Category Archives: Practical Help

Accessing Public Services Toolkit Workshop Facilitators Wanted

toolkit cover image
Would you like the opportunity to help families get the knowledge they need to secure appropriate health, social care and education services to help their disabled child achieve the best possible outcomes?

We’re the charity that works with families who include children with brain conditions. We listen to them, we learn from them, we work with them. We carry out research, we design and innovate, we make and share. What we discover together makes everyone’s life better. Join us on our journey, and who knows what we could find?

Our research shows that disabled people and their families experience great difficulties accessing support services from public bodies. Our Accessing Public Services Toolkit aims to unpick these difficulties and suggest effective strategies for resolving them. It’s based on the idea that it’s not in the best interests of public bodies to have these commonly occurring problems and that most of these problems are capable of being resolved without involving lawyers and great expense.

After receiving such positive feedback on the Toolkit in England, and in response to requests from north of the border, we’ve adapted our Toolkit to make it relevant to Scotland. We now want to roll out workshops across Scotland to assist parent/carers in using this new toolkit. It can be daunting, exhausting and sometimes intimidating to challenge public officials so by running these workshops we want to empower parent/carers to not feel fearful about complaining.

If you are a parent/carer of a child with a brain condition and you’d like to be involved in helping to run these workshops in Scotland then please send an up-to-date CV and covering letter to Beverley Hitchcock  by 5pm on Thursday the 12th October 2017. Full training will be provided, along with a daily rate of £150 (£75 for a half day) and travelling expenses.


You can find full details of the role here. 

You can find out more about our legal work here.

Sleep Practitioner Sarah Tells of her Own Experience of Sleep Training

Sarah and Theo

Sarah and Theo

Our Sleep Practitioner Sarah Coldrey is used to helping families with their sleep difficulties but, as she explains, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t experience the same difficulties with her child Theo. Theo was born prematurely and Sarah updated us on his progress as well as how she settled Theo into a better bedtime routine.

When Theo reached one we found that we were in a fairly good routine. He would wake around 6.30am, have 2 short naps a day and then bedtime was around 7pm. He was generally asleep within 10 minutes.

We followed the same bedtime routine every day. At 6.15pm he would have a bottle of warm milk downstairs, we would then go upstairs and Theo would have a bath for about 15 minutes. We would then go straight to the bedroom and get into pyjamas. Once ready for bed we would sit and read a few stories in dim lighting. I would then carry him to his cot and sing twinkle twinkle little star, I would leave the room and Theo would self-settle to sleep in a dark room with black out blinds, sometimes he cried but it was only for a minute or two.

Between ages one and two Theo slept generally very well and we felt lucky. Sometimes he would wake in the early hours but we found that this was probably because his room was getting quite cold and so we put a heater in his room over the winter that came on around 4am. This seemed to improve the situation and Theo would sleep until at least 6am.

Around the age of two, Theo started to wake in the night. I found this confusing as he was able to self settle to sleep and so I didn’t feel there was an obvious reason why he wouldn’t be able to re settle himself during the night. I did however feel that Theo was going through some developmental changes. His language was coming on and he was starting to potty train. He was also very clingy when I dropped him to nursery (normally he couldn’t have cared less when I left him)

For the first few night wakes, it was such a shock to the system that we just bought Theo into our bed as most people do (even though I’m a sleep practitioner, I’m still human and the need for sleep took precedent).

For some people co sleeping works well, but for us it did not as Theo tended to fidget all night and somehow take up nearly an entire double bed and so we needed a new plan.

Initially I used a chair bed (a fold out foam bed) and would lay on the floor next to his cot and sometimes hold his hand.

After doing this for a few days, I decided I was being too soft and wanted to move things along, so I moved onto a single bed that was in his room but was much further away from his cot. I felt pleased about this because he wasn’t coming into our bed and I was able to create a bit of distance between him whilst still being in his room.

Fast-forward a couple of months, Theo seems more settled in himself and goes to nursery happily again. Some nights he wakes in the night and we will leave him to self-settle back to sleep and some nights we know that he probably needs the comfort of having us nearby and so we still go into his room and sleep on the single bed. This is not ideal but it works for us in our real life. Theo continues to self-settle at bedtime and so I’m confident his good sleep habits will return.

However – I know we have a whole new battle ahead of us when we transfer Theo from a cot to a bed!

You can find out more about our Sleep Service here, or call our freephone helpline on 0800 328 1159.

 

School Transport Report

The school of law team at the University of Leeds

The school of law team at the University of Leeds

Our student researchers at the School of Law, University of Leeds have published a report about the accuracy and accessibility of school transport information on local authority websites in England.

The students looked at 71 websites and identified serious failings in the information provided to families.  Almost 40% of the websites failed to clearly explain the legal rights of children with special educational needs or disabilities to school transport. The report also highlights how some school transport policies are more restrictive than they should be (see the examples on page 12/13).

You can read the full report here.

If you have a school transport problem, our Parent Guide explains what you can do to solve it.

Disabled Facilities Grants

The school of law team at the University of Leeds

The school of law team at the University of Leeds

Our student researchers at the School of Law, University of Leeds, have published a report on Disabled Facilities Grants and home adaptations.

Disabled children and their families are legally entitled to a grant to pay for necessary adaptations to their home to improve accessibility and independent enjoyment of their surroundings. These are known as Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) and are usually for sums up to £30,000. The main aim of our DFG Project is to assess the cost effectiveness of DFGs and the wider impact adaptations have on the disabled child and their families.

The latest report from the team considers the benefits of investing in home adaptations for disabled children, including cost savings and improvements in well-being.

You can read the full report here.

Social Care Guides – England and Wales

social care guidesOne of the results of devolution is that in a number of areas of the law England and Wales are developing different approaches – these are sometimes very different.

The law dealing with social care is no exception and both England and Wales have seen changes in this area in the recent past. The changes in Wales in particular are significant and social services teams are still getting to grips with implementing them.

We have therefore developed two guides on social care, one for England and one for Wales which explain the different systems.

We would particularly recommend them to anyone moving between the two countries.

SEN Reforms in England and Wales

sen reformsIn England, the special educational needs (SEN) reforms introduced in September 2014 continue to be rolled out.

Although all SEN statements should be converted into Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans by April 2018 recent government figures show that 45% of the statements are still in place with only 19 out of the 152 English local authorities currently on track to meet the deadline.

Clearly, many families are still waiting for statements to be converted to an EHC plan and they can get more information about the process from our guide on Education in England: Statements of Special Educational Needs: A Guide for Parents.

However, those families undergoing assessment for an EHC plan, and those who already have one, will find the information they need in the recently revised guide Education Health and Care (EHC) Plans. (Education in England: A Guide for Parents).

Meanwhile in Wales, the Welsh Government’s proposed SEN reforms, which it hopes will pass into law at the end of the year, continue with the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill being scrutinised by the Welsh Assembly.

At the same time a consultation is being carried out on how the reforms should be introduced. For now, however, nothing has changed and the current system remains in place meaning that parents can continue to request an assessment for a SEN statement. Information on the Welsh system can be found in Education in Wales: A Guide for Parents.

Night Waking and Building a Better Bedtime Routine

James

James

James’ family were struggling with his bedtime routine and night waking. Our Sleep Practitioners, Pattie Everitt explains what sleep and advice she was able to give to help them tackle the problem.

Seven year old James has ASD and had great difficulty settling to sleep. He needed a parent with him until he fell asleep. He also woke in the night, went to his parent’s bed, and would then stay there for the rest of the night.  This would result in his dad moving to sleep on a mattress to be able to get more sleep.  The parents were finding this a great strain, as they did not have an evening together or a good night sleep.

Pattie explained that the waking in the night is something everyone does, normally without realising, but because James settled with a parent at bedtime, he would wake up, notice that they were not there, and then need their assistance to settle again.

The normal approach to this problem would be to reduce the contact gradually, by sitting a bit further away every few nights as the child is falling asleep and keep doing this until the parent is back downstairs.  Pattie advised the family to try this, along with keeping the wake times the same each day so that James would get into a more consistent sleep pattern.  A couple of months later, James’  mum replied with the following:

“Thank you for your response and advice. We have started the process of removing ourselves from James’ room at bedtime and he is now accepting us being out of the room – just outside. I suspect that the next step is to move further away which will then, as you say, reduce the nighttime anxiety, as he will get used to being on his own. We have also been sleeping with him during the night to keep him in his own bed and out of the habit of coming into our room.  We are now thinking about whether we can move out but looking at your advice, we would also have to do this slowly.

Thanks for the advice on consistent bedtimes/wake times. We have managed to get him to bed a bit earlier by creating a more consistent routine but it can still take him a long time to go to sleep. I suspect that might just be the autism and a need to wind down?  If we can get him to stay in his bed this, together with an earlier bedtime, is perhaps not so much of a problem.”

The parents persevered with the technique over the next few weeks, and also introduced one of their own:

“We have recently turned a corner with James’ sleeping with the use of a book on CD at bedtime.  We listen to the CD with him, following the book, and then we turn the lights out and leave it on repeat at a quiet volume. James has learnt that when the CD is on, it is time for bed and that he should stay there. Although he still takes a while to settle to sleep, with the help of the CD, he is staying in his room.  We leave the CD on very quietly through the night and he now stays in his bed.  This is a dramatic turn-around and I think this strategy has worked because it provides a clear structure/cue about what James should be doing, and the CD helps his anxiety about being on his own/going to sleep.”

According to Pattie, using sound such as a CD to help with sleep can be beneficial, but if used for settling at bedtime it is often best to keep it at a low level all night as James’ family did so that he is exposed to the same environment when he wakes in the night.  This can help the child fall asleep again on their own.

James’s mum was grateful for the support through the process:

“There is so little help out there for sleeping difficulties so your service is so valuable!“

You can find out more information about our Sleep Service here.

Help with night waking

Mum Tammy was struggling to cope with her daughter’s night waking. Our Sleep Practitioner Claire Varey describes how she gave them some practical advice and support and Tammy explains the impact this has had for her family.

 

“I first had contact with Tammy back in July 2016. Tammy had completed one of our sleep questionnaires and a sleep diary which gave some basic information about her daughter’s sleep habits. I arranged telephone support for Tammy and we discussed the issues that her daughter, Amelia, who was 4 at the time, had with sleep.

Amelia has Autism and likes the things she likes, but it can be very difficult to get her to engage in any activities or interests if she doesn’t want to. There had been some progress, but Tammy was finding it difficult with the late nights, spending a long time settling Amelia and the continued night waking episodes. Amelia was also having day time naps and was quite reliant on her tablet.

We discussed how these things may be impacting on her and agreed some changes to their routine that may help with settling at night – and hopefully over time improve Amelia’s night waking. We identified that having a bath as part of Amelia’s bed time routine may be stimulating her and so I suggested moving it to earlier in the evening. I felt it would also help to introduce some calming activities, supper and massage before bed.

For Amelia’s bedroom we spoke about using the relaxing scent of lavender to help Amelia associate her bed with being calm and sleep. Also the introduction of a red light would help her understand that it was time for sleep and, if she should wake at night, the red light and the scent of lavender, would help her understand that it was still time for sleep.

The other important factor to look at was the day time nap. We spoke about trying to reduce the length and time Amelia slept – this was especially important as Amelia would be starting full time school within the next 6 months.

We keep in touch via text and although progress has been up and down, there has been an overall positive improvement. Amelia is getting more sleep, she has dropped her day time nap, is settling well and has a better quality of sleep. This is also having a positive effect on her mood and concentration”.

Tammy told us the impact the support Claire has given her has had on her and Amelia:

“From my first telephone conversation with Claire I felt hugely positive about the task that lay ahead. The ultimate goal was to gain more sleep for Amelia and ourselves but for now any step no matter how small would make a huge difference.  Understanding the basics of how sleep works was a massive eye opener. It was really interesting and helped answer some questions I didn’t really know I had until Claire explained sleep patterns to me.

At the end of our first phone call I was yawning my head off so knew I was onto something good.

With Claire’s help we managed to identify that a bath actually stimulates Amelia’s body and so has the reverse effect. Claire advised me to do something with Amelia to get rid of excessive energy for 10 minutes; to use lavender in the bath with some in her room, delta wave music and a red light in Amelia’s bedroom. I felt that the light and the music didn’t do very much but the lavender helped a lot. Very quickly I noticed the time it took Amelia to switch off went from between one to two hours to between 5 and 35 minutes.

When we first started our journey Amelia was having naps after school so Claire explained about not letting it go past an hour, which we didn’t always do especially if Amelia wasn’t right in herself. Since actively encouraging less naps Amelia’s body has naturally adjusted and she now has no naps in the day.

Claire is amazing she listens and is genuinely interested. She regularly checks how we are doing and even though we have never met she has been a fairy godmother for us. Claire is happy to go with what worked for us, never stressing that we shouldn’t be in bed with Amelia which we still are and allowing us to set our own goals.

In the past few weeks Amelia has started going to school until the end of the day and is now in bed between 8pm and 10pm. She still stirs in the night but isn’t awake as often as she was before.

Amelia seems to be learning more and I am sure a lot of this is down to her brain not being as tired”.

If you’d like some help from our Sleep Service you can find our more here.

Support for our Problem-Solving Toolkit Workshops

problem solving toolkitWe are very grateful to The Santander Community Fund, via the Community Foundation in Wales, and The Boshier-Hinton Foundation who have each awarded us a £5,000 grant to fund our Problem Solving Toolkit Workshops.

Their generous support means that we can help more parents and carers to access health, social care and education support services for their child, helping them to discover a better life together.

Our Problem Solving Toolkit and Workshops are designed to help families access the services that their children need, and are entitled to. The Toolkit is a comprehensive, practical and easy to use guide, packed with useful advice, solutions and precedent letters. You can download the Toolkit here.

Problem Solving Toolkit Workshops

This year we have launched our Problem Solving Toolkit Workshops which use the information and resources in the Toolkit to give parents, carers and professionals the skills and knowledge they need to advocate for themselves. Each workshop lasts for 3-4 hours and includes a presentation, case studies for group work and a chance to discuss and share experiences. The workshops are free.

We’ve had some great feedback from parents and professionals who attended our initial workshop:

  • “A wonderful guide to help parents, thank you so much. It is a real maze and you have provided a crutch for parents to use”. (A parent)
  • “I will be recommending this resource to the families that I work with. It is wonderful”.  (A professional)

Thanks again to The Santander Community Fund, via the Community Foundation in Wales, and The Boshier-Hinton Foundation for their generous support.

Can’t find a riding helmet to fit your child?

We introduce the newest member of our Innovation Centre and would love to hear from you if your child would like to try horsey activities but you can’t find a helmet to fit.

New team member

Maria Kemys

Maria Kemeys

“Hi all, my name is Maria Kemeys. I am the newest member of the CIC team as their new Business Development Officer. I am a recent graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration and have a massive passion for working with a charity who contributes to changes that impact and better a child’s life. I am delighted to have been offered the position to work alongside the team in the Cerebra Innovation Centre where innovative and life changing work is being carried out every day to help children in unique situations. I am looking forward to working as part of the CIC to develop new and existing projects for families and children, helping to them to enjoy life together.

Can’t find a riding helmet to fit your child?

Tommy Lee wearing his helmet

Tommy Lee wearing his helmet

You may remember that in 2016 we were approached by a school on behalf of young man called Tommy Lee. Tommy Lee was unable to participate in their weekly horse riding sessions as the riding centre did not have a helmet that would fit Tommy Lee’s unique head shape.

Our Innovation Team worked hard to design and make a bespoke riding helmet that meant Tommy Lee could take part in riding lessons with his friends. The helmet was not only comfortable but safe and certified by the British Standard Institute (BSI).

Thanks to a donation from Mr and Mrs Coventry at Claire’s Project our team are now able to develop more of these equestrian helmets. So if your child loves horses and would love to try equestrian hobbies but can’t participate because of the standard helmet size,  then please get in touch to find out more.

You can contact the team on cic@cerebra.org.uk or call 01792 483688