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Choosing a school which nurtures the potential of your children, is important to all parents—but perhaps more challenging for those with special needs. Depending on the challenges impeding the learning of a child (be they physical: impaired mobility, vision, hearing, or neurological, as with autism and attention deficits) the search for schools with the capacity to cater for, and even specialise in overcoming educational hurdles, can become extremely stressful.

Emerging techniques and technology can help bridge this gap, and the more ubiquitous these tools become in the educational sphere, the more diverse our choices for learning are. This is the subject of a new book entitled: ‘Is My Child Ready for School?’ by Special Educator, mother and author, Karen Seinor. The narrative is primed for supporting parents in making an informed decision about their child education, with nuance for the expansive options in special needs learning. The pitfalls to avoid and the facilities and approaches which signify a school that is open to the potential of technology in optimising learning for all children (not just those with special needs).

Karen’s research and experience offers a glimpse at the future of learning, and an effective strategy for accessing your options right now. BE Journal asked Senior to paint a picture of what this might look like, and how it could be applied.

Technology has improved learning for students with special needs in many ways but recently technology has enabled the mainstream classroom and curriculum to be more inclusive and accessible. Students with special needs are better supported in a number of ways.

For example in the school that I teach at two children have a vision impairment, both study brail with the use of a braille keyboard and they regularly Skype with their braille teacher. In the past they wouldn’t have access to this in a mainstream classroom or they may have a specialist teacher visit once a week, now they are able to have personalised instruction in their classroom on a regular basis. Children with vision impairments are also better supported in a number of ways. Through the use of iPads, learning material can be accessed so the size may be increased so that are better able to read it, or they can use audio functions to listen to the material rather than read it. This also means they don’t require a teachers aide or specialist teacher to be attached to them all the time which is positive for developing their independence but also in a social sense as they don’t appear so different to the other students and equally as capable.

Children with hearing impairment are also benefiting from the increase technology in classrooms. Teachers simply wear a headset that transmits into there hearing aid so that the student is clearly able hear instructions and information. A simple device and modification enables hearing impaired students to operate in a mainstream classroom with virtually no extra support from teachers aids.

The increasing amount of apps or programs have also optimised potential for students with special needs. There are many apps/programs that assist students to record information and present their ideas in a way that may have not been possible in the past. For example a child that may be limited orally can now use an app to share their ideas, or design tutorials, animated stories, and presentations. The teacher can then mirror this to the Apple TV and this can be shared with the class. Tools such as these are particularly powerful when they are interactive and promote social exchanges with their peers and also when they highlight the capabilities of the students.

In my opinion the greatest change that technology has created is that it has supported teachers to explore new methodologies and philosophies about how children are taught. Teachers are moving away from the old industrial mode of teaching, where one size fits all or teaching to the middle. Educators are now realising that all students should have there learning individualised, the focus is not on what we teach but how we teach. When the interests, passions and abilities of our students
drive the learning only then learning is optimised for all students.

About the book: Is My Child Ready for School? (New Holland Books, 2018) is a guide for parents on all things school. Based on current research on brain development and insights from many years of teaching, it examines many aspects of development related to learning. Whilst based on theory, there are practical and simple suggestions to help parents make the important decision about when to start school and what skills and knowledge are required. It also provides tips on selecting a school, how to make a smooth and successful transition to school and, how to support your child in their first year of learning.

About the Author: Karen Seinor has been a passionate educator for over 17 years. She has worked as both a classroom teacher and an ESL teacher and whilst she has enjoyed her many roles as a teacher, her passion lies in Kindergarten, which she taught for many years. She has a focus on education in Australia as she examines key issues through the lens of both teacher and parent.

Creating an experience inspired by your mom, is a beautiful way to honour her spirit. This could be as simple as recreating a favourite moment you shared (like making a batch of blueberry pancakes) or crafting a box of essentials based on all the things which reflect her spirit…adventurous, stylish, creative!

Here are some ideas from one spirit who lives for adventure…

Australian mom and cancer survivor, Heather Hawkins loves a physical quest. For her, it symbolises the joy of second chances, courage, and survival.

I love Mother’s Day for so many reasons, every year it pops up in my calendar as a wonderful reminder for us to celebrate motherhood, giving us a chance to get together with family, and another opportunity to thank all those Mums who have had such a profound influence on our lives.

And even though the day brings with it a mix of emotions—my mum passed away 10 years ago and the tears still aren’t very far from the surface—my smile doesn’t fade because her memory lives on and I’m incredibly thankful for her love, her inspiration, and her sense of adventure. Everyday I’ll keep doing my very best to ‘share her qualities forward’ with my own children.

If I was to plan the ultimate Mother’s Day it would definitely involve a dash of adventure. In the past I would have said: a sleep-in, croissants and a cup of tea in bed. Today, I love the idea of getting out and sharing experiences with my family!

In 2016 I was fortunate enough to have a Mother’s Day with a difference—I was in Nepal with my adult children, and we were halfway through a five month trek along the Great Himalaya Trail, we were living out of backpacks, sleeping in tiny yellow tents, and trying to escape the heat and humidity of the oncoming monsoon by heading up into the snow covered mountains.

This year I’ll be at home, closer to the comforts of modern life and cafes, but keeping up a family tradition of running in the Mother’s Day Classic fun run to help raise funds for breast cancer research. We’ll follow this up with a hearty brunch and phone calls to family members who are away.

Mother’s Day also reminds me of how precious life is. Surviving Ovarian Cancer 11 years ago made me acutely aware of this, and I’m keener than ever to be the best mum I can be, to be fitter, more positive and encouraging, and taking time to invest in nurturing our adventurous spirits.

There are several things I’ve learned these past few years to help achieve this…

Keep a diary. Get in touch with what’s going on inside, because putting emotions into words is powerful and cathartic, and writing down dreams and goals is your first step forward into making them a reality.

Get yourself fit. It will flow over into every other part of your life. You’ll find you’ll have a whole lot more energy, motivation, and increased emotional and physical resilience to take on the every day.

Remember to lead by example. Your children are watching and learning from you. Be the best role model you can be.

Follow other people’s journeys and expeditions.* Be inspired, and see what is possible. Push the boundaries of your comfort zone and take on something new.

Plan an active adventure with your family. Big or small, maybe it will last an hour or perhaps weeks: trek, run, cycle, swim, climb. It’s about teaching our children to spend a whole lot more time in the real world as opposed to the virtual world, to get them out in nature, to experience what it’s like to reach their physical limits, to get tired, be amazed, and be happy.

Get busy making these memories… and then planning for the next one!

Give your mum a special hug, tell your family that you love them, and on the day, head out and have a really awesome adventure together.

* Heather’s autobiography ‘Adventurous Spirit’ is available from Murdoch Books, with 10% of all sales in May donated to Ovarian Cancer Australia-a great Mother’s Day initiative. Follow Heather’s Adventures @ adventurousspirit.com.au

Create a box with a few things to lift mom’s spirit, such as…

A box of ingredients with a handmade recipe card. Pancakes, muffins, maybe even the family curry… add a note or photo that captures the special memory and experience of cooking with mom.

Pamper hamper of beauty essentials. Busy moms will appreciate being able to recreate the spa experience at home… the Braun Silk-épil 9 SkinSpa is like the swiss army of spa tools, from self-massage to hair removal with a bevy of benefits including: no risk of burns from hot wax or lasers, no chemicals or harsh ingredients, no disposables (shaver heads, wax strips and pots) which cost mom and the environment. It is a pluck above the rest with MicroGrip tweezer technology that removes hair as small as a grain of sand. Speaking of sand, the Sonic Exfoliation Technology exfoliates skin with 3,000 micro-vibrations per minute, leading to 6 x** more effective exfoliation than a manual scrub. One tool, five spa treatments which work wet or dry to leave mom feeling thoroughly pampered, invigorated and renewed.

Fitness is my fix, energise me kit. There is something empowering about movement which all moms deserve to experience. Exercise creates energy and fortifies the spirit, it is a gift that communicates self-care and celebrates freedom. SKINS support movement of every kind, from downward dogs to dirt runs, bouldering to ballet. Engineered to give a natural advantage in sports, no drugs just smart design—SKINS have evolved their compression wear to express a vibrant DNAmic collection which captures the spirit of sport and an active lifestyle. K-Proprium Tights are their latest game-changer, combining the world’s best Dynamic Gradient Compression with strategically placed Proprioceptive Power Bands (PPB’s) to fight fatigue, reduce the risk of injury and improve performance by enhancing proprioception. Allowing adventurous moms like Heather to ‘Go the Distance’ no matter the marathon.

We use the calendar to remind us of important things, celebrating as an event what we could (dare I say, should) celebrate daily!

This post is timed to align with Earth Day however, the ideas can be embraced beyond 24 hours of gratitude once a year—expanding this small window of time to integrate a daily habit of celebrating earth.

Simple habits are the easiest to adopt and often grow into rituals which resonate lasting value.

1. It’s worth the early start. Photographers rise early to catch the first rays of dawn, and patiently wait for the golden hour at the end of a day. They do this to capture nature in all it’s glory: before the atmosphere clammers with noise and distractions, in a crisp state where subtle discoveries can be observed and the world is fresh with promise. Then, as dusk approaches life unwinds to a slower pace, glowing gently like a lullaby before bed.

You don’t need to be a photographer to make a habit of greeting and farewelling the day with reverence.

2. Food tastes better outside. Remember the salty crunch of hot chips by the beach? Biting into a fresh sourdough under the shade of sprawling canopy? Nature has a calming quality that allows one to fully digest their meals. Flavours seem richer, textures more palpable, aromas deliciously amplified. It is a small pleasure one should afford themselves daily—if not for good digestion, for the rapture of savouring the full pleasures of nature’s bounty.

3. Smell a rose and wish upon a star. These sayings are not just for love stories or fairytales, they are simple habits worth forming. Little actions which remind us of earth’s beauty and magic, triggering the senses and imagination like an artists muse.

4. Discovery is a process. Curiosity leads to insights and space is not the only frontier… explore your neighbourhood, streets and gardens, architecture and infrastructure, harbour nature too! Wildlife has become surprisingly inventive, creating micro-habitats in odd places—look closer and you might find a family of fungi growing under a rotted paling, perhaps sparrows have nested in the awnings?

5. What’s your Talisman? Ancient cultures and modern boy wizards are fond of a good luck charm—an object which represents mystery and magic, courage and wisdom, heritage and hope. Touchstones which anchor the mind to a deeper purpose or meaning, though it doesn’t necessarily need to be a stone, perhaps a leaf glistening with the trail of a wayward snail? Each day you can choose one delight of nature to either carry, capture (in photo or drawing), or create something with (pine cone scent holder).

6. Screen to scene, stroll don’t scroll. The ubiquity of screens is a part of our digital culture but, as vital as they have become to work and communication there is a caveat which nature can counter. Eye strain creeps up on us as we swipe or text, scroll or search with intense un-blinking focus at a beacon of bluelight. Why not make a habit of breaking from bluelight to survey the world around you, training the eye on a distant tree, following the flight of a acrobatic bird, or deciphering forms in billowing sky. This exercises the eyes and is good for vision. It also triggers creativity and innovation, boosts productivity and ironically focus!

7. Retreat for your feet. We are encouraged to stand at our desks and to work longer, but did anyone ask our feet what they think about this stagnant imposition on their soles? I doubt it! There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, it’s been shown working longer doesn’t improve productivity nor does standing on a solid surface, in one spot for too long do our feet any good. To remedy a fallen arch or stiff ankle, flex your bare foot instincts: grip your toes into sand or soil, stretch your heel down over a log or stone, test your balance on undulating terrain.

Travel expert and Lonely Planet APAC Spokesperson, Chris Zeiher reveals the new trend in ‘Reverse Tourism’ between Japan and Australia.

For over 12 months, Lonely Planet’s guidebook to Japan (now in its 15th edition) has dominated the bookselling charts riding high as the #1 selling title in the travel category on ACNielsen Bookscan. But it’s not this title alone selling in unprecedented numbers. Lonely Planet’s Best of Japan 1 currently sits at the #2 selling title on the same chart and Lonely Planet’s Japanese Phrasebook 8 occupies the #4 position. That’s 3 of the bestselling guidebooks in Australia to one destination; Japan.

Having just returned from Japan myself it was evident with the volume of Aussie and Kiwi accents I encountered during the trip that this nation is the current “it child” for both Australian and New Zealand travellers.   

And it’s easy to see why. Incredibly efficient and affordable public transport, a favourable timezone (hooray, no jetlag), a competitive exchange rate and increased competition on direct flight options all adds to this destinations desirability. And the number of visitors has skyrocketed. Australian arrivals into Japan have increased by nearly 1000% in the last two decades where now close to half a million Australians are travelling annually.

Sadly however, the reverse is true of the Japanese traveller venturing to Australia. In the late 1990’s, arrival numbers were strong with in excess of 800,000 Japanese visiting Australia. Fast-forward by two decades and these numbers have halved. It’s not the Australian travel offering that’s contributing to this decline but simple economics. It’s more expensive for Japanese travellers to visit Australia than 2 decades ago and less expensive for Aussies heading to Japan – delivering better value for one and a decrease for the other.

As a destination Japan offers a vast and varied amount of experiences for the traveller. Japan’s cities are huge; the metropolis’ of Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama appear to be competing to out-bling one another. But it’s venturing further afield where Japan’s heart is quietly revealed. The forever scarred cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a must-visit for any traveller to Japan. Hiroshima’s Peace Park will bring any hardened traveller to tears; it’s a profound experience horribly unique to this now bustling and vibrant city.

But it’s not just the cities that are attracting the attention of the traveller. Japan’s ski fields have been a favourite haunt for travellers for years with Hokkaido’s ski resorts boasting some of the best powder in the world. Additionally, Japan’s cultural activities are driving travellers to the likes of Kyoto where the eagled-eyed try to spot a Geisha on her way to work in the city’s old town of Gion. The Japanese Alps town of Takayama is also drawing crowds with its abundance of Sake breweries, local produce markets and beautifully preserved old district.

Then there’s the food. Japan is a fantastic food adventure where travellers can choose from local favourites such as okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) and teppanyaki, to mouth-watering yakitori, soba noodle dishes, wasabi-salt encrusted tempura and a mind-boggling array of sushi and sashimi—you won’t leave Japan hungry.

Whatever the reason for visiting, Japan is proving to be one of the world’s best travel experiences and worthy of making it onto anyone’s ultimate travelist.

Explore Japan and the World @ LonelyPlanet.com

Beatrix Potter’s beloved Peter Rabbit, hops into theatres this Easter with all the hallmark characters rendered in CGI. The reimagined classic features an enticing plot full of slapstick mischief to enthral new audiences, and the right amount of tribute to satisfy fans of the original.

To celebrate the films release we have a delicious recipe inspired by Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tale of Petter Rabbit’ excerpted from: The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young, courtesy of Harper Collins.

Then old Mrs Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker’s. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter

Afternoon rain in Australia is often intense – it’s the kind that will drench you through to your bones in seconds. If I was caught in a deluge on my walk home from school, my backpack full of textbooks and sports kit, I could easily have reached for the umbrella underneath it all. In reality I almost never did. Instead, I took my shoes off, turned my face up towards the clouds and belted out ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ at the top of my lungs. I jumped in puddles, and danced around, and sometimes even took the long way home. And when I finally walked through the front door, I had a hot shower, a toasted fruit bun spread generously with butter, and a cup of tea.

I still love being outside when it rains – especially when there’s the promise of tea, buns and a bath at the end of it. These are my favourites: dark, moist and full of flavour. The type of thing I imagine Peter would want after a tiring day stealing vegetables in Mr McGregor’s garden.

The recipe below makes wonderful hot cross buns each Easter, with a line of flour and water paste piped down the centre, but I love them unadorned through the rest of the year too. They’re ones I’ve developed from a Dan Lepard recipe: his Short and Sweet is a complete baking bible.87

Currant Buns (Makes 12)

Ingredients

150ml apple cider/hard cider (at room temperature)
2½tsp fast-action yeast
¾ cup rye flour
150ml double/heavy cream
4tsp mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice
3tbsp honey
2 eggs
2¼ cups dried currants
3 cups strong white bread flour
¼ cup cornflour/cornstarch
1tsp salt

Glaze

2tbsp sugar
5tsp water
1tsp mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice

Method

1. Tip the cider, yeast and rye flour into a bowl. Stir and allow to bubble away for 30 minutes while you put your feet up and enjoy the rest of the bottle of cider over ice.

2. Warm the cream, mixed spice and honey over a low heat. Remove from the heat, beat in the eggs, then pour into the cider mix. Add the currants.

3. Sift in the flour, cornflour and salt, then mix by hand to form a sticky dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface (grease it with a little flavourless vegetable oil first, so it doesn’t stick) and knead for 10–20 seconds until noticeably smoother. This really won’t take long at all, so don’t over-knead it. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to prove for an hour.

5. Once visibly risen (it doesn’t need to double in size here), weigh the dough, and divide into 12 balls. Roll each under a clawed hand until smooth, then place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave about 1cm/⅜in between each – you want them to join up while they prove, so that you end up tearing them apart after they’re baked.

6. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and leave the buns to prove until they’ve doubled in size: about an hour.

7. When the buns are approaching the end of their prove, preheat your oven to 220ºC/425ºF. Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 15–18 minutes, until browned.

8. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, water and mixed spice. Reduce by half and remove from the heat.

9. Remove the buns from the oven, allow them to cool for a couple of minutes, then paint the glaze over the top. Serve warm, or toasted the next day.

About the Book: Paddington Bear’s marmalade, a Neopolitan pizza with Elena Ferrante, afternoon tea at Manderley… Here are 100 delicious recipes inspired by cookery writer Kate Young’s well-stocked bookshelves. From Before Noon breakfasts and Around Noon lunches to Family Dinners and Midnight Feasts, The Little Library Cookbook captures the magic and wonder of the meals enjoyed by some of our best-loved fictional characters.

About the Author: Kate Young is an Australian-born, London-based food writer and cook. After moving to the UK in 2009, she started her blog, thelittlelibrarycafe.com, which now has readers all over the world and is regularly featured in the Guardian.