Friday, 30 November 2012

Free Apps Friday 29.11.12

For those of you with iPads and other iDevices, here are a selection of FREE apps that I have found this morning:

1. Oh, What a Tangle!

An interactive story

2. Everyday Mathematics® Monster Squeeze™

Number recognition with monsters. A two player game.

3. Toca Tailor Fairy Tales

Design and style clothes

4. Old MacDonald HD - by Duck Duck Moose 

An interactive story 

5. Move and Match

An educational app with word/symbol/picture matching

6. Social Stories

Another app for making social stories

7. Puzzle School

Up to 300 picture puzzles (10 initially)

8. Maths Facts Card Matching

Fun with Maths

9.  Lola's Beach Puzzle

Fun puzzles for 3-8 year olds

Thanks to Senict and Technology in Special Education for these apps

If your child needs an iPad please check out Hearts and Minds:

Twitter: @handmchallenge

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Mad Men Ball raises £40,000 for children with autism!

Stars and celebrities from screen and sport were among the guests at the Mad Men Ball held last Sunday 25th November in the Hilton Hotel in Manchester.

The event raised around £40,000 for children with autism!

Thank you to everyone who supported the event.

More photos on the Hearts and Minds Facebook page here:

Monday, 19 November 2012

A lion in the clouds: another story of autism and an iPad

Three year old Elliot has non-verbal autism , but great computer skills.  His Mum tells his story:

I remember what a good baby he was, he didn't cry a lot and seemed happy and content.  I did notice  that he never pointed and rarely turned to his name.  He also was late with sitting alone and crawling. But it wasn't until his second birthday that I knew something just wasn't right...he was still crawling and it wasn't just forwards it was backwards and sideways.......

He finally walked at 26 months, but at the same time he stopped talking, he lost all the words he had learned, and he quickly began to isolate himself from the world, he became so distant, in his own bubble, and I couldn't reach him.   Up on his feet, he wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, even me, even when he was in the pram he would just close his eyes and put his hands over his ears.   He began to play with his toys in a different way, all cars would be turned upside down so he could spin the wheels and look at them up close...........

Everyone told me that he would catch up, that he was just late, or just a boy.....But I went to get help.... Then came the day, the day I won't ever forget, the day when a therapist said those words:


My heart felt as though it had been ripped out, I was in shock, devastated, scared, why me?  I was told he would have this for the rest of his life.  I think it took me months to even talk about it, it was like I was grieving for the normal life he should have had and with no choice had to get used to the new one.........but he was still my little man, still my Elliot, just Different. 

What followed was home research, hours and hours of research, conflicting studies, opinions, advice, listening to doctors waffle on, and signs and symptoms of Autism on searches.   I needed to understand his ways and habits, why he did the things he did.  I thought if I understood maybe I could help and get him back.  Soon after the appointments started, I had them coming out of my ears, lots and lots of talking/arguing/explaining/questions/hospital/ doctors/blood tests/brain scans/play therapy/speech therapy/physiotherapy/meetings with educational psychologists/ nursery/outreach workers and health visitors filling out form after form, explaining his habits, obsessions, fears, sensory issues with noise, touch, light, strict routine, makaton and pecs, life became very different.......

I had been told that Autistic children have their strengths, sometime they display remarkable abilities and skills from a young age.  Elliot is a visual thinker, and has strong technological skills through computers, and this was the only thing he seemed to show an interest in and connect to, this was the road to go down, so he could learn and progress. 

There are times I fear that I cant cope and the tide might just pull me under, moments when I think I don't do enough for him or I think too much about the future.  Then I plant my feet firmly back into the sand and I breathe normally again, as he will have done the smallest thing to remind me that he is unique and amazing.

I saw this so clearly when I bought an iPad for him and for the first time he actually used his imagination at 3 years old....he amazed me with his drawings, use of imagination and photography through his computer, my favorite was his use of the camera as he captured the clouds looking like a lion.

I really believe that all the fantastic learning apps and communication apps will encourage him to talk, communicate and continue the use of his imagination.

Elliot's Mum Sarah runs a support group for parents and children with disabilities in Morecambe and a great new page called Apps for Autism tested by Mums:

If your child needs an iPad please check out Hearts and Minds:

Twitter: @handmchallenge

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Haircuts and #autism: 21 tips from parents

Image by John Kasawa
So many kids with #autism seem to find haircuts very traumatic.  If this is your child, then hopefully these tips from other Hearts & Minds parents may help:

1. Let him (or her) watch a favourite film, perhaps on the iPad.

2. Give his favourite soft toy a 'haircut' first.

3. Let him enjoy a favourite activity such as playing with water in the sink.

4. A home hairdresser can work well, once he is used to her.

5. Massage his head beforehand to desensitise a little - like body brushing before a bath.

6. A shampoo shield that keeps suds and water out of your child's eyes may help.  This one was recommended by one parent:,default,pd.html?cm_sp=ProductFeatures-_-Category%2520landing-_-Mothercare%2520Shampoo%2520Shield&q=shampoo%20shield

7. A social story that would go something like this: Find the clippers, sit on a chair, put on cape, hair gets cut then he gets to enjoy a favourite activity.

8. Clippers seem to work well when they are younger and introduce scissors when they are older.

9. Try cutting the hair while the child is asleep.

10. Avoid sensory overload by using soft music or nature sounds with headphones, dimming the lights and make the room as calm as possible.

11.  Use white noise for kids who enjoy the sounds of household equipment like vacuum cleaners and washing machines, or buy a Flow- bee, which is a vacuum cleaner attachment for cutting hair.

12. Use visual schedules, visual timers and build up tolerance by going to hairdressers every week.

13.  If your child doesn't like noise and vibration, try scissors on wet hair, then straight in the shower afterwards.

14. Take your child to a specialist children's or special needs hairdressing salon.  Try taking him once a week for just a comb through and build up to a bit of water spray and then finally a cut. Choose a quiet time and give him loads of praise and rewards afterwards.

15. For children who need to feel in control you could offer a choice between gelling it back and cutting it.

16.  Introduce the child to the clippers - perhaps let him feel them, or let him use them to cut the hair on a toy (both of these under close supervision obviously.

17. If the child doesn't like a shower, have a bath ready so that he can jump in as soon as the haircut is finished.

18. Let them play on the DS or iPad and be fast!

19. Wrap him in a towel whilst cutting his hair.  This keeps his arms away from the scissors and hair off his skin.  It also probably makes him feel more secure and one Mum also said that her son sits on her knee and that help him to cope too.

20. Remember to ask your occupational therapist for tips that could help your child.

21. Leave the ear area until last, wrap them in a blanket and put talc on their neck and face to stop the hair sticking and itching.

More great tips here too:

Monday, 12 November 2012

What happens when I've collected all the phones?


You've collected all the phones you need to get an iPad - or your choice of technology gift - from Hearts and Minds.

Perry and his collection of phones

So what happens now?

Obviously the kids are excited, they can't wait for the iPad to arrive, so parents can get a bit anxious, and there have been a number of queries about the process.  So here it is, step by step...

1. Email or to arrange collection of the phones.

2. One of the Hearts & Minds staff will email you back with the following information:

- the name of the courier company
- a collection date
- a reference number

3. The phones: Please leave them loose.  Just put into one or more plastic bags and knot tightly.  Put the bags in a strong cardboard box together.  Tape the box up securely so that no phones can fall out.

Address the box as follows:

Hearts & Minds,
3-5 Church Street,
Staffordshire ST14 8AG

Sender: (your name and address)

4. The couriers: please contact the them directly if you need to know the exact time of collection.  The courier company is Interlink and their phone number is 01782415513.

5. Collection day: please ensure that there is someone at the house on that day to hand over the phones.

6. Waiting for the iPad: It takes about 3 working days for the phones to be delivered and processed. You will then receive another email from Hearts & Minds with a tracking parcel number for the iPad once it has been despatched.

Your iPad should arrive within 14 days.

Open and enjoy :)

If your child needs an iPad please check out Hearts and Minds:

Twitter: @handmchallenge

For queries on the collection of phones or the delivery of iPads: Tel-020 3130 0410