News Archive

30/07/19

New research suggests autism could be spotted at birth

Children with autism could be identified at birth, by looking into their eyes – enabling treatments to start years before symptoms develop giving more chance that the treatments will work.

The technique uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to spot abnormalities in pupil dilation and heart rate. In tests on young girls the computer algorithm accurately detected Rett syndrome – a genetic disorder similar to autism that starts from six months of age.

The device, described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is non-invasive meaning it can be used on infants without endangering their health.

In the future, it may be used to monitor patients’ responses to treatments. Currently, a clinical trial is testing the ‘party drug’ ketamine for Rett syndrome. A gene therapy trial is also planned.

Children with ASD have problems with communicating, social interaction and are prone to repetitive behaviours. But most cases are not confirmed until after the age of four meaning therapy is started later – delaying their potential impact.

In autism, the brain’s cholinergic circuits which are involved in arousal are disturbed triggering both spontaneous pupil dilation and constriction and speeding up the heart rate.

Read more on this story on the London Economic website

Disabled children at risk amid delays in supplies of intravenous nutrition

The Daily Telegraph reports that hundreds of NHS patients –  including children – who depend on intravenous nutrition – are experiencing delays in deliveries, an investigation has found.

Senior clinical staff said they were “walking a very thin line” amid shortages of supplies of hydration and nutrition for the most vulnerable. 

The British manufacturer of the feed, known as Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), said hundreds of patients were affected by the problems, which resulted from an inspection by watchdogs. 

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ordered the firm called Calea to make changes to its processes, in order to maintain product safety.

The MHRA said no defects had been found in the product, but said the company had reduced their output while making the changes.

The feed is used by vulnerable and disabled patients, mainly living in their own homes. 

More on this story on the Daily Telegraph website

08/07/19

Lack of sunshine in pregnancy could lead to the birth of a child with autism, ADHD or dyslexia

The Daily Mail has reported that research shows that pregnant women who don’t get enough sunshine are more likely to have children with dyslexia, autism or ADHD, a major study suggests.

Researchers found 21 per cent of children conceived during the winter months of February, March and April had a learning disability. In comparison, the figure was just 16.5 per cent for youngsters conceived in June and July. 

The findings come from a major investigation using NASA satellite data and records of more than 400,000 youngsters living in Scotland. 

Experts believe that lack of sunlight in pregnancy leading to lower levels of vitamin D could be responsible 

Previous studies have already shown that the prevalence of autism is higher in populations that are further from the equator than those that are closest to it.

The new study adds more weight to the theory that sunlight and vitamin D play a role, as well as other factors, such as family history, in the development of intellectual disabilities. Vitamin D is considered crucial for a baby’s development, meaning low levels in early pregnancy could affect their brain.

More on the story here

Specialist dog to launch ADHD book

The Ely Standard reports on Izzy the dog and owner Chris Kent who together have written a book designed to help young people with ADHD recognise their special traits and learn how to manage them.

Izzy and Chris now require the help of professionals to publish their book ‘You, Me and ADHD! – Celebrating ADHD through positive management, mindfulness and understanding’, and now a crowdfunding page has been set up.

The book will be self-published to enable Chris and Izzy to keep control over how it looks, whilst trying to keep the price low and releasing the finished item as soon as possible with additions such as illustrations, design and printing needing to be funded.

Read more here

17/06/19

Learning Disability Week 2019

This week is Learning Disability Week (17-23 June) and is all about sport and inclusion. Back in 2015, Mencap conducted a survey of three hundred 18 to 35 year olds with a learning disability and found that 49% would like to spend more time outside their house, 18% felt alone and cut-off from other people, and 1 in 3 spent less than 1 hour outside their house on a typical Saturday.

Sport can help with all of the aforementioned issues as it can reduce isolation and loneliness, lead to improved health and wellbeing and greater social inclusion. Throughout Learning Disability Week 2019, Mencap want as many people as possible, with and without learning disabilities to get involved in inclusive sporting activities within their local communities.

There are events taking place all week all across the country and you can find out and get involved in what is happening in your area by visiting the map on the Mencap website here.

Trust launches innovative learning disability passport

As part of 2019 national Learning Disability Awareness Week, a new innovative scheme has been launched in Doncaster, set to make it much easier for people with a learning disability and/or autism to access and receive care and treatment they need across primary care.

Following national success of the Hospital Traffic Light system, Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber (RDaSH) NHS Foundation Trust and Doncaster
Clinical Commissioning Group have worked in partnership to create a brand new primary health and care passport that is set to provide an overview of each individual, making it easier for health and care professionals to provide the right treatment.

The passport provides an overview of individuals and behaviours they display when they are well. It includes key information based on who the individual is, how they prefer to communicate, what medication they take and how health and care professionals know if the individual is in pain or displaying signs they may be unwell.

Click here to read more on the scheme.

07/06/19

SEND: petition demands end to “national crisis”

On Thursday 30 May, thousands of disabled children and their families will take to the streets in England and Wales to demand action on what is being described as the “national crisis on special needs funding”.

Part of the action includes a march to number 10 Downing Street when the organisation “SEND National Crisis” will, at 12 noon, deliver a petition containing 13,000 names. Following the presentation of the petition the marchers will continue on to Parliament Square.

Additional rallies are planned in 28 towns and cities from Leeds and Liverpool to Reading and Rhyl.

SEND National Crisis’ main aim is to have the current SEND and EHCP legislation re-evaluated with parent/carer consultation in line with parent partnership and with continuity amongst regions instead of local policy.

They are also asking for independent parent governor boards to be implemented with enforcement powers to ensure lawful and ethical practices by local authorities throughout and during the SEND / EHCP process and feel that it is vital that the pathway to diagnoses be increasingly accessible and have a shorter time frame for assessment, to allow optimum efficiency and to enable a more productive outcome for young people and children with disabilities or additional needs.

The government reformed special education provision in England back in 2014, replacing special needs statements with Education, Health and Care plans (EHCs), aiming to deliver a “simpler and more joined up system”, from birth to age 25.

But five years on, parents and carers say the system is not working and last year, Ofsted described the failure to deliver support for thousands of children in England with diagnosed special educational needs as “a national scandal”.

More on the work of SEND National Crisis here.

21/05/19

Changing Places: consultation may see better disabled toilets

On 12 May, the government launched a consultation on a proposal which has the potential to add “Changing Places” toilets to more than 150 new buildings per year across England, including shopping centres, supermarkets, cinemas, stadiums and arts venues.

Speaking about the consultation, Local Government Minister, Rishi Sunak MP, said:

“Everyone should have the freedom to enjoy days out in dignity and comfort. For severely disabled people, this is made very difficult because there are not enough Changing Places toilets. We’ve made some progress, but I’m determined to increase the number of these life-enhancing facilities, so people are given the dignity they deserve. I’m pleased so many people will be helped by this major change.”

The government consultation will run for 10 weeks. It includes proposals around the required size and shape of Changing Places toilets, as well as the range of equipment that must be included.

It also proposes thresholds at which Changing Places toilets will be made mandatory in new or largely refurbished buildings of different types, such as overall floor space or attendance capacity.

Changing Places toilets meet the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well people with other physical disabilities who often need extra equipment and space to allow them to use the toilets safely and comfortably.

Standard accessible toilets (or “disabled toilets”) do not provide changing benches or hoists and most are too small to accommodate more than one person. Without Changing Places toilets, the person with disabilities is put at risk, and families are forced to risk their own health and safety by changing their loved one on a toilet floor.

For more on Changing Places toilets have a look at the Changing Places website here

You can take part in the government consultation here

13/05/19

U.S. health officials approve device used to treat ADHD

Doctors in the U.S. can now prescribe an electronic device which zaps nerves in the forehead to treat ADHD in children.

The device, which is about the size of a mobile, called the “Monarch eTNS” works by sending signals through a nerve in the face to stimulate parts of the brain which regulate behaviour and emotion.

The device, which is approved for 7-14 year olds, works through a patch which is attached to the child’s forehead whilst they sleep. It creates a mild tingling feeling on the skin.

Exactly how this treats ADHD isn’t clear but it is believed to stimulate the brain’s thalamus and cortex, which control attention, behaviour and emotions.

NeuroSigma, the company marketing the prescription-only device, claims it can cut ADHD symptoms by 44 per cent in children aged between 7 and 14 years old.

Read more on this story on the Daily Mail’s site here

Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 will take place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019. The theme for 2019 is body image: how people think and feel about their bodies.

Body image issues can affect people of any age. During the week the Mental Health Foundation will be publishing new research, considering some of the reasons why body image can impact the way that people feel, campaigning for change and publishing practical tools. 

The Mental Health Foundation aims to tackle body image through what children are taught in schools, by the way people talk about their bodies on a daily basis and through policy change by governments across the UK.

To get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website here

04/05/19

SEN North Show only a week away!

After 26 years in London, and due to increasing visitor demand, the Tes SEN Show is expanding in 2019 with the launch of an additional new event, Tes SEN North.

Tes SEN North 2019 will take place at Manchester Central, to provide SEN professionals from across the UK with access to professional development opportunities including 32 CPD certified seminars, a wide range of free-to-attend features and a great mix of exhibitors showcasing the very latest products and services. 

There is no better place to gain insight, network, be inspired, discover the latest resources and collaborate with peers.

The opening Keynote Panel Debate will feature eminent educationalists from the SEN sector and is designed to ensure that visitors can immerse themselves in the latest thinking around policy and practice.

The exhibitor-led workshops will enable visitors to find out about how new products and services can be applied in day-to-day practice.

The Parent, Carer & Teacher Forum will provide a vital safe space for parents, carers and teachers to exchange tips and learn to work collaboratively. SEN North TeachMeet will take place after Day 1 of the show to allow visitors to discuss challenges and solutions with their peers.

Visitors will be able to able to return to their schools, inspired with new ideas to put into practice.

This event takes place on 10 and 11 May and is completely free (with a small fee for attending CPD seminars).

Find out more in the full programme.

Tes also run the established London SEN Show on 4 and 5 October 2019 at The Design Centre, London.

You can read about and register for the London event here.

25/04/19

New guide written by people with autism, for people with autism…

The National Autistic Taskforce, an organisation whose leadership and the majority of its members are autistic, has produced a guide aimed at those who commission, provide or inspect care and support for people with autism.

The guide presents an independent view of what constitutes good quality care and support across the UK for autistic people of all ages.

Among its recommendations is that care providers should make the protection of service-users’ autonomy “a core priority” and ensure they have choice and control over “major life decisions and not just everyday choices”.

The guide goes on to state that:

“A good service for autistic people is one where staff try to put themselves in an autistic person’s shoes, get to know each person as an individual, and maintain a relationship with the person based on trust and respect.”

The guide can be downloaded at https://nationalautistictaskforce.org.uk/

LEGO launches Braille Bricks for blind and visually impaired children.

Danish toy brand LEGO has created blocks that have numbers and letters on them in braille to help children learn and play at the same time.

The new bricks are moulded with the same number of studs used for letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet, as well as a printed letter or character to ensure the system is inclusive of sighted people.

The Braille Bricks are currently being tested in Danish, Norwegian, English and Portuguese, before being tested in German, Spanish and French later this year.

18/04/19

Have your say on proposals to introduce learning disability and autism training.

The government has announced a consultation on proposals which will make sure that health and social care staff have the right training to understand the needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people, and make reasonable adjustments to support them.

In particular, it seeks the views of parents and carers, parent support groups, people who have a learning disability and autism and providers of health and social care services

Views are being sought on how the training should be delivered, the planned content of the training, how to involve people with learning disabilities or autism and how to mandate, monitor and evaluate the impact of training.

Have your say. The consultation closes at 11.59pm on 26 April 2019.

You can access the consultation online here.

Did you know that people with autism and mental health conditions can now apply for a Blue Badge?

In the biggest shake-up of the Blue Badge Scheme in 40 years, the Department for Transport has introduced new criteria for qualifying under the Scheme, meaning that people with “hidden disabilities” can now be considered for a badge.

Previously the scheme was open only to people with physical disabilities but under new regulations, the scheme is now open for applications from people with other conditions, including autism and mental health issues.

The new criteria will extend eligibility to people who cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism), cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress, or have very considerable difficulty when walking (including distress caused by the experience of walking).

Read more about the Blue Badge Scheme.

11/04/19

Funding for children with special needs drops by 17%

Thinktank IPPR North has reported that funding for children with special educational needs has fallen by 17% across the UK since 2015, with the North being worst hit with cuts of up to 22%, leading to accusations that the government is failing children who have special educational needs.

The researchers have said that the current funding settlement for schools and colleges was “nowhere near enough” to provide the support that children and young people with SEND needed and deserved.

The report comes after more than 1,000 councillors in England wrote to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, urging the government to give schools billions of pounds in extra funding. In the letter, overseen by the National Education Union’s councillor network, councillors urge the government to end spending cuts and increase SEND funding.

Read more on this story at The Guardian’s website

Manchester Special Educational Needs Show one month away

Since 1992, the Tes SEN Show has been providing valuable insight to empower the SEN community and help them bring learning alive for children with special educational needs. This year, the Show is expanding with the launch of a new show – Tes SEN North.

Tes SEN North will take place on 10-11 May at Manchester Central to provide the wider SEN community with the ideal environment to take a step back from their daily roles. Visitors will improve their learning and development, discover the latest cutting-edge products and services, network and be inspired with innovative ideas to put into practice.

Building on the success of last year’s London show, Tes SEN North will have a variety of free special features and a total of 32 CPD-certified seminars. Each session is designed to provide expert knowledge on SEN practice, policy and provision to professionals at all levels, as well as the parents and carers of children with SEN.

Visitors attending seminars can update their thinking on vital areas of practice and boost their continuous professional development. The programme covers a range of key areas and this year has a particular focus on the growing issue of school exclusion.

Register free at http://www.tessenshow.co.uk/Manchester

04/04/19

Government plans register for all children not in school

Education Secretary Daman Hinds has set out landmark proposals for a register of all children not in school.

Estimates suggest almost 60,000 children are deemed to be educated at home – a figure that is thought to be rising by around a quarter every year.

The Department is also proposing new measures to support parents who choose to educate their children at home, in the form of a legal duty for local authorities to provide assistance like helping to pay for exam costs and more.

Under the plans, it will be parents’ responsibility to register their child if they are not being taught in a state-funded or registered independent school.

The Government is also publishing guidance for local authorities and for parents that clarifies their powers and responsibilities under current law, setting out the action councils can take if they have concerns a child is not receiving a suitable education. This includes school attendance orders – a legal power that already exists, compelling parents to send their child to a registered school.

Click here to read more and give your views on on the government’s consultation, which closes on 24 June 2019.

British Airways named first “autism-friendly” airline

The National Autistic Society has awarded British Airways the prestigious “Autism Friendly Award”.

The airline which has around half a million customers requiring additional assistance each year, has made changes to staff training, the kind of information available to customers and the process of getting on and off its aircraft.

Carolina Martinoli, Director of Brand and Customer Experience at British Airways has announced that the airline is soon to launch a step-by-step guide of the British Airways journey experience which has been created with customers who have autism in mind.

More on the story at the Mirror’s website.

28/03/19

Homeopaths ordered to stop claiming they can cure autism

The BBC reports that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered 150 uk-based homeopaths to stop claiming that they can cure autism.

Five of the companies face prosecution for advertising a treatment called “Cease Therapy” (“Cease” standing for Complete Elimination of Autism Spectrum Expression”) which has no scientific basis and is potentially harmful.

Cease is is a form of homeopathy, based on the idea that toxins in the environment and vaccines may cause autism and therapists claim they can cure autism by removing these ‘harmful’ substances with homeopathic remedies and dietary supplements.

But there is no scientific evidence for any link between vaccines and autism, and experts say Cease therapy is potentially harmful.

Cease therapists recommend giving autistic children four to five times more zinc than is recommended by the Department of Health and 200 times more vitamin C, even though large quantities of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea and vomiting.

For more on this story see the BBC’s article. 

Down’s Syndrome girl refused entry to New Zealand

The authorities in New Zealand have refused a British family entry to the country stating that their 15 year old daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome and has been offered a place at a college in New Zealand, does not have “an acceptable standard of health” and would “impose significant costs” on health and education services in Auckland.

Whilst Bumika Suhinthan was denied a visa, her parents and two sisters were all granted visas to live and study in Auckland.

For the full story see the Mirror’s article

21/03/19

Judge rules on Council’s SEND “cuts”

Website “Surrey Live” reports that five mothers have lost a case brought on behalf of their children against Surrey County Council’s £21 million budget “cuts” following a High Court ruling by Lady Justice Sharp.

The parents challenged the Council’s “School and Special Educational Needs (SSEN) budget for 2018-19 arguing that the council had cut SSEN provision without consulting families and asked High Court judges to rule the decision “unlawful”.

However, in a ruling on 15 March 2019, Lady Justice Sharp said the budget identified how savings might be made, but no cuts had been decided upon or worked out and therefore there was no duty to consult at that stage.

Rejecting their claim for judicial review, Lady Justice Sharp said the evidence in the case showed the decision being challenged was not a “cut” to spending or services for children with special needs, adding:

“What the council has identified is the potential for future savings. In those circumstances, the council could not know what the impact of cuts might be in those areas, or consult on them, because at the time the decision under challenge was taken, no cuts had been decided upon or worked out.”

Government seeks views of autistic people

Autistic people, their families and those caring for them are being asked for their views on how care and support can be improved in England as part of the government’s national autism strategy.

People are now being given the chance to take part in an online survey to express their views on what is working and where more needs to be done to transform care and support.

For the purpose of the consultation, the term ‘autism’ is used to refer to all categories of diagnoses on the autistic spectrum and responses are welcome from people who identify with them, whether or not they have a medical diagnosis.

The survey also invites professionals in England who provide care and support in a range of settings (for example across health, social care, education and the voluntary sector) to autistic people, their families, and carers.

The survey can be accessed at https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/autism/2e4ae18d/consultation/intro/

14/03/19

Judge rules on Council’s SEND “cuts”

Website “Surrey Live” reports that five mothers have lost a case brought on behalf of their children against Surrey County Council’s £21 million budget “cuts” following a High Court ruling by Lady Justice Sharp.

The parents challenged the Council’s “School and Special Educational Needs (SSEN) budget for 2018-19 arguing that the council had cut SSEN provision without consulting families and asked High Court judges to rule the decision “unlawful”.

However, in a ruling on 15 March 2019, Lady Justice Sharp said the budget identified how savings might be made, but no cuts had been decided upon or worked out and therefore there was no duty to consult at that stage.

Rejecting their claim for judicial review, Lady Justice Sharp said the evidence in the case showed the decision being challenged was not a “cut” to spending or services for children with special needs, adding:

“What the council has identified is the potential for future savings. In those circumstances, the council could not know what the impact of cuts might be in those areas, or consult on them, because at the time the decision under challenge was taken, no cuts had been decided upon or worked out.”

Government seeks views of autistic people

Autistic people, their families and those caring for them are being asked for their views on how care and support can be improved in England as part of the government’s national autism strategy.

People are now being given the chance to take part in an online survey to express their views on what is working and where more needs to be done to transform care and support.

For the purpose of the consultation, the term ‘autism’ is used to refer to all categories of diagnoses on the autistic spectrum and responses are welcome from people who identify with them, whether or not they have a medical diagnosis.

The survey also invites professionals in England who provide care and support in a range of settings (for example across health, social care, education and the voluntary sector) to autistic people, their families, and carers.

The survey can be accessed at here

14/03/19

New special schools to create 3,500 places

The Department for Education has announced that thousands of new school places are being created for children with special educational needs or those facing additional challenges in mainstream education, providing tailored support to help children thrive.

Every region in the country will benefit from a new school, which include 37 special free schools and two alternative provision free schools. The new schools will boost choice for parents and provide specialist support and education for pupils with complex needs such as autism, severe learning difficulties or mental health conditions, and those who may have been or are at risk of being excluded from mainstream schools.

The 39 will create 3,459 extra places for pupils and will be located as follows:

  • Three will be in the North East providing 200 places;
  • Five will be in the Yorkshire and Humber region providing 500 places;
  • Six will be in the North West providing 400 places;
  • One in the East Midlands providing 50 places;
  • Four in the West Midlands providing over 400 places;
  • Four in the East of England providing over 300 places;
  • Five in London providing over 400 places;
  • Six in the South West providing 500 places;
  • Three in the South East providing over 300 places;
  • Two alternative provision free schools in the West Midlands creating 100 places for children who have been, or are at danger of being, excluded from mainstream education.

Read the whole story at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-of-places-created-in-new-special-free-schools?utm_source=033bfd3d-721b-464b-ab44-1200681ff06d&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

Head reports that yoga helps behaviour

The BBC reports that children with autism and ADHD attending a primary school in Norfolk have been participating in a trial involving yoga classes.

Head at Reedham Primary, Chris Edwards told The BBC:

“We have seen how the practice of yoga has a profound impact on certain children. They appear to be calmer and more at peace with themselves and their surroundings.

“By being more in control of their feelings, their behaviour and attitudes towards learning and life in general have improved.”

07/03/19

Calls for home-schooled children to be registered

The BBC has reported England’s school’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, has produced a report estimating that almost 60,000 children were educated at home at any one time in 2018, with the report finding that a small number of schools were responsible for the majority of children moving to home education.

Ms Longfield has expressed concerns that some more vulnerable children could be “off-rolled” and encouraged to move by their school.

Local authorities examined by the Children’s Commissioner found there was a 32% increase in the number of primary school children moving from school to home education between 2015/16 and 2017/18, and a 71% increase in the number of children from secondary schools.

DVLA changes policy on autistic drivers

The Guardian reported on 3 March that the DVLA were forcing people to disclose a diagnosis of autism – even if the condition did not affect their driving.

Uproar followed the announcement and as a result the DVLA had a change of heart and reversed its decision, changing the advice to read:

“You must tell DVLA if your autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) affects your ability to drive safely.”

If the DVLA had not reversed its decision the National Autistic Society had said that it would be challenging the decision under the Equality Act 2010’s provisions that relate to public sector equality duty.

Government consultation seeking views on identifying schools needing support

The consultation seeks views on proposals for a clearer, simpler approach to identifying schools that may benefit from an offer of support to help improve a school’s educational performance.

The government’s proposal is that all schools judged as ‘Requires improvement’ by Ofsted will be eligible for support, and that schools with two consecutive ‘Requires improvement’ judgements will be eligible for more intensive support.

To give your opinion visit the Department for Education’s website

The consultation ends on 25 March 2019.

27/02/19

The link between autism and anorexia

The BBC has highlighted research conducted by research charity Autistica which suggests that the NHS needs to change the way in which it assesses eating orders to take into account links with autism.

Will Mandy, a leading autism researcher, from University College London believes that the “high levels of stress and anxiety” caused by autism going undiagnosed in childhood and adolescence can contribute to people experiencing severe mental health conditions, such as eating disorders.

Autistica’s director of science, Dr James Cusack, is calling for new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to reflect this.

He pointed to three separate studies carried out in 2015 and 2017 that suggested 15% of women with anorexia also have autism.

For more on this story see the BBC’s article

For more on the work of Autistica visit https://www.autistica.org.uk/

Disabled boy has benefits axed

The Mirror newspaper has reported on the case of a six year old boy with a deformed ankle who has been deprived of his specialised car and £4,230 per year allowance after being told that he can “put one foot in front of another”.

Leon Berman who lives in Staffordshire was born with a condition that has affected the growth of his left leg. He has undergone several operations, wears a shield around his ankle, leg and foot, and faces more hospital procedures.

No longer having the DLA funding which was used partly to fund a car has left Leon having to use his wheelchair to get to and from his school because he suffers pain after walking for just five minutes.

Leon’s Mum has appealed the decision but the DWP remain steadfast because Leon can put one foot in front of the other and can cross the road.

Read the whole story here