Ten Key Things We Learnt in 2018 and We Want You to Know…

Hello dear reader! First a huge thank you for supporting NESTS during 2108 and for taking the time to read our blog post.

This final post for the year focusses on the ten things we learnt in 2018 and want you to know. At NESTS we determinedly seek out new learning and key ideas that can help us all become better educators. NESTS’s focus is supporting students and teachers who tackle the challenge of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, building resilience in our students and ourselves, and the challenge of effectively teaching students with severely disruptive behaviours. But we are aware that all our subscribers have different interests and wish to focus on a diverse range of educational issues. We are also aware that everyone is time poor.

Therefore, let us guide you to the dot points that may interest you most.

If your interest is Resilience start at #1 and #2. Want to set up a gratitude journal on a device? #3. For technology for supporting dyslexic students, see #4. For details of a great scribe pen, teaching severely disruptive students, go straight to #5. ASD and evaluating treatment options are at #6. Anxiety is at #7. The complicated issue of drugs and ADHD is at #8. If you’re interested in a social support group for the ASD learner, check out #9. And finally, #10 is a reminder that we will never know how much we don’t know.

So please enjoy our blog, leave us a comment or suggestions of the things you would like to learn more about. And best wishes for a happy and safe festive season wherever you are.

This year, Jamie and Cressida have been attending conferences, reading widely and meeting with academics – all in our quest to be the best advisors we can be for all teachers. 

Remember NESTS are happy to come to your school, kindergarten or educational setting to present designated Professional Development on all these ideas. Our rates are much less than most PD providers and our main goal is to increase the knowledge of educators so that they can effectively support all their students. We look forward to hearing from you.

Here are the ten important things we learnt:

1. Building Resilience must be a key goal for every individual.

Successful individuals are resilient.

Therefore as educators, a key goal needs to be increasing the resilience of our students and also ourselves. To find out more, Jamie and Cressida attended two talks. The first by Hugh van Cuylenburg from The Resilience Project. “The Resilience Project delivers emotionally engaging programs to schools, sports clubs and businesses, providing practical, evidence-based, positive mental health strategies to build resilience and happiness.”  Hugh’s philosophy focuses on the three pillars that support a good life: Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness.

What we learnt from Hugh is that in order to support these ideas, every day takes little effort or time but the key is to commit to the practise. Each day, ask your students/child to write down or to tell you so you can record the ideas for them: 1) What was the best thing that happened to me today? 2) Who am I most grateful for today and why? 3) What am I looking forward to most about tomorrow? Writing this information down is important because it allows the ideas to be revisited and encourages reflection – and it is this process that builds resilience.

2. Building Resilience revisited

Martin Seligman author of “The Optimistic Child”  (in Cressida’s opinion, the best book on parenting in existence – read it!) addressed the issue of “Hope and Hopelessness” in his talk on April 19th. Both speakers are outstanding leaders within the Positive Psychology movement and truly understand what it is we need to do to build resilience in ourselves and others. Seligman tells us that happier kids do better and the way to make kids happy is to teach gratitude. Seligman also advocates taking time every day to write down the three things that happened in your day that you are grateful for as by doing this you will increase your mental well-being, increase optimism, reduce anxiety and increase resilience. Both speakers made it clear that resilience is the greatest buffer against anxiety, pessimism and mental illness – nothing could be more important than this for all our students and us.

3.   MyGratitude Journal 

Because a smart phone is easy to use and we take photos every day! Jamie and Cressida have been using this little app to record our daily gratitudes. It’s quick and easy and you can add both photos and text. It is a lovely thing to look back over the days and weeks that have passed to see how truly grateful we should be for our blessed lives. Try it! And then you can share your gratitudes with others. Happy resilience building.


4.  Teaching students with dyslexia or hand-writing issues?

Check out the Live scribe smart pen. great resource for individuals who struggle with taking notes. Dyslexic or not this pen could be a great asset to managing the need to take and write decipherable notes with a pen. The smart pen digitises hand-writing, records audio along with your notes and allows the easy sharing of notes across word processing platforms.


5. Teaching a severely disruptive student?

Ross Greene may have the answers you seek and they are all free.  Ross Greene is an educator who cares so much about the work he is doing to support severely disruptive children that all his resources are available free online. Ross Greene believes that every child wants to do well and “If they could, they would” but too often our expectations exceed their capabilities. Therefore as adults, we should not look to change the child’s behaviour. Instead we should work out what the problem is or what skills these children need to succeed. Ross Greene urges us to identify and think about lagging skills. if you are teaching these children take the time to watch his online videos, listen to his podcasts and interviews and read his book – his ideas are insightful, challenging and make sense. Ross Greene is brilliant.

Here is a quick anecdote to explain what a lagging skill looks like.

Jack is in Year 3. He arrives at school each morning and is asked to sit at his desk and copy the days learning intention from the board. On Monday he struggles to write the two sentences and is clearly agitated by his peer as his writing is slow and he finds sitting still difficult. The teacher encourages him to finish his work and praises him for his efforts. 

On Tuesday Jack arrives at school and refuses to sit at his desk to write – the teacher gives him time out. On Wednesday, Jack arrives at school and yells at the teacher when he is asked to sit and write the words from the board, he is sent tot he office, his mother is called and he is sent home. Jack is labeled disruptive. 

But, Ross Greene would look at this problem differently and ask “What are the skills Jack lacks?” Can you see the issue? Jack lacks the skills to copy the sentences from the board.  Add to this Jack is a perfectionist and also suffers from anxiety. Each morning this task is challenging for him. What could you do differently here? Does Jack need to copy from the board? What questions should the teacher have asked Jack? What would you do in your classroom?

Interested to learn more? Check out Ross Greene his resources are brilliant and you will learn many useful strategies for tackling and supporting these severely disruptive kids.


6. It is quick and easy for anyone to evaluate suggested treatment options for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Ever wondered which treatments are worth trying and which treatments are an expensive waste of time and money?

To find out go to the Parent Guide to Therapies on the Raising Children website here you can read about each therapy, the costs and the academic research relating to each treatment type. For example, many parents of children on the spectrum try a gluten free elimination diet. However, the website tells us “There’s limited evidence to support the use of elimination diets. In addition, there have been concerns about the safety of restricting children’s diets in this way.”

As an educator, you can simply share the website details with parents. Remember, tread lightly when giving parenting advice.

7. Understanding Anxiety

Sally Rigley from the ASD Clinic taught us about the reality of anxiety. Living with anxiety is living on high alert. Key ideas to add to our repertoire as teachers included:

  • anxiety is living life on high alert
  • anxiety generally comes from a combination of four sources: anger, the need for control of people and the environment, sadness and/or withdrawal either verbally, physically or emotionally
  • remember that as a student’s anxiety increases the student’s ability to filter sensory inputs and process language decreases
  • in tackling anxiety every strategy must be matched to a corresponding action. Success occurs when anxiety is caught early and strategies are implemented and modelled with the anxious student
  • to alleviate anxiety: first, recognise that the student is anxious. Then, label the emotion. Understand the triggers and situations that cause anxiety. Actively listen to and reflect with the student on strategies to use
  • teachers should describe students as feeling anxious and never as an anxious person
  • we all get anxious and it is important to normalise the emotion be inclusive! teach all your students strategies to address anxiety.


8. ADHD and Drugs

The issue of giving children with ADHD is one thing controversial. At NESTS we work with families, teachers, and children who are facing the challenge of living with ADHD. We have seen first-hand children and teenagers whose lives have been immediately changed for the better with the support of medication. But more importantly, we have learnt that they are no simple solutions. All good outcomes require a dedicated support team and hours of hard work.

This year, we heard two vastly different responses and convincing responses to the question should children diagnosed with ADHD be given drugs:

Opinion 1

YES to drugs addressed head-on by Paediatrician Jo Martin at the National Education Show who told the audience of over 300 educators at The Education Show – Special Needs Symposium  that “70-80 % of children treated with medication for their ADHD demonstrate an immediate positive response; characterised by a decrease in impulsivity and an increase in positive behaviours and improved social relationships within two weeks. Importantly combining psychology and medication did not provide a better response.”

Opinion 2

In contrast, a firm NO to prescribing drugs to children came from Dr Xan van Tulleken in the BBC documentary (available in Australia on SBS on Demand) The Doctor who took Children off Drugs You can read more about the documentary here. In all debates, knowledge matters. So our recommendation is to keep learning and supporting your students with ADHD. And please never judge any parent who has had to make this the hardest of decisions. Act with kindness.

9. Secret Agents Society

This year, Jamie trained as a facilitator for the Secret Agency Society (SAS) a social skills program for 8 to 12 year old children with social and emotional challenges such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and anxiety. “Several independent University trials have shown the program to be effective in improving the social skills of children with ASD at home and at school. A trial has also shown the program to be effective in improving the social skills of children with social-emotional challenges but without an ASD diagnosis, such as those who are just shy, or have a formal diagnosis such as ADHD or social anxiety. SAS currently holds the most clinically significant change published to date in the world for a social skills program for children”. Please feel free to contact Jamie to find out more.

10. You can always learn more!

If everything we do we seek to remind educators that community is everything, inclusion matters and the starting point for all interventions must be to ASK! Happy learning.

Cressida and Jamie

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