Entries by Mark

Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children's ability to write coherently and/or spell.We previously covered dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Today we’ll take a look at developmental dysgraphia; what it is, what the signs are and how to help children affected by the disorder.

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children’s ability to write coherently and/or spell. That’s in contrast to dyslexia, which affects their ability to read and, indeed, children with dysgraphia may have no trouble reading. As with so many learning disorders, dysgraphia has nothing to do with the level of a child’s intelligence. It affects more males than females and sometimes goes hand-in-hand with other conditions including ADHD.

What Are the 3 Types of Dysgraphia?

Dyslexic dysgraphia results in poor writing legibility specifically when the writing has not been copied from an existing written source. It also gets worse with longer texts. Copied written work, however, may be good although spelling is likely to be bad. This type of dysgraphia is not thought to be the result of poor motor skills nor is it thought to be caused by a neurological issues. Despite the name, dyslexic dysgraphia is unrelated to dyslexia.

Even drawing can be unintelligibleMotor dysgraphia is primarily the result of poor fine motor skills and poor dexterity, making the control needed for legible writing or drawings difficult. It may also be the result of poor muscle tone. In contrast to dyslexic dysgraphia, motor dysgraphia may result in poor writing legibility even when the words are copied. Spelling, however, is not adversely affected. Short bursts with unusually high concentration levels may result in better letter and word formation, but the level of concentration needed to achieve this is unsustainable over a longer period.

Spatial dysgraphia also results in mostly illegible writing and drawing, however in this case it’s the result of issues around spatial awareness. So, for example, written work may stray from the lines on lined paper and spacing between words will be poor. Both copied and spontaneous writing is usually illegible but spelling is normal.

Some dysgraphic children have more than one type of dysgraphia and it’s also worth noting that some may exhibit symptoms that do not …

Dyscalculia: FAQs for Parents

Dyscalculia: FAQs for Parents

Around 5% of children of school age are thought to have dyscalculia.In today’s guide, we answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Dyscalculia, particularly in relation to children, including preschoolers. Around 5% of children of school age are thought to have dyscalculia.

Isn’t Dyscalculia like Dyslexia, but for Numbers?

Not really. Both conditions can make learning maths tricky, but they are quite different. Learn more about dyslexia here, or read on to learn about dyscalculia.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has dyscalculia. So do pop stars Robbie Williams and Cher. Even Benjamin Franklin had the condition.

What is Dyscalculia?

Put simply, dyscalculia is a difficulty in understanding numbers. Indeed, it’s sometimes referred to as an arithmetic-related learning disability. Research into it is currently only at an early stage. People suffering from the condition will find all mathematical activities troublesome. Even concepts like whether a number is larger or smaller than another may be difficult to comprehend, so even more advanced mathematical concepts will be very difficult for sufferers to grasp. As with dyslexia, the condition can afflict people of any level of intelligence. However, there are thought to be possible links between dyscalculia and Asperger’s Syndrome or even Autism in some cases. Those with ADHD are also often prone to learning disorders like dyscalculia.

What are the Signs/Symptoms of Dyscalculia?

Children with dyscalculia have difficulty understanding number concepts.A few of the possible signs of dyscalculia include:

  • Difficulty understanding numbers and in acquiring mathematical skills;
  • Difficulty manipulating and comparing numbers and quantities;
  • Difficulty remembering number facts and procedures;
  • At pre-school age, children may have difficulty grasping the link between number symbol “4” and the word “four”;
  • They may also be unable to connect the number to the same quantity of objects;
  • Preschoolers may even be unable to grasp the concept of …

Parents: Your Right to 18 Weeks of Unpaid Parental Leave

Parents: Your Right to 18 Weeks of Unpaid Parental Leave

Our statutory maternity leave & pay guide from August 2021 briefly touched upon a parent’s right to unpaid parental leave. As promised, we now come back to the topic in more detail, below.

Employed parents are entitled to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave before their child reaches the age of 18.Your Right to Unpaid Parental Leave

It’s fair to say that many employed parents* in the UK are unaware of their right to take parental leave on an unpaid basis. In fact, employees are entitled to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave before their child reaches the age of 18. That’s significant time off in addition to any standard annual leave. It’s per child too.

*While we use the term “parents”, the rules apply to those with ‘parental responsibility’ over the child. This includes parents who are named on the child’s birth certificate or adoption certificate, or those who officially have, or expect to have, parental responsibility(i) over the child. Foster parents are not eligible unless they are legally recognised as having parental responsibility e.g. via a successful UK court application.

Why Take Unpaid Parental Leave?

Parenting is an incredibly important task. However, it’s not always easy for working parents to find enough family time with their children, even at important milestones in their children’s lives. Aside from holidays and breaks, sometimes parents simply need additional time off to gain necessary time with, or for, their children. Unpaid parental leave can be useful when appraising nurseries, pre-schools, schools and further education settings.For example, there may come a time when parents need to look at nurseries, pre-schools, primary and secondary schools and, as children approach their mid teens, further education settings. Other reasons to take time off might include time for parents to visit relatives with the children, or to investigate extra-curricular activities such as sports clubs, or simply to spend quality time with their children.

The good news is that most parents who are employees in the UK are entitled to additional time off, on an unpaid basis, from their employer. Although it’s unpaid leave, it can be an absolute Godsend to busy parents, who may well appreciate the time off even if they have to go without pay during their absence. Rules apply, of course, but it’s fair to say that many parents do not make the most of this opportunity.

How Much Unpaid Leave Are Parents Entitled To?

Parents can take 18 weeks of unpaid leave per child until the child reaches the age of 18. The maximum they can take in any one year is …

Adult Interaction Helps Infants for a Lifetime

Adult Interaction Helps Infants for a Lifetime

A baby's brain forms more than a million new connections every second when you interact with them.The Government’s Early Years Foundation Stage (‘EYFS’) framework prescribes how adults should approach the education and development of children under five. As such, it forms the backbone of the curriculum at childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. The EYFS guidelines were expanded this year (2021) and one aspect of early childhood development discussed therein merits closer exploration: the affect of adult interaction on an infant’s brain development. Here we take a look.

“A baby’s brain forms more than a million new connections every second when you interact with them.”

That’s an incredible statistic and one that was recently revised upwards, from a lower figure, by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.

The centre explains that a baby’s brain develops through early experiences, not just because of inherent genetics. They go on to describe how experiences govern the architecture of the developing brain and form the foundation for all future learning, behaviour, and health. The growth in new neural connections is by far the most prolific during the early years.Their research suggests that constructive experiences will build on and enhance the structure of the brain, whereas “adverse experiences early in life can impair brain architecture, with negative effects lasting into adulthood.

It’s rather akin to the building of a house, starting first with the foundations during the early years and building on those gradually, to complete the full structure. The initial foundations of the brain may encompass things like control of motor function, hand-eye coordination etc. Further sub-layers of more complex skills are brought in on top, through billions of new connections generated in the brain, as the child grows and experiences more things. Interactions with adults are key to that.

Although it happens throughout an individual’s life, the growth in these new neural connections is by far the most prolific during …

20 Amazing Baby Facts

20 Amazing Baby Facts

When preparing articles for this website, we often spot interesting baby facts that may surprise people. So, today, we thought we’d share 20 or so of our most surprising discoveries with you.  Many are a reminder of just how amazing babies really are!

1. Twenty Babies Born A Minute

Did you know, one baby is born every three seconds. That’s 20 every minute, 1200 every hour and nearly 29,000 every single day.

2. Rapidly Expanding Brains

A baby’s brain will more than double in size in their first year. By the time they’re five, it will have tripled in size compared to its size at birth. The brain will not finish fully developing, however, until the individual reaches their twenties. The brain of newborn boys may also grow faster in the first 3 months than that of newborn girls. It’s something that’s keenly debated amongst experts, though.

Babies are born with 50% more bones than adults.3. Almost 50% More Bones Than Adults

Babies are born with more bones than adults. In time, some will harden and fuse together into just a single bone. Babies’ heads have soft spots when newly born, but which don’t last. That’s because various, separate, bones form their skull at birth. Initially these are connected by something called ‘noggin’, but later the separate skull bones fuse together. Babies are born with around 300 bones. By the time they’re adult’s they will have just 206.

4. But No Kneecaps

Babies do not have kneecaps when they’re born! Had you ever noticed? These finish appearing only once the baby reaches at least …

Statutory Paternity Leave & Pay (Rough Guide)

Statutory Paternity Leave & Pay (Rough Guide)

An eligible father/partner of the mother can take 1 or 2 weeks of Statutory Paternity Leave when their partner has a babyFollowing up from our Rough Guide to Statutory Maternity Leave & Pay (for mothers), we follow up with a similar guide for the father (or partner of the mother, including in same-sex relationships). As you’ll see, some of the rules are quite different …

Statutory Paternity Leave

An eligible father/partner of the mother can take just one or two weeks of Statutory Paternity Leave off work when their partner has a baby — so, significantly less than the mother. The length of time they’re entitled to does not increase if twins, triplets or more are born — it remains at 1 or 2 weeks total. It’s also worth noting that the paternity leave needs to be taken in one go, not split up into smaller chunks of time.

We should also clarify what counts as a week. This is however many days they work in an average week in their employment.

Timing

The father/partner-to-be of the mother must give their employer at least 15 weeks' advance notice that they wish to take Statutory Paternity LeaveThe father, or partner of the mother, must give their employer at least 15 weeks’ advance notice that they wish to take Statutory Paternity Leave. This can be imprecise, however, given that they won’t be 100% certain which day the child(ren) will be born. If they later change the proposed date, employers must be given at least 28 days (4 weeks) notice of the change, made in writing if requested by the employer.

Statutory Paternity Leave must end no later than 8 weeks after the date of the birth (or due date if born early) and must not start until …

Statutory Maternity Leave & Pay (Rough Guide)

Statutory Maternity Leave & Statutory Maternity Pay (Rough Guide)

When women have a new baby, they will need to take time off work to give birth and to look after the newborn during their first weeks or more. It’s a precious time for both mother and baby and the good news is that employed mothers are legally entitled to maternity leave under UK employment law. We'll concentrate purely on the rules for mothers who are employees in this postToday, we’ll take a look at how much time and money mothers are entitled to under Statutory Maternity Leave and what the eligibility requirements are. We’ll concentrate purely on the rules for mothers who are employees in this post. However, we will follow up to cover paternity leave, shared leave and support for self-employed mothers separately, in future guides.

Statutory Maternity Leave Entitlement

Eligible mothers are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave:

  • The first 26 weeks (i.e. first 6 months), known as Ordinary Maternity Leave;
  • The last 26 weeks (i.e. months 7 to 12), known as Additional Maternity Leave.

These are the statutory maximums, i.e. mothers do not need to take all 52 weeks off. However, they must take off the first 2 weeks from the date of birth as a minimum, or 4 weeks if they’re factory workers. (They can also arrange to share some of the remaining 50 weeks of their leave with their partner under Shared Parental Leave (‘SPL’) rules, which we’ll cover in the future).

Timing

Statutory Maternity Leave can begin up to 11 weeks prior to the baby’s anticipated due date. It must, however, begin no later than the day after birth if the baby is born early. For eligible mums, Statutory Maternity Leave (& Pay) must also start automatically in the event that the mum-to-be is off work for a medical illness, related to pregnancy, during the 4 weeks prior to the week the baby is due.

Eligibility

The good news is that, to be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave in the UK, just two main rules apply. You need to …

The Benefits of Messy Play – for Under-Fives

The Benefits of Messy Play – for Under-Fives

Messy play is enjoyed universally amongst children, especially the very young. In fact, there is probably not a child in the UK that doesn’t enjoy it! Messy play is enjoyed universally amongst children, especially the very youngBeing let loose with coloured paints, art materials and creative opportunities is sure to bring a smile to their faces and a sense of enormous fun, creativity and discovery. No doubt too; they’ll be proud to show others their creations!

Is messy play all about having fun and being creative, though? Well, that’s important and it is partly about that. However, messy play also has a whole host of other benefits and purposes. In this article, we’ll take a look …

Learning Instinctively About the World

There’s something inherently natural about messy play — it instinctively appeals to children, giving them spontaneous ways to discover new aspects of the world and the properties of the things in it. Getting ‘hands-on’ with malleable media and colourful pigments surely is one of the most natural, fun ways for children to learn through play and discovery. Who doesn’t remember playing with wet sand on a beach, or being drawn to the joys of wet paint, mud or clay as a child? It simply is great fun and a way for children to let loose and get really messy — something they’re usually discouraged from doing.

Advancing Creativity & Self-Expression

As well as being enormous fun, messy play allows children to express themselves in unbounded creative ways. That’s important. Self-expression and creativity will …

Screen Time for Children – How Much is Too Much?

Screen time for children - how much is too much?

Is screen time healthy for children?Recent studies show that use of connected screens and devices by children, including under-fives, is growing fast. The pandemic appears to have increased kids’ screen use too, as children have spent more time indoors and less time playing ‘in person’ with friends.

The big question for parents is: is all this screen time healthy for children? In this article, we’ll take a look …

First, Some Recent Statistics

According to Childwise, the leading research experts for children and young people, children are spending more and more time on connected devices. These are devices like mobiles, tablets, smart TVs, virtual assistants like Alexa and so on. Most feature a screen but all can connect to the Internet, to other devices and/or to people via Wi-Fi or data connection.

Here’s what the recent research has to say about children’s use of connected devices:

  • 50% of all children aged between 5 and 10 own a mobile.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of all children own a mobile, with the majority of them having one by the time they’re 7. Pretty much all of them are mobile phone owners by the age of 11.
  • Over 75% of children under five have access to a connected device, with up to 60% of preschoolers actually owning their own.
  • Under-fives were found to be using tablets on average for …

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

While most people have heard of dyslexia (see our recent guide), fewer are aware of a condition called dyspraxia. In this rough guide we give an overview as to what dyspraxia is, how it affects children, how to spot the signs of it and what can be done to mitigate its effects.

Please note: Dyspraxia is a form of Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or ‘DCD’ for short. Indeed, because there are different forms of dyspraxia, medical professionals generally tend to refer to the condition as DCD rather than dyspraxia. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll use either of the terms interchangeably to mean the type of dyspraxia that people are born with or develop naturally (not other types that may be the result of physical trauma like stroke or injury).

What is Dyspraxia/DCD?

In essence, dyspraxia (DCD) is a condition that causes problems with movement and co-ordination. When children have this, they may appear more clumsy than their peers and the condition will adversely affect how well they execute physical activities. For this reason, they may reach some of their key developmental milestones later than expected. There are varying degrees of the condition, so children who have it may exhibit symptoms sooner, later or more/less severely than others.

  • The condition cannot be cured, so needs to be managed (usually right into adulthood) in order to mitigate its effects.
  • Dyspraxia affects 3 to 4 times more boys than girls.
  • It’s not usually possible to get a definitive diagnosis before a child is at least 4 to 5.
  • The condition is also sometimes referred to as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDDMF).
  • Children with dyspraxia often have other conditions including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and/or sometimes problems with speech.

How Does it Affect Children?

Although dyspraxia usually has nothing to do with intelligence or the ability to think, the condition can really hold children back. As well as the innate inconvenience of not being good at co-ordinating movements and physical tasks, it can leave children prone to