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A Mother’s experience in teaching her child to read with Minecraft

I have known about the power of Minecraft for a while. It has opened up a whole new world for my son, and has been a real boost to his ability to socialise as he has bonded with like minded people over the game. Here a mother shares her experience with teaching her son with Asperger’s to read and write using Minecraft:

http://www.stam.se/blog/2013/01/05/how-minecraft-taught-my-9-year-old-son-with-aspergers-to-read-and-write/

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What is Pain?

As a member of a family with varying pain responses on the extreme ends (both over and underesponsiveness) I found this interesting

Knowing Neurons

For many, pain is an indescribably awful feeling that causes suffering and emotional distress.  It is a sensation that is so unpleasant – so unbearable – that most people will go to great lengths to avoid it.  For others, enduring pain has become a rite of passage (tattoo, anyone?) that signifies mental strength and discipline.  The ceremony, however, does not diminish the pain itself or one’s primal urge to avoid it.  Regardless, many people live a relatively pain-free life, and those that choose to endure pain do so on their own free will.  For those that suffer from neuropathic pain, however, pain has become an unavoidable specter that haunts every moment of their lives.

Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain syndrome that is often the result of tissue or nerve damage.  A commonly known form of neuropathic pain is “phantom limb syndrome,” in which an amputee continues to feel pain…

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Learning Innovations – By Rev. Dr. Kim Miller

Rev. Dr. Kim Miller writes about an innovation in education, the SOLE – a Self Organised Learning Environment, where children investigate and learn through their own curiosity.

Learning Innovations – By Rev. Dr. Kim Miller.

Sugata Mitra, and education researcher from New Delhi, was granted the TED prize of one million dollars in February 2013. SOLE is based on children’s natural sense of wonder and their ability to work together, even when, or especially when, they are left to their own devices.

See also http://engageadhd.org/2013/06/18/learning-in-the-modern-age/

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In Meltdown

There is a point of anger or anxiety that a child can reach, when calming techniques don’t work. This is when the child is in meltdown. There is a point of no return where the child’s brain and body is in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Reasoning with the child or trying to calm them down will not work as the “downstairs brain” is in primitive survival mode and the “upstairs (thinking) brain” is inhibited (see Upstairs, Downstairs‘). ‘Fight’ may manifest as aggression, verbal abuse, throwing things, kicking etc as the child tries to release the adrenalin and stress hormones in their bloodstream. ‘Flight’ is when the child runs off to their bedroom or engages in other escape behaviours. Your priority at this point should be the child’s safety. If they are safe it is best to leave them to calm down, as following them and trying to engage them may exacerbate the situation. Never take anything they say personally when the child is in this frame of mind.

So how do we know if a child is in meltdown or just having a tantrum? Easy, ASD expert Sue Larkey says. bribery doesn’t work. If you were frightened of mice and a mouse was next to your kitchen sink, would bribery make you walk up to the mouse?

When your child is calm you can talk to them about the trigger (although they may not know why it happened. It could be cumulative effect of many things), and about ways they can deal with their anger and anxiety in the future, as well as strategies they can use.

Learn to recognise the child’s triggers and early warning signs. These are very individual and different for every child. Redirect them before the point of no return and teach them ways to recognise their own early signs and methods they can use to self-soothe.

When a person is stressed, they often “revert to habits”, so teach them good habits for dealing with their low level anxiety or frustration and they will eventually learn to do this automatically before they reach the point of no return.

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Upstairs, Downstairs

In an effort to teach my 7 year old son emotional regulation I have introduced him to the idea of the “upstairs brain” and the “downstairs brain”. This is a concept that I “borrowed” from ‘The Whole Brain Child‘ by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.

The downstairs brain is the primitive, instinctual, emotional, intuitive part of the brain and includes the amygdala, the area behind the “fight or flight” mechanism, the automatic response to sensory stimuli, the unconscious component of emotion. The downstairs brain is fully developed at birth and is concerned with basic survival.

The upstairs brain on the other hand is the seat of executive function, the base for self regulation, planning, organisation, problem solving, impulse control, theory of mind and the conscious component of emotion. This is the area at the front of the brain, part of the frontal lobe, and includes the cerebral cortex. This area of the brain is not fully developed until the age of around 23.

The downstairs brain is very reactive. For someone who has strong emotional reactions it is important to engage the upstairs brain to slow this reaction and think things through. Just naming the responses which are generated by his upstairs and downstairs brain, I am showing my son that he can be in control of his reactions and his body states. It slows him down enough to help him clear his mind and help him self regulate. If he has a strong emotional reaction, I tell him “that is your downstairs brain talking. What does your upstairs brain say?” A few seconds later he has calmed himself in order to think clearly and gives me a considered answer.

This is the most effective emotional regulation technique I have discovered, more effective than simply telling him to take deep breaths or another meditative technique. His body is calming itself automatically as his brain is distracted. Last week he was having panic attacks. This week he is much more in control.

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Is ADHD really on the rise?

Interesting article asking an interesting question. As a parent of a 5 year old active child who can’t sit still with executive function issues, as well as a 7 year old child with ADHD, I can see the difference. My youngest’s behaviour could easily be mistaken for ADHD, although he has very few of the issues that my eldest has, and I know that in my youngest it is due to immaturity.

Psychologymum

Most people imagine a child with ADHD as being extremely hyperactive and causing chaos wherever they go. However, a child can be diagnosed with ADHD for lack of concentration without hyperactivity, daydreaming and impulsive behaviour. Many children are being diagnosed before 7 years old when it might be considered normal to be hyperactive, impulsive or have difficulties paying attention. More boys are diagnosed with behavioural problems than girls but is this because boys are just naturally more active? It could be argued that as increasing numbers of younger and younger children are being diagnosed with ADHD, it is not a problem with the children but with society. Drugs such as Ritalin are given to children to deal with the symptoms of ADHD but it has been said that Ritalin just slows children down. This may have benefits for parents and teachers in coping with behaviour but some ADHD type behaviours…

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Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

A new and revised edition! Bestselling children’s author and internationally respected literacy expert Mem Fox reveals the incredible emotional and intellectual impact reading aloud to children has on their ability to learn to read. With passion and humor, Fox speaks of when, where, and why to read aloud and demonstrates how to read aloud to best effect and how to get the most out of a read-aloud session. She discusses the three secrets of reading, offers guidance on defining and choosing good books, and addresses the challenges that can arise. And this new edition boasts twenty pages of fresh material, including two new chapters on boy readers and phonics, a foreword, and a list of “Twenty Books that Children Love.” Filled with practical advice, activities, and inspiring true read-aloud miracles, this book is a favorite of educators and parents and a must-have for anyone interested in how children learn to read.

via Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.