31 August 2009

Research - Professional and parent attitudes to dietry intervention ASD

I've been sent details about a study into parents' and child health professionals' attitudes to dietary intervention and I thought some of my readers might be interested in participating - so here are the details:

The study

Researchers at Newcastle University would like to find out about parents'and child health professionals' experiences of autism research and their attitudes to the use of the gluten- and casein-free diet as an interventionin ASD. We are carrying out two web-based surveys; one for parents/carers and the other for child health professionals who support children with ASD and their families. The results of these surveys will help us plan thedesign of UK research studies into biomedical and complementary andalternative therapies for children with ASD. ParticipantsParents/carers of pre-school or primary school-aged children with a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder, and child health professionals who support children with ASD and their families, are invited to take part.

What happens next?
If you are interested in taking part, please visit our website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cargo-ne/PADIA.html. When you follow this link, you'll go to a web page that tells you more about the study, and will ask you to enter some details. We will then send you a letter of invitation with a unique ID number and the link to an information sheet. This information sheet has the link to the web-based survey.

If you would like any more information about this study, please contact: Professor Ann Le Couteur.

25 August 2009

Going to the Dentist

We've just had a family trip to the dentist so I thought a post about preparing children for 'going to the dentist' would be a good idea.

So - how do you prepare your child for visiting the dentist? Here are our top dos and don'ts

  • make the trip enjoyable
  • let the child bring a favourite toy along to show the dentist / hold in the chair
  • show by example, brush your teeth daily at the same time as your child
  • play at dentists, show your child how the dentist will examine their teeth and then allow them to do the same to you
  • read children's books about the dentist for example, Going to the Dentist the story of a brother and sister who go to the dentist which explains most things that happen at the dental surgery
  • watch DVDs about Dentists for example People Who Help Us 2 in which you can see Amy have a check up and look after her teeth at home, join Amy as she becomes a dentist for the day at the surgery, follow Amy as she explores the dental hospital and watch children role playing dentists in school
  • always answer truthfully any questions your child may have about the dentist
  • encourage your children to role play being a dentist using their dolls / teddies or other soft toys as patients - you could use this glove puppet as a dentist


  • allow your child to hear any negative dental stories from other people
  • use the dentist as a threat or punishment, but also do not use bribes in order for the visit to happen
  • use words that may instil fear in your child such as needle, pain or hurt

Our trip wasn't too bad (the baby didn't open his mouth though!) how did your last trip to the dentist go?

24 August 2009

Starting School

It's that time of year again when talk on education / parenting blogs turns to the issue of starting school or going back to school - we've written here in the past about planning for starting school / class transitions.

So what are our top tips for preparing for school?
  • Encourage your child to speak clearly and ask for what is needed, using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
  • Check they can go to the toilet alone and flush the toilet
  • Get them to answer the question "what is your name?"
  • Practice tidying up toys after use and sharing things and taking turns
  • Leave them in the care of others for a few hours
  • Make sure they answer questions with words rather than shrugs and nods
  • Practice doing up and undoing fastenings on clothes (buttons etc.)
  • Check they can open their lunch box / unwrap food or use cutlery
  • Share lots of stories - get them to sit and listen to a story and encourage them to handle and enjoy books
  • Start to get them to hold a pencil / crayon and do 'mark making'
  • Encourage your child to know the names of lots of everyday items and understand their uses
  • Talk to your child whilst things are happening and encourage your children to ask questions
  • Tell stories about what you enjoyed at school and the fun things you did.
  • Use colouring activities like these printable school colouring pictures on Netmums to encourage your child to start thinking about school.
  • Build a school with your child from cardboard boxes or play-bricks, and role play schools (or get them to teach their teddies)
  • Read some books about starting school, including Topsy and Tim Start School, Starting School, First Experiences: Going to School, Do I have to Go to School? and (the ever popular Charlie and Lola) I Am Too Absolutely Small for School
  • Walk or drive to school together so your child gets to know the route (note how long it takes so you leave in plenty of time on the first day!)

Is your child starting school this year? Please comment and tell us about your experiences.

18 August 2009

New Product: Wipe Clean Alphabet and Numbers

We are pleased to announce the arrival of the My First Wipe Clean a-z Letters and 0-9 Numbers boards at Littlesheep Learning.

These sets are great for encouraging children to write their letters and numbers and are also a great resource to teach children the alphabet / letter sounds and numbers.

The sets contain a sturdy white 30x25cm board with pre-printed dashed letters or numbers on a wipe clean pen (and a spare) and a clip to keep the pen and chart together!

15 August 2009

Special Offer: First Experiences Books

At Littlesheep Learning we have the remainder of our old priced First Experiences books on special offer. These titles now RRP at £2.50 each but whilst stocks last you can get them for the old price of £1.50 each. So if your child is starting school, you are having a new baby or moving house or planning a trip to the doctor, dentist or hospital - take a look.

14 August 2009


I know my children ask a lot of questions and I feel fairly confident to answer most of them, but a news report on the BBC website says that four in five UK parents have been stumped by a science question posed by their children, a poll has suggested.

The top three most-asked questions by children were: "Where do babies come from?", "What makes a rainbow?" and "Why is the sky blue?" (have your children asked you those ones yet?) and more than half of the 1,002 parents surveyed thought their children knew more about science than they did.

The survey of UK parents with children aged five to 16 was carried out to mark the launch of a new website by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The website - Science: So what? So everything - gives information to parents on answering those tricky questions from children, as well as downloadable activity sheets and ideas of places to visit.

How to answer about where babies come from? The website explains that babies are created when a cell from the mother and a cell from the father join together or "fuse". After the two cells fuse, the site goes on, they divide over and over again to create a ball of cells called an embryo that goes on to become a baby that grows inside the mother for nine months.

The website explains how a rainbow is made from light and water - with help from the sun.
And the sky is blue, it says, because the sun produces white light which is made up of all the colours of the rainbow.

But a clear, cloudless day-time sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more easily than they do red light.

So if you are stuck for the right answer and want another resource - take a look at Science: So what? So everything

13 August 2009

Left Handers Day

Today (Thursday 13th August) is the annual Left-Handers Day for 2009 and is a chance for left-handers everywhere to celebrate the advantages of being left-handed and raise awareness among righties of the daily frustrations for left-handers living in a right-handed world. The Left Handers Club are people to create a Lefty Zone in their home, office or club where all tasks must be conducted left-handed – an interesting experience for right-handed friends and family!

Left-Handers Club spokesperson Lauren Milsom explains: “Many of us appreciate how awkward it is for left-handers having to use right-handed implements, or develop a good writing style, but few people are aware of the many advantages to being left-handed, and the outstanding achievements and successes of left-handers in a variety of fields. Left-Handers Day is the ideal opportunity to celebrate those advantages.”
The Left Handers Day website and has lots of ideas on how to celebrate the day, free posters to download, a left-handed quiz and loads of information about being left-handed.

At Littlesheep Learning we stock a range of adaptive scissors including those for left handers - if your child is showing signs of being left handed these standard left-handed scissors as used in school classrooms are ideal to help them learn cutting skills.

Get your children to use their left hands today and see how easy or hard they find it to do their usual daily activities - and let us know their experiences.

08 August 2009

Benefits Threats

A friend has just sent me the link to the Benefits and Work website and a information about disability living allowance cuts and as this affects lots of parents with children with special needs I thought it was worth spreading the word here so more people can contribute to the consultation.

The Shaping the Future of Care Green Paper published by the DWP and the Department of Health on 14th July sets out government plans to get rid of attendance allowance and, depending on public reaction, also leaves the way clear to end the care component of DLA. The consultation period for the green paper ends on 13th November and if there has been no significant outcry against the plans by then, it is possible that whichever party is in power after the next election will take the opportunity to cut public spending by over a billion pounds a year. Unfortunately, only a few agencies are speaking out in spite of the fact that a report in November 2008 by the Institute for Social and Economic Research warned that taking DLA and AA from claimants and making it part of a ‘personal budget’ administered by social services will leave millions of disabled people worse off and with less independence.

The lack of protest is caused at least in part by ministers deliberately choosing ambiguous terms for their plans. The green paper refers only to cutting ‘disability benefits, for example Attendance Allowance’. Benefits and Work state that some organisations with predominantly younger members believe that because DLA isn’t specifically named, it isn’t going to be cut but they believe the reality is that if the government was intending to axe only AA it would have said so clearly, instead of deliberately and repeatedly using the term ‘disability benefits’ to cause uncertainty and confusion.

Benefits and Work have launched their own campaign to save these benefits and are looking for one thousand people to sign up for our No More Benefits Cuts campaign. All you need to do is provide them with your email address and first name and be prepared to give up a few minutes of your time once a week to send an email or post on a forum. So, if you think that DLA and AA are benefits worth fighting for, then please join their campaign. You don’t need to be a claimant – you might be a carer or support worker, for example – and you don’t need to be a subscribing member of Benefits and Work. You also don’t have to send any emails if you choose not to and you can remove yourself from the list at any time you wish (and they promise to never pass your details on to anyone else under any circumstances).

There is a summary of the proposals and the National Autistic Society's statement here so if you have a child with autism - please also contact them and give them your feedback.

Please share your opinions and add a link to any other organisations that have asked for feedback - get your voices heard.

05 August 2009

Play Day

Today is Playday - the annual celebration of children’s right to play. Now in it's 22nd year Playday is a national campaign where thousands of children and young people get out and play at locally organised events.

Playday events range from small-scale neighbourhood get-togethers to large-scale public events organised by local authorities and national organisations. Anyone can organise a Playday event or take part in celebrations. Your Playday doesn’t have to be a huge public occasion, you may prefer to organise a small residents-only street party or celebrate with a group of friends and family.

Each year Playday has a campaign theme, this year it's Make time! The campaign is calling for everyone to make time for play. From parents, carers and teachers, to policy makers and planners - everyone can make time to support children’s right to play. Find out more about the Make time! campaign here.

Make time to play with your children today - outside play here is going to be wet and puddle splashing!