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The Pocket Learner

Communication Empowers

Inspiration for those who respect vulnerable people and are passionate about inclusion.

Learn Basic Numbers with the Pocket Learner

Blog Posted on Wed, October 05, 2016 12:41:29

Adults with at least basic numeracy skills can expect to earn a quarter more than those who lack the necessary skills to solve basic mathematical problems. Furthermore they are less likely to be able to find or negotiate the best deals on financial products and therefore more likely to pay higher levels of interest on higher levels of debt. It is well documented that debt problems can lead to stress and/or depression.

One of the shortcomings of traditional math instruction is that as students we learnt enough to pass a test but then as we grow into adulthood we cannot remember how to do the math when as parents we need it to help our children. When young learners are able to grasp the fundamentals they are on their way to being numerate.

At Pocket Learner we believe that it is essential that children from the very basic level develop an understanding of the math processes that will enable them to figure out what they do not know. We have therefore incorporated a simple but clear system for the child to understand the basic foundation of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Help your child develop language skills

Blog Posted on Mon, September 19, 2016 18:11:15

The Pocket Learner relies on the fact that brain integration activities are critical as these activities help balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It uses a combination of brain, vision, visual memory and auditory exercises to build the primary skills and then start working on actual reading skills. This is done using pictures combined with the words the child is trying to learn.

Pictures are primarily right brain and combining pictures with the words integrates both brain hemispheres. In the early stages a child might not grasp the correct pronunciation of the words, the plan is just to vocalise or make an approximation of the word. We want the child to learn that it is possible to use his voice as a tool to initiate and request. Quite often, by enticing the child with something motivating (reward) one can extract some speech or signing.

It is important to note that children with Autism, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder or Auditory Processing Disorders might have difficulties with listening, remembering, and following verbal instructions so it essential to exercise patience and create the right atmosphere before attempting practice sessions.

Pocket Learner Enables Children to Build Vocabulary

Blog Posted on Mon, July 25, 2016 13:06:15

It has long been recognised
that vocabulary, not grammar, is the key to a child understanding what they
hear and to successfully communicating their ideas, needs or wants to other

As Wilkins (1972) so eloquently
stated “while without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary
nothing can be conveyed”. For this reason it is vitally important for a child
to quickly build up a large store of words.

Research has shown that the
size of a person’s working vocabulary is both a measure of educational
attainment and a key to academic and career success. Unfortunately, research
also shows marked differences in vocabulary development in students from high
income as well as low income families, with a widening gap during the first
three years in the lives of children.

Much of this can be attributed
to the level of verbal interaction that children have with their parents and it
is significant to note that researchers have found a difference of almost 300
spoken words per hour between parents who hold professional positions and
parents on welfare. As a result, by the age of three, children in
“professional” families actually had a larger vocabulary than the
parents with low-incomes (Hart and Risley 1995).

Against this background, it is
clear that it is of paramount importance for every parent and teacher to ensure
that there are adequate strategies in place for fostering vocabulary
development at an early stage.

Pocket Learner Enables Children to Learn to Read

Blog Posted on Mon, July 04, 2016 17:20:23

Britain has up to eight million adults who are functionally
illiterate. It is estimated that poor reading ‘could cost the UK £32bn in
growth by 2025’. Research suggesting that by 2025, 1.5 million British children
will reach the age of 11 still unable to read well has prompted the launch of a
new campaign backed by a coalition of businesses, charities, bestselling
authors and teaching professionals.

is a difficult process. The brain must be doing several things at once in order
to make sense out of the written word. Many things can go wrong when a person
is learning to read. Those who struggle with reading will ultimately directly
or indirectly struggle with life.

Globally, almost 800 million people are illiterate and 100
M children don’t attend school every day. Jo Bourne, chief of education at UNICEF,
the UN’s children’s agency, says, “Despite recent progress, there are still
some 59 million primary-age children and 65 million adolescents out of school –
often children living in poverty, girls, children with disabilities, children
from ethnic minorities, children living in conflict or those engaged in child

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that mainly
affects the way people read and spell words. It is estimated that a billion
people worldwide is affected by some degree of dyslexia.

It is very easy to measure progress using the Pocket
Learner and so be able to ascertain distance traveled. When a child who
previously used only pictures to communicate or who had to point at what they
wanted is then able to look at a written word and is able to read or sign it,
for example: the word “Milk” or “Toilet” it is both a joyous and a powerful
moment and can be a serious game changer in the lives of all stakeholders
connected to that child.

A specially commissioned report says England is one of
the most unequal countries for children’s reading levels, second in the EU only
to Romania. The gap between the strongest and weakest readers is equivalent to
seven years of schooling. The report calls for a concerted effort from all
corners of society. The report is claimed to be the “most comprehensive
study of pre-school and primary school-aged children in a generation” and
has found disadvantaged children are the worst affected, with 40% not reading
well by the age of 11 – almost double the rate of their better off peers.

It is estimated that the prison population in the UK is
some 85,000. More than three-quarters of them cannot read, write or count to
the standard expected of an 11-year-old. In terms of ex- offenders studies have
found that those who were functionally literate were more likely to find
employment and the rate of re-offending drops from 90% to 10% if the person
leaves prison and goes straight into the world of work. This would amount to
substantial savings as every re-offender whose act lands back inside costs the
taxpayer and average £250,000.

It is estimated that one in every ten people in the UK;
ten to fifteen percent of the US population has dyslexia, yet only five out of
every one hundred dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance. Without the
proper diagnosis and help, many dyslexics are part of the forty-four million adults
with only the lowest level of literacy which limits their ability to find jobs
and function independently within their communities.

The Pocket Learner is a particularly useful intervention learning tool to people who fall into the difficult categories mentioned earlier and can serve as the ideal platform for developing reading skills.

The disabled dilemma

Blog Posted on Fri, May 22, 2015 11:33:03

When I learnt that my daughter would be born disabled I cried incessantly for several days. I was hurting deeply and didn’t want to talk about it or anything else with anyone. Feelings of inadequacy eroded my self esteem and I felt like I was a failure. With the help of a few close family members it took only a short while for me to see the situation in a different light and soon the clouds cleared and I am now the proudest mom ever.

My daughter takes a longer time to learn activities that come natural to most of us but apart from that, she is a normal child. Since her birth five years ago I have started my own company, written two books and have a series of published articles and paintings – activities that I certainly would not have had the time pursue if I were not forced to take time out to care for her. She had to come into my life to help me to unearth my latent talents that otherwise might never be explored or shared. Many of us have experiences that change us, alter our direction in life. It is for us to appreciate the change that needs to be made and the opportunities presented, even if we do not understand or like the way they are delivered. I have now set up a not-for-profit organization that benefits disabled children in my native Caribbean – a venture that would never have crossed my mind had I not had this experience. I am now in a position to encourage others who find themselves in a similar position, an activity I would not have been qualified to conduct if the circumstances were different.

When you hear of or see a child with a disability there are certain protocols that you should bear in mind when making comments. Unfortunately most people risk saying the wrong things. Many people avoid contact with the family because they don’t know what to say. This is unfortunate because this is the time that your friend needs you.

First, it is important to understand what the family goes through when a child is born with a diagnosis. Some people go through a grieving process as if a death had occurred. Some grieve for the child; others grieve for themselves and what it may mean for their family. This is no time to be judgmental; people have different ways of dealing with situations. Parents go through the grieving process at different rates. Some never make it all the way through. Many will revisit the process over and over again throughout the child’s life as limitations unfold. Feelings of denial, anger, hopelessness and depression constantly vie for their attention. Those who are earnest persevere and often reach the point of acceptance and love. As a mother of a disabled child who has experienced a wide range of emotions, I would like to share some ideas in terms of how to deal with parents and their disabled children.

Before I suggest what to say, I believe it is important for you to understand what NOT to say:

i) “I’m Sorry.” “What a Shame.” “How sad.” “Poor thing.” or any statement that conveys pity

What are you sorry for? What did you do? The child is an individual and must be seen in that light. Surely they are not here for your pity.

ii) Statements like, “It could be worse.” “At least your other child is normal.” “He’ll never be able to drive a car.” “How severely is he affected?”

No matter what the diagnosis is at the time nothing could be worse to the parent. Who are you to judge? The fact that the other children are “normal” does not erase the fact that this child has a disability. It doesn’t help to hear of the severity or the impact of the condition; chances are, the parents are aware. Often these presumptions have no bearing on the truth and many disabled people lead normal, independent lives as adults. For some parents these comments are like driving a nail in a coffin. They are very unhelpful and does not reflect well on you.

iii) Any statement that puts blame on the parents or suggests that they had it coming

This is particularly true of parents whose children have been diagnosed with Autism or Attention Deficit Disorder and children with speech delays. Don’t say, “It’s a result of family problems.” “I heard it runs in families, so I guess you are responsible for your child’s problems.” Maybe if you were a better parent you wouldn’t have this problem.” “What did you do wrong?” I actually had someone asking me what my age was and when I told this supposedly intellectual high powered woman she said, “Well…” as if to say, what did you expect? I wasn’t exactly 20 but young people have disabled children too. Now I think about it and wonder why I didn’t tell her where to go but I console myself with the idea that I was particularly vulnerable at the time and might have regretted any utterances I rendered. What authority does anyone have to pronounce ill fate on people? Words may be wind to some but it is death to others. If you have nothing good to say, it is better to say nothing.

iv) Don’t suggest that God knows best

God has a purpose for every life; a purpose that will be revealed in time. When parents are grieving they sometimes become irrational. They can appear to lose their faith (if they have any); they are not interested in being special parents, all they wanted was a “normal” child. I have a friend who told me that God knows best and I asked her “Which God?” though I have been a Christian all my life. By prophesying to parents you are not making the situation any better; chances you are making them angrier as they lament over the hand that they have been dealt.

v) Greatness. Don’t tell parents “I couldn’t do it.” I couldn’t handle it.” “You are great.”

These statements imply that disabled people are so terrible that only an extraordinary person would be able to love and care for them. In addition, it adds to the desperation of the parents, causing them to ramble in the tunnel instead of seeking the light. Ordinary people have no real desire to be great at the expense of a disabled child. They have the same dreams and hopes of other parents, they want their children to be healthy and to be able to reach their full potential.

People usually do not mean harm by the above statements. But always think before you speak. Fear of the unknown should to be confronted by learning. The comments are usually made with good intentions but try replacing them with the following which are usually more comforting and appreciated by parents:

1. Say “Congratulations”

Yes, Congratulations. They are new parents after all. They did go through the pregnancy, and labor and delivery. Like any other new parent, they deserve to be congratulated.

2. Offer help

Actions speak louder than words. Friends and relatives that actually do something make more of an impact than any words they could say. Offer to baby-sit, make a meal, sort out the clothes, pick up things at the store, obtain information on the internet or any other useful chore. This shows acceptance and makes the parents feel normal.

3. Compliment the child and the parents

“She’s a wonderful baby and lucky to have parents who love her.” Use the child’s name. If you feel that the parents need reassuring you can say “I’m sure this presents many challenges, but I know you will cope”. “Your new son will face challenges in life, but all of us do, and he has the best possible start with you”. “What he needs most is something you have lots of – love.” “Remember, that no matter what they tell you trust your instincts and s/he will be fine.” “What a pretty smile!”

Parents do not feel strong at that moment and don’t want to be told that they are. However, words of encouragement and support will go a far way in alleviating their fears without making them feel patronized.

4. Point out resemblance between parents and the child

“He looks just like his Dad. She looks just like you did at her age. She’s got your nose.” By doing this you are taking the focus off the disability and placing them on other attributes of the child. The parents will be appreciative of someone who sees something positive in their child.

5. Show acceptance of the baby

“I am really happy to know ___(baby’s name)____; I’ll learn so much from him/her. I look forward to seeing him each time I come around. “You must be very proud to have such a wonderful child”. Parents do not want lip service and do not like hypocritical behaviour. If you cannot honestly say these things about the child, don’t utter them; people can easily spot insincerity and that would make the situation worse.

6. Talk to the child

You don’t have to comment on the child’s disability. Talk to the child, interact with him/her and encourage your children to play with him. This means so much more than words. If you are able to interact with the child in the parents’ absence, relate to the parents any story of something positive you observed their child doing. That is encouraging and comforting.

Although society may consider the birth of children with disabilities to be burdensome, most parents of such children do not agree. As a parent of a disabled child I can attest to the wave of love I feel when my daughter hugs me or when she giggles or crosses little hurdles and achieves milestones which, at one time we did not know that she would cross. I am not here to advocate life, for people live in their own reality. I am not interested in judging those who decide to terminate just because I didn’t. What I can say is that there are joys to be experienced if you do decide to go the distance. If you welcome learning, there is no bigger lesson in life than what you can learn from this child and because of this child.

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