Jessica Kingsley receives Freedom of the City of London

On 14th December Jessica Kingsley was granted Freedom of the City of London at a short ceremony at the Guildhall.

As a ‘freeman’, in earlier times, Jessica would now have the right to earn money and own land, along with the right to herd sheep over London Bridge and draw a sword in the City. Jessica is unlikely to be taking advantage these ‘rights’ in the near future, or of the further privilege of being drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest! As part of the ceremony Jessica received the book of ‘Rules for the Conduct of Life’, written by the Lord Mayor, 1737-8.

Jessica was granted freedom of the City as a member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, which is still a very active Company to this day, and unlike most of the other Guilds, is unusual in that almost all the Freeman and Liveryman of the Guild are actively engaged in the original business for which it was founded – the book trade. The Company was founded as a Guild in 1403 and today has members from across the media and holds a variety of events throughout the year.

More information about the Freedom of the City and the Company of Stationers can be found on the City of London website or the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers website.

Tips and Ideas for Grandparenting During the Holidays

by Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D., author of Grandparenting a Child with Special Needs

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, parents often turn to the grandparents for help with their children. Then if grandparents have part- or full-time care of their grandchildren, the holidays can make the days extra busy, so fatigue becomes a real problem. Grandparents with medical problems have to be particularly careful that they don’t get overwhelmed.

Many parents and grandparents try to do lots of holiday shopping, have several holiday parities to attend and also might want to have a holiday party of their own. How do you accomplish all of this? I think the answer is that no one can do it all and you have to make conscious decisions about what is absolutely necessary and what you can omit.

I am a great list maker and by listing things in the order of importance a list can be very helpful. Of course if you are the caretaker, your very first priority should be the safety of your grandchildren. Remember that some holiday decorations are not safe. I would be particularly careful about candles and poisonous plants. Some Christmas holly, mistletoe, and other plants are poisonous. (The Internet or a gardening shop should be able to tell you which plants should not be around small children.) Breakable, special ornaments should be put away if there are small children or if a child with special needs gets out of hand.

A child with autism may find the holidays particularly difficult and meltdowns may be more frequent, as his or her routine is upset. You may need to find an extra pair of hands to help, as a near-by teenager or a college student home on vacation. If you are having a party in your home, you want to be sure someone is keeping their eyes on little children. They can quickly get into trouble. The other thing to be careful about is buying toys that are breakable or dangerous. Be sure that there are no sharp edges on the toys and no little pieces which can be pulled off. Little children will swallow anything. Books are my favorite gifts to give grandchildren of all ages.

One of the special things about holidays my children and grandchildren have always loved are traditions which are repeated each year. Perhaps your grandchildren like going to a special place, seeing the Nutcracker Ballet, making Christmas cookies or other holiday treats. When my son was divorced and became the primary parent, I started putting together a calendar with pictures of the children and their father appropriate for each month. These calendars can be made quite inexpensively and a copy shop should be able to do one for you.

Another idea is to have a party for your friends combined with a party for their grandchildren. When my children were growing up and I gave a holiday party, I would also invite my friends’ children and my two children loved being host and hostess. We had a small house but it was warm and big enough to set up games, fun food, and refreshments in the garden. You could have your grandchildren make party invitations to send ahead of time to their friends and also decorate paper napkins, a paper table cloth, and make party favors. Your grandchildren could probably come up with some other very creative ideas. The party could also have a theme. If you life in an apartment complex with a party room, it could be reserved ahead of time and the two parties could be held in different parts of the room.

There are many other traditions you can establish and these will be long remembered by your grandchildren.

Happy Holidays!

Read Charlotte’s blog post for Grandparents’ Day 2010.

Charlotte E.Thompson M.D. is a pediatrician and specialist in children’s muscle diseases. She founded and directed the Center for Handicapped Children in San Fransisco for 23 years and has worked as a consultant for six pediatric neuromuscular programs. She is a mother of two and a grandmother and lives in California.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

Re-designing Spaces for Children with Autism to Improve Organization and Behavior

The Extreme Makeover Challenge: Room Re-Design!

by Carol L. Spears and Dr. Vicki L. Turner

As discussed in our book Rising to New Heights of Communication and Learning for Children with Autism, we have observed that disruptive behaviors displayed by children with autism or other PDDs may occur when they don’t know the answers to the following questions:

Where do I need to be?
What do I need to do?
How much do I need to do?
What comes next?

In our work, we have found that physically re-structuring the living and/or learning environment is a strategy which effectively increases the likelihood that appropriate behaviors will increase and inappropriate behaviors will dissipate – assuming the setting is designed effectively.

Whether at school or at home, a well-designed space has designated areas with defined borders for particular tasks. Materials are easily accessible, and the location where they are to be used is clearly identified. All individuals have their own workstations, desks, cubbies/lockers, or places informing where they are to be and what they are to do. By engineering the physical environment, parents, teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists, and others may assist children with exceptional needs by enhancing their learning and functional experiences.

When re-designing spaces for children with autism or other PDDs, visual supports are key because they provide information and tools allowing individuals to:

  • comprehend the instructions and communication of others.
  • understand and follow directions.
  • follow schedules, learn routines, negotiate transitions, accept changes.
  • support and improve a child’s receptive language, ultimately improving expressive language, learning, behavior problems, and social skills.
  • enhance involvement, participation, and socialization of individuals with autism, the tools may be equally successful for those with other diagnoses.
  • complete work independently and work or play appropriately during groups activities.

Whatever visual supports you use – objects, symbols, schedules, choice boards, social stories, or task organizers – being able to see the support will increase comprehension, particularly when auditory difficulties exist.

As consultants, we meet these extreme makeover challenges every day by assisting caregivers and professionals to physically re-structure living and learning environments, and by implementing and linking tailored visual strategies to support expressive communication with Alternative-Augmentative Communication (AAC).

We define AAC as the use of materials, techniques and equipment to compensate for expressive communication limitations individuals may exhibit, and to provide varied methods that allow for success in the communication process. AAC methods are tailored for individuals based on cognitive level, physical abilities, academic needs and communication settings, and include the following most common methods:

Speech Generating Devices (SGD)
SGDs are electronic equipment with speech output capabilities, that may be programmed, and offer the individual with increased communication opportunities. In Rising, we discuss various uses of SGDs such as in this device which allows children to communicate information between school and home.

Other applications include communicating messages to answer questions, participate in academic lessons, offer social greetings, relay information, exchange thoughts, and interact with significant members in their lives at home, school, and in the community.

Picture Exchange Communication System ( PECS)
PECS is an augmentative communication system designed to facilitate quick, effective, functional communication. It is a concrete visual-based program that encourages communication. Although speech emerges with some individuals and verbal speech is indirectly encouraged, PECS is not specifically designed to teach speech. Its primary objective is to establish an understanding about the purpose and method of communication exchanges, and to facilitate communication by providing the opportunity to relay messages through pictures. We have found a number of our students have been very successful communicating via PECS.

Symbolic Language System
We define symbolic language systems as any method of communication that utilizes an action or material, assigns specific messages to it, and relies upon it consistently to relay meaning to the listener. A symbolic language system provides a consistent and easy-to-interpret method of relaying messages when a verbal message cannot be presented intelligibly. Pictures of items or places, labels of products, objects, gestures, and vocalizations are most commonly used to depict representations of desired messages. Rising illustrates many types of symbolic language systems to relay messages for many communication situations such as communication boards, eye gaze charts, and communication binders.

These are some of the elements required to meet the challenge of a successful re-design. We have observed children with autism, other PDDs, and AAC , achieve organization and success, improved behavior, social skills, and communication success when adults implement the strategies we’ve shared.

Carol L. Spears and Dr. Vicki L. Turner are Speech Language Pathologists, Assistive Technologists, and Alternative/Augmentative Communication Specialists. They utilize extensive professional experience, continuing education, and personal perspectives when working with students with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders to provide evidence based interventions. They are partners in the private consultation practice, Communication by Design Specialists, LLC (CoDeS). CoDeS, located in Northeast Ohio, USA, provide caregivers and professionals with compassionate support and training in homes, educational institutions, and workshop settings.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

An Interview with Martin Mellish, author of ‘A Tai Chi Imagery Workbook: Spirit, Intent, and Motion’

Martin Mellish has been studying and teaching Tai Chi for over thirty years. He is a certified hypnotherapist and Yoga teacher and has travelled extensively in China to practice Tai Chi, and to explore the sacred mountains and minority cultures of Western China and Tibet. He also holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Cambridge University, and has published articles with both ‘Qi’ Magazine and ‘Tai Chi’ Magazine.

Here, Martin answers some questions about his new book, A Tai Chi Imagery Workbook: Spirit, Intent, and Motion.

Tell us about your background – how did you come to be interested in imagery?

I was somewhat of a mathematical prodigy. My nominal research area was mathematical models of energy futures, but I spent most of my time ‘moonlighting’ in Artificial Intelligence research. Like most newcomers to AI, I soon found out that modeling our perceptual and motor skills is actually much harder than solving what we think of as ‘complex’ intellectual problems. For example, you can buy a computer program that can play world championship-level chess for less than $50, but there is still no robot that can walk down the street without bumping into people, or even distinguish a male from a female face.

So, paradoxically, it was my intellectual researches that showed me that we not only overestimate the power of our intellect, but also underestimate, by an enormous factor, the power of other, non-conceptual, aspects of our being. I don’t know if it was coincidence – it certainly wasn’t a conscious choice – but it was around this period that I resigned my University fellowship and headed out to the Rajneesh meditation ashram in India, not to return for five years, for most of which I was ‘researching’ those non-conceptual aspects of my being in an extremely intense and down-to-earth fashion.

During this period I began my study of Tai Chi, meditation, martial arts, and human relationships. All of these were pretty much new to me, and I was both extremely enthusiastic about, and spectacularly bad at, all of them. The fact that I was having to learn these skills late in life, starting from pretty far back, gave me, I think, a better ‘conscious’ understanding of what they are about than if they had come naturally to me. There are many good Tai Chi practitioners to whom Tai Chi came naturally, but I have never met a good teacher of, or writer about, Tai Chi who did not struggle enormously, and for a long time any without apparent success, as a beginner. I was no exception.

I was the Ashram’s front gate guard, and given the large size and extremely controversial nature of the Ashram, I had to use my martial arts skills almost every day. This allowed me to compare the strong and weak points of different martial arts in practical application. My beloved Karate turned out to be almost useless in practice, since it contained no methods for subduing someone without injuring them: what worked best tended to be a combination of Tai Chi and Aiki-juijutsu. I developed a feeling for what constitutes a safe application (for both parties) that has never left me. I think this feeling can only be developed by actually having to use those applications in the real world, out on the street, on a daily basis.

After 5 years the commune dissolved and I returned to the West. In India I had had the freedom to practice Tai Chi many hours a day, but a very restricted range of teachers and forms –I spent 5 years working entirely on the (very simple) 24 form, which I think was very helpful for my development since it forced me to go very deeply into the essence of every movement. In the West I had less time, but a greater variety of teachers. I started to teach Tai Chi myself, and that experience, together with the experience of studying with other teachers, showed me how effective imagery was – and, by contrast, how ineffective rational explanation was – at encouraging students to make positive changes.

Once I was ‘hooked’ on imagery and its power, I decided to train as a hypnotherapist, and practiced as one for a few years. Again, I was struck by how a simple image could have the power to enable a client to make a change, such as giving up an addiction, that they may have struggled with for many years on the rational level without success.

During this period I won several medals in national Tai Chi competitions – in fact, I did so well in the Canadian championships that the Canadians finally asked me not to come back! This not as big an achievement as it sounds, since the best practitioners do not compete – they judge. I also met my main teacher, Gao Fu, an elderly Chinese woman with an unrivalled understanding of the deep internals of Tai Chi. I learned Chinese in order to study with her (she spoke no English) and became her interpreter. She invited me to stay with her in Beijing one summer, where she introduced me to some of the best Tai Chi masters in the world as well as to her own famous teacher, Feng Zhi Qiang.

During that summer I had the interesting experience of learning subtle details of Tai Chi internals that I did not understand, in a language that for the most part I did not understand either. My learning sunk in on a level deeper than language, and showed me how unimportant ‘surface’ understanding is to the process of positive change. This was also the beginning of my long love affair with China, where I now live and teach.

How did the book come about, and where does the imagery come from?

This book owes its existence to Ki McGraw, of the Seattle Hatha Yoga Center. I was taking a Yoga certification course with her in Bali, she heard of my interest in Tai Chi, and lent me a copy of Eric Franklin’s Dynamic Alignment through Imagery. This book has its roots in the world of dance, which is another of my interests, but I found many of the images in it very useful in Tai Chi as well. I was thinking of writing an article pointing out the usefulness of the images in Tai Chi, but the more I worked on the article, the longer it became, and the more the images in Mr Franklin’s book were naturally replaced either by native images from the Tai Chi tradition, or by more contemporary images that I, or other teachers, had found useful. That article eventually turned into this book.

Perhaps a third of the imagery comes directly from the Tai Chi classics, a third has been either invented or substantially modified by me, and a third comes from other teachers, either of Tai Chi or of other movement forms. However, as I say in the book, ‘Everything in this book has its roots in the ancient tradition and lineage of Tai Chi. Everything in it is also directly applicable, right now, to modern life in the twenty-first century. Nothing in this book is here for historical, ceremonial, cultural, or artistic reasons: every image in this book is here because it works.”

What is ‘imagery’ in this context and how does it aid and improve the practice of Tai Chi?

Imagery is a method of encapsulating and transmitting non-verbal knowledge. It lets you know that a certain skill or learning with which you are already familiar can be usefully applied to an unfamiliar situation, similarly to the way in which computer developers ‘re-use’ code that is known to reliably perform a certain function. You can think of ‘imagery’ in this context as the software of the body – that which enables us to coordinate all our different muscles and bones without having to consciously ‘think’ about coordinating them, which is neither necessary nor possible.

Many beginners are surprised that they have difficulty learning something as apparently simple as the slow, gentle movements of Tai Chi. They frequently become depressed about their apparent lack of talent for the art, lose their initial enthusiasm, and give up. I’ve had every single student in a ten-member class come up to me, individually, and tell me they were thinking of quitting so as not to hold up the others!

The movements of Tai Chi are hard for the ‘rational’ mind to learn, since the rational mind doesn’t do ‘parallel processing’ well – don’t ask it to walk and chew gum at the same time! In Tai Chi you have to coordinate your feet, your legs, the carriage of your torso, the expression of your arms and fingers, and your breath, all at once. As hard and frustrating as this process can be if you try to ‘micro-manage’ the individual details, it can be just as simple and joyful if you coordinate your movement using an image – ‘Feel yourself throwing a frisbee’, or ‘Skate across a frozen pond’.

Why will bodyworkers and others concerned with balance and movement be interested in these ideas?

Bodyworkers, personal trainers, and physical therapists have sharp eyes and can see exactly what postural deficiencies or movement limitations their clients have. However, directly telling their clients what changes they need to make – “Don’t slouch! Keep your shoulders level!” is generally not a good way to bring about positive change. People tend to hold their posture rigid and over-controlled for a while, then return to their previous bad habit. We can’t be micro-managing our posture all the time – we need a simple and engaging idea that the body can orient itself around, that imagery provides. In fact most bodyworkers already have a fair repertoire of imagery – the advantage of Tai Chi imagery is that it is subtle, sophisticated, and fun, and comes from a long tradition and has thus stood the test of time.

An underlying guiding principle in this book seems to be ‘non-doing’ (wu wei). What does this mean and why is it important?

I teach Physics here in China, and my staff-room desk looks more like a toy store than anything else. I use so many toys for a very good reason – toys are designed to teach young children, in a very simple way, how and why the physical world around us works.

I start all my Physics classes by looking at something very simple and everyday – a bouncy ball, a length of string, a soap bubble, or a cup of tea. In the book I also use simple language and talk about everyday things –skateboards, exercise balls, cats, frozen orange juice, trampolines, bowls of fruit, and so on. I always try to keep the discussion as concrete as I can.

Esoteric Chinese terms such as wu wei (literally, ‘non-doing’) often hinder such discussion more than they help. Wu wei is not only an unfamiliar term to most people, but also a slippery one – even ‘experts’ (if there are any!) disagree on what it means, and for that reason I only use the term once, in the Introduction. But I think it’s at least possible that you are on to something, and that actually the whole book is about wu wei.

Language gets slippery when we talk about these kinds of issues, since it embodies the sometimes-biased perspective of the conceptual mind. For example, I could talk about letting go of conscious attempts to control one’s body and one’s world, and learning to trust one’s unconscious wisdom. This would be kind of a classic definition of wu wei. The trouble with this formulation is that it concedes, falsely, that the conceptual mind is the only part of your being that is ‘conscious’. An Olympic diver leaping off the high board, or a tightrope-walker balanced over an abyss, is not ‘unconscious’, but in a state of extremely heightened awareness. Trying to express that awareness in verbal or conceptual terms is not only unnecessary, but potentially a good way to get oneself killed.

Wu Wei, in my understanding, is trusting that you already have the wisdom to respond appropriately to the situation in front of you, and that you do not need either to micro-manage it or to think it out. It takes courage – in the beginning your conceptual mind will scream at you that it, and only it, can handle things. Sometimes it might even be right – your more instinctual mind has many resources, but it’s not infallible, and it learns partly by making mistakes. In developing wu wei you may sometimes need to take your lumps – ‘invest in loss’, as Chen Man Ching used to say.

In my experience of wu wei, it is actually not so much the doing, but the doer, whose apparent absence can be unnerving. I remember a period when I was working for Microsoft, and practicing opening the Jade Pillow (upper neck) which is a very good way to access ‘non-doing’. I was quite extraordinarily productive, and my work was of exceptional quality, but I was always scared to submit it because I never had the feeling that I had done it, and I had no idea whether it was any good. Similarly, after my best hypnotherapy sessions I would always feel like a fraud taking my client’s money, since I felt that either the client had done all the work, or that no-one had and the results had just arrived by Grace.

Does the usefulness of imagery depend on experience?

I think experience is less important than passionate interest. For example, Married Love, the famous 19th-century sex manual that transformed the lives of thousands of women, was written by a virgin. That said, I do believe that actual experience can add depth to the usefulness of an image, For example, I have always loved the classic Tai Chi image of imagining that you are riding a horse, but I used to experienced the image in a more or less static way – until I learned to actually ride a horse. There’s a certain dynamic fluidity to your ‘seat’ as you ride a horse that is very beneficial for any type of movement practice and that I learned the hard way, trotting and cantering along mountain trails.

Much of the classic imagery of Tai Chi refers to skills, such as riding a horse, or cracking a whip, that every medieval farmer would have had, but that are much less current now. Cracking a whip is an excellent way of thinking about the dynamics of a Tai Chi movement, but these days the actual experience of using an old-style whip is more or less confined to equestrians and certain, shall we say, minority interests. One of my motives in writing the book is to supplement such images with others that draw more directly on out daily life.

 Copyright © Singing Dragon 2010.

Mary Mountstephen on her new book ‘How to Detect Developmental Delay and What to Do Next’

Mary Mountstephen leads a large specialist support centre at a major international independent school and is an educational and neuro-developmental delay specialist in private practice, as well as being an international consultant to schools and organizations. She has an MA in Special Education and many years’ experience teaching in mainstream, independent and special schools. Mary lives in Glastonbury, UK.

Here, she answers some questions about her new book, 
How to Detect Developmental Delay and What to Do Next: Practical Interventions for Home and School.

How did this book come about?

I have worked in education for many years and have always looked for ways to help children who are failing to thrive. This book came about as the result of talking to many parents and teachers who were frustrated at not being able to get either a diagnosis or an understanding that their child was not naughty or stupid, but living with an invisible disability which is preventing them from working to their potential.

The important thing for me is that every child is valued and that we look at the causes of their difficulties rather than just the presenting symptoms: Why are they struggling in school and what can we do about it that is simple and easily implemented as the first stage in supporting them? For example, I write about developmental movement programmes which a teacher can easily learn and use for the whole class. The whole book is about looking at the child in relation to their developmental history, environment and other factors.

What is a developmental delay? Why does it occur?

There are many forms of developmental delay where children might fail to meet their developmental milestones. This can occur for a number of reasons such as difficulties/stress in pregnancy and early childhood, lateness in walking and talking for example.

What are some typical signs of developmental delay, and why might they be overlooked or misinterpreted?

See above in terms of walking and talking. Visual problems might also not be picked up by a regular eye check or misdiagnosed as dyslexia.

Auditory problems might be perceived as emotional or behavioural issues when children pass a hearing test, but still can’t process information effectively.

My book helps by providing practical advice, explanations and a route map to possible interventions.

What can parents and teachers do to intervene in the absence of a diagnosis, or while they are waiting for one?

A formal diagnosis can provide access to help/assistance in some countries. It also helps the family and the child to gain insight into the difficulties and helps schools to identify ways to support.

Whilst waiting for a diagnosis, or unable to afford one, parents can use the book as a ‘guide on the side’ to support them. I have also included information about cost effective ways to find out more about their child’s problems and this also applies to busy teachers.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

A New Take on Language Function and Literacy: An Interview with Dr. Ellyn Lucas Arwood

Dr. Ellyn Lucas Arwood has established a reputation as an expert in how language is used for learning and how language and cognition interact, and is often referred to as a “lady before her time”.

Here Dr Arwood answers some questions about her new book, Language Function: An Introduction to Pragmatic Assessment and Intervention for Higher Order Thinking and Better Literacy.

How did this text came about?

As a speech-language pathologist in the late 1960’s, I wondered why some children could say a sentence but not ask to go to the bathroom; why some children could repeat by memory a complete commercial or word call printed text but not ask another child to play; why some children could score higher in expressive language than receptive language when the Western Psych model says that input comes before output. The structural approach to literacy that I was trained in did not make a lot of sense in practice. Teaching words, sounds, psychomotor skills, and behavior tasks provided children with progress on skills but not on thinking and learning. So, I began to read everything in any discipline that I could about how to help children understand what they read, speak from thinking ideas, and write about what they knew. I deliberately worked on a doctorate at the University of Georgia (USA) where I was allowed to enroll in courses that would give me the education in language philosophy, sociolinguistics, semantics, and pragmatics so that I could incorporate that knowledge into my practice. After doing a dissertation in speech act theory (1977) which demonstrates the importance of the listener in speaking with children severely impacted by a variety of disorders such as autism, emotional disturbance, behaviorally disordered, other health impaired, I went to work at Washington State University where I had the opportunity to teach others how to apply this knowledge.

At a presentation at the American Speech and Hearing Association, an editor came to me and ask me to start writing. Thus, I wrote my first book, Semantic and Pragmatic Disorders, in 1980. But the readership wanted more theory and I was not satisfied with my knowledge. I needed to know “why” some of what I did worked. I continued to write books, articles, and so forth to try to balance the theory with the practice; something that I personally believe is what we, as professionals, should be doing. When I accepted a job at Texas Tech University, I had the opportunity to study and do research in the area of pragmaticism while also working as a professor of speech and learning sciences. The notion of pragmaticism is that the synergy of the whole (mind, body, brain) is greater than the parts – and with that concept comes a theory of signs that allowed me to incorporate a knowledge of the level of thinking that goes with using the mind for academics, social issues, and behavioral constructs.

Throughout this entire process of building my knowledge, I never lost sight of the influence of the brain research. To me, it was obvious that the brain was the basis to all learning and that pure developmental models could not explain how a child learns to think. So, I took classes in brain research such as human brain dissection at the Kresge Institute in Louisiana and medical physiology at Louisiana State University. The brain research of the early 1990’s supported much of what I believed about the way children learn to think and use their thinking to function which added another layer to understanding how language functions. For the past 25 years, as a professor in education at the University of Portland (Oregon, USA), I have collected more data about thinking, added to my knowledge about learning, and refined the methods in practice. Now, it is time to get this knowledge into our community and schools, which are microcosms of how society functions. Thus, the rationale for this new book, Language Function.

Recent studies have shown that the majority of English speakers don’t “think in sound.” What does this mean?

Thinking is about ideas. Ideas that are in the form of mental pictures, movies, graphics, print are not in sound. These visual mental images are the foundational piece to being literate for most people. So, instead of sounds existing as the basis for better reading and writing, visual images are the basis for understanding the print, for seeing what is on the page, for writing ideas on paper, for increasing mental thoughts for better speaking, for understanding concepts of number for better math, and so forth. The majority of learners that I work with tell me about these visual mental images that they use for thinking. They do not use the sound of their own voice for learning new ideas….new ideas come from the changes in their previous visual images.

What are the implications of this for education?

The major implication is that we need to rethink what the basis of literacy is and then change literacy programs to match thinking.

I believe the most apparent challenge in education today that represents what I refer to as a “cultural-linguistic mismatch” is the fact that educators are exposed to lot of data, materials, programs, and training that says that sound is the basis to literacy. Suggesting that sound is the basis to literacy is logical since these educators live in a culture that uses English as the primary language of educating children in subjects, skills, and dispositions. English is a sound-based language where individual sounds can change the meaning. For example, in English, adding “s” to “dog” turns the word into a plural concept. So, culturally using the sounds that go with the alphabet makes sense to an adult who has acquired the sounds of English for speaking, reading, and writing, even though the educators may or may not be, personally, able to relate to using sounds for spelling to write or for reading a favorite novel. But, the data says to use sounds and the educator sees the logic and so the educator does so. However, huge numbers of children are not really successful so the educators try to modify the programs, materials, the amount of time, the number of students in the programs with fewer and fewer resources.

The educators today try to make the assumption that sound underlies the development of cognition work in order to help children become literate. Educators work extremely hard to make students successful in these programs but educators are constantly confronted with “unhappy” constituents–the public, the media, the test scores, their own family success or lack of success, their students’ families and so forth. The bottom-line, is that the programs, materials, and curricula that are sound-based do not match with the way the children think to learn. So, teachers work harder but don’t always receive the positive success they deserve. Older students work harder to produce the sound-based patterns for tests, homework, and so forth without the conceptual learning. Working harder but not smarter stresses everyone out – students, families, and teachers.

What is the connection between visual cognition and (anti-social) behavior?

All behavior communicates. The meaning of the behavior is interpreted by someone else. In this way, we learn the behavior of our dominant culture as a relationship between doing something and having someone else tell us what the behavior means. When others assign meaning to a behavior, the thinker has to be able to receive the message. If the person who assigns the meaning only uses spoken language that the learner does not understand, then the behavior has no meaning.

For example, if the child stands on the seat at a restaurant and the adult says, “Sit down” to a child who thinks visually, then these words mean nothing. So, the child not only stands on the seat but jumps up and down and starts making vocalizations that are loud. People sitting around the child are not able to talk with their families because the child is so loud. The child’s vocalizations are interrupting the behavior of others which is the essence of anti-social behavior; behavior that negatively affects the initiation and maintenance of healthy interpersonal relationships. Finally, the child’s family punishes the child by harsh words, a slap to the child’s behind, taking the child out and so forth. The child knows the family member(s) are not pleasant so the child cries but the child still does not know what the expected behavior “looked like”; what other people in the restaurant were thinking (their visuals of the child); how the child’s behavior made other people’s mental pictures go away and interrupted their dinner, etc. Learning to behave requires teaching in the way the child learns concepts. Visual thinking or cognition requires a visual assignment of meaning.

What strategies might you suggest specifically for those working with children on the autism spectrum?

Children with autism spectrum disorders typically use a motor (movement) access to their visual mental thoughts. So writing with visual-motor methods is great and, in fact, will help many children acquire speech production. They write to tell what they see on the page. But, all of the methods described in Language Function may be used successfully with children with autism spectrum disorders. There are many examples in the book that are from children diagnosed with ASD.

What is the bigger picture – how might literacy programs that match thinking benefit society?

The benefits are numerous; but, social competence for the majority of society would be great. In other words, having a society where the majority are able to initiate and maintain healthy relationships at work, school, and home because individuals are able to see how they fit or are successful as part of society would decrease the number who are dependent on others for survival including a decrease in incarcerated individuals; a decrease in anti-social behavior at schools and in the work place; a decrease in unethical acts of business in the marketplace and so forth.

This benefit will happen only if the majority of people are able to reach a concrete, rule governed, level of thinking that implies parallel levels of literacy. In other words, a thinker can only be ethical and moral if the thinker is able to accept the rules of others as the basis for thinking and behaving – only if “We” takes over the 3-7 year old “I” attitude in the workplace and in doing business with others. The “We” attitude means that “I do only what would also be of benefit to others as if I were in that other person’s shoes.”

Societies grow and develop just like interpersonal relationships. So, a healthy society is one where a majority of thinkers have increased their literacy and improved their thinking to function as a place for “Us;” a place where people care about other people and their needs. Most people say they “care” about others but without the literacy and thinking level increasing, the majority can only do their job at the level of regurgitating the rules, imitating tasks, and completing the prescribed task. Thinking out of the box, creatively solving a problem for a customer or helping create a solution requires higher order thinking and problem solving.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

The Secret of Everlasting Life: An Interview with Singing Dragon author Richard Bertschinger

Richard Bertschinger is a practising acupuncturist, teacher of Chinese healing arts, and translator of ancient Chinese texts.

Here he answers some questions about his new book, The Secret of Everlasting Life: The First Translation of the Ancient Chinese Text on Immortality.

How did you get interested in this work?

I’m now 62 and have been doing qigong some forty years. My interest goes back to when my teacher Giafu Feng (translator of the Tao-te Ching with Jane English) pointed out the early alchemical poems of China, and I soon found out that the Can Dong Qi, which I entitle The Secret of Everlasting Life was not only the oldest, but also the most revered, and the ‘grand-daddy’, as I call it, of them all. Also, it had never been translated, except as a chemical treatise – which was obviously getting hold of the wrong end of the stick!

What is special about these texts?

They have been enormously studied in China. I list 69 separate editions of the Can Dong Qi at the end of my translation. Not all of which I have consulted, I have to say! However during the 80’s I had the good fortune to study in Chengdu, Sichuan in China, with a very special qigong teacher. And I was fortunate to return to England with an excellent edition of this work, the requisite dictionaries and some sensitive instruction, all under my belt. I think I knew then it would take probably 30 years to complete

The obvious next step was to teach myself to read these texts. Nobody else had attempted a complete translation. And I had learnt from Gia-fu that the best way was to study the Chinese commentators on the work. (We had worked together on the I Ching, or Book of Changes, at that point). So I literally started page one, character one and went from there. At the same time I continued my acupuncture, tai-chi and qigong training – teaching as well. And I found this happy mix very conducive. I had voluminous notes (I can write very fast!) from China and my time with Gia-fu. And somehow the work got born.

I have to say that I wrote to Professor Joseph Needham about the work, and sent a sample – and was fortunate enough to get a letter back encouraging me to continue in my work. He especially like the fact that I had made the translation into English in short, poetic lines – thereby copying the Chinese text. I was most keen to be as faithful to the original as possible, you see.

What is the book’s message?

Well the book itself teaches a method of meditation which is well-known – and often, nowadays, termed ‘qigong.’ It makes much of the cultivation of stillness in body and mind. Reader, you probably have yourself felt those precious moments of quiet in your life, no? I think we all come across them. As if an angel crossed our path. Perhaps facing a beautiful sunset, a special moment with a friend, or the satisfaction of completing, in its own time, a piece of work. The genius of the Chinese sages was that they found a method, a technique akin to Indian Yoga, by which this experience could be cultivated, taught and developed. Of course, all this is now being verified by modern research, brain imaging and such like, and work on neuro-transmitters; the benefits of regular pratice of qigong are at last being recognised. Wei Boyang himself talks in these poems about “grasping onto the quiet and solitude, those rare times, so tranquil and still.” He lived the life of the scholar-hermit-alchemist so popular in the Taoist tradition. It is all to do with finding out what our common humanity is about. Very Chinese, you know.

So, what is the secret of everlasting life?

Well I suppose it is embracing this method, in its rawest aspect, coaxing internal physiological transformation, revelation and philosophical enlightenment. Yuyan (one of the Chinese commentators) describes it as a method of inner development which shows “all people their ability to reflect back their brightness to light up within (huiguang neizhao), so that their out-breath and in-breath then merge together into a state of utmost peace.” I think that about says it all! (Big Laugh!)

 Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

Working with Suicidal Individuals – An Interview with JKP author Tony White

Tony White has been a registered psychologist in private practice for the past 29 years, and is a teacher and supervisor of Transactional Analysis psychotherapists. He has worked with suicidal individuals for many years, including spending three years working in a prison identifying and managing suicidal and self-harming inmates.

Here he answers some questions about his new book, Working with Suicidal Individuals: A Guide to Providing Understanding, Assessment and Support.

How did you come to work with suicidal individuals?

My counselling and therapy background is unusual in that both my parents were trainers and psychologists. I began my university and therapy training early and began running my first therapy groups with a co-therapist at age 22. I am now 53. It was a private practice setting and people kept coming so I kept running therapy groups even at that quite young age.

In private practice one takes whomever walks in through the consulting room door. Often you have no idea of what the problem is until the person sits down and starts talking. People presenting with suicidal thoughts and urges was not uncommon and this was my first introduction to the area of the suicidal individual. In this way over the years I have worked with a lot of depressed and many quite suicidal individuals.

However, I also had a personal interest in the area and began to specialise in working with the suicidal individual which culminated in 1991 when I wrote a book about the ‘no suicide contract’. At the personal level when I was about 17 and 18 years of age I made two suicide attempts. As an adult I have never made a suicide attempt and I am not a suicidal person. It is simply not an option for me. In my adult years there have been some very low times with the loss of loved ones and so forth. At these times I have never even thought of suicide let alone planned anything.

How could I make two attempts as a teenager and yet not be a suicidal person in my adult years? This is why the book includes a discussion of teenage suicide. The usual reason given for teenage suicide is that it is a time of extra stress, where these young people are neither adults nor children, their bodies are changing, and so forth. Whilst I agree with this explanation, it is simplistic and certainly an incomplete explanation of why adolescence is a high risk stage for suicide. Through my own experience and study of teenagers I suggest that there is a more comprehensive explanation in that teenagers think of suicide differently than mature adults.

In more recent years I worked in the prison system. My role was to co-ordinate the At Risk Management System. This was the organisational process set up to manage and identify suicidal and self harming inmates. How I came to do this was sort of by accident. A friend of mine worked in a prison and they needed someone for the co-ordinator’s job. He asked me if I wanted to do it, and feeling like I needed a new project I said yes. This meant I was working with suicidal and self harming men each and every day. My knowledge of the psyche of the suicidal person from age 18 to 70 increased at an exponential rate as a result of this. And that is how I ended up working with suicidal individuals.

Why did you decide to write the book?

Over the years I had accumulated extensive knowledge of the area. I had written many articles for journals and magazines, and had presented at many workshops and conferences. In essence the book was already written.

Also, over the years I had developed some new ideas and methods of understanding and working with the suicidal. The literature on the suicide to my mind has been quite stagnant for some time. There are few new, innovative ideas stated and most of it tends to be picture straightening. I decided to produce the book so as to include some of these new ideas which I have never seen in the literature before.

The book is written in a user-friendly style with theory that is readily understandable. It certainly is for anyone who works with or has to deal with suicidal people in the course of their work or day to day activities.

As it is easily understandable by the layman it would also give the family and loved ones of a suicidal person a framework by which to understand what is going on with their distressed friend or relative. At least half of the book provides this framework, while the other half discusses the treatment of and therapeutic management of the suicidal individual.

What is the most accurate way to assess suicide risk?

This book covers two different approaches to assessing suicide risk, the quantitative and qualitative approaches. In the literature one often sees the quantitative approach used which usually includes a list of features found in high risk groups. The unmarried, prisoners, the mentally ill, the depressed, substances users and so forth. These are covered in-depth in this book with a lot of new information added that I have accumulated over the last 20 years of working with the suicidal.

In the literature one rarely, if ever, sees the qualitative approach discussed, especially outside the transactional analysis literature. This approach identifies the definitive aspect of the suicidal individual, that of the ‘suicide decision’. If one can make such a determination then a significant step in assessing the suicide risk of the individual has been achieved. One knows that the individual has suicide in their mind as a viable means to solve a problem at some time in their life.

This adds an extra dimension to suicide risk assessment. The vast majority of suicide risk assessments look only for those people who are at imminent risk of a suicide attempt. Whilst this is obviously very important the qualitative approach to suicide risk assessment allows one to ascertain the person’s longer term suicide risk. If the suicide decision is identified then that person is a higher, longer term suicide risk. Once diagnosed then monitoring the person is possible such that the suicidal crisis can be avoided earlier, rather than waiting for the imminent suicide risk to arrive. Or treatment can be applied so as to reduce the power of the suicide decision in the personality of the individual, thus reducing the longer term suicide risk level.

Is it possible to ‘cure’ someone who is suicidal?

People display suicidal behaviour and make suicidal statements for a variety of reasons. There is a group of people who have made what is known as the suicide decision in childhood. From a psychological point of view this person could be considered the ‘truly’ suicidal person. Their psychological make up is structured such that suicide is a viable option for them to solve difficult problems at some point in their life. These people can be treated such that they can make a change to that early suicide decision and thus the likelihood of suicide being used as a problem solving technique in the future is greatly reduced.

As mentioned before the suicidal teenager has a different comprehension of what suicide is compared to the mature adult. Teenagers in this way are more managed through their difficult adolescence rather than cured of their suicidality.

Others may suicide because of command hallucinations. That is the person who is engaging in suicidal behaviour because they are experiencing hallucinations that command them to. In such instances if one ‘cures’ the psychotic hallucinations then the threat of suicide greatly reduces which is usually done with some regime of medication. There are other motives which can lead to suicidal actions and these are dealt with in a variety of ways.

How do you address the ‘no-suicide contract’ in the book?

The literature has an enormous amount written about this topic and it is indeed a very divisive one. There has been much heated debate about the usefulness, or lack of usefulness, with the no-suicide contract. This book provides an explanation of why there has been such debate. The main reason is because many writers on the topic do not understand the theory underlying the no-suicide contract. The no-suicide contract originated within the Transactional Analysis literature. Those who are not well informed about Transactional Analysis theory do not understand what the term no-suicide contract actually means.

This book explains the theory behind the no-suicide contract so that much of the heated debate can be avoided. For instance a no-suicide contract is no different from any other behavioural contract used in counselling. Any treatment contract is useful in certain circumstances and not in others with the no-suicide contract being the same. Those circumstances when the no-suicide contract is useful are articulated in this book. Then one is provided with a procedure to follow when the no-suicide contract is indicated and a procedure to follow when the no-suicide contract is contraindicated.

Video: Tony talks about some key features of the book.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

JKP attends the 2010 American Music Therapy Association Conference (AMTA)

The 2010 American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Conference took place at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, this year and JKP was, once again, pleased to attend as an exhibitor. The 2010 conference was active and very busy as usual. We enjoyed a steady traffic of attendees at our booth throughout the show.

Highlights include a very successful book signing for Katrina McFerran (pictured), author of the 2010 release Adolescents, Music and Music Therapy. Katrina was a presenter at the conference and her book was the star of our exhibit this year.

We were also delighted to see Dorita S. Berger, author of Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child and The Music Effect, and Robin Rio, author of Connecting Through Music with People with Dementia.

Thank you very much to our authors and to all who stopped by our stand!

John Merges on Social Enjoyment Groups for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders

My book, Social Enjoyment Groups for Children, Teens and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guiding Toward Growth, outlines the philosophy regarding teaching social enjoyment to persons with an ASD. The groups, which are then presented in detail, are designed to teach the important skill of social enjoyment to young people from the age of five through young adulthood. These groups can occur at school or at community sites.

Before entering private practice, I worked for twenty-six years as a school social worker. There I was introduced to children with autism. But I also met another group of children – children who had great difficulty understanding and interacting with the social world around them, but who did not meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. I began to develop services for these students – even though there was no “label” for them. Later, these students were identified as having Asperger’s Syndrome.

During my first months of private practice, I was asked by the parents of two bright, well-educated young men to help get their sons “out of the basement” – where they spent hours surfing the net and buying/selling on on-line. I tried, but I was not successful. Both young men were terrified of basic social situations that had occurred at work – interactions like being asked about current events by co-workers, knowing what to say at office retirement events, etc.

I realized I was starting too late. Social enjoyment, as both an important life and employment skill, needs to be taught and practiced as early as possible. We need to provide our young people with safe, predictable situations to practice enjoying a social interaction. The successes I’ve seen in my own work demonstrate that social enjoyment is indeed a skill – and thus, can be learned.

In the USA where I practice, 1 out of every 110 babies is born with an ASD. The world cannot afford for these individuals to grow into adulthood with a high degree of social anxiety and thus a strong tendency toward social avoidance. Supporting the young people with welfare programs will be hugely expensive for countries, and a less than desirable life for the individuals.

Let me be clear. Social Enjoyment groups are not designed to replace social skills groups and social skills curriculums. These provide essential core knowledge. They create a sturdy foundation upon which the individual can build more skills. In my conception, social skills groups are the foundation of the ASD person’s “house”, and Social Enjoyment skills are the first floor. Part of my job is to then build on the Social Enjoyment skills to create solid employment skills. (In my next book, I plan to describe our efforts to work with buildings and corporations in order to create the understanding that “neuro-typical” employers and co-workers will need in order to create supportive work environments for ASD employees.)

Last Thursday, a mother of one of my fourteen year-old group members approached me. She was so excited that she came up to me during group time. With a huge smile on her face, she told me that something terrific had happened that weekend. Her church held a dinner to collect presents and money for assisting persons in poverty during the upcoming Christmas season. She was working in the kitchen. During the dinner, she peaked out to see if her son was okay. She was astonished – and very pleased – to see him sitting with a group of students from his confirmation class. They were all laughing and talking.

This was the first time she had ever seen him include himself with his peers. At every other event he had quickly eaten and then retreated to a corner with a book or a Gameboy. He had, partially through the practice he had during his Social Enjoyment groups, developed enough ease and confidence to join a spontaneous group. This is the kind of story that fuels my passion for this work.

John Merges is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, currently working in private practice with young people with ASD and their families. He is based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information about John’s work with people with ASD and their families, teachers, businesses and other professionals, visit

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.