What it’s really like to have Epilepsy, and what you can do to help

Kate Lambert is a drama teacher working with young people, many of whom have special needs. Her daughter Lille was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of five. Here, she talks about some of the misconceptions about epilepsy and how her new book, Can I tell you about Epilepsy?, will help parents, teachers and others properly deal with seizures and other issues associated with the condition.

Can you tell us a little bit about Ellie, and the other characters in your book?

Ellie is the main character in the book who invites us into her world and that of her friends who have epilepsy. Ellie and her friends represent some of the major forms of the condition. Ellie herself represents Absence Seizure epilepsy, common in children and often misdiagnosed or misunderstood. Ellie is based on my own daughter, Lille who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of five. Her seizures were often going unnoticed and her behaviour being labelled as other things rather than as a result of her seizures. I wanted to create a character who could simply explain the facts in black and white so that others can understand. Sometimes all that is needed for a child who has a condition is a little bit of understanding from the people around them. The other characters in the book, Ellie’s friends have different forms of epilepsy and therefore have different seizures such as tonic clonic and focal (partial) seizures.

What are the misconceptions about Epilepsy? How can this book help?

Often when people speak of epilepsy we conjur up images of full body jerky seizure known as tonic clonic seizures but this is just one form of Epilepsy. The book helps people understand the lesser known forms of the condition.

What are the top three tips you would give to teachers who have a child with Epilepsy in their class?

  1. I think it is very important for a teacher to acknowledge that a child may have ‘knock-on effect’ type symptoms as a cause of epilepsy or the medication that they are on and not just around the time a seizure is occurring, for example a child may be un-focused, have erratic behaviour or feel sleepy because of seizures earlier in the week. Appreciating this may help a child in your class tremendously.
  2. Many medications for Epilepsy can effect memory and if medicated a child in your class may have difficulty remembering data and information. Putting some simple techniques in place to help them with organisation and self management such as a checklist or allowing older children to make notes will help enormously. The seizures themselves can effect energy levels and focus too so un-medicated children may need extra help with organisation and self management too.
  3. It is easy to assume that with the more subtle forms of Epilepsy are more easy to ignore. Absence seizures can effect a child’s learning if they are under acknowledged. For example if a question is presented to verbally, for example what is 2 + 2+ 4=? I may hear what is 2+2 blank =? I may think that the answer is 4 instead of 8. If I get the answer wrong and have no understanding as to why, this could lead to confusion and lack of confidence surrounding the child’s learning. Visuals to support the questioning such as formula or number cards would help. It is not as easy for a child to miss things which will still be there when their seizure has ended.

What do you hope this book will teach people about how to act when someone is having a seizure?

A seizure can look very strange, dramatic or depending on the type of seizure may go un noticed to someone who has never seen one before. The book explains the signs of a seizure in its many different forms. Recognising these, will help people feel confident in how to deal with a seizure and know some basic first aid for tonic clonic seizures.

In what ways can this book be used?

The book can be used as a starting point for discussing epilepsy for parents and their children, older children and their friends or peers and teachers and their students. It may be helpful for parents to offer it to a teacher teaching their child for the first time or for professionals advising parents and other people who care for the child with epilepsy.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Distinguished Spectrumite Jennifer Cook O’Toole Accepts Her Award


JKP author Jennifer Cook O’Toole accepted her Distinguished Spectrumite Award at the GRASP Benefit in New York City on May 15. Here’s a clip of Jennifer’s humorous and inspiring impromptu speech from the event. We hope you will enjoy it as much as the audience did!

Top Tips for building supportive relationships with your ASD family and friends

By Ann Palmer, author of A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism.

This list of top tips* is primarily for the extended family members and friends who want to understand and help the family living with ASD. However, it is also for parents of children with ASD. Each tip includes suggestions for parents to help them build good supportive relationships with their family members and friends:

Listen: Control the urge to always try to make the parents feel better. Allow them the opportunity to complain sometimes. Be that “safe person” they can talk to.

Learn: Learn how to interact with your loved one with ASD. Find out what they like and dislike. Ask the parents what strategies are helpful in interacting with the child.

Empathize: Try to understand the day-to-day life of the family and the child. When you understand more about living with ASD, you will know what kinds of support the family needs.

Reach out: Understand that the need for support is long term and not just when the child is young.

Be flexible: Accept that some family traditions or routines may need to be adjusted to facilitate including the family living with ASD.

Forgive: When feelings are hurt, talk about it openly and honestly and don’t let too much time go by. Apologize or forgive. Your relationship is too important to lose.

For more advice on how you can help your ASD family and friends, read an interview with Ann Palmer or pick up her new guide, A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism.

*Adapted from chapter 7: Top Ten Tips for Family Members and Friends

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Josh Muggleton’s Top Tips for people on the Autism Spectrum – Tip #2: Adjusting to University

In this series of videos, Josh Muggleton gives his Top Tips on various subjects for people on the Autism Spectrum. This month, he offers some advice from his own personal experience about how to adjust to life at university.

Joshua Muggleton has Asperger Syndrome, and is currently studying Psychology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is also currently gaining work experience as a Trainee Assistant Psychologist. Since 2005, Joshua has been leading talks, lectures and workshops on Autism Spectrum Disorders and related issues. He has spoken to MPs in the House of Commons, and has appeared on the BBC, Channel 4, and CNN.

For more helpful advice from Josh, check out his video series of Top Tips for parents, teachers and professionals, and his new book, Raising Martians – from Crash-landing to Leaving Home.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Choosing the right teaching interventions for your child with autism

Joyce Show is a Harvard/MIT trained physician and mother of seven children, including a son with severe autism. Here, she explains some of the different teaching strategies discussed in her new book, Teaching Your Child with Love and Skill, and why it is so important to tailor an intervention to the individual child.

How has your scientific and medical background helped you find solutions to help your son?

When your child is diagnosed with autism, your first impulse is of course to find out everything you can about it. I’m really grateful for every bit of scientific training I received at Harvard and MIT, as it helped me navigate my way through the autism literature and adopt a systematic approach to evaluating, selecting, and experimenting with combinations of various interventional methods. I would have never guessed that all those rigorous years of scientific and medical training would be used not only to help others, but my son as well.

In your book you adapt and modify popular educational interventions such as Applied Behavior Analysis and Floortime. Why is it important for parents to tailor the inventions that they use to their child’s specific needs?

Your educational interventions are treating a child, not a disorder. Just as in medicine, it’s no use to cure the disease if you’ve lost the patient in the process; it would not make sense to apply an educational intervention purely and dogmatically if it wasn’t helping that individual child to make meaningful developmental progress. I love something I once heard Dr. Stanley Greenspan say when asked what to do to get a child to interact. “Whatever it takes” was the gist of his answer. It would make it simpler if one method was enough to get through to a child. However, each one of our children faces his/her own unique profile of challenges of varying degrees in various parts of the brain, and that requires not just depth but breadth of skill from the teacher. The key is good observation and attunement. Try to understand your child. Then you’ll know which tool or combination of tools, meaning teaching methods and accommodations, would work best on the particular goal you’re working on in your child’s present situation at any particular moment. Effective teaching is flexible and dynamic.

I would like to emphasize that this book is not only for the parents who are able to spend a lot of time directly teaching their children. It’s equally critical for busy parents who must delegate more of that teaching time to others to understand their children’s needs so that they can better evaluate, select between, and balance educational options.

Can you tell us a bit structured teaching vs. incidental teaching?

There is a plethora of methods used to teach children with autism (ABA, DIR, PRT, etc… sounds like quite an alphabet soup!), but they generally fall into one of two types. In structured teaching, the child follows what is usually a planned lesson. In incidental teaching, the parent looks for natural opportunities to teach around the child’s present interests. It’s helpful to learn both kinds, as structured teaching can provide the necessary repetition and step-by-step presentation that learning often requires, whereas incidental teaching capitalizes on the child’s high motivation to learn during natural teachable moments. Different methods tend to work better on different areas of the brain, but they all rely upon principles common to all good teaching such as attuning to the child’s needs, interests, and abilities, eliciting frequent feedback from the child to make the learning process an active conversation, both working on and accommodating the child’s relative weaknesses while building upon his/her strengths, and providing the positive enthusiasm that makes interaction and relationships fun. I embrace a holistic educational strategy, using a full range of teaching tools and methods in a complementary way to enable each individual child to access learning, and working on the whole child, to remediate or accommodate each and every area of need. Children at all levels of ability from severe to high functioning (including ‘neurotypical’) learn best from such an approach.

What do you hope parents and other caregivers will take away from your book?

This is one of the few books available that comprehensively attempts to address the educational needs of children with moderate to severe autism. If you are a parent of one of these children, I want to encourage you not to give up. It may take a lot more repetition and patience, but if you support each area of challenge while carefully building up one area of the brain at a time as described in the book, you will eventually get all the parts to work together, and enable your child to express his personality and develop to his full potential. I hope parents of high functioning children will also read this book. The temptation when you have such a child is to lean too heavily upon the child’s strengths and fail to develop and remediate critical areas of weakness. Systematically working through all the parts of the brain through each developmental level as described will help your child lay a stronger and more complete foundation for further development. My hope is that both parents of high and low functioning children will find this to be their book of the missing steps.

What does it offer for teachers and therapists?

Resources are scarce all around. Not only for direct intervention for our children, but also for training the interventionists. Training is often given in only one teaching method, or in one area. Teachers and therapists who read this book will feel more secure in their ability to serve the whole child, and have an understanding of how to address his/her needs more comprehensively. I have a number of friends who are teachers who have enthusiastically endorsed the individualized, multimodal approach described in the book.

Each chapter in the book can be read as a stand alone as it is extensively cross referenced. Therefore, the teacher who has the child for just one class, but might be looking for ideas on how to handle stimming or wandering, can turn right to the chapter on challenging behaviors. The babysitter who has to get the child through his bedtime routine can turn directly to the chapter on self-help skills. If a grandparent, aunt, or uncle just wants to know how to get the child to play with him or her, the chapter on getting your child to engage would be helpful. This book is for everyone –  parents, teachers, therapists, and friends – who wants to interact effectively and make a difference in the life of child – particulary for a child with autism, but parents can apply the same developmental concepts and principles of good teaching to their neurotypical children.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Gail Watts share some photos from ‘Kevin Thinks’ book launch in Australia

Thanks to JKP author Gail Watts who sent in these fabulous photos from the Australian book launch of Kevin Thinks this week!

From Gail: “The group of women you see are mostly ASD mums, the ladies responsible for nagging me to submit the book in the first place. There is a picture of my parents and also a picture of me looking very much like the ‘Nigella’ of picture books. Enjoy!”

Gail Watts signing books with the help of a brilliant 'Kevin' toy.

Gail and her group of ASD mums.

Gail 'Nigella' Watts.

Gail's parents at the book launch wearing snazzy 'Kevin' hats!

Reflections on Body Image in Art Therapy by Margaret Hunter is featured …

JKP Author Margaret R. Hunter… in an article in the Modesto Bee (Modesto, California), today. Here’s a quote from the article:

“It’s hard to find a woman who has a really good sense of herself and her body and the many parts of herself,” said Hunter. “The culture wants us to believe most of our definition comes from how we look on the outside.” Hunter said the exercises in her book help women go beneath the skin and look at themselves as a whole person.

Read more at the Modesto Bee website.

Margaret R. Hunter is an Art Therapist, as well as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She provides psychological counseling services at California State University, working extensively with body image concerns among the student population. Click this link to find out more about her new book, Reflections on Body Image in Art Therapy.

How can you help? A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism

Even the best-intentioned friends and relatives can sometimes get it wrong when communicating and interacting with individuals on the autism spectrum and their parents or siblings.

In this interview for her new book, A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism, Ann Palmer explains some of the most common errors made by friends and family, and shares her top piece of advice for building and maintaing supporting relationships.

How did this book come about – why is the topic of your new book such an important one?

When I first found out about my son’s autism twenty-six years ago, I started attending a Mother’s Support Group in my area. We would have monthly meetings and there would be a topic for each meeting that we would discuss. A recurring, and very popular, topic over the years was the extended family. At the first meeting I attended about the extended family, I was shocked at how many of the mothers at the meeting had very difficult relationships with their extended family members. They told sad stories of the lack of support they received and how their family members often made their lives more difficult rather than helping. I was often the only mother there who had positive stories of supportive family members.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of families and I continue to hear stories of strained relationships so I know this is a very important issue. I believe that there are many misunderstandings that often get in the way of developing these supportive relationships: not understanding what the parents are going through when their child is diagnosed, not understanding what is helpful to say or do and what is NOT helpful, and not understanding that the extended family members and friends are also going through a grieving and adjustment process and may need support too.

What is the most common error made by well-meaning friends and relatives when trying to offer their help?

I think family members and friends are so worried about trying to make the parents feel better when they hear the news about the diagnosis, that they can say things that are not helpful such as, “I’m sure it’s not autism” or “He just needs discipline”, which doesn’t help and only makes the parents feel worse. Family members and friends need to educate themselves about autism and about the child’s autism. Parents can help with this and educating the family members and friends will help them understand the RIGHT things to say and do to help.

If you could give one tip to friends and relatives of families with autism, what would it be?

I would tell friends and relatives to be good listeners and to try to get involved in the life of the child with ASD and his or her family. Parents need to have someone to talk to that won’t judge or always try to “fix” the problem. And the family member or friend can’t truly understand what the parents are going through or how to help if they don’t get involved and get to know the child.

What is the key message you would like readers to take away from the book?

Getting support from family members and friends is crucial to the parents raising a child with autism. There definitely are things the family members and friends can do to be more supportive but there are also things parents of the child with ASD can do to help build these supportive relationships. It is a two-way street and all parties need to realize that everyone needs understanding and support.

More from Ann about her work with families:

My background was in Sociology and I worked with kids with behavior problems in the local school system before I stopped working to have my first child. When my son was diagnosed with autism at Division TEACCH, I became very involved in attending therapy sessions and support groups there. I started volunteering to help develop a mentoring program at TEACCH that was connecting parents of newly diagnosed children coming through the Center with experienced veteran parents. The mentors knew what the newly diagnosed parents were going through and could offer emotional support as well as information about resources in the community. After developing this program and running it as a volunteer, I was offered the job of Parent Support Coordinator and developed the mentor program at several TEACCH Centers. That started my work in the autism field and I was at TEACCH for 14 years. I then worked at the Autism Society of North Carolina to direct their extensive Chapter program with close to 50 Chapters across the state. I love working with families of individuals with ASD and my work always felt like something I would want to do even if I hadn’t been getting paid!

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

“Itching to Laugh”: Jennifer Cook O’Toole recounts her wonderful evening at the GRASP awards gala in NYC (poison ivy and all)

Jennifer Cook O'Toole wearing her GRASP 'Distinguished Spectrumite Medal'!

By Jennifer Cook O’Toole, author of the book, AsperKids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome. Visit Jennifer’s website at: asperkids.com

You’ve probably heard the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That always seemed a bit flippant to me. Like someone at Hallmark needed a cute little “chin up” message, and this is what they came up with. But when real life gets really messy, no one appreciates patronizing sentiment. Optimism, yes. But realistic optimism. Maybe life hands you melons instead, and it turns out you’re dyslexic. Or maybe, you really ought to squeeze that lemon into some Corona, laugh in spite of it all, and take a siesta.

This week, I got seriously (and unexpectedly) squirted with lemons.

A few months ago, I learned that I was to receive the coveted Distinguished Spectrumite Medal (DSM) from the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), the world’s largest Asperger’s support and educational organization. In the company of giants in the worlds of psychology, advocacy, policy-making and social networking, I was to be recognized not (only) for my writing or speaking or consulting — but (tear-jerker) for being a shining example of extraordinary parenting. Of how being a diagnosed Aspie has — far from inhibiting emotional or social growth — enriched a marriage, lifted self-awareness and informed the power and perspective with which I raise my own three Asperkids. It was a very public declaration by Michael John Carley and the entire GRASP Board that the diagnosis is far beyond valid — it is valued.

AND it got better from there. The event was to be held at a gala in New York City (read: trip and getting gussied up — two things that NEVER happen to me anymore!) on the very SAME NIGHT that my first book, Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome would be released! AND the cosmic fabulosity got even more fabulous! The world-famous JKP author, Dr. Liane Holliday Willey (who wrote the forward to my book and has recently offered to be my mentor in this journey – riddling me with insanely amazing compliments and faith), was going to be receiving the SAME AWARD!

Time for a perspective break, I thought, to keep centered and focused in the middle of such hope and energy. So, last week, I took a few moments amidst the choas of preparing and packing for three Asperkids, an Asperhubbie and my Asperself and escaped to my garden. A little bit of pruning, a little bit of digging and sunshine, and the earth seemed to be literally grounding me in its firm grasp. Only it did a little too good a job. Somehow, I managed to get a bit of poson ivy – which quickly developed into a lot of poison ivy, and then into an additional allergic reaction to the adhesive bandages I’d used. My peace and calm was fast dissipating into two Emergency Room visits for steroid shots and lotions and a whole lot of itchy discomfort.

But the day to leave arrived anyway, and off we flew – yours truly trying to keep things in check with antihistimines and creams…by the day before the event, my sensitive redhead’s skin had apparently decided it was time to officially FREAK OUT. The reaction went systemic, riddling me with 400 patches of raw poison ivy rash plus a chemical burn all over my torso from the lotions I’d been told to use. Only one hour before “time to get gussied,” I was in another ER being told there was nothing more they could do – it was just a matter of time until the steroids finally kicked in.

And here was the “life would like to present you with said crate of lemons” moment. For about 10 minutes, I cried. Hard. And I don’t cry. I was mad and sad and just plum ticked off at the unfairness. One chance to get dressed up. To meet Liane. To meet everyone at GRASP. And instead of enjoying the accolade, I was an itchy, burning mess. Couldn’t anything just go easily, ever? This wasn’t fair.

While I wallowed, my Aspergirl suddenly came up to me and placed her small hand on my (unmussed) foot. “Mommy,” she said. “May I come with you tonight?” She’d been uninterested before, and I don’t know what changed for her exactly, but that changed it all for me. Thea-tah. Costumes. Make-up. I was back in the days of my life when the show must go on, and it must be the authentic and in-the-moment and matter.

So on went the eyeliner and heels. I styled her hair and straightened my husband’s tie. And, although the 45 minute trip to the event took over two hours and I missed an interview while sitting in the Lincoln Tunnel under miles of river water…we made it. And never in one room have I ever felt the “yes” of why we all were doing the work we do.

There were young Aspies asking about their own book ideas, adults apologizing profusely if they “accidentally touched you inappropriately” (a wrist tap!) or interrupted your thought. They were using scripts a bit awkwardly, but they used them – and were lovely people. There were world-reknowned psychiatrists whose work will determine the evolution of the term “Aspergers,” and a dad-runner who’d trekked the entire Chilean desert to raise money for GRASP and kids like his own. There was the beautiful, brilliant Liane Holliday Willey (in the flesh!) with her gorgeous daughter (my little girl was totally in love with her nail polish)…and in the middle of it all, there was me.

And so when it was my turn to receive my medal, I brought my little Asperkid up to the podium with me. I hadn’t known I was going to be asked to speak, but the words came easily (as they are wont to do). Life does hand us lemons. Certainly, for those of who are and who love Aspies, we get more than our fair share of pucker power. And we should be allowed, for a few minutes now and again, to cry or pout or say, “No fair!” But then the show MUST go on. Life must go on. Some days, it’s more performance than others – but always, always, we can choose to laugh. And I did. I told my itchy story of misery, of stomping my foot in my own little temper tantrum a few hours earlier, and of choosing, instead, to do what Aspies do everyday. To be uncomfortable, to laugh at the “are you kidding me?” moments, and to never, ever miss the chance to look around us and be totally inspired by the lives we get to share.

“Don’t ever forget,” I implored them, rubbing my little girl’s head, and seeing the amazing honorees around me, “that the different perspective we bring to the world is a gift – just like these Asperkids themselves.” And I looked down into my daughter’s big eyes. This medal was for me, yes (and the ribbon was scratching my poison ivy like crazy!), but seeing the pride and inclusion and inspiration in her little eyes, I couldn’t help but imagine her future. And I couldn’t help but laugh.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Vanessa Rogers’ Top Tips for talking to young people about drugs and alcohol

By Vanessa Rogers, youth worker and author of the new set of books for those helping young people make informed decisions about alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Being a young person can be difficult. Fact. There are so many choices to make, as well as lots of physical, intellectual, emotional, and social concerns to deal with, from friendships (and more intimate relationships) to decisions about education, training or work.

Some of the biggest dilemmas can be about whether to smoke, drink alcohol or try drugs, with different messages being received from school, friends, parents, community and the media. So social education, that includes drug and alcohol awareness, is really important in enabling young people to gain the knowledge and skills they need to make informed choices.

Have a look at my Top 12 Tips for talking to young people about drugs and alcohol. They are not exhaustive, but hopefully will help you to provide sessions that are engaging and educational, as well as thought provoking and fun:

  1. Be prepared and informed. Even the most knowledgeable drug support workers is likely to admit that no one can know it all. Drugs change, the way people use them change – even the names change; but don’t think that because you are not a drugs expert you cannot offer useful support, or facilitate successful drug awareness sessions with young people. Make sure that your drugs knowledge is as up-to-date as possible and know where to find good quality information to fill the gaps.
  2. Don’t make assumptions. Lots of teenagers pretend to be far more knowledgeable or experienced on the subject of drugs than they actually are. Accept that if the young people you are working with are using a particular drug they will probably know far more than you do about the effects – but that doesn’t mean that they understand the health risks, or know the legal status. Start any work by exploring the young people’s values and attitudes to both legal and illegal substances, and assess knowledge before targeting with specific topics.
    Use this ‘Drug Chair Swap’ activity to assess knowledge in a fun way! »
  3. Avoid using scare tactics. They are unlikely to work and are more likely to put young people off engaging. Seeing pictures of drug-ravaged adults or telling horrific stories may have an instant impact, but they can also lead to thoughts including: ‘They are old, so it doesn’t matter’, ‘I don’t use that drug so it isn’t relevant’ and the old favourite, ‘It won’t happen to me!’ Also resist the temptation to make sweeping statements – for example, ‘If you smoke you will get lung cancer’ – because most young people will know this is simply not true, or can cite relatives who have lived to a hundred smoking 60 a day! It is much better to qualify what you say (e.g. ‘Smoking really increases the risks of developing lung cancer’), and then support them to look at other health risks associated with smoking, including those that can affect younger people, so that you are encouraging them to learn, not arguing a point.
  4. You cannot stop young people taking drugs – but you can help make sure that they have the information, skills and confidence to make healthy choices for themselves. When planning drug awareness work, include looking at the social consequences; for example, the increased risk of aggressive behaviour due to false confidence after using amphetamines, or having unprotected sex whilst drunk, as well as the legal and health implications. Plan activities that increase self-esteem, discuss personal boundaries and develop young people’s confidence to say what they really want, rather than bowing to peer pressure.
  5. Listen – to young people’s opinions and concerns. Create opportunities for them to discuss how they feel about a wide range of drug related issues, including the legal status of drugs, penalties for misuse and health debates. Explore issues such as drugs in sports and the impact of media and celebrity culture on drinking and smoking. Magazines, newspapers and TV are always rich sources of discussion topics to spark debate.
  6. Remain non-judgmental. You may have strong feelings about drugs and alcohol, but before you share your personal opinion consider how useful that is to someone else. It is far more beneficial to explore values and opinions, differing points of view (whether you support them or not) and offer correct information, than it is to take the stance that ‘all drugs are bad’, or ‘I can stop people taking drugs by telling them about my experiences.’ After all, if a young person feels judged they are far less likely to open up and far more likely to be defensive.
  7. Accept that people make mistakes. Whilst youth workers can support young people if they make bad choices, they cannot stop them making them. It is important that young people understand that mistakes do not make you a ‘bad person’, and ensure that young people know that if they do make mistakes, or feel worried about the behaviour of others, there are support services that can help.
  8. Only give out correct information. If you don’t know something, say so and offer to find out! It is far better than telling a young person something that they later find out is incorrect. One duff answer can make everything else you say written off as wrong too. On a practical note, make sure that all leaflets and posters are up-to-date and that you get your facts from reputable sources.
  9. Set clear boundaries. When talking about drugs with young people, remind them of your professional boundaries and the fact that some things cannot be kept secret. Ensure that your organisation has a clear drugs policy that all staff are familiar with, which includes sanctions and rights of appeal.
  10. Consider cultural differences – both within the staff group and young people. Take these differences into account when planning your curriculum to make sure that what you offer is appropriate. Also consider whether parents should be involved or notified of what is planned. If you are not sure about something – ask.
  11. Consider gender differences. Young men and women often have different reasons for their decisions about whether to experiment with smoking, alcohol or drugs. Certainly research would suggest that young women choose to drink different drinks, e.g. vodka, whilst young men prefer drinking lager or strong cider.
  12. Evaluate and review. Make sure that feedback from young people offers you more than, ‘I had a good time’. Whilst we want young people to enjoy their time with youth workers, it is also important that they learn, too. Try and build in fun ways to evaluate and gain feedback on the three key skills area – knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.