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DZ Circus School

tomtags display set up for dz circus school

The request

“Hi. I’m a Director of a not-for-profit Community Circus School and we teach Autism Friendly classes that are evolving into what we are calling CSPD (Circus Skills for people with Disabilities). I feel some visual aids would be helpful for some of the students we have and love your product. We would love to be able to create stickers for the circus equipment we use but would prefer the option to print our own – is this something we could work with you to have a Circus Sheet of stickers? We also know the favourite colours throughout the group are blue and red so we’d like to choose our tags to match if possible!”

The discussion

Coral sent us some ideas of the circus equipment they wanted symbols for so we started by checking if the Widgit library would have anything suitable that we could use under our licence agreement. Due to the niche nature of the request, we found we couldn’t source all the items we needed from their library so Coral sent a few sketches of her own that she wondered if we could use. These looked amazing! We advised her to make sure all the symbols had clear black outlines and bright block colours for best impact and Coral set to work producing DZ Circus School’s own unique symbols that we set up and printed onto our stickers.   

The result

Our favourite bespoke task to date! Such lovely customers to work with, doing an amazing job for the benefit of their community and we’re so proud to be working in partnership with them. 

Here’s the feedback we received via the DZ Circus blog on (in their word) “TomTag Awesome Visuals”!  

 

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Photo tags

bespoke tag image from Biddle

The request

Amanda said “I love your tomtags, so easy to use but I was wondering as a lot of the visuals for the child I support need to be more specific and personalised, is it possible to send you photos and for you to print them onto the stickers for me.”

The discussion

We asked Amanda to send in a couple of photos so that we could have a trial run and make some samples. We wanted to see what the photos would look like and make sure that we were happy with the quality and detail we would get by reducing the size to fit our stickers. With a bit of trial and error, we realised that the images needed to focus in on one or two relevant objects rather than be taken of the whole subject from a wide angle. For example, in the classroom it might be one of the work tables and in the dining hall the serving counter.

The result

Amanda took to Facebook to share her delight at the end result.

“I work in a reception class with a little boy with autism who has limited communication. I needed some photos more specific to him and his environment and the wonderful people at Orkid Ideas took my photos and made up my buttons for me. I love my Tom tags and so does he. So easy to use and so effective. A truly amazing product! 😁😁”

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Brambles Preschool

green tomtags with bespoke symbols for Brambles pres-school

The request

Hi, I’m the business manager and SENCo for a small forest school in Salisbury. We came across your TomTags at the Autism Show and wondered if you’d be able to supply a small number of bespoke tags for us to help our children with their daily routine in our preschool. Oh, and we’d like all the tags to be green!
 

The discussion

We were able to source all the symbols that Brambles needed to guide the children’s routine from the Widgit library. These included toilet/nappy, wash hands, put coat on, snack and lunch.
They were also interested in a new minikit that we’d just launched at the time, our Share how I feel tag, which they felt would really support the children’s emotional communication.  
 

The result 

15 green TomTags with bespoke routine symbols and 15 green TomTags with emotions faces. 
“We are so pleased with them, being an outdoor nursery these are so practical for us. Would really recommend :)”
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Mullum Primary

a colletion of bespoke tags produced for Mullum Primary School

The request

“I love the Tom Tag idea. As Principal in a new school I am preparing a Starting School Pack for newly enrolled students for the 2019 Australian school year.  I would love to provide each child with one of the Tom Tags with a standard set of stickers for packing their school bag.  The sticker set would be something like … school hat, lunch box, drink bottle, jumper, book satchel, piece of fruit.” 

The discussion

Over the course of the next few weeks we discussed various options with the school, including using photographs, Widgit or our own School Kit symbols.  The Principal was very keen for the symbols to be easily recognised by her students so we eventually hit upon the idea of using pictures provided by their uniform supplier for the hat, jumper and backpack symbols they needed. 

We then used some of the hand-drawn symbols from our My School Kit sticker pack to provide the other items Mullum were looking for, which worked really well alongside the uniform pictures.

The result

 100 bespoke red tags (to match the red theme of Mullum Primary’s school uniform) each ready prepared with a set of 6 symbols headed off to Australia for the start of their new school year in 2019. There’ll be no excuse for any child at Mullum to arrive unprepared for their school day!

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The Challenge in Challenging Behaviour

If someone cannot tell you how they feel they will try to show you how they feel.

Language is one way to convey emotion, but of course it is not the only way: sign language and symbol communication systems such as TomTag feelings tags are equally as effective. People will express their feelings through their behaviour when they either 1) do not have a communication strategy to hand, or 2) when they themselves cannot identify the feelings they are experiencing.

You will have heard the phrase challenging behaviour. And you will have come across the common misconception that it should be stamped out. The behaviour is communication, we do not want to stamp that out.

Consider what the challenge actually is:

  • The person exhibiting the behaviour is being challenged by a problem in their own life.
  • The challenge they are setting you is to work out what that problem is and to help them solve it.
  • Their behaviour is simply the communication tool they are using to alert you to the problem.

When faced with behaviours that challenge you, if all you do is try to prevent the behaviour you will not escape the challenge. Suppose the behaviour I am using to express my difficulty with the world as I find it is to hit my head against a wall, and you put a helmet on me to stop this from hurting me. Although my head is safe you have silenced my communication, so I will need to find a new way to express the difficulty, perhaps I will bite myself, or hurt you. I am not doing these things maliciously, I am just seeking to be understood.

Helping me to recognize and then express my emotions using communication strategies such as signs or symbols gives me a way to express my difficulties clearly to you without needing to resort to challenging behaviour. You need to ensure these communication methods are as effective as behaviour for me, I want to be sure that I get as much help when I point to the symbol for ‘sad’ as I used to get when I expressed ‘sad’ by hurting myself.

The word challenge is right. It is a challenge to work out what someone else is communicating to us, especially when we are trying to do that for someone who doesn’t communicate using traditional communication methods or for someone who experiences the world in a different way to us, due to sensory differences or neurodiversity.

On my course Exploring the Impact the Senses have on Behaviour, we do just that! When behaviours stem from sensory causes they require a different response from behaviours whose origins are elsewhere. Behaviour triggered by the senses can be low level niggly gripey grumpy type behaviour or it can be big explosive behaviours such as biting, kicking and lashing out.

When explosive sensory behaviours occur hormones flood the brain and a person loses access to their ordinary channels of communication; language, signs and symbols no longer work. On Exploring the Impact the Senses have on Behaviour we look at how we can communicate in a sensory way to support that person. We look at how practices such as externalizing emotional regulation and using symbol support (e.g. TomTag) to express emotion can help avoid crisis situations. We also do the sensory detective work to better understand the triggers for these behaviours and how we can avoid them.

Connect with Joanna to learn more about her remarkable work and brilliant, interactive, training courses.

TheSensoryProjects.co.uk

Facebook @TheSensoryProjects

Twitter @Jo3Grace

Linkedin Joanna Grace

  • cover image sticker pack feelings & emotions

    Feelings & emotions

  • cover image download feelings tag

    Feelings tag-o-meter

  • I can do it – manage my feelings

  • cover image for share how I feel minikit product

    I can do it – share how I feel

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Coping with a family Christmas for an anxious teen with autism


For my son, Tom, thinking about our family Christmas meal is causing him anxiety. Spending time together and creating memories over a shared meal – it’s what many people love about Christmas – but it’s not so easy for an anxious teen with autism. Continue reading Coping with a family Christmas for an anxious teen with autism

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Dyslexia and executive functioning skills

Dyslexia is most commonly understood as a condition that causes difficulties with reading. It is less well known that dyslexia can also impact on organisation and time management skills, which is sometimes referred to as executive functioning. 

What are the signs?

A child with dyslexia who has executive functioning issues may have difficulty:

  • remembering to take to school everything they need for the day 
  • being organised and preparing their kit in advance
  • sticking with an activity and not being distracted
  • understanding what day of the week it is and what different things they need to do each day
  • remembering their routine and prioritising the tasks needed to get ready for school  

What can you do to help?

There’s lots you can do to help a child with these issues. Here’s just a few ideas:

  • Get into a regular routine and stick to it. Children who struggle with time management often feel more secure and less anxious with a familiar routine.
  • Make checklists to break down a task or routine into smaller steps. Visual prompts work better than verbal reminders as they are constant and consistent.
  • Use calendars and planners – colour-coding often works really way to identify regular activities and highlight special events.
  • Encourage development of organisational skills with lots of repetition, reminders and practice. 

How could TomTag help?

  • school girl carrying rucksack with packing checklist attachedTomTag is ideal for all children with dyslexia as the picture symbols we use are easily recognisable and don’t rely on a child’s ability to read for TomTag to be effective. 
  • Make morning and evening routine reminders for tasks that need to be completed and the order they should be done using an I know what to expect – morning and evening minikit or for more varied options try these kits I can do it self care skills or I know what to expect at home
  • Create a school bag packing checklist using the I can do it pack my bag for school kit that will remind them exactly what they need to take to school each day, and bring home again. 
  • Take advantage of TomTag’s colourful tags by colour-coordinating checklist and routine reminder tags with any planners, calendars or charts that you’re also using.  

Useful resources:

  • I can do it – pack my bag for school

  • I can do it – self care skills

  • product cover image for minikit morning & evening

    I know what to expect – morning and evening

  • cover image what to expect at home kit

    I know what to expect at home

  • cover image sticker pack my school kit

    My school kit

  • cover image download school morning routines

    School morning routines

 

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Back to school – help with anxiety and organisation

school girl carrying rucksack with packing checklist attachedYou’ve got the uniform, the new shoes, pencil-case and stationery and they’re all neatly labelled with your child’s name – but being ready to start or go back to school isn’t just about having all the right kit.   

Starting school for the first time, going to a new school or moving to a new class, teacher or environment are some of the biggest transitions in a child’s life. It’s normal to feel anxious or worried at times of transition or change and the routine and environment of daily school life can present many challenges in itself for some children. It can often be difficult for children to understand and express these feelings and know how to cope with them effectively. If a child can share their worries and concerns with their parents and teachers it will be easier to help them develop good coping skills and strategies. 

My TomTag Feelings Notebook is an ideal tool for communication between child, parent and teacher. It helps a child to express, understand and communicate their feelings and anxieties. Parents and teachers can better understand the causes and triggers for a child’s anxiety or behaviour, by identifying patterns over a number of days or weeks. This written record can help them to work in partnership to give a consistent and coordinated level of support to the child. 

The TomTag Share how I feel tag and Manage my feelings kit are additional complementary products that can be used in conjunction with My TomTag Feelings Notebook to help a child further explore, express and understand their feelings and emotions.

The brand new lunch box you bought just a few weeks ago gets left on the kitchen table in the rush to get everyone to school on time – what now? Arriving at school without all the right kit for the day ahead is a common cause of anxiety and stress for many school children. Not being able to take part in activities, being in trouble with teachers, not being comfortable and having attention drawn to them are all unwelcome consequences of forgotten pe-kits, lunchpacks, jumpers and the like. TomTag’s I can do it – pack my bag for school kit is a simple checklist that attaches to a child’s school bag to remind them what they need to take to school and bring home again each day.

We’ve created some new amazing value bundles incorporating all these products to help you prepare and support you child as they head back to school or if they’re starting school for the first time. Click on the product links below to find out more about each product and details of our bundles. 

  • cover image sticker pack feelings & emotions

    Feelings & emotions

  • cover image download feelings tag

    Feelings tag-o-meter

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    I can do it – back to school bundles

  • cover image for feelings bundle product

    I can do it – feelings bundle

  • I can do it – manage my feelings

  • I can do it – pack my bag for school

  • cover image for share how I feel minikit product

    I can do it – share how I feel

  • cover image sticker pack my school kit

    My school kit

  • cover image product feelings notebook

    My TomTag Feelings Notebook

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Feelings thermometer and diary

It’s often the simplest things that have the biggest impact.

A seemingly simple thing that gets forgotten, ignored or left unnoticed can cause a big problem down the line. Simple ideas, simple tools, simple changes might be all that’s needed to solve a problem or do a better job than a complex solution.

A Share how I feel tag, with its thermometer-style colour faces scale, has to be one of the simplest uses for the TomTag system but since introducing it less than nine months ago has become our best selling product.  It can be used in lots of different ways which is perhaps one of the keys to it’s success – we’ve given some ideas in this free download guide.

Having recommended in our guide that using a feelings diary can help to identify patterns of emotions or behaviour and the triggers that could be causing them, we decided to make our own! 

My TomTag Feelings Notebook

Keeping a diary gets you into the habit of noticing and naming how you feel in different situations throughout the day or at times when you feel most anxious or worried.

There’s a scale for rating the strength of your feelings and a guide to help build up a vocabulary to describe your different feelings and emotions.

By making notes about what happened during the day or at key points you can start to build up a picture over time  which helps you to see patterns and identify the common triggers or stressors. Quite often these might be simple things that go unnoticed day to day but are easier to spot once patterns emerge. 

It’s often the simplest things that have the biggest impact.


  • cover image sticker pack feelings & emotions

    Feelings & emotions

  • cover image download feelings tag

    Feelings tag-o-meter

  • I can do it – manage my feelings

  • cover image for share how I feel minikit product

    I can do it – share how I feel

  • cover image product feelings notebook

    My TomTag Feelings Notebook