What it means to be a transitions social worker

Jill Hughes and Natalie Lackenby are part of a Young Adults Team in Worcestershire that has a dedicated focus on supporting young people with disabilities through the transition to adulthood. As the authors of Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities, Jill and Natalie briefly describe their experiences as transition social workers from their unique point of view.



Transitions Social Work

We are part of a Young Adults Team in Worcestershire that has a dedicated focus on supporting young people with disabilities through the transition to adulthood. We are fortunate to work as a team that has a co-ordinated approach to transition, but recognise that not all workers are so fortunate and some have to navigate these complex issues alone. Having been in this position previously, we know how lonely and bewildering transition can be and we looked for a comprehensive text that would support our practice in this area without success!

Transitions has traditionally been a service area which has been overlooked and under-resourced, and often seen as an add-on to the work of adult teams.  However, in these times of financial austerity there is a growing realisation that resourcing these complex pieces of work in a timely and efficient manner is actually cost effective.

The implementation of the Care Act 2014 has placed a framework of duties on Local Authorities for social work with young people in transition. This has brought the whole area of transitions into focus with clear roles and responsibilities.

In Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities we included practical case studies so as to highlight some of the challenges faced by workers, and offer suggestions of how to overcome such challenges. The importance of empowering young people to be more informed about the transitions process is essential, but equally we need to ensure that practitioners are equipped with the knowledge to successfully support young people to navigate the transition process and make their own decisions about their future.

Natalie’s Background

Social work is generally considered to be a tough job and as a newly qualified social worker in a learning disabilities team I felt ready for the challenge ahead. When I applied for the job, I remember thinking what a vital role this was and I was sure that there would be a wealth of information and resources to draw on. I was fortunate to be in a supportive and friendly team when I started my career almost 12 years ago, but what I soon found to be the most challenging part of my job surprised me somewhat.

I was different; I was the transition social worker. Unlike the other social workers in the team, my role focused on supporting young people from 14+ to think about adulthood and support them through a transition from children’s to adult services. It became evident that the issues faced by the young people I worked with differed from those faced by clients other team members worked with. Similarly, the challenges faced by my colleagues in their roles, were significantly different to the challenges I experienced in mine. I looked for guidance and found lots of information aimed at parents and carers but limited practical information for professionals about navigating the transition process.

I often found myself as a lone voice in a large school review trying to explain a number of systems, processes and policies to anxious parents and young people. In fact it was pretty lonely as a transitions worker.

My colleagues remained supportive, offering and advice and information where they could, however, I always felt that my role was unique, combining traditional social work, with a strategic approach that identified a need for future service provision. In 2012, the council recognised the need to have a strategic approach to transition and developed a county wide transition team to which I was transferred, the Young Adults Team.

Jill’s Background

I moved to the Young Adults Team in 2012, as it was being set up.  My background was primarily older people, but I had also worked with younger people with a physical disability. Prior to social work training I had also worked as an advocate and support worker to adults and children with a learning disability.

I was very apprehensive initially about a move into team where I was unfamiliar with the specific work, in an area that is often complex, with the added complication of it being a brand new team.  When looking for textbooks or practice guidance to support me with the move, I was surprised that there was nothing available to guide practitioners, and this left me further in the dark about what transitions actually meant, both to the workers and the young people experiencing it.

As a newly set up team, we all grappled with the challenge of transitions, but luckily we were in the position of learning from each other, and sharing experiences both positive and negative.

Jill Hughes is an Advanced Social Work Professional in the Young Adults Team in Worcestershire, UK, which manages transitions for young people with disabilities and complex health needs between Children’s Services and Adult Services. She has led on Practice Development Groups, facilitated reflective and interactive supervision in both one-to-one and group sessions, and she has a particular interest in personalisation and person-centred planning. Jill also provides sessional lectures to students completing access courses, BA and MA studies at the University of Worcester and Heart of Worcestershire College.

Natalie Lackenby is a social worker in the Young Adults Team in Worcestershire, supporting young people with physical and learning disabilities through the transition to adulthood. Natalie has worked as a Transitions Social worker since 2003, and prior to joining the Young Adults Team, she worked as part of the community learning disability team. Natalie has a BA in vulnerable adults and community care, and she has given lectures around learning disability, legislation and policy and the transitions process to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Worcester and Heart of Worcestershire College.

To learn more about Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities click here.

Everyday Transition Techniques


In this post Paddy-Joe, the inspiration for  Create a Reward Plan for Your Child with Asperger Syndrome and Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions through Everyday Transitions explains the secret to successful transitions.

My name is Paddy-Joe. I was diagnosed with autism ten years ago when I was eight. Up until that point things had been pretty bad at home, but like a lot of families, after I was diagnosed and we knew precisely what it was we were dealing with, we were able to start addressing the problems we were having. I guess I really wrote this blog for two reasons: one, because obviously, I am not going to lie, I wanted to make more people aware of our book, but also because I genuinely believe that the techniques that we have devised can be a vast help to other families during stressful everyday transitions. Really, I just want to help people out who might be going through the same things we were.

We are pretty lucky in that we are a fairly creative family, so when I was around nine we came up with a few unique techniques of our own that really helped with my behavior and social skills. A couple of years after that we decided that as these techniques had been so useful for us, it was only fair to try to use them to help other families who may have been struggling with the same problems we were. We wrote and published the book Create a Reward Plan for Your Child with Asperger Syndrome under pseudonyms, but even though we had published a book explaining how to help other people, things were far from perfect with us. I don’t really think I need to explain to anyone who has any knowledge of autism just how difficult transitions can be – and I am not even talking about the big ones such as changing schools or moving house. I mean those small, everyday things – week days to weekends, preparing for Christmas or going on holiday – all of those can be extremely stressful for autistic people and their families, and they certainly were for us. Whenever there was a transition such as this I would always get stressed and quite often have outbursts. Obviously, this would affect my parents and have a negative impact on whatever it was we were trying to do. Over a period of time we realised that the best way of dealing with this was in the same way we had dealt with other problems in the past – we set about trying to create a series of techniques to help ease the transitions and changes that went on in everyday life.

One of the techniques we used went as follows: when we knew a change was going to come we would write up a rough plan of how the week went normally; the things we did and what times we did them, for the whole seven days, and draw little pictures to go with this. Then we would draw up a second calendar which looked at the time during the change, so it said what was changing and when, and what the new routine would be. When the transition period was coming to an end and things were changing back to how they’d been before we would draw the first one again to show what things would go back to. We would talk about what we were looking forward to in the change and what might make us nervous. We would also talk about why we may be looking forward to when this transition would be over, but also what good might come out of it in the end.

Techniques such as this were a real help. We noticed changes fast and things became a lot less stressful. As with the first set of techniques we developed we decided it was a good idea to try to write a book advising people on these techniques, to try to help them and give them the benefit of our experience. Because all of the techniques were my Mum’s idea she wrote the vast majority of the information on them. What I added was my first-hand experience as somebody with autism, of how these techniques worked. I was able to talk about how they had changed my behaviour and made me a lot less stressed and anxious when dealing with the changes and transitions that everyday life throws up.

One example of this would have to be having someone come in and do work in the house.  Obviously this doesn’t happen particularly often, but it can still be a pretty difficult change for somebody with autism. The whole routine of the day is obviously disrupted  but it is something that is necessary and something you have to live with.  But learning to live with something is easier said than done. The transition techniques we employed were very helpful at these times.The main techniques we used was the drawing example given above; if we knew someone was coming to do work in the house we sat down and wrote up a list of our daily activities and drew little pictures of these activities. We then talked about what would change while the workmen were in and crossed out anything that we would not be doing during this time. Then we would get a separate sheet of paper and draw pictures of what would be happening. You don’t need any particular skill at drawing to do this and you can write the whole thing on two pieces of paper. It is mostly based around talking about what is happening and what will be happening, but the pictures serve as a visual reinforcement. Also, the drawings might be a very useful way of communicating with children who have difficulties with verbal communication as well as younger children.  From my own personal experience I found these techniques to be very useful. They helped to calm me down and to get ready for changes. Really, I think that it was these techniques that made me able to deal with change and transitions in the way that I am now. It is not to say that things were always easy or that I never got stressed out or had a sensory overload during a transition, but the techniques helped me a great deal even if they didn’t change the way I felt or thought overnight.

Jane McDowell and Paddy-Joe are authors of Create a Reward Plan for Your Child with Asperger Syndrome and Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions through Everyday Transitions both published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. They run their own free help and advice service, ASK-PERGERS? Find them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl or read their Blog: http://askpergers.blog.com/


What to look forward to in 2014?

Suzie-BookLaunch_Nov13_132739It’s January, for some of us this is a time of hibernation – preserving energy and warmth after a busy Christmas. For Suzie Franklin and Helen Sanderson it is a time for reflection on all the good things about 2013 and to look forward to what lies ahead in 2014.

We asked Suzie what was the best thing about 2013? “Lots of great things happened last year but the thing that I am most proud of are the achievements of my daughter Jennie, the success of her Circle of Support and the launch of our book which captures this journey.”

Suzie co-wrote the book Personalisation in Practice with Helen Sanderson and they launched it at a Community Circles event in November last year. Jennie officially launched the book by cutting the cake and to her delight receiving a rapturous round of applause from on-lookers.

cakeJennie’s story of transition from school to living independently describes how person-centred practices, a personal budget and a Circle of Support have enabled her to live the life she chooses. Jennie is a bright, independent young woman who has autism and learning disabilities.

Suzie explains why they chose to launch the book at an event for Circles of Support: “Jennie’s Circle of support is made up of a small group of people that care about Jennie; her health, happiness and wellbeing. We meet about every two months and discuss the areas of Jennie’s life that need support. We use our collective knowledge and networks to ensure that we have the very best information and that Jennie has access to whatever support she needs. Since forming, Jennie’s Circle has supported her through leaving college, getting her own personal budget and cutting the cake helen and suziemoving into her own – rather lovely – flat. I have no doubt that Jennie has achieved everything she has achieved because of the powerful way that her Circle works, the way it supports her and our whole family. Helen is also in Jennie’s Circle and I describe this in detail in our book so it made absolute sense to launch it at this event.”

Helen Sanderson is CEO of Helen Sanderson Associates and co-founder of Community Circles, a small and passionate group of people using person-centred practices to develop Circles of Support at scale so that more people can benefit. We asked Helen who should read the book Personalisation in Practice? “We wrote it for anyone supporting children and young people with disabilities as they approach adulthood, including parents and carers, SENCOs, teachers, social workers and service providers. As well as describing Jennie and Suzie’s personal journey, which I’m sure many will relate to, it is a great informative resource for those seeking a better understanding of how personalisation and person-centred planning work in practice.”

suzie jennie and helen at book launchSo that’s what was great about 2013, we ask Suzie what the future holds in the year ahead? “More of the same I hope! Jennie is going from strength to strength and this year her Circle is supporting her to ensure she is truly connecting with her friends and community, continuing with her job (dog walking which she loves) and looking at setting up a social enterprise so she can make and sell some of her artwork and home made gifts and cards. My own personal ambition is to show what can be achieved through Circles and to support other families through things like personal budgets and transition by sharing with them what we have learnt in our book. I hope that people find the book to be a useful resource but also that they get comfort from it, that they are not alone in this journey. Having the sole responsibility of supporting your child, who has autism and/or learning disabilities can feel very lonely and there is often a fear associated with what the future could hold. It doesn’t have to be this way though – and that is my hope for 2014 – that more people feel as positively about the future for their children as I do.”

Suzie Franklin and Helen Sanderson are the authors of Personalisation in Practice published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.




Transition Talk – Josh Muggleton answers your questions.

Muggleton, Joshua 1During World Autism Awareness Month we invited members of our Facebook page to ask JKP authors a question of their choice and we were overwhelmed by the high level of response. In this second instalment of answers, Joshua Muggleton responds to questions on how best to prepare for starting university, leaving home and progressing into adulthood.

Many of our questions look to ask advice on how best to prepare young adults for life after school and the move to university. Just like moving from primary to secondary school this can be a daunting time. Do you have any reflections from your move to secondary school to university? Did you feel fully prepared beforehand, if so what kind of things helped you to feel confident about the move?

Moving to university can seem a lot more daunting than moving to secondary school – there is a lot more unstructured time, you have to look after yourself, and that’s before we even get to the academic work. That said, a lot of people with AS who hated school love their time at university – including me!

There were three things that really helped me move to university. The first was my college. I went to a specialist college for people with AS, and they helped me prepare and get my Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) assessment done, improved my confidence with public transport and budgeting, and even took me to see the university (no mean feat, given that St Andrews is in the middle of nowhere, and doesn’t even have a train station!). In short, for my last year (if not earlier) they were starting to prepare me to move on to university.

The second thing was the Student Support team at my university, in particular, my advisor, Malcolm. He got my DSA assessment, which gave him an idea of my support needs, but he also took the time to contact me, get to know me, and ask me what he could do to help. This covered everything from exam concessions, and booking tutorial times in advance, to helping with accommodation. I remember once, I was worried that I would not be able to get Melatonin, which I have been prescribed to help me get to sleep. I mentioned this to him, and he asked if he could call me back in 10 minutes. 10 minutes later, he told me he had been down to the chemist, and they told him they would stock it for me. It is this individual approach that really made the difference.

However, the one bit of support I could not have done without is Academic parents. This is a student lead tradition in St Andrews, dating back to the middle ages, when students would come as young teenagers, and still need a parental figure. Then older students adopted incoming students into families. In modern times, third and forth year students adopt incoming freshers in the same way. I was lucky enough to have a family friend, whose daughter was about to enter her final year at St Andrews, and who also had a son with Aspergers Syndrome. Her daughter, Hatty, got in touch with me, and offered to be my academic mum. She was there to meet me on the day I moved into halls, helped me get through the freshers week schedule, introduced me to societies, and Phil, who would later become my academic dad, and generally met up with me every now and then to check in on me. The support of both my academic parents was by far the most useful. I am still in touch with them both, as well as my own eight academic kids.

I was filmed by channel 4 for the run up to university, and my first year. You can still see clips of this at www.yeardot.co.uk.

Part of going to university usually means moving away from home. Glyn Charlesworth asks “hi josh how did moving away from home go for you? Did you need or get any support? My 25 year old is thinking of moving out. Is there anything I can do to help him through this?”  How did you find living independently? What do you feel could help our followers get a better understanding of what its like to make those first steps to independence and how best to support those ready to make the move?

 Hi Glyn

I suppose I moved away from home in two phases. The second, moving to university, I have just covered. However, the first phrase was when I moved to a specialist residential college for people with Aspergers Syndrome, where I lived Monday to Friday. This was a really tough time for me (partly because for the first year, I had to share a room), and my dad told me after my first year that he had kept a full tank of petrol in the car, as he thought I might get a call saying I couldn’t take it any more and I had to come home. However, I wanted to do it, as I know it was the only option for me to start to do what I wanted to do.

The fact your son is thinking of moving out is great – half the battle has already been won. The next bit is using that motivation to make it happen. I would start doing work on budgeting, cooking (including healthy eating), laundry skills, food shopping, how to pay bills etc. This can all be done while at home before he moves out, and starts to allow him to learn how do these things while in an environment where he can make mistakes with minimal consequences. When he is confident and able to do these things without prompting, then you can look at moving out.

Moving in might be quite quick, if he has learned all the life skills earlier. However, it is still a new environment to get used to, so it could take a while for him to feel comfortable there. This might mean he is only there one night a week, then two, then three. Equally, he may have problems applying the life skills you have taught him in a new environment, so you might have to go over and help him for a while.

In both myself, and my brother (who has more severe autism, and just moved into supported living), moving out has given us a lot more confidence given us more space where we can feel safe (once we feel safe there), so it is definitely worth doing if you can!

And our final question is from Shelly Hester “Hello Joshua. My daughter is 12 years old and I just want to prepare her for all that is ahead. What is the most important thing your parents did for you to help you feel confident making your own way in life?”

 Hi Shelly

Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I suppose the most important thing my parents did to give me confidence changed over time, and as I developed. Two things do really stick out in my mind though.

The first is that exams are just a piece of paper. Yes, they can be useful, but they are not worth living and dying over. Schools really seem to drum into kids the importance of exams, and how they are vital to the rest of their life, and frankly, scare children into studying, which is just wrong. My parents reassuring me that exams weren’t everything helped take the pressure off, and, when it came to A levels, helped me enjoy studying again.

The second bit, which is perhaps more relevant post GCSEs, was they told me to do what I wanted to do. I think this is best summed up in a video someone showed me on youtube, its well worth a watch (http://tinyurl.com/joshjkp). After the pressure of exams, comes the pressure of money – you have to get a well paying job, even if you don’t like doing it, which is just stupid. My parents gave me the confidence to follow a path to do what I want to do.

There is a bit in the video where the narrator says the only way to become a master of something is to love it, and I think this is particularly true for people with Autism. We have our passions, things we love to do, and when these are tapped, we can become masters of it, and sought after. Often the most successful people with Autism aren’t those who learn to fit into a job they don’t really like. They are those with a well developed skill that means people seek them out, and don’t mind their executrices because their skill is so finely honed, rare, or sought after, that they are willing to adapt to fit the person with autism. My advice, therefore, is to find that passion, that thing your daughter really enjoys. It may take years to find, and it might change once or twice, but once she’s found it, chase it, and find a way to make it a job. If she can take that passion and really become a master of it, then people will come to her for it.

Joshua Muggleton is the author of Raising Martians from Crash Landing to Leaving Home (2011) published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Preparation for Independence—Is Your Student Ready for a New School Year?

Christy Oslund, Co-ordinator of Student Disability Services in the Dean of the Students’ Office at Michigan Technological University, shares helpful tips for parents on preparing students for a new school year and future independence.

Preparation for Independence

As students gear up for another year of school—perhaps even their last year or two before heading off to college or other independent goals—families tend to get caught up in last minute preparations. Do they have adequate school supplies, is it time to buy a scientific calculator, what will the schedule look like for classes and for after school activities? It is easy to get buried in details.

We need to remind ourselves to step back and remember the big picture. We need to help our students be prepared not just for the immediate school term but for the future when they will be required to live more independently. Consider the following questions:

  • Is my child able to take their medication reliably without reminders?
  • Does my child know how to wash their own laundry?
  • Could my child go shopping alone and find their own basic necessities?
  • Have we practiced the child getting up and ready for school without assistance/wake-up calls?
  • Has my child learned to shop for and cook a few simple meals?
  • Can my child wash up after preparing a meal?

Until a person has had the opportunity to practice all these steps towards independence, he or she is not really ready for life away from home, whether that be in a trade school, college, university, or first job. Particularly with high functioning children who are very smart, we can easily forget how important these other day to day life skills are for the young person to grow into a successful adult. Rather than trying to take on teaching all of these skills at once, consider working on them one at a time. It will depend on your child which of these steps will come easiest and which will require the most work.

Consider starting with the step that is likely to be the least difficult for the individual child you are working with, so that your student can build on success as they approach the next goal. If for example, your child is naturally starting to get up in the morning for school, allow that to become an independent activity where he or she is responsible for getting out of the home on time. Realize that this may mean that your child will be late a few times; this is the price that has to be paid in helping your student work towards independence. Once your child leaves home, there will not be anyone getting them out the door on time and this is a skill that is best learned before they are expected to act like an adult.

On the other hand, if your child has shown an interest in cooking, help them identify a few simple meals they would like to cook. Take them shopping and walk them through the process of choosing ingredients for the meal, paying, taking home the shopping, and preparation. For young people who find that process very involved, you may want to make clean up after the meal a separate lesson and learning opportunity.

Remember that almost everyone finds the most effective way to learn is to be given a chance for practice, with necessary explanation/information being provided by someone who has more experience with the skill being learned. If one wants to learn to milk a cow, one would look for a dairy farmer who has experience with milking; if one wants to learn to cook a meal, it helps if the person teaching has cooked before.

At the same time, parents and guardians can show the willingness to learn new skills themselves. If no one in the home is practiced at cooking a meal then helping the child prepare by learning this skill together—perhaps in a basic cooking class, or from a beginners cook book—demonstrates that learning new skills is always possible, and often necessary, no matter what stage we are at in life. By learning side by side with your child, you can demonstrate how to solve problems along the way:

  • How will we prepare for shopping?
  • How do we choose ingredients?
  • How do we decide which pan to use?
  • How can we tell if the heat we are using is too hot or not hot enough?

When more mature family members demonstrate how to solve problems as they are encountered, they also set another example that the child can learn from and call on later in life.

A new school year is an exciting, anxiety producing time of year. It is also a reminder that a child is continuing to grow towards eventual independence. Being mindful to include education and practice with the life skills needed outside of school is just as important as helping a child academically prepare for their future. Just as we wouldn’t expect a child to spontaneously start reading without previous education just because they have left home, we cannot expect them to suddenly know other life skills such as cooking, or getting up without reminders, just because they’ve moved. Use each day to practice these steps towards independence and you can ensure that your child has all the skills necessary to be successful.

Christy is the author of  Succeeding as a Student in the STEM Fields with an Invisible Disability: A College Handbook for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Students with Autism, ADD, Affective Disorders, or Learning Difficulties and their Families and the forthcoming  Supporting College and University Students with Invisible Disabilities: A Guide for Faculty and Staff Working with Students with Autism, AD/HD, Language Processing Disorders, Anxiety, and Mental Illness both published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Teaser Tuesday – Downloadable ‘Mini-Maps’ to Encourage Task Analysis for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers is an essential resource of easy-to-use ideas for mainstream and special education teachers. Packed with simple, effective tools to assist in the education of students, the book can be adapted to be used with young children and older learners with a Rogers_Visual-Supports_978-1-84905-945-9_colourjpg-webrange of educational needs, including nonverbal learners.

‘Mini-maps’ help students with autism spectrum disorders organize big chunks of the day into smaller more manageable parts to promote understanding and encourage predictability of upcoming activities.

Why mini-maps are effective:

  • Task analysis is one of the teaching techniques included in ABA.
  • Task analysis is a process by which a task is broken down into its essential or component parts.
  • Students with autism and other special needs benefit from a task analysis in order to complete tasks that seem unclear or overwhelming.
  • Breaking a task down into smaller chunks visually, incorporating interests and breaks incrementally, works to inform and motivate the student toward the desired outcome.
  • Mini-maps support student understanding and promote independence.

Mini-maps can be created to support any part of a student’s day, in the classroom and at home, including specific tasks and daily transitions. Each map includes photographs of the steps in the sequence to help the student visualize and clarify the process. The student’s interests are incorporated to increase motivation and decrease stress.

This resource is designed to be accessible to all and can be used by teachers, professionals and parents.

Download sample mini-maps here

Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Special Educational Needs by Lisa Rogers is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Tips on Transitioning to the Flexibility of Summer for Children with Special Needs from JKP author and Occupational Therapist Cara Koscinski


It’s here! Most families look forward to summer relaxation and lazy days. However, the lack of routine and structure can be the cause of great stress for families of children with special needs. School routines are predictable and provide consistency.  The transition to summer and its freedom may be a difficult one. In addition, the skills your child has gained in school should be carried over into the summer to stop any regression. Feeling overwhelmed? Need ideas that are therapeutic and fun?


Try to keep a routine. Look at the calendar together and make a routine for your family. Include your child in choosing family activities.  Let him choose the colors that you’ll write with on the calendar. Post a list of daily schedules and chores with check off boxes. Include chores such as vacuuming the floor and cleaning windows (both great for heavy work).  Schedule new activities well ahead of time and be sure to prepare for them. Visit summer camp sites prior to camp, meet counselors before camp begins, and take pictures of camp locations. Make a memory booklet and encourage your child to write in a journal about his summer activities. If he’s not writing yet, ask him to draw pictures. This will be a great keepsake!

Schedule as many play dates as possible. Extended family and cousins may also be off of school and need to keep busy too. Play games together such as making up your own circus. Walk a taped line imitating a tightrope, learn to juggle, and pretend to walk like different animals in the circus. You can also pretend to make a zoo, jungle, or go on safari.  Walking on all fours to imitate a bear, lion, tiger, dog, or any other animal is great for proprioceptive (heavy work) input.

Make a parade with homemade instruments. Visit our Pinterest board for ideas on how to make your own instruments out of paper plates, oat containers, and paper towel rolls. Marching to different rhythms is a fun way to work on proprioceptive input and body coordination.

Play charades and act out different sports or occupations. This is a great activity to do as a family or during a play date. For an added challenge, act out different emotions.

Draw letters and numbers using only your fingers on your child’s back.  Ask him to guess what you are drawing.  Let him practice on your back too.

Tape a line on the floor and ask your child to jump in different ways over it.  For example, hop with your right foot on the left side of the line.  Jump three times on the right of the line.  Use the line as a pretend balance beam.

Describe each letter of the alphabet by the shapes that make it up.  For example, letter H is two big lines and one dash.  Letter A is like two sliding boards back to back with a dash in the middle.  Take one letter per day and make it the letter of the day.  Draw that letter throughout the day in sand, shaving crème, on sand paper, in salt, and on paper with pencil or paint.  Find things that start with that letter and place them into a paper bag.

Cross crawling is a great activity to help in right/left coordination and visual motor skills. Crawl by moving one arm and the opposite leg (right arm/left leg) and then switch (left arm/right leg). Try giving your child directional commands such as: “Touch your left ear with your right hand.” Be creative and encourage your child to give you directions as well. Sometimes, playing the teacher is empowering!

Evening activities at dusk are fun too. Go on a flashlight scavenger hunt with your child. Use a flashlight to draw different letters and numbers on the ground. Use glow sticks to write letters in the air. Add glow stick liquid to bubbles and have a bubble blowing competition.

Use sidewalk chalk on the concrete or on your trampoline. Ask your child to jump to the letter you call out.

Walk like a wheelbarrow in the grass. Hold your child’s ankles, knees, or thighs and ask him to “walk” on his hands. Remember that holding your child’s ankles is the most difficult challenge for him.  You can place different things such as bean bags or play tools onto his back to “transport” items like a real wheelbarrow does. This is an EXCELLENT activity to add into any sensory diet. It is filled with proprioceptive input/heavy work.

Hop scotch, jumping rope, and learning to ride a bicycle are always super summer activities.

Use a spray bottle to spray plants. Squirting each other on a hot day is a fun way to cool down while building hand strength!

Fine motor tasks such as bead stringing, macramé, puzzles, hunting for treasure in different sensory bins, card games, marbles, making letters in sand and shaving crème, jacks are all great ways to build fine motor skills.

Painting with different items such as leaves, sticks, or cotton balls is fun. Adding tweezers to any task builds fine motor coordination. Instead of picking up cotton balls with his fingers, use tweezers!

If your child has difficulty catching a hard ball such as a baseball, use a wiffleball which will move slower and is easier to catch. Playing mini-golf with plastic golf balls is a fun way to build skills without the danger of a real golf ball flying through the yard.

Make a book. Cut old magazines and paste pictures on to a book made of construction paper and bound with yarn. Write stories about the pictures or make your own. Even punching the holes (through which to bind the book) with the hole puncher is a great fine motor activity.

Make a game of feel and guess. Use an old shoebox and cut a hole for your child’s hand to fit into. Place an item such as a leaf into the box and ask your child to tell you what the item is just by the way it feels. This can be done every season and with many objects such as stones, ice cubes, and seeds.

Make puppets out of old socks and felt. Put on a puppet show for friends or family.

Give your child a treasure hunt list with items such as a butterfly, cloud shaped like a certain animal, or sound of a certain bird’s chirp. This should be a multi-sensory treasure hunt involving eyes, ears, touch, and smell.

Plan snacks that relate to different books. Examples include: Blue Berries for Sal, Stone Soup, and Bread and Jam for Frances.

Set up a store selling different summer items such as beach toys, summer fruits, and vegetables. Encourage your child to make signs for each item and practice making change when something is purchased.

Use old sheets and blankets to make tents. Go camping in your living room!

Finally, plant seeds and watch them grow. Move them from small pots or paper cups into a garden area. Chart their growth in a notebook. Encourage your child to help you with the responsibilities of watering her garden and re-potting when necessary. Caring for something such as a plant can empower a child.

Make sure to read a great book together (Don’t forget about reading and recommending The Pocket Occupational Therapist for families of children with special needs).

Most of all, HAVE FUN together! You never know when you are making a memory that your child will have for the rest of his life!

By  Cara Koscinski MOT, OTR/L

Author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist—a handbook for caregivers of children with special needs. Questions and answers most frequently asked to OTs with easy to understand answers and fun activities you can do with your child.  It’s like having your OT with you everywhere! Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012. For more information on Cara Koscinski,  visit her website at www.pocketot.com.

C’mon everybody – get writing!

Vanessa Rogers is the author of Working with Young Women, Working with Young Men, Let’s Talk Relationships, 101 Things to Do on the Street amongst others. In this article she gives her writing tips for aspiring authors. And, if you’re feeling inspired feel free to send in your proposals to post@jkp.com

They say that there is a book in all of us, and judging from the number of emails and Tweets I get from people in the youth work and social education field inspired to write their own, it would certainly seem to be true. So this is a collective response to those of you who have asked me for ideas of how to start writing, and to share my personal experiences of writing a book. I hope it is useful – but please remember this is only my way, which I made up as I stumbled along the way.

When I start a new resource book it is because the subject holds a compelling fascination for me. For example, Working with Young Women (Jessica Kingsley Publishers ISBN 9781849050951) came out of lots of girls’ groups that I was facilitating at the time. The young women came to the group because they had been identified as at risk of offending and aggressive behaviour, but the more I got to know them the more I thought that a lot of their behaviour was actually a response to the bad relationships they had with their peers, parents and boy/girlfriends. It seemed to me that their anger and aggression was a coping mechanism that until now had worked for them. So, this made me question how young women can build a sense of self, gain confidence and assertiveness, look at the role models they have and their aspirations for life – in a way that is interesting, non-judgemental and fun. After all, through the group work I was basically asking them to change their existing coping behaviour, (which whilst not necessarily socially acceptable to all, gave them the kudos and ‘respect’ they sought), to take a chance of being vulnerable and exploring things that hurt to find a better way with me. But it seemed that this was the foundation for everything else – e.g. if you value yourself and your body you are more likely to respect it and look after it.

So from here, as for every other book I have written, I devised a series of questions that I wanted to answer. These help me keep focused and distill the essence of what I am trying to do.

After that, I spend about 3 months researching the topic. I do this by reading around the subject and trawling the Internet for ethical and correct data and statistics, but also by speaking with other practitioners and as many young people, or in the example above as many young women, as I can, to ask my questions and test out some of my theories. By now I usually have at least one box file filled with clippings and stuff, as well as my trusty notebook (I always have at least one hardback notebook on the go) filled with points to remember and ideas for games, quizzes or activities.

One thing; all of my session plans have to be tried out with young people before I will include them. For me, this part is one of the rules of my work to keep it ethical and grounded – it has to have been tried and tested and I have to know that young people will learn from it and more importantly enjoy doing so.

As I write constantly this means that I often have ideas stashed on my computer that are developed later when the opportunity presents itself. I try my best to include lots of learning styles in the activities and this might mean that I write the same learning outcomes three times, with three different ideas for delivering them. So, as I try them out with young people I use the one that goes best and dump the rest. I also ask young people to give me feedback as the book comes together, which I value as they don’t hold back if they think it won’t work!

Once this is done, I stick my main points on bits of paper around my desk and tell everyone that I am going to be ‘writing’. To my family this means that I am likely to be distracted, a bit bad tempered and the dinners will be rubbish for a while – but the good news is that I will be in the house for days on end and easily tempted to buy take-aways!! To my friends it means that if I do see them I am probably going to bore them witless by obsessing over my blossoming (or not) book. All training and other work is put on hold. And then – I write it.

I tend to write ‘all over’ my books – meaning that I might write part of the intro, then get a bit stuck so move on to one of the later chapters.  It may look chaotic but it isn’t – more like putting a jigsaw together, because by this stage I know exactly what I want to write and how it will look at the end. I tend to really get into this bit so write day and night, with no adherence to office hours – I actually prefer working through the night so it is pretty usual for me to be writing between 2 and 5 a.m.

Once it is done – which usually takes about 7 days end to end – I put it away for at least 3 days before getting it out and editing / doing the final writing.

Then it is off to Jessica Kingsley Publishers …… and I miss it like mad …… get a bit sad, like at the end of any relationship …… do any edits or re-writes asked of me by the editors and proof readers ….. and leave the printers to get on with it. In my head it is over.

I try and build a break in at this point so that I can have fun with friends and family and shake off the topic that has been all consuming for what might have been up to a year. And then, just when I think that I have had enough of writing, something sparks my interest – and the whole cycle begins again.

I hope this helps – but as I say all writers are different and I am sure you will find your own way of working. My only advice would be, write for you and choose a subject you feel passionate about – if you aren’t at the start, you definitely won’t be at the end! My very best wishes and good luck with it – let me know how you get on.


Common Interview Questions and What They Mean – from The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome

In this extract from The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome, career development coach and author Barbara Bissonnette translates some common interview questions to help literal thinkers understand what is actually being asked of them.

To answer a question well, you must understand what is being asked. This may not be readily apparent if you are a literal thinker. Josh was completely confused when he was asked, “Why should I hire you instead of the other candidates?” After thinking about it for a few seconds, he said, “I don’t know how to answer that, because I haven’t met the other candidates.” The interviewer knew that Josh had not met the other applicants. The intent of his question was for Josh to summarize why he believed that he was the best person for the job.

There are several types of interview questions. Some assess your abilities, depth of experience, and knowledge of a job function or an industry. Others are designed to tease out how well you work with others. Behavioral questions look at past actions as indicators of future performance. They typically begin with a statement like, “tell me about a time when,” or, “give me an example of,” or, “describe a project that…”

Here are some common interview questions, and suggestions about how to answer them. Even if you are not asked all of these questions specifically, you can use the information to respond to similar inquiries about your background, hard skills and soft skills.

1. Tell Me About Yourself

Translation: Summarize your relevant skills and experience.

This question is often asked early in an interview. It is not an invitation to share your life story. A good answer summarizes, in five to six sentences, the skills and experience that make you a good fit for the job. Mention your most relevant general and job-specific skills, as well as personal characteristics that are important for the position. An accountant could summarize experience in basic accounting principles, discuss proficiency with computer spreadsheets, and give examples of accuracy and attention to detail.

A bit of humor, if you are comfortable using it, can relieve nervousness and get the interview off to a good start. Accountant Todd could say, “I’m a numbers geek!” But don’t overdo the levity. One or two bits of humor per interview is enough. You want to project friendliness, not goofiness. You are not interviewing to be a company comedian.

Avoid long, rambling responses that contain irrelevant details: where you grew up, a list of classes you took to earn your degree, or your recent divorce. Don’t mention achievements from high school and earlier, unless they are truly significant. Earning the designation of Eagle Scout, for example, requires personal characteristics that include persistence, leadership, and teamwork. These are valuable in any job.

2. Why Did You Choose This Field?

Translation: What excites you about this work or this industry?

A strong response highlights aptitudes and abilities that are related to the job in question. For example, “Engineering appeals to me because I enjoy applying mathematical principles to solve real-world problems. During college, I did a project…”

A weak response focuses on your personal preferences instead of what you can do for the employer, “I like computers,” “There are lots of jobs,” or, “It pays well.”

3. What Are Your Greatest Strengths?

Translation: What makes you good at this work? (Be ready with three examples.)

It is not boastful to discuss your abilities and accomplishments at a job interview. This is your chance to describe knowledge and personal attributes that enable you to achieve results for the organization. Choose strong points that demonstrate your ability to perform the job well. An engineer might say, “I can form detailed pictures in my mind and see how design changes will impact product performance.”

Empty, self-serving answers are those that offer no benefit to the employer, “I’m a fantastic writer,” “I’m a genius at math,” or, “I live to write code!”

4. What is Your Greatest Weakness?

Translation: Do you have insight into your limitations and have you learned from your mistakes?

This is a tricky question. Everyone has weaknesses of some kind, so saying that you don’t have any is clearly not true. On the other hand, being too honest can disqualify you as a candidate. Think about a weakness that is also a strength, or a limitation that you have overcome. Aaron said, “I can be a perfectionist, however this has helped me in accounting because my work is accurate. And, it is always delivered on time.” This answer works because accuracy is important in this line of work, and Aaron added a sentence to let the employer know that his thoroughness would not get in the way of meeting deadlines.

Unacceptable responses are those that communicate a fatal flaw. This refers to an attribute that makes you unqualified for the position. Describing yourself as introverted and a little shy at first would be a fatal flaw for a salesperson, who meets with new prospects. It would not be a fatal flaw for someone, like an accountant, who works mostly with information. Some answers are fatal flaws for any job. Fatal flaw answers include, “I’m not a team player,” “My selfconfidence is low,” and, “I don’t like taking the ideas or direction of others.”

5. Describe Your Worst Boss

Translation: What type of manager have you disliked working with (and am I that type of manager)?

This question is not as simple as it may first sound. I’ll begin with the wrong answer, since it is the one so many of my clients choose. Rob is a good example. I could hear his agitation as he began describing a former manager. “He wouldn’t give me clear instructions, and then blamed me for everything that went wrong,” Rob began. “Once I asked to take a Friday off before a holiday weekend. He was so mean, he said no, but then let one of the other associates take Friday off.”

I’ll bet that you, like Rob, have a story or two about an unreasonable, jerky boss. However, sharing these anecdotes at an interview makes you look bad. Blaming problems on someone else, or making negative judgments about a person’s character, makes you sound like a complainer, and an employee who is difficult to work with. Companies do not want employees who are difficult. Avoid comments like, “He didn’t listen to me,” “She criticized my work,” and, “He was disrespectful and yelled a lot.”

When a hiring manager asks this question, he wants to know whether you will be comfortable with his management style. A manager who gives staff members a lot of autonomy would be concerned if you describe this style as difficult. Obviously, you cannot know a manager’s preferences in advance. If your styles are different to the point of incompatibility, it really means the job is not the right fit, and it’s unlikely that you’re going to get hired.

The right response to this question focuses on professional (not personal) characteristics, and frames negatives as differences in preference or style. For example, “My last supervisor preferred group brainstorming sessions. This was a challenge sometimes because I like to think about a problem on my own, then present my ideas to the group. We worked it out so I could contribute my ideas the next day.”

For more essential advice, tips and strategies for getting a job in the neurotypical workplace, buy your copy of The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome by Barbara Bissonnette.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.


Understanding Adult Survivors of Domestic Violence in Childhood: Still forgotten, still hurting

JKP authors Gill Hague, Ann Harvey and Kathy Willis explain why their new book Understanding Adult Survivors of Domestic Violence in Childhood: Still forgotten, still hurting begins the task of breaking the silence on this previously neglected subject. They introduce the book and it’s contents including an extract from the poem Arms Outstretched to Them.

This new book is about people who experienced domestic violence between their parents or carers, when they were children, and about the impacts these experiences have had on them into adulthood, which have in many cases been scarring and painful.

There is little research regarding adults with experiences and memories of childhood domestic abuse, but the book looks at what studies do exist and at what we can learn from them. It also looks at the more prolific research which has been conducted about children themselves experiencing domestic violence, as this research can sometimes offer insights for what might happen when the person concerned grows up.

The book goes on to discuss practice, services and policy issues. The idea is that it will be useful to helping professionals, to agencies and to people with this personal history. It also considers recovery techniques including counselling and therapy.  It is written in a relatively non-academic and accessible way, whilst remaining academically rigorous.  We hope it will be use to adult survivors of domestic violence, to students of social work and the social sciences, to academics, to violence against women researchers, and to practitioners, policy-makers, social workers and counsellors.

This issue is one which has been little explored.  Hence the subtitle of the book, a version of which was the authors working title: “Still Hurting, Still Forgotten”.  Many who carry memories and traumas of domestic violence from childhood do indeed feel both; that they are still hurting long after the events themselves occurred, and that their plight is one which has been largely forgotten, overlooked and ignored. This book attempts to open up this previously neglected subject as a new area for further research and practice.  We are pleased that readers to date have identified the book to be a pioneering one which breaks new ground.

It has an unusual structure in that it also includes creative and personal writing, interwoven with the material for professionals, counsellors, social workers, students, survivors themselves and researchers. Most importantly, it includes a series of moving and powerful poems and personal testimonies, specifically produced for the book by adult survivors of childhood domestic abuse. One poem by a middle-aged Scottish women talks about how long the painful impacts of experiencing childhood domestic violence can endure.  Her words might have resonance for others reading the book.  She says that:

  She couldn’t help remembering,
       even though she’s well past 50,

       The feeling of the shades coming down.

       Her father mad with fury.
       But she couldn’t stop it,
       couldn’t stop him.
       Crying and sobbing,
       tears dripping off her chin.
       She couldn’t stop him.

       She couldn’t help remembering.

       And she learned not to sleep.
       She dreaded anyone suspecting.
       She couldn’t help remembering.
       Her expectant young life reduced to
       what felt like fragments
       and a tangled feeling.

       She couldn’t help remembering.

       Even though she’s well past 50. 
       But she couldn’t stop it,       
       crying and sobbing,
       arms outstretched to them.
       Even though she’s well past 50.

A final note from Gill Hague:

This is the last and closing book of my career and I am proud of it. The final words of the last poem are: “It is finished.  It is over”.  They apply to the individual poem, to the poet’s personal recovery, to the book itself, and to my own career and 40 year journey working on violence against women issues. I trust that this final book will be of use in the field to both practitioners and researchers, as well as to people themselves who carry life experiences of domestic violence in childhood.