him for school? This is very natural and is your Grandsons way of sharing how he is feeling and in a way asking for the adults around him to show him how to manage this feeling. There are several things you can do that will help: 1. Drive past the school each time you have him if this is possible or walk past and talk about the teachers getting the school ready for him – cleaning the toys and buying new sand for the sand pit and paints and paper for him to draw and paint on. If it’s possible to link this to the things he is interested in then that is great. 2. Talk about his day – When you go to school you will meet lots of new children who will want to be your friend. How can we show them that you want this too. Smiling is a great way to show that you want to be friends with people. Play ‘Meeting a new friend’ with him and then go and practice this smiling and saying hello in the park with the other children. Make sure you make the distinction between children and adults – reminding him he should never make friends with a new adult unless you or his Mummy/Daddy have said that is OK. 3. Talk about the things he will do in school and help him understand what playtime will be like – ‘At playtime your class will all get to go into the playground and run about (Link in things he likes) some may want to play with their cars, others may want to play chase, which would you choose to do? Then after play what do you think will happen – Yes that’s right you go back into class and then your teacher will tell you what you can do – she may let you choose or she may ask you to do something that she wants. 4. Talk about his teacher and what she will be like – kind friendly will want to look after him and make sure he has a good time in school. If he is unsure then he can ask her questions – just like you do Mrs ? at nursery. 5. Talk to him about the whole day. First you will go into class and the teacher will do the register where she calls out everybody’s name to make sure they are there, then she will get you to do some work, then it will be playtime and then you will go back to class. After playtime I expect she will want you to do some more work and then it will be lunch time. Gosh I think that you will be very hungry by then. After lunch there will be another playtime and then it will be time for Mummy or I to come and pick you up. When we get home I think we will have a cup of squash and a biscuit and you can tell me about your day and I will tell you about mine – How does that sound? Dear Alison, I have a 7 year old little boy who is full of beans and is constantly on the move. My Mum and Dad look after him 2 afternoons a week as I work. Is there anything I can do to help slow him down or is there anything they can do to manage his energy as he is quite a handful? Some children enjoy the buzz they get moving fast and being on the move and find the slowing down hard to do. It is good to help them explore and understand both ends of the spectrum and find strategies that suit then to move between them. There are lots of things you can do to help. Firstly talk about how it feels to be on the move – in his body and in his mind – what colour is this feeling, where does he feel it in his body. Then ask him to stop and sit still and think about his body – how does it feel?? Where does he feel it? What colour would it be? How does it feel in his head now? Once you have a little bit of an understanding then you can help him move and explore different states – turn it into a science experiment. Choose a favourite character – cartoon or real person and link the work to them. How do you think Superman calms himself after a busy day? What do you think he thinks about when he is trying to let his body rest and recover? Then help him understand that you want him to find out more about his body and how it works. Explain that you want him to think about his body as a car. Ask him to think about how a car drives – is it always the same? Does it drive fast on country lanes? In the town? Use the metaphor of a car to help him know how fast he should be going and that there are times when he needs to slow down. Practice this around the house and in the garden. I often use a speed dial with children and families. I divide this into green amber and red and then I help children understand where they are and we can talk about if this is the right speed for that place. I then get them to come up with activities that they enjoy in each zone Green is the learning zone and calm zone so it can include reading and drawing, lego and making things. Amber is the half way zone and can include hide and seek, and games indoors, climbing frames and swings and the red zone is the park and then playground forest fields and open spaces. However there is always a warning with the red zone and that is that other people must be thought about and if it is too fast for them it has to be toned down. Once you have a language to share where you can talk about his in a fun way you can then work together. The other thing to think about is as to whether the movement is caused by anxiety /over arousal. This is where what the children are doing is causing them to become over aroused and then they are not able to slow down. If this is the case then it is worth thinking about the 5 different domains: Emotional, Physical, Environmental, Senses and Propreception (feedback for the body through muscles) If one of these areas is struggling then that can be the place to start exploring together.
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