Tips to reduce anxiety

Here are some tips to help your child with anxiety.

1) Focus on the positive– Many times anxious and stressed children can get lost in negative thoughts and self-criticism. They may focus on how the glass is half empty instead of half-full and worry about future events. The more that you are able to focus on your child’s positive attributes and the good aspects of a situation, the more that it will remind your child to focus on the positives.

2) Schedule relaxing activities– Children need time to relax and be kids. Unfortunately, sometimes even fun activities, like sports, can become more about success than they are about fun.  Instead, it is important to ensure that your child engages in play purely for the sake of fun. This may include scheduling time each day for your child to play with toys, play a game, play a sport (without it being competitive), doing yoga, paint, have a tea party, put on a play, or just be silly.

3) Practice relaxation exercises with your child– Sometimes really basic relaxation exercises are necessary to help your child to reduce their stress and anxiety. This might mean telling your child to take a few slow, deep breaths (and you taking a few slow breaths with your child so your child can match your pace). Or it might mean asking your child to image him or herself somewhere relaxing, like the beach or relaxing in a backyard hammock. Ask your child to close his/her eyes and imagine the sounds, smells, and sensations associated with the image. For example, close your eyes and picture yourself on a beach. Listen to the sound of the surf as the waves come in and go out.  In and out. Listen to the sound of the seagulls flying off in the distance. Now focus on the feel of the warm sand beneath your fingers and the sun warming your skin.Your child can do these techniques on his or her own during anxiety-provoking times.

4) Encourage your child to express his/her anxiety– If your child says that he or she is worried or scared, don’t say “No you’re not!” or “You’re fine.”  That doesn’t help your child.  Instead, it is likely to make your child believe that you do not listern or do not understand him/her.  Insead, validate your child’s experience and then have a discussion about your child’s emotions and fears.

5) Help your child to problem solve– Once you have validated your child’s emotions and demonstrated that you understand your child’s experience and are listening to what your child has to say, help your child to problem solve.  This does not mean solving the problem for your child.  It means helping your child to identify possible solutions. If your child can generate solutions, that is great.  If not, generate some potential solutions for your child and ask your child to pick the solution that he or she thinks would work best.




‘Mucking around’ takes back seat to organised sport and screen time for kids, report finds

Australian kids are playing organised sport and spending more time on screens, but whatever happened to “mucking around outside”?

The inaugural Active Healthy Kids Australia Report Card, which ranks the physical activity of Australian kids against 14 other nations, found 80 per cent of children between the ages of five and 17 were not getting daily exercise.

Nature Play WA’s chief executive Griffin Longley said while Australia did well in terms of engagement in organised sport, the nation scored badly on unstructured physical activity.

“The challenge for the modern family is finding a way to schedule time for kids to muck around and just be kids,” he said.

“In the past sport was always an add-on to time spent mucking around.

“So we’re actually playing more sport than ever before but our kids are doing less physical activity, because all the mucking around time, all the time between structured activities that used to be spent chasing your mates around the neighbourhood or at the park with a bat and a tennis ball, or whatever it was, that’s been largely replaced by entertainment and homework.

“I think our lives are a lot more scheduled than they used to be, so it is a challenge, but what research is increasingly telling us is that unstructured mucking around time is more valuable than all those other activities.”

Professor Leon Straker from the school of physiotherapy and exercise science at Curtin University agreed.

“As a parent myself I think, OK, I’ve signed my kid up to football, that’s all they need, but in fact that is not enough,” he said.

“They might do training once a week, and play on Saturdays, but that’s only one or two bursts of activity in the week and we know that is not enough.

“They need to be doing an hour a day, so parents and schools need to be finding other ways of getting them moving.”


Screen time has ‘huge’ impact on children’s development

The report card found that 80 per cent of Australians aged between 12 and 17 look at screens more than the recommended limit of two hours per day.

Professor Straker said the amount of time children spend watching television has not changed much in the past decade, from three hours a day in 1999 to just under that in 2009.

“But the amount of time they spend playing video games has risen rapidly from under 30 minutes a day a decade ago to between 30 minutes and 90 minutes daily,” he said.

He recently led a study to see whether “active” video games such as PlayStation Move and Wii, promoted by the gaming industry as a healthy alternative to more sedentary push-button games, actually got kids moving more and increased their fitness.

It found they did not.

“The world that kids live in now has really exciting things that are run by a computer, that can engage kids for hours and hours without them having to move,” Professor Straker said.

Mr Longley said screen time has a huge impact on childhood development.

“It’s not itself a negative thing, but when it’s out of balance, it becomes a negative thing,” he said.

“In a house where television was on two hours a day or screens for the same amount of time, the occupants of that house will speak 6,000 words combined to each other in a day.

“In a house where screens were on whenever anyone was home, the occupants of that house would speak 500 words combined.

“The impact of that on language acquisition, emotional development, the ability to take an idea and extrapolate on it and play with it … is huge.

“We can talk a lot about the need to raise numeracy and literacy levels and to test more and more but the fundamental thing is kids having an opportunity to explore, discuss and imagine and to create and that happens in the home, in play and when human beings interact with each other.

“We’ve seen spikes in diagnosis of mental health disorders among children and the connection between increased screen time and the loss of social and emotional interaction is pretty clear.”


Some schools restricting free play, others embracing it

Mr Longley said there was a growing number of schools who were creating spaces where kids can find some of that mucking around time.

“We had a real interesting call from a teacher in a western suburbs primary school about a year ago, asking for some direction about getting some good climbing structure for their school,” he said.

“She was teaching young kids the very fundamentals of hand writing and she was finding that was virtually impossible for her because the majority of kids in her class lacked the core strength to sit up for long enough for the lesson.

“They weren’t physical enough so she wanted to get them climbing so she could teach them to write.”

Mr Longley said some schools were embracing nature play, while others were increasingly regulating what children can do at school.

“The school that Shane Warne went to – its called Black Rock primary school – banned the use of balls before and after school a year ago,” he said.

“There are examples of schools banning touch of any kind, banning cartwheels unless you’ve been trained by suitably qualified gymnastic instructors and supervised by that instructor.

“But on the other hand, there’s a growing number of schools who are trying to reintroduce mucking around that does involve a little bit of risk. But people who look into it very quickly realize the risk of mucking around is really extremely low and the risk to children’s health and wellbeing of not being able to muck around is quite high.”

Mr Longley described a university study in New Zealand, where four primary schools did away with rules during playtime.

“One particular school essentially removed all the rules to a point where kids were allowed to climb trees, allowed to bring their skateboards to schools, allowed to play tackle games, build cubbies with sticks and the school has had a massive positive impact from it,” he said.

“The rate of bullying has fallen to nothing and the teachers are reporting greater attention spans in the classroom, all sorts of positive impacts resulting from it.”


Primary school uses crowdfunding for climbing dome

North Perth Primary School has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build a free-climb dome on its oval, and so far has raised three-quarters of their goal of $40,000.

P&C representative Kirstyn Johnson said they were using traditional and online strategies to raise funds.

“We’d applied for and were knocked back twice in a row for the Education Department’s playground equipment grant, so it was a case of, do we sit and do nothing while our kids have nothing to do or do we raise the money ourselves?” she asked.

“We are still doing the usual cake stalls and sausage sizzles, but those generally net a few thousand dollars at a time.

“We also wanted to involve the community in the project; the oval is on school grounds, but it is not fenced and the community accesses it after school hours, so all the kids in the neighbourhood can use it.

“It’s been a lot of work but if it gets our kids playing more outside it will be worth it.”

Mr Longley said he thought North Perth Primary School’s crowd funding project was a great idea.

“I think it’s hugely valuable and not just because of the money raised,” he said.

“When people in that school community, their friends and extended friends put money towards that project, they’re also expressing their support for it and they’re tacitly giving their permission for the school to do that sort of stuff and for the kids to use it and play on it.

“One of the really interesting things is the impact of the loss of mucking around time is felt equally across socioeconomic and geographic divides.

“You’ll have a kid in New Norcia having the same issues as a kid in New York, because often, depending on how the families choose to raise the child, they will very often be having a similar experience of childhood, playing the same games and even with each other online.

“There’s a sort of homogenisation of childhood happening.”

Should parents ever worry about Minecraft?


In the space of a few years, the computer game Minecraft has come to dominate the spare hours of millions of children, and has even entered the classroom. But is this an entirely good thing, asks Jolyon Jenkins.

If I want to irritate my 13-year-old son, Joe, I refer to Minecraft as “digital Lego”. He grew out of Lego a long time ago.

But that’s what Minecraft is – a computer game in which you build things using cubic blocks. But it’s Lego on steroids. You never run out of blocks and they never topple over. You can walk among your own creations, and play online with other people who are in the same world.

Sometimes, monsters come out after dark to try to kill you, which is never pleasant, but compared with games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, Minecraft is innocent, peaceful, and pretty wholesome.

So why does it drive so many parents to distraction?

“It’s all consuming,” says Gabrielle Wacker, of her 11-year-old son Arthur. “It’s become a way of life. He would be on it before school given the chance. I’ve had to hide the device in the morning.”

Her biggest worry, she says, is that it reduces his interest in the real world. “He doesn’t do any clubs any more. At weekends, one of the first things he says when he gets up in the morning is, ‘We’re not going anywhere, are we?’ because clearly he wants to be at home where he has got access to the devices.”minecraft2

Parenting websites are full of such stories. If not actually playing Minecraft, parents report that their children watch videos of other people playing it.

The statistics are astounding – one group of Minecraft gamers, Yogscast, based in Bristol, is watched for 37 million minutes every day, and they are not the biggest.

The stars of Minecraft, like “Stampy Longnose” are to this generation of children what John Noakes was to mine, except Blue Peter was only on twice a week, whereas Stampy is viewable all day, every day, a permanent uninvited guest in some households.



Brief history of Minecraft


  • Developed in Sweden by Markus Persson and his company Mojang – officially released in 2011
  • Company has sold 33 million copies of game in different formats
  • Bought by Microsoft for $2.5bn (£1.5bn) in September 2014

I hesitate to use the word “addicted”, but for some children it seems to fit.

Dr Richard Graham, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist who runs a technology addiction unit at the private Nightingale Hospital in London, sees children with a serious Minecraft habit. He talks about the game’s “hyper-reality” which he says makes the external world “slower, paler, less stimulating”.


My son Joe has his own server, where 20 or so like-minded friends have been creating their own world for the last couple of years. Most of them are in America, and he has never met any of them. Their creations are impressive, but still – is it right for kids to be shunning the real world for this virtual, low-res, blocky universe?

The moves in this argument are as well-rehearsed as a 17th Century gavotte. Minecraft’s champions say that it’s very creative and that I should just look at the things kids are making on it.

I concede the point but say that it’s two-dimensional, and that children should be exercising more than their mouse fingers. The other side asks why it’s any worse than reading for hours at a time.

Because, I say, reading allows you to imaginatively inhabit other minds. The opposition implies that this is just the latest moral panic, and that Stone Age elders probably thought the world was going to the dogs when people stopped just staring at the fire and started telling each other stories.



But then there’s the “griefing”. Because Minecraft is a world with private property but no police force, children are, at least on public servers, in a world that philosopher Thomas Hobbes would have recognised – a state of nature where all are at war with all.

“Griefers” are people who deliberately make trouble, destroy property, and then sometimes post videos of their exploits to amuse everyone.

Even Joe, on his well-ordered server, has had his property stolen by a Russian member. He doesn’t know where his stuff went, but suspects it was disposed of in molten lava. When parents think of online bullying, they probably don’t think of hard-earned virtual property being trashed, or their children being digitally mugged.


Joe’s nine tips to bluff your way in Minecraft:

1. Diamond is the best material for pickaxes because it breaks blocks the fastest and lasts the longest.

2. Players can tame wild wolves by feeding them a few bones, and ocelots with fish.

3. Throwing an enderpearl like a ball allows you to teleport to where it lands.

4. With redstone, you can create complex mechanisms. Some people have even recreated computers.

5. The only blocks in the game which are affected by gravity are sand, gravel, and anvils.

6. Creepers are green creatures which will sneak up behind you and try to blow you up. Skeletons try to shoot you with bows.

7. Cows and sheep can be bred by feeding them wheat, pigs with carrots and chickens with seeds.

8. You can play music to nearby players with a music disc, which are created when a skeleton shoots a creeper.

9. A trapped chest will give off a redstone signal when opened, meaning you can create all sorts of traps to fool your friends.


It was in a bid to deal with griefers that Amanda Osborne set up her own server where her son Callum could play in relative safety. Callum, aged nine, is autistic, and finds it easier to interact with people in the Minecraft world than in the real one.

Now, children with autistic spectrum disorders from around the world are logging on to Amanda’s server and making amazing, inspiring creations that impressed even Joe when we paid an online visit.

For some autistic children who have trouble with complex social interactions, Minecraft is clearly a good fit with its lack of intricate social cues and simple environment. But for many parents, the absence of that complexity, in a world where their children spend so much time, might be a reason to be wary.


But Minecraft is unstoppable. You might think that at least school provides a few hours of Minecraft-free time a day, but the game is coming to classrooms, as education experts enthuse about its ability to engage and capture the imagination of children who are hard to reach through traditional teaching methods. Even the British Museum is getting volunteers to recreate the building and its exhibits in Minecraft.

Worst of all, Lego has brought out its own Minecraft set. What this means for the next generation of engineers brought up in a world where nothing ever falls over, I dare not imagine.

Teaching independent living skills by Diane Adreon, M.A.

Children with Asperger Syndrome are usually on a regular diploma track in high school. However, just because they graduate from high school with a regular diploma or go to college or graduate school does NOT mean that they have learned sufficient independent living skills to cope successfully. Independent living skills (ILS) include numerous items that (typically) are not taught to neurotypical (individuals NOT on the autism spectrum) because they usually learn them by observing others around them. However, individuals with ASD often need explicit instruction to learn ILS.

The home environment is the “natural” environment for teaching many of these skills. The following list includes some of the items one might want to work on in the kitchen/food arena.

• Kitchen Household Chores
• Setting the table
• Emptying the trash -Inserting a new trash bag
• Clearing the table
• Putting food items away
• Knowing amount of food worth saving
• Obtaining correct container & transferring food to container
• Determining whether items go in refrigerator or pantry
• Doing the dishes
• Handling dishes with care
• Handling knives
• Rinsing items sufficiently
• Knowing what does/does not go in the dishwasher
• Learning what items need to be placed on the top rack
• Wiping off counters
• Where to place sponges/wet dish rages/towels
• Unloading the dishwasher


Many individuals with ASD have difficulty generalizing skills
Generalization refers to the ability to perform a skill that has already been learned in one setting with different materials across a variety of settings. For children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders, we often overlook how these challenges affect learning. The following scenarios illustrate the kinds of challenges that may come up.

I was recently at a party with a number of children with ASD. Mark (age 9) was asked to help return items to the refrigerator. He walked into the kitchen, looked at the refrigerator and asked “Is this the refrigerator?” His mother immediately understood that he was confused because their refrigerator at home had the freezer compartment on top, and this was a side-by-side refrigerator.

Another family recently relayed a story about their daughter, Lisette. She was helping clear the table and put the food away after dinner. They had eaten spaghetti and Lisette had four strands of spaghetti on her plate. Getting ready to clear the table, she asked her mother whether she was supposed to (a) find a container and save the leftover spaghetti, or (b) throw it away.

Situations like these remind me of how hard our children work on understanding what we want them to do. This helps me plan to orchestrate teachable moments.


Here Are a Few Tips to Remember
1. Always evaluate whether this is a good time for an instructional moment.
2. Make numerous positive statements for every one correctional statement.
3. Use few correctional statements.
4. Look and listen carefully! People with ASDs get stuck in all kinds of ways.
5. The whole lesson may take less than one minute.
6. Be realistic! You can only work on a limited number of skills at a time.
7. Try to end on a positive note.

Diane Adreon, M.A. is associate director, University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities, and co-author of Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Practical Solutions for School Success

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Games with a Deck of Cards



Number of Players

  • 2 to 4


Equipment Needed

  • 2 decks of cards
  • Remove Kings, Queens, Jacks and Jokers.
  • Pen and paper for scoring and recording which card corresponds to which alphabet.


Object of the Game

To spell words using the cards in your hand to get points. The player who earns the most points wins.


Setting up the Game

Cards Ace to 5 are vowels. Ace is ‘a’, 2 is ‘e’, 3 is ‘i’, 4 is ‘o’, 5 is ‘u’. Try practice game “Vowels” to help (Pg. 47). Cards 6 to 10 are consonants of your choice. All players agree on which consonants are represented by which number.


6 clubs     7 spades     8 diamonds     9 spades     10-Diamonds

s                        r                           t                        c                       d


How to play

1. Deal 6 cards to each player. The rest of the cards are turned face down in the middle.

2. Player 1 makes a word using the cards in their hand. Once they have spelled a word, they replace the cards they have used from the deck in the middle. Player 1 scores their word and writes it down e.g.

deck of card 1                                              deck of cards 2

Letters in this hand:                                                   Word made from these letters:

      a, a, d, t, u, e                                                                             date

Player 1 scores their word: “date” scores 10 + 1 + 8 + 2 = 21

3. If a player spells a word using all 6 cards, they get a bonus 10 points.

4. Players take it in turns to make words, score and then replace their cards from the deck. Each player must always have 6 cards in their hand.

5. If a player can’t make a word, they may discard 1 card in the center and pick up a new card from the deck. If a player can’t go for 2 turns running, they may swap all their 6 cards for replacement cards ending their turn.

6. Once a word has been spelled, it cannot be used again in the same game.

7. If a word is in doubt, use the Oxford English Dictionary to judge.

8. The game finishes when a player no longer has 6 cards in their hand or when a pre-arranged target score is reached.



Players take it in turns to see how many words they can make within a specified time, for example 10 minutes.


The inchworm or the grasshopper…





  1. Focuses on the parts and details.
  1. Looks at the number and facts to select a suitable formula or procedure.
  1. Formula, procedure-oriented
  1. Constrained focus. Uses on method.
  1. Works in serially ordered steps, usually forward.
  1. Uses numbers exactly as given.
  1. More comfortable with paper and pen. Documents method.
  1. Unlikely to check or evaluate answer.
  1. Often does not understand procedures or values of numbers. Works mechanically.



  1. Overviews, holistic, puts together.
  1. Looks at the numbers and facts to estimate an answer, or narrow down the range of answers. Controlled exploration.
  1. Answer-oriented.
  1. Flexible focus. Uses a range of methods.
  1. Often works back from a trail answer.
  1. Adjusts, breaks down/ builds up numbers to make an easier calculation.
  1. Rarely documents method. Performs calculations mentally (and intuitively).
  1. Likely to appraise and evaluate answer against original estimate. Checks by an alternative method/ procedure.
  2. Good understanding of number methods and relationships.



Book Review- Text, Tweets, Trolls and Teens by Anita Naik

This book explores the aspects of a teenager’s online life, from simple texting behaviour to how to deal with the negative side of being online. Each section of the book is accompanied by quotes from teenagers that give examples of real-life problems that teenagers experience every day. Text, Tweets, Trolls and Teens also features quizzes to help readers to assess their own behaviour and work out their technology style. It is a great book for any child who spends a lot of time on the internet.


Make a Chinese Lantern in Six Easy Steps


Here is a wonderful project to work on over the long break.


Materials needed:

Materials for Making Chinese Paper Lantern


  •  One sheet red paper, Letter size or A4
  •  One sheet gold paper, Letter size or A4
  •  Pencil and ruler
  •  Scissors
  •  Glue






Step 1:

  • Fold the red paper in half.
  • Use the pencil and ruler to trace lines perpendicular to the folded side about 3/4″ apart and leaving 3/4″ at the top.
  • Use the scissors to cut through the lines, this will form the bars in the middle of the lantern.

Making Easy  Chinese Paper Lantern Step 1


Step 2:

  • Roll the gold paper lengthwise to form a tube, this will be the center of the lantern.
  • Secure it with some glue.

Making Easy  Chinese Paper Lantern Step 2


Step 3:

  • Open the red paper.
  • Match the red paper cut out with the gold tube at one end.
  • Secure with glue.

Making Easy  Chinese Paper Lantern Step 3


Step 4:

  • Match the other side leaving some of the gold tube visible depending on how tall or short you want your lantern to be
  • Secure with glue.

Making Easy  Chinese Paper Lantern Step 4


Step 5:

  • Cut any excess gold tube at the bottom.
  • Or just leave it as part of the decoration.

Making Easy  Chinese Paper Lantern Step 5


Step 6:

  • You can use the excess gold strip to make the handle.
  • Glue on both sides at the top.
  • Ready!

Making Easy  Chinese Paper Lantern Step 6


Once you have the basics, it’s easy to try out some different variations. Have fun!



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Brain Gym Exercises

What is Brain Gym?

Brain Gym is an organization that promotes a series of exercises that can improve academic performance. The 26 Brain Gym activities help to improve eye teaming, spatial and listening skills, hand-eye coordination, and whole-body flexibility. Many have said that by doing these exercises we are able to manipulate the brain which in turn improves learning and recall of information. Several books have been written describing research, case studies and its affects on learning. Brain Gym activities have been incorporated into many educational, sports, business, and seniors programs throughout the world. 


Brain Gym Exercises

Here are some of the Brain Gym exercises we use at HILS.


1) Cross Crawl 

Benefits: Helps with spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension.

Instructions: Stand in an upright position. Place your right elbow across the body to the left knee as you raise it, and then do the same for the left elbow on the right knee. Do this for two to three minutes.



2) Lazy 8s


Benefits: Improves visual attention and eye mobility needed for reading.

Instructions: Align the body with a point at eye level. This will be the midpoint of the 8. Start and the midpoint and move counter-clockwise up, over, around and back to the midpoint. As the eyes follow the Lazy 8, the head moves slightly and the neck remains relaxed. Do three repetitions with each hand separately and then both hands together.



3) Hook Ups

Benefits: Helps to lessen anxiety and improves mood.

Instructions: Cross the right leg over the left ankle. Take your right wrist and cross it over the left wrist and link up the fingers so that the right wrist is on top. Bend the elbows out and gently turn the fingers in towards the body until they rest on the sternum in the center of the chest. Stay in this position. Keep the ankles crossed and the wrists crossed and then breathe in this position for a few minutes. You should feel calmer after this.



4) The Elephant

Benefits: Activates all areas of the mind-body system.

Instructions: Place the left ear on the left shoulder then extending the left arm like the trunk of an elephant with knees relaxed, draw the infinity sign in front of you. Switch arms after three to five complete signs.


5) Energy Yawn

Benefits: Helps to relieve stress.

Instructions: Massage the muscles around the temporal-mandibular joint of the jaw.



6) Positive Points

Benefits: Helps to relieve stress and improve memory.

Instructions: Lightly touch the point above each eye halfway between the hairline and the eyebrow with fingertips of each hand. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply for a few seconds. Release and repeat 3 times.



Information taken from: