Friday, 31 May 2013

‘Exam season…Shared Anxiety between Parent and Child/Adult’ by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013
End of spring and start of summer signals those dreaded words, ‘Exam time’… most students who are  taking exams see far less of the sounds of summer as they are still seeing less day light hours than the students who don’t have exams to take.  You might be tempted to leave your study and drift outside to catch the rays, but think again… you get very few chances to get a good grade. The secret is to try and get stuck in so you can have some time to relax, instead of playing catch-up, by putting it off till tomorrow and all of a sudden tomorrow arrives the day before the exam!  It will soon be past and you will have a long vacation ahead.
How can we structure our study and avoid meltdowns?
1.       You must be relaxed and in a positive frame of mind to make the best of your revision/study.

2.       Make sure you look after your body by eating a good balanced diet (plenty of oily fish is good for the brain).

3.       Plenty of sleep is so important for retention… a tired brain is a less active brain!

4.       Structure your study into subject areas and concentrate more on your weaker subjects.

5.       Make sure you set the tempo of your study programme… the right room temperature, the right     light (preferably natural light) and the correct noise level.

6.       Stay hydrated (two litres of water per day) as this can cause lack of concentration.

7.       Make sure your study is relevant, have access to past papers as well as well managed course notes (indexed) and colour code your study notes.

8.       Make sure you are well aware of your exam timetable, the marking scheme will give you an idea of the amount of points to be awarded  per question, and this will give you an idea of how much to write, relative to the points awarded.

9.       Confidence is an attribute and over confidence can be obstructive to sound revision.

10.   Comprehension is key in most exams… the person marking your paper could be the other side of the country so bear that in mind and make it clear what is being said…make sure you have covered all points asked in the question.

11.   On exam day, make sure you are relaxed and read through the paper before you begin to answer any questions… you will be more relaxed and positive and will make far fewer mistakes.  Divide the questions by points value and time so you don’t spend too long on a given question.

12.   Don’t revise on the day of your exam unless this works for you… cramming can cause confusion in many.
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13.   Don’t dwell on a poor result, look forward to the next one… invariably you will have done better than you think.
Try to read books on subjects that interest you, record your work, watch documentaries/films on subject areas... You Tube is good for science/biology, history, literacy and geography.  I read, then rough write my prep and then type it onto the laptop and by then it usually goes in.
Stay close to your family and open up with your thoughts…so many of us have been there and they really do mean well…they will embrace and support you good or bad.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Moving on up… “Transition from Primary to Senior School” by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Transition from any structure and stability can be very stressful for so many, just imagine how you feel about changing your hairdresser/barber or Doctor and Dentist, the emotions that come with starting a new job… multiply this and that is how a child with additional learning needs feels every time he or she has to face change.

The stress and anxiety doesn’t just stop with the student… the parents will worry for the child and themselves about the early days in the new environment, knowing full well this has already been a problem with changing desks, teachers and classes in the past and now we are talking a whole new school.

All change is risky and comes at a price, so transition needs to be gentle… why schools don’t allow new student intakes to go to the next level for tasters is beyond me… this is achieved in many third level colleges.

Flexibility is king in accommodating the transition process when a child presents with SPLD.  There are guidelines for schools to follow, but many parents will be unaware of this at the point it’s required and lack of communication should be avoided at all times, prior and after transition to make sure we are all aware of the individual’s needs.  Senior schools should communicate with both parent and Junior School to find out and be able to accommodate the child’s needs (IEP).

Discuss the history of your child with the school to make sure you are all singing off the same hymn sheet… reasonable accommodation should be afforded in certain instances (Students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia), such as :

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Voice Recorder.


Writer present - to be able to sit their exam away from the main exam room.

Exemption from spelling and grammatical components in language subjects (waiver).

The key to reduced stress lies in preparation… I will always remember the old saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Be pro-active and less problems will occur… transition is, as it says, a period of smoothness from one thing to another.  This should happen very early on in the final year/sixth class and below I have made some suggestions that can be used by both parent/child and school.

Transition without the Stress – Hints to help inform First and Second Level Schools

Get the school to demonstrate an understanding of your child’s condition.

Talk with the students on a one to one basis about the different structure and the increased formality they might face at second level.

Introduce a mentor from the present first year to ease in the new student… this will grow the network for the incoming students.  Avoid older students as they could draw the incoming students out of their comfort zone.

Try to get the school to give lockers that are easy accessible and away from the hustle as children with learning needs can become nervous in crowds and all fingers and thumbs.

Inform them that they will have a variety of teachers, possibly one per subject… it’s important that their year tutor informs the others of your child’s needs.

Work with your child in the summer recess with new subject areas such as business studies, Science/Biology, CSPE and Home Economics, this will help reduce anxiety.

Parents/carers should teach their children/students how to write out and also read prepared timetables and it helps to colour code and replicate with school books…e.g. maths on Monday is yellow so put a yellow sticker on the maths book and the timetable.

Start in junior school to write more complex and varied timetables… identify presentation of projects and variations like school trips, etc… get the SNA to help take down homework.

Students need to know about acronyms…subjects like CSPE shortened from Civic, Social and Political Education.

Make sure you avail of every opportunity to visit the new school… it’s worth driving past there occasionally, especially at busy time.  Let them know about shortened lesson times and moving to different classrooms for each lesson (orientation is so important), school meals…is there a cafĂ© or will they take food?… homework clubs… maybe show them the school website and they can check out the gallery of photos.

Make sure your child decides on whether they want their new class friends to know they have learning needs… not all children are comfortable with this and the school cannot tell others as you are protected under data protection.

You should be in possession of a valid statement in order to show the new school for the provision of resource hours, laptops, etc.

Make sure they are aware of toileting, etc… I recently spoke to my son’s teacher about his transition from primary school last year and asked if they understood about his dyspraxia and the answer was ‘yes’.  However, in the next sentence they mentioned that he was spotted going to the toilet less than 20 mins after the start of the first class of the day and surely he knew he wanted to go (inferring he should have gone before lessons started)… so did they fully understand dyspraxia?... no is the answer.

Parents need to be prepared for schools to call them if meltdowns happen… it might be wise for you to take time off work during the first week at least so you can meet them from school and also in case you are called by the school.

 Keep an eye out for bullying (change of mood, disturbed sleep, return to bed wetting are all indicators)… find out who they spend breaks with… listen out for names and check to see that they are in the same year as quite often older boys will use them to do things they shouldn’t be doing, like leaving the school to go to the shop or hit a child on their behalf.
Try to be all positive and avoid pressure in relation to performance until they are settled.

Invite their new friends around as soon as you can and let them join a few of the school extra curriculum activities… this will keep them in the loop with others in their class (prevent isolation).

All our articles are for information only and guidance…professional advice should always be sought. Toby Lee Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Top Tip Friday The why's and how's of crossing the road. Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

This post is to create awareness amongst parents and children with specific learning needs ( I went to cross the road without looking, nine years old at that time and spent eight months of my life in hospital) and hopefully this post will prevent that happening to your children?

In these modern times it’s hard to imagine life without a car and if you don’t own a car yourself, friends or indeed neighbours will. We are all surrounded by vehicles these days – whether in the driveway or out on the road, around shopping centres or out walking. With young children, you need to always have a double take where traffic is concerned…. they simply don’t have the skills to feel or be safe around cars on their own, so watching and guiding them is important.

Up until the age of eleven and older with children with specific leaning needs (processing and coordination), children need active adult supervision to help keep them safe around cars and also roads and car parks. Repetition is the only way and make sure not to cut corners yourself (monkey see, monkey do). Children who seem to know all the road safety rules won’t always remember to follow them.

Keep yourself to the vulnerable side (nearest the traffic) whilst walking on the footpath and also when crossing the street…always holding your child’s hand when he’s near cars is a good routine, teaching your child about road safety, including how to be safe around parked cars and on footpaths and driveways.
Try to avoid complex junctions and staggered junctions if possible as you need far more vision…use pedestrian crossings and praise the ease as to the safety aspect and mention that they are as quick…this will again become ingrained and accepted.

Set your own car up by parking it on a quiet road or even in your driveway and practicing crossing from behind/in front of it. Use that as a way to help teach them in a safer environment…the more you practice the more the pattern will go in. Video and role play is a good idea with children who have specific learning needs, you could use model cars and make up a road network, draw a zebra or pelican crossing and even in role play, encourage its use.

Don’t forget your child will learn a lot about road safety by watching you, so use good safe practices around cars, roads, footpaths and car parks – remember the old green cross code look right…left and right again (depending on country and traffic flow) always stop, look, listen and think before crossing a road and use pedestrian or pelican crossings wherever possible. Describe what you’re doing each time, so your child can understand why it’s important and always remember the car has the right of way.

When you are out, ask your child where they think are the good places to cross the road and also risky places and remember always praise good effort and practice makes perfect.

Always make sure there is an adult present and use this for guidance purposes only

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Saturday, 18 May 2013

How much is there to know about Dyspraxia and Dyslexia and their relationship (co-morbidity)?  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Dys = Difficulty and Praxis is to plan/practice (Dyspraxia)

Dys = Difficulty and Lexia is the Greek for Literacy (Dyslexia)

Over the years, Dyspraxia has been given several different titles and can also be called 'Developmental Dyspraxia' and 'Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), which are one and the very same. This is also part of the same family as the 3 D’s Dyslexia/Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia'. Why is that?... well the brain is divided in two different sections, to be called upon by us to receive information and is the command centre for all our activities, from (cognitive) thinking to motor (doing).

We are still at the early learning phase with this condition and it’s still slightly grey as to what causes dyspraxia (strong links to genetics), but it is thought to be due to an immaturity of neurone development in the brain. Students with dyspraxia may have difficulties with the simplest of tasks - developmental milestones are often delayed, fine and gross motor skills are affected, ie. dressing, hygiene, eating, threading beads, tying shoelaces, balancing, riding a bike, multi-tasking, catching a ball. Other problems can co-exist, including problems with vision and speech (verbal dyspraxia).

Like all of the ‘D’s, the spectrum is huge… each of us present with a multitude of difficulties and that is also apparent in dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia… some might only have a few areas that are weaker than expected and others could have several and these, if not helped through good intervention, will affect your academic progress and life skills. Many are prepared to write those off with the condition (some groups supporting this theory in the UK and US) and even some with the condition have succumbed, but this is far from the way it has to be. We work with predominantly dyspraxic students and have a very high success rate in most areas, including co-ordination and academics.

Why is there shared difficulties with life and academic ability?… It is thought to be a neuro-dysfunction - the brain needs to receive information from our body and that of others (parrot fashion) and our brain does this via the cerebral cortex (upper portion), through impulses. As we grow, there is a certain amount of primal instinct but many things are learnt through others, or simply through doing and indeed much learning occurs quite naturally. This improves as our brain matures… we only have to do things a few times to grasp the new process. However, this is not the case with dyspraxia or the 3D’s…we often have to go through far more repetition for things to become the norm/routine.

Those with dyspraxia generally have a stronger right brain than left… however the left is important for normal processing of the written or spoken word and leads to a strong linear thinking pathway.

The right brained are more inclined to think and process in a more non-linear way, thinking is less constrictive – this lets your creative right side run free. This is largely unstructured and that is not a bad thing as this allows freedom of thought and allows most things that stimulate the mind to be thoroughly investigated… most of the world’s entrepreneurs are right brained and this is very much down to thinking outside of the box… something many left brainers fail to do.

The Visual cortex imports images and sends them, like audio, to the cerebral cortex, which is split into two halves, being the left and right hemispheres, with each playing a different role in making sense of what we see and hear and ultimately in what we do. The left receives the information in an almost encrypted fashion and tries to untangle it, along with the right side which works on images, etc. and the pair then making sense of what has been presented to us in thought or reality.

With the family of dyspraxia/dyslexia the two halves are not both functioning and maturing at the required developmental milestones and this leads to delays in cognitive and motor development stages being reached at the appropriate age/milestones. Quite often, unless recognised early on, the dyspraxic/dyslexic child will try and compensate by using each/either hand, in sometimes clumsy fashion, to write, eat and carryout personal hygiene and dressing routines, whereas all other children will develop a strong dominant side and one hand will be favoured over the other. This is very apparent with many dyspraxic children when we look at their poor pencil grip and hand control, making some of them write very poorly (dysgraphia).

There are also other problems, such as a negativity towards certain things, like touching things with a different feel, ie. cotton wool or labels on clothing, to taste of foods. This is often due to presentation of pulses from the limbic region and quite often a weak Cerebral cortex struggles to suppress these and it can often lead to anxiety and a lack of adventure in eating/doing, etc. The earlier this is diagnosed the better chance of a positive outcome. Failing to do so will make the task all that much harder down the road, as life brings greater challenges and this also leads to a lack of confidence and low self-worth.

Dyspraxia has a variation on the numbers who present with it and if you take the 3D’s as a whole, it affects around 10% of the population, with a range from moderate to severe as mentioned. Looking at ratio, it tends to affect far more boys/male than girls/females… around 80% are boys.

There are many things you can do that will improve dyspraxia and the 3D’s, with brain training that helps to improve memory and also Multi-sensory intervention programmes, like the one used by Dyslexia Dublin CETC. Fine and gross motor exercises which will strengthen arms, hands, legs and also core muscles are very beneficial and will improve posture and help reduce fatigue… this will also improve writing by improved pen/pencil grip and increased energy, which in turn will improve attention span… working with a good PT programme will also help balance.

In conclusion, I can’t say this enough… many people with dyspraxia go on and do very well in life, just look at Daniel Radcliffe and Florence Welsh (Florence and the Machine)… both dyspraxic and the list for dyslexics is endless… Richard Branson, Henry Winkler, Cher, Whoopie Goldberg, Jamie Oliver, Stephen Spielberg, Tom Cruise, John Lennon and many, many more! We have in stock great books that are written by Henry Winkler and also carry the Barrinton Stoke range of Dyslexia Friendly books at our online store and we ship to all countries!

The information included herein is from our research and the research of others and should only be used for guidance… you should always consult professionals if you have any other concerns.

Dyslexia Dublin CETC

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Verbal Dyspraxia (mentioned in part in a previous post on Dyspraxia DCD) - The how’s and why’s. Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

The first thing we need to do is to build a pattern or go back in time and write down all of your child’s early developmental history…I can remember much of my own early life and almost all of my children’s.
Details of the age at which significant developmental milestones were met, such as crawling (shuffling on the bottom) and walking. Checks will be carried out to look at both gross and fine motor skill and these will help in forming the correct diagnosis. Areas that may be of concern to you and are important for the person carrying out the tests are the ability to pour items accurately from a jug to bowl…sensitivity to certain products, ie. cotton wool…maybe labels on garments bother your child, if so write it all down…balancing (standing on one leg)…catching a ball…routine. The idea of the tests are to check coordination, but more importantly to gauge skill level against their actual age. From this, intervention can begin.
It must be said that there are few that have knowledge in detecting dyspraxia, especially if it is mild. Children with dyspraxia can carry on a fairly normal routine in the presence of a complete stranger and this can often lead to an improper diagnosis. This has been documented in some Journals on Special Educational Needs. More people however are coming on stream with specialist skills, so this should improve the diagnosis of dyspraxia DCD.
Keeping a list is so important… place it safe and treat it like gold. You never know when you will need to back up the statement/diagnosis report.
Schools will not always be able to recognise a child’s learning difficulties in a classroom setting, as they are often under pressure with class sizes and it can also be a struggle if their knowledge is limited. Training is still not included in this area whilst studying to become a teacher.
Dyspraxia never goes away and I for one can vouch for that…what happens is we build up the tools/skills needed to overcome the problems we find along life’s road. We have a different style/way of learning to others but we all get there. The help of a good physical trainer for gross motor and a specialist or OT for fine motor skill definitely helps this and also speech therapy and cognitive/multi-sensory training, if needed.
Lack of or slow Speech and Language Development Milestones -
Developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) is a type of dyspraxia that affects the facial muscles and tongue that are used in order to shape and make sounds. Typical symptoms can be -
Dragging or slurring your words.
Difficulties making speech sounds.
Making random sounds or indeed your own language (pseudo words).
Leaving words short of certain sounds which would make it logical.
Formation of words into logical statements.
Improper breathing, including breathing through the mouth and not the nose, which will inhibit speech.
Slow language development.
A sign is often the inability to feed properly…poor sucking skill.
Speech therapy should be high on most people’s list, but there is a lot you can do to help with facial muscle tone and shaping the mouth.
Get your child to drink through a straw as often as you can.
Sucking ice lollies.
Eating apples (uses a lot of facial action).
Blowing bubbles is great fun and helps.
Play silly faces.
With mouth closed suck in cheeks.
Breathing through nose is very important.
Pucker lips.
Blowing kisses.
Get a table tennis ball and two straws and make a little football pitch out of cardboard with sides and try to blow the ball into each other’s goal.
The muscle groups that need to be worked on are -
1. The levator anguli oris muscles extend downward starting at the bottom corners of the nose down to the corners of the mouth.
2. The depressor anguli oris muscles - these extend from the corners of the mouth downward to the chin, and wrap under the jaw line.
3. The zygomaticus major muscles extend from the corners of the mouth to the ear. When toned and firm, these muscles lift and tighten the cheeks.
In Adults these are known as sagging or laughter lines…contrary to the belief you use more muscles to frown than you do to smile, it is actually the other way around.
So, it is good practice to get them smiling as much as possible…playing DVD’S that they like is a really good idea.
All of the activities help develop the facial and mouth muscles, these help to produce sound and letter sounds.
Most of the information used in our posts is our own research and personal input…however we sometimes use the information of others and this is for guidance purposes only.

A great intervention method for language development is Cued Articulation...Google to find training/intervention near you.

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Toby Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Learning to Drive with Specific Learning Needs by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Learning to drive for most of us is nothing short of hell on wheels. Imagine if on top of all that you had a specific learning need like dyspraxia …ADD…ADHD OR ASD!

Provisional drivers with such conditions find the whole process daunting to say the least, from having to multi-task, to coping with concentrating for prolonged periods and sitting in the same place for up to one hour can all lead to overload and if you don’t have a tolerant person next to you it can virtually turn into a form of bullying which does absolutely nothing for your self-esteem. This can lead to many finding it a tough ask and indeed giving up due to these high demands.

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I can remember being taught by my father who, like me, hadn’t a clue I was dyspraxic. He literally stopped the car one day, duly gave me the hot seat and quickly ran through a serious of about ten instructions. I managed to retain the first two, hence why I turned his beloved Humber Super Snipe into something that resembled a kangaroo with wheels!…he was less than impressed and yelled at me too bring the poor ‘roo’ to rest!

My father, however, was a determined man so very quickly we moved on to driving. After a fashionable take off down the road and guess what!... there were no white lines in the middle of our quiet country roads back then, so imagine my horror when I met a car coming towards me! My dad was so kind in taking the wheel and carrying out a nice gentle manoeuvre (not!) whilst at the same time communicating his anger and balling me out!!! At this point, I really wanted to just get out of the car and walk home…and we had only been out twenty minutes!!

He was, as I mentioned earlier, unaware of my spatial co-ordination and memory problems. I kinda knew I was different…I had one thing going for me though and that was fight, not flight.

I started to take lessons and managed to find an instructor that was so laid back it was like being alone in the car…he didn’t suit one bit! My next instructor was a local man from our village, so he had to give it his best shot with the local lad.

I managed to master the four wheeled mass of metal to the point of him bravely entering me for my test and, do you know what, I cannot ever remember thirty minutes passing so quick! At the end, the tester had so much down on the sheet he had to use another… took my instructor for ever to read!

Back to the drawing board… over the next few months we worked on this massive list and slowly my confidence grew and he decided it was time to put me in to bat again.

A cancellation came up in our neighbouring town and all my luck must have come at once…we set off from the test centre and the tester asked me to turn right which I had mastered (not the turn… but which was my left and right!)… waiting around the corner was the refuse lorry and it was taking up the whole road so I had no choice but to duly follow it on it’s slow journey up the street. This left little time for those troublesome manoeuvres which I carried out kind of ok. Test over, I couldn’t believe my luck when he informed me that I had passed!!

If my dear father, instructors, testers and indeed myself, had known about dyspraxia, then it would have made things a whole lot easier. Dyspraxia requires a whole different mind-set in all those who strive to teach us how to drive. It requires patience in understanding that those with problems with their spatial awareness and short-term memory will require more frequent lessons with less content in each. Lessons of more than an hour are not advisable.

There are many hidden disabilities that the world fails to notice… but they are there all the same. Around 25% of the population have some type of learning difficulty… how many driving schools/instructors fail to notice/pick up on this? Even something like reading the Highway Code/Rules of the Road can prove a minefield for someone with dyslexia and braking distances for the person who has dyscalculia. Left and right can also be a problem for those with dyspraxia and people with SPD can have a problem with seat belt covers and steering wheel covers.

Many of us have to drive to survive, so not being able to is not an option. It is key therefore that we are aware of the driving schools/instructors who can take account of our individual needs.

The good news however is that those with most specific learning needs all get there in the end. Some take longer than others and many have to practice ten times harder than anyone else… it’s all about remaining focussed and taking things slowly but surely. Vehicle checks and controls can be shown and then take five mins before the next thing and make sure the instructor overlaps each lesson. Demonstrations work very well with many that have SLN and then copy rather than being instructed verbally… flashcards are a great way of presenting information that can be taken in through the visual channel and this has a greater chance of being retained. The test routine should be practiced from the earliest opportunity with test conditions… this will get the student used to the driving in silence that will happen on test day.

Try and start lessons close to the expected test centre, again familiarity reduces anxiety.

To overcome everything, the main ingredient is a good instructor and one that will work to your strengths… pick the right place and the correct time of day to give you the best chance. Also, they will notice when you are having a bad moment or mini meltdown, that is the time for the instructor to change seats and do a demo to settle you down and it’s always great to finish on a high.

This is one area that puts us at a disadvantage, as there are so many things to learn just to move off! The new lesson criteria in most countries works against those with SLN, as it requires fewer taught lessons and more working to a plan, with instruction being given by a sponsor (family member or friend)… unlike the old days when you could practice one thing till it came right. It’s fair to say that there is little or anything in the law to assist those with a silent disability.

To all those Driving Schools I would say that those, like myself, with an SLN will be trying a lot harder than many of your other pupils and this is always worth bearing in mind… take it slowly and you will produce an excellent driver who will be a credit to you.

Find a school that understands you…it will be worth it!

If any Driving Schools feel they can offer the above, please feel free to contact me and I will gladly pass your details on, as I love to hear from all those who can break the mould of the draconian days gone by.
Driving lessons 4u in Celbridge Co Kildare offer a very friendly service 01-6544000


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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Troubled Sleep in Children with Specific Learning Needs by Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

A sleep disorder can be temporary or more long term/habitual.  This can be known as somnipathy, which is a medical disorder that affects our sleep patterns.

Disturbed sleep can cause the same problems if it persists and this can lead to somnipathy and it may be severe enough to interfere with a person’s normal physical, mental and emotional functioning! Meltdowns/tantrums could well be the result of lack of sleep.

There are very strong links between childhood sleep disorders and behaviour, lack of concentration and mood swings. Sleep disorders that are directly caused by behavioural factors (eg. sleep-onset association disorder) can present in some children with specific learning needs. Invariably, sleep deprivation increases the chances of  meltdowns and this can have a significant impact on families.

Some sleep disorders are serious enough and known to interfere with physical, mental and emotional routines.  In cases that are causing noticeable problems, a sleep study/test (Polysomnography Test) can be recommended by your GP/Consultant.

Insomnia can also cause problems, due to falling asleep at times when you are relaxed (symptoms need to go beyond 4 weeks before the GP will intervene) and then at the allotted time you cannot sleep due to things flooding the mind. This, however, is more apparent in adults.

What is a reasonable amount of sleep required to carry out normal routines in childhood? Children of 5–13 years require about 10 hours sleep, and those aged 14–18 years need about 8 hours. These levels are the minimum required and if involved in physical exercise, they should take more rest.
The amount of sleep a person needs will vary from individual to individual, but most people require around eight hours.

We don’t fully understand how we came to require around seven to eight hours of rest per night (just to add, catching up is a bit of a fallacy). It is thought by many professionals in this field that it is down to build, muscle size and fat stores. We tend to go into partial hibernation in the winter months and spend longer sleeping. A lot takes place in these hours of rest, children’s growth hormones become very active, as do our repair and replenishment function (skin replacement and general healing).

So, what causes our sleep to be disturbed? Not winding down is one and this can be caused by the run up to bed time…home work should be well finished by tea time, any revision after this point will lead to the mind being occupied and the chance of a good night’s rest will be compromised, making the following day more challenging.

SPD (teeth grinding) is another possibility, along with dehydration and lack of air…many children with dyspraxia tend to breathe through their mouths which dries the mouth out and can also cause snoring. This may also result in headaches (drink a good few glasses of water a day).
Sugar is another cause of hyper activity and lack of sleep. Caffeine (stimulants) should not be consumed after 17.00.

Children, like adults, need to unwind and creating a relaxed, noise free atmosphere is a must. Let them chat about their day and also encourage them to keep a reflective diary, as this will dump information into their long term memory. Try to avoid giving them information about special occasions until the day…how many children have trouble sleeping before a birthday or Christmas?!

Sleep could be, and often is, thrown out of sync due to lack of a stable routine and the body clock being altered through certain habits, such as allowing  a child to routinely fall asleep watching telly during the day (with exceptions like illness).  For example, a parent might be working night shifts and nods off and the child relaxes and does likewise (eg. on the couch with the parent). Also, getting up late in the day becomes self-perpetuating, this will lead to difficulties in getting to wind down and sleep in the evening or can even cause problems due to being in a light sleep and waking during the night. Even during school holidays the routine should still be in place, stability and regularity are one thing that are needed to correct and maintain good sleep patterns.

By around the age of two, if a child wakes in the night it should have the ability to be self-soothing and able to settle again. Separation anxiety can also lead to sleep disorders and it is always a good idea not to share your child’s bed or let them share yours. You can wean a child off this and one good way is to substitute you with a favourite teddy or doll…allow the surrogate to share the meal table, watch TV with you and even go out on family trips. A trust will build very quickly and when the child has to separate from you for socialising or sleep, it will bring a great feeling of security. This will also help with children that have recurring bad dreams…it’s no harm to record dates and details of the bad dreams or broken sleep patterns and try to identify triggers or see if a pattern emerges…watching adult TV/movies is a big factor.

All this has a knock-on effect on the ability to maintain concentration and discipline during school time…this is something the school might not pick up on as they may only notice lethargy or bad behaviour and not lack of sleep. 

Teenagers have a greater problem in this area and their lifestyle so often exacerbates poor sleep routines. Social networking means that teens can communicate with their friends well into the night and many would never see this as the cause of their lack of motivation during school times and even the weekends.

The problems tend to increase in the summer due to the bright evenings and increased noise which travels greater distances through the thinner air.

Conditions have to be right for all children to sleep… young children don’t have the ability to regulate temperature until they are around eight years of age, so room/body temperature can be a problem.

Maintain a good sleep routine, even during holidays.
Keep your children hydrated during the day and reduce sugars and caffeines.
Make sure the bedroom has plenty of air and is noise free.
Use blackout curtains and, if needs be, acquire a soothing night light.
Wind your children down…don’t let them play with gaming machines just before bed.
Avoid homework in the evening, this should all be finished by tea time.
If they are young, read a story and one that will relax them.
Don’t share their bed, sit on the edge or in a chair.
You can also use specialist relaxation CD’s.
Record disturbed sleep patterns and try to see if there is a trigger.
Don’t let them share your bed…if they can’t settle, stay in their room until they do.

If you want to reduce tantrums/meltdowns, etc. persevere and they will very soon get back into a settled sleep pattern.

Don’t be fooled by a child that has his or her eyes shut, they could be sat up the second they think the coast is clear!

Sleep is vital for restoring mental energy. We spend all day learning, thinking and creating, this all helps to deplete our energy reserves. And during our hours of sleep we process this information, for the most part in a harmless way (dreams) and sometimes the opposite…(nightmares).

You and your children’s bodies are like a well-oiled machine and rest is required by each and every one of us. We don’t know for sure exactly how much sleep we all need, but we sure know the consequences if we, or our children, have too little.

 This article was written for guidance purpose only and, as with all things that cause concern professional advice should always be sought.

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