Special Needs Friendly Summer!

As the summer holidays are upon us, I thought I would make you aware of a couple of special needs friendly summer activities that are on offer in East Lothian and Edinburgh. Please feel free to send me a comment or a Facebook message if you know of anything else I should include! This is by no means a definitive list!

  • Odeon Cinemas offer monthly autism-friendly screenings for children, you can find the schedule on the Odeon website – CLICK HERE
  • If you have a family member who is a wheelchair user, did you know you can access the beautiful beach in North Berwick with a special beach wheelchair loaned free of charge from North Berwick Beach Wheelchairs? You will find them at the Beach Hut on North Berwick Harbour, just behind the Scottish Seabird Centre or CLICK HERE to visit the website.
  • Sticking with the beach theme, Coast 2 Coast Surf School welcome special needs groups to their surf school. What a great opportunity to get your kids accessing the sea safely! CLICK HERE to visit the website.
  • The Scottish Seabird Centre also welcomes children with special needs of all kinds and provides an interesting day out for children and adults alike. CLICK HERE to visit the website.
  • If animals are your child’s thing then a visit to East Links Farm Park is always good fun, CLICK HERE to visit the website for more information.

Have fun and stay safe!

Summer Sunset North Berwick, East Lothian


World Autism Awareness Week 2015

March 27th – April 2nd will be 2015’s World Autism Awareness Week and various events will be taking place across the world in recognition of this. To my mind, autism is a state of being that you cannot recognise from the outside and brings with it disabilities that are not obvious simply from looking at the person. Our society is getting better at recognising and accommodating disability but I feel very strongly that ‘invisible’ disabilities like autism, Asperger’s and ADHD are still very poorly accommodated by society. This is our opportunity to change that!

Ready for Onesie Wednesday Autism Awareness WeekI shall proudly be wearing my onesie on Onsie Wednesday on 1st April (no, that’s not an April fool!) and I’ll be making an effort to make more people aware of autism spectrum disorders and what they are. Let’s start with some interesting facts!

  1. Autism comes in many forms so no two people who have a diagnosis are the same. Most now agree that autism is a spectrum rather than one distinct condition. The best description I have heard is that autism is a bit like a 100 piece jigsaw. To get a diagnosis on the spectrum, you would have 80-100 pieces of the puzzle but everyone has at least 15-20 pieces! People who have many of the pieces  but not enough for a diagnosis might be considered to have an ‘asperger’s personality’.
  2. According to current estimates, there are about 700 000 people in the UK who have one form of autism or another. That’s one in every hundred people! (Source – The National Autistic Society)
  3. While many people on the autism spectrum have special interests (anything from volcanoes to Thomas the Tank Engine!), only a very small proportion (about 10%) have what society calls a ‘special talent’. That means 90% of people with a diagnosis ARE NOT like Rainman!
  4. Unfortunately there is an unacceptably high risk of bullying for people on the autistic spectrum. The National Autistic Society quotes a figure of over 40% of children with autism being bullied at school but I have seen much higher statistics such as 70% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high functioning autism) experiencing bullying.
  5. You can’t tell that someone has autism from looking at them. It is an invisible disability. The next time you meet someone who doesn’t look at you, stands to close or seems socially awkward, please don’t dismiss them as ‘weird’, ‘rude’ or ‘arrogant’ straight off. Take time to wonder “does this person have autism?”. Next time you see a child having a full scale tantrum in a shop, don’t judge and dismiss it as poor parenting, naughtiness or spoilt behaviour. Take time to wonder “does this child have autism?”.

You will find many, many more interesting facts and statistics on the National Autistic Society’s website. Go ahead, educate yourself!


Dunbar Science Festival

If you are stuck for a fun activity that will help build your child’s vocabulary and might well inspire him or her to a future career, why not pop along to Dunbar Science Festival next weekend? East Lothian’s science festival will be running over the course of Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th March from 10am until 5pm. There will be a variety of activities, workshops and shows running on various science topics across the weekend.

If your child has autism, you will be able to go along to the Early Bird sessions running from 9am-10am each day. These autism friendly sessions will be quieter than sessions later in the day and there will be no need to queue to enter. You can download a ‘Visual Guide’ or Social Story to help prepare your child from the website by clicking on the link below:

Dunbar Science Festival Social Story

Pop along to Dunbar, who knows, you may inspire the next Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking or Brian Cox!

North Berwick Health Fair 22nd March 2014 – Free Speech Screening!

If you are passing North Berwick on Saturday 22nd March, please come and visit the Blethers display at the North Berwick Health Fair in St Andrew Blackadder Church Hall. I’ll have lots of information from Blethers and the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists as well as plenty of goodies to hand out on the day!

Blethers goodies for North Berwick Health FairI’ve planned my display to include information about Speech & Language Therapy in both the NHS and private sectors. If you want to know more about what Speech & Language Therapy is, who we work with and how we work, please do come along and pick my brains! If you are thinking about Speech & Language Therapy as a career, pop along and pick up a Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists’ careers booklet. I’m on hand to answer any questions you may have about training and working as a Speech & Language Therapist.

A work in progress! I have lots more information & pictures to add. Come along to North Berwick Health Fair to see the finished display!

If you would like to know more about charities & organisations that offer support with communication, I’ll have a range of leaflets and flyers from organisations like the National Autistic Society, iCan and the British Stammering Association for you to take away.

As well as handing out information, I’ll be offering a limited number of free speech screening assessments for children aged 4-7 throughout the day. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and would like some basic assessment and advice, bring him or her along to see me! I’ll have a sign up sheet which will operate on a first come-first served basis, so get along early if you would like to book a 20 minute slot! The speech screen will include:

  • A short picture naming assessment (Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation & Phonology).
  • A picture description or play activity so that I can hear some connected speech
  • Some informal assessment based on how the picture naming goes – things like copying speech sounds, discriminating between speech sounds and saying if 2 sounds are the same or different.
  • A brief summary report of your child’s strengths & weaknesses for you to take away.
  • Written advice to help you to support your child with any areas of difficulty we identify.
  • If necessary, referral to the NHS speech & language therapy team or you are always welcome to book sessions with Blethers if you prefer.

Do pop along and say hi!


Autism Related Training in Scotland

It’s nice to see 2014 starting off with a couple of high quality autism related training sessions in Scotland. The first of these is the Level 1 introductory Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) course which is running at the Novotel on Lauriston Place in Edinburgh on Thursday 6th & Friday 7th February. I can thoroughly recommend this training to anyone who is new to using PECS with someone on the autistic spectrum and also to people who have been using the system but haven’t had any formal training.

The course is suitable for parents, carers and professionals alike with reduced course fees for parents. The cost is £174 for parents and £315 for parents including VAT. Over the 2 days you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to use PECS and why the system is set up as it is. If you are interested in attending, please click here to go the event details on the Autism Network Scotland website where you can register.

The second event is the Autistic Intelligence Conference on 2nd May in Glasgow. The speakers include the world renowned psychologist Tony Attwood and Wendy Lawson who has autism herself and has done a wealth of research and written several books on the subject of autism. I have seen Tony Attwood speak on a number of occasions now and he has always got a lot of worthwhile information to share, I would highly recommend listening to him speak bout the autistic spectrum! I’ve got my place booked already. Click here to go to the conference webpage where you can register to attend. Again, reduced rates are available for parents/carers and further reduction for individuals who have autism.



Fireworks time in East Lothian

I hope you all had fun attending one of the various firework displays over Edinburgh and East Lothian! We certainly enjoyed the Aberlady celebrations, £2.50 well spent. Now to howk the toffee out of my teeth…

Firework exploding

KABOOM! Full marks to the people of Aberlady for their firework display!

Aberlady bonfire

The rip-roaring Aberlady bonfire

Autism Friendly Theatre Performance

Well, it can’t be denied that the nights are drawing in and the weather’s getting colder so everyone’s looking for fun and exciting indoor activities to entertain their children. If you have a child with autism, this can be more difficult as lots of indoor activities for kids are loud, frenetic and generally very over-stimulating! Unfortunately public knowledge of autism is still a bit sketchy and people aren’t always as accepting of the behaviours and quirks of children on the spectrum as they should be.

Having said that, the good news is that more and more places are cottoning on and providing activities that are specifically planned for children with autism and cater for their needs. More and more cinemas and theatres are starting to put on autism friendly performances with subdued lighting and lower volume. It also means you can take your child along safe in the knowledge that no-one’s going to mind if they need to run around, make a noise, take a break or even have a meltdown in the middle of the show!

In partnership with the National Autistic Society, the Playhouse in Edinburgh is putting on an autism friendly performance of The Lion King on 24th November at 1.30pm, if you are interested click here to go to the website for more information and bookings. Have fun!

Little Listeners is Back!

Our Little Listeners group was such a resounding success with those who took part that we have decided to squeeze another one in before full-time school starts in August! We’ll be running 5 weekly sessions starting on Monday 23rd July, 1.30-2.15pm – venue in North Berwick to be confirmed. So that’ll be the last 3 weeks of the summer holidays plus the first 2 weeks of term while most of the P1s are still in mornings only.

The group is for children who are starting school in August and it’s aimed at all children in this age group, not just those with speech, language and communication needs. 

Over the 5 sessions, we’ll explore the basic phonological awareness skills that underlie learning to read and write. Most young pre-school children are aware of words as whole chunks that help them communicate with others. They are not typically aware that each word is made up of smaller bits. As they approach school age, they start to become more aware that there are divisions within words and might start to experiment with syllables and rhyming (word endings). These broad divisions are the beginnings of phonological awareness for literacy.

Our spelling system in English is ‘alphabetic’ which means that there is a letter (or sometimes a group of letters like ‘sh’) that corresponds to each spoken sound. To be able to match sounds to letters for literacy, children need to be able to divide words up into individual parts, a bit like taking apart a jigsaw to see how many pieces there are. Because the first sound in a word is emphasised by virtue of being the first one you hear, children typically learn the concept of ‘begins with’ as the first step in this process. They then go on to break the word down further and start to realise that there are separate sounds at the end and in the middle too. There is now a large body of research which shows that well developed phonological awareness is strongly linked to later success in learning to read and write.

In Little Listeners, we will be learning about:

  • Syllable awareness
  • Rhyme awareness
  • Picking out the first sound in words
  • Blending sounds together to make words
  • Breaking words into individual sounds to sound them out

We recommend that children attend all 5 sessions so that they get the most out of the group. So that each child gets the intensive attention they deserve, spaces are limited so contact us now to book your place!

 Isla Davies: 07810 393866 blethersslt@gmail.com

 Catriona Black: 07900 935733 catrionablackslt@googlemail.com

Training for Parents of Adults with ASD

Positive Partnerships are running some free training courses for families and carers of adults with autism Across Scotland. The courses are running from September this year and you can find more information about courses local to Edinburgh & Lothian on their website or by downloading the course flyer by clicking on the link below:

Invite for Positive-Pathways Information Events

Little Listeners Group – still a few spaces left!

Catriona and I had great fun yesterday with our Little Listeners in North Berwick. It was the first of 6 group sessions for pre-schoolers to help build phonological awareness skills. Research shows that well developed phonological awareness is linked strongly to later success in learning to read and write, but what is phonological awareness?

Well, it’s all about breaking words down into the sounds that make them up. It includes skills like syllable counting, rhyme awareness, identifying the first sound in a word, sounding words out and ‘spoonerising’ or playing with the sounds in words to make silly phrases or philly srases!

Our spelling system in English is ‘alphabetic’. That means that there is a letter (or sometimes a group of letters like ‘sh’) that represents each spoken sound. To be able to match sounds to letters for literacy, children need to be able to divide words up into individual parts, a bit like taking apart a jigsaw to see how many pieces there are.

The programme for Little Listeners is designed to follow the typical pattern of development of phonological awareness skills and to give an extra boost to preschoolers skills, ready for starting school. In weeks 1 & 2 we will be covering syllable awareness, weeks 3 & 4 will focus on rhyming, week 5 will be about the first sounds in words and week 6 about last sounds in words.

We still have some spaces left in the group so please do contact us if you are interested! Isla Davies 07810 393866 or blethersslt@gmail.com, Catriona Black 07900 935733 or catrionablackslt@googlemail.com 

Little Listeners takes place at St Andrew Blackadder Church in North Berwick on Thursdays 1.45-2.30pm. Sessions are £15 each and the next one is Thursday 26th April.