Tuesday 22 December 2015

What is mindfulness?

Guest blog post by Jude Brown

Being busy is, at times, unavoidable. Family, work, friends, eating, shopping, cleaning to name a few of the daily tasks we need to squeeze into the hours before we can finally sleep and hopefully ‘switch off.’

Two years ago I began to look for space within this ‘busyness’ and this arrived in the form of mindfulness. A modern day meditation practice which allows us to stop, be present and create the emotional and mental space we all deserve.

Initially, I used mindfulness to literally just stop and I found that by practising simple mindfulness techniques for a few minutes, several times a day, I begun to relieve some of the pressures of the never-ending to do list. But now mindfulness is becoming much more than just a ‘pause’ button. Its simple strength comes through regular practice and has changed the way I view life, its pressures, people; even the way I eat and walk!

Following training, I used my personal experience and teaching skill to introduce mindfulness into schools. I wanted children to understand its benefits and to realise that once learnt, it was a tool for life. It was during a search for resources I came across Smiling Mind and once I started using it, realised its potential it not only teaching children Mindfulness but also supporting and developing the knowledge and skills of adults who work with children.

Smiling Mind is a web and App-based program developed by a team of psychologists with expertise in youth and adolescent therapy, mindfulness meditation and web-based wellness programs. Having launched three years ago, the app has been downloaded over 1 million times and is now used by over 9000 schools in Australia.

In recent years’ mindfulness meditation has risen in popularity for use in the treatment of anxiety, depression, stress and other physical and mental illnesses.

Well respected institutions such as UCLA, Harvard, Oxford, Monash and Melbourne Universities have developed clinical studies into the positive impacts of mindfulness meditation.

“The world needs mindfulness and in this fast-paced, stressed and distracted world, the children of today probably need it more than any previous generation," said Dr. Craig Hassad, Smiling Mind ambassador.

"Smiling Mind is taking Mindfulness Meditation to where it is needed most -- into the hearts and minds of young people. It’s more than just a technique, and more than just a life-skill. Mindfulness is a way of life." Co-founder Jane Martino agrees. “Our vision is for mindfulness meditation to be on the curriculum by 2020."

Smiling Mind offers a preventative tool to support mental health, increase the ability to focus, and pay attention to the present. When you consider that the average office worker check their email 30 times every hour, and that the typical mobile phone user checks their phones more than 150 times per day, learning how to be in the present is imperative.

“Smiling Mind took something which was a bit fringe -- meditation -- and packaged it in a way that used technology far more effectively," said James Tutton, Co-founder of Smiling Mind. Smiling Mind is free to download and is now pleased to announce that Professional Development Workshops are available in the UK from 2016. The workshop will be supported by the “5-week Smiling Mind Adult Meditation Challenge". Staff will be supported by a weekly online training program. This involves interesting information sent out each week, to support their knowledge of the subject. It includes reminders and tips, links to articles and interesting research, visuals and quotes. 

More information can be found by contacting jude@smilingmind.com.au

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Selective Mutism: today's brief success story

Selective Mutism (SM) is very prevalent in the UK. A recent survey showed up to 1 in 150 children may suffer. There's huge debate about who should work on it: some speech and language therapy departments say it's them, others refer straight to CAHMS, as its seen as a mental heath issue.

It may be an anxiety based disorder but Speech and Language Therapists are trained to deal with all kinds of speech, language and communication problem and CAHMS are not. Where the two can work together that's great. At Small Talk, we see lots of children with SM and work with a counsellor and clincal psychologist where necessary. I've also studied both CBT and animal assisted therapy which adds more strands to our thinking/therapy.

I met a very anxious child in July before the schools broke up. She talked to her mother and sister only, no other family members. She wouldn't look at me and I did not attempt to talk directly to her. Her shoulders were hunched and she hung her hair over her face. She had no voice even for laughing (her dog found dog biscuit in my jacket pocket and pinned me to the settee, which was funny!). I decided to go into school in September to arrange a small steps programme. I was a little worried because it was an enormous primary with over 100 children per year group. I thought they might be too busy to support my plans.

I met with the SENCO and the TA in September to discuss a small steps programme. I asked for 3 weekly slots of 10 minutes each where she could form a  relationship with the TA. To begin with they'd use non-verbal games to build confidence etc. They were very keen to help and to do anything which would make a difference.

In October, I reviewed the situation and was very pleased; she was now talking in a whisper to one of her teachers. The TA and I discussed activities, aims and how to build on this.

Today, I went in again and she is talking freely to both her teachers in class to ask for help, make requests, comment and even for fun! She looks confident, smiles a lot and joins in everything she's required to. She still doesn't talk to her peers in school, so that's the next steps. I'm going in again in February but they know they can ring me anytime.

It just shows what a major difference can be made if we break the problem down into small manageable steps and put appropriate plans in place. Congratulations to the school and especially the TA!!

Sunday 13 December 2015

Top 100 speech therapy/pathology websites and blogs

Kidmunicate Top 100 Websites and Blogs
Have a look at the top 100 speech pathology/therapy websites and blogs from Kidmunicate. There are 2 UK blogs on there: ours and SpeechblogUK

Wednesday 2 December 2015

‘APP’-Y FAMILIES - Parenting Expert Sue Atkins releases free ‘Parenting Made Easy’ app

We really like Sue Atkin's practical, down to earth approach to parenting, especially the way she understands that parenting is not easy; Natasha Hallam at Small Talk said the other day, 'Even if they came with a  manual, the child wouldn't have read it!'

It is the hardest job in the world and we all need help to be better, we are delighted, therefore, that Sue has released an app about her 'parenting made easy' approach. This is what she says:

“I know how tough being a parent can be. But I also know what a wonderful role it is too. Parents deserve to have the right tools and techniques for their family, so they can promote a happy and healthy environment at home”, says Sue.

Providing users with access to free parenting tips, and exclusive information and resources that builds on her existing repertoire of ‘Parenting Made Easy’ products, the aim of the app was to make Sue’s expert knowledge more accessible to users, by providing them with a wealth of information at their fingertips. The app equips parents with clarity, direction and confidence to successfully raise their children.

In the app, Sue offers advice through various mediums, including pages on parent coaching, tips and tricks on good parenting techniques, videos, audio podcasts, as well as direct access to her blog, links to stories and more. Each week Sue will also post a question for parents to ask themselves, accompanied by some background experience, in an attempt to get users to reflect on their own techniques and how to improve them. . TO DOWNLOAD THE APP CLICK HERE: 

Sue Atkins is an internationally recognised Parenting Expert, Broadcaster, Speaker and Author of the Amazon bestselling books Parenting Made Easy: How to Raise Happy Children and Raising Happy Children for Dummies